Arts in a Spin
Qualities of the Baroque Style
Grade Level 8-12
This assignment addresses Program of Studies Achievement Standards:
AH-H-1.2.34--Compare a work of music to a work from the same stylistic period in another arts discipline.
AH-H-1.3.37--(Humanities Music Reference Chart) The Baroque style rejects the limits of previous styles, restores the power of the monarch/church. Qualities are: excess, ornamentation, contrasts, tension, energy.
Students view the video clip Bach 250th from Broadcast 65, and may complete content-related multiple choice questions (click here for a printable copy of the worksheet). Students then consider essential qualities of Baroque style: excess and ornamentation, contrast, tension, and energy. Finally, students explore these characteristics through two different works from the same stylistic period: Toccata and Fugue in D minor by Bach, and Constantine by Bernini.
Day 1- Top
Choose a well-known CD by Bach to play between classes and as students enter the classroom. Toccata and Fugue in D Minor will get their attention. Any section of the Brandenberg Concertos should also be highly recognizable, and Suite No. 3 in D (Air on the G String) is the piece they'll hear most often in the video.
Before viewing Bach 250th
If it's appropriate to your classroom open with some questions--Where have they heard performances of works by Bach? Have students experienced works by Bach in choir or orchestra? Does anyone know exactly when this composer lived? (1685-1750)--over 250 years ago. What do students think a modern rock musician would think about Bach? (The answer to this one is, of course, is that everyone from your local church organist to the biggest hiphop star thinks Bach is the greatest.)
As a formal introduction
Bach died over 250 years ago and the music of this German composer is still not only alive--but popular beyond measure. In this video, we'll consider-- what's so great about Bach? How is his music a reflection of the Baroque Era? What movies are known for their Bach scores? What contemporary musicians are known for their own takes on Bach?
Students may answer the multiple choice questions as they watch the video (time: 20:22). If you'd like, print the transcript and students can follow along.
Tell students a bit about the Baroque Era (1600-1750). This was a time of conflict and contradiction. Scientists like Isaac Newton (1647-1727) were challenging beliefs of the time. There was a new sense of man's place in the universe. People must have felt that their world was spinning out of control, and this feeling was mirrored in all the arts.
Write on the board:
"excess, ornamentation, contrast, tension, energy
These are qualities of the Baroque style."
|As students listen to a work by Bach--Toccata and Fugue in D Minor--discuss ways these qualities apply.
|Excess & Ornamentation
||Excessive may seem like a negative term and few musicians could find anything negative about the work of Bach. Think of excessive as it relates to other musical styles. Compared to a purely classical work like Mozart's 40th Symphony, the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor begins with a flourish that's over the top. It's built of elaborate finger work and fast-moving notes. The overall mood of this piece might sound melodramatic to some--in fact, it seems somewhat out of place in church because it has become so closely associated with Halloween.
||The musical form itself is a pair of opposites: a toccata is an improvisational style; a fugue is methodically composed. Within the composition, listen for continual contrasts in dynamics, tempo, and rhythm. Throughout the work the timbre of the heavy bass chords is dramatically different from the bright, high notes.
||One way that tension is created through a musical piece is through use of consonance and dissonance. Consonance is built on familiar diatonic harmonies. The sound seems complete and resolved to our ear. On the other hand, dissonance needs resolution, or in very simple terms, clashes or sounds unfinished. In Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, listen for competition between these consonant and dissonant passages.
||There is tremendous ebb and flow of energy in this work by Bach. Listen for arpeggios, or chords where individual notes are sounded one after another. Melody and harmony affects us emotionally, and arpeggios pull us along as if we're energetically moving toward some end. All polyphonic compositions, in fact, are about musical lines working themselves out, and we sense this forward motion in Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.
|Having musicians in the class will help, but all students should be able to contribute in some way. As you discuss, remember that the elements of music will provide a framework. They are: melody, harmony, tempo, rhythm, dynamics, and form.
Day 2 - Top
A great musical introduction as students enter the classroom would be a contemporary musical setting of a Bach work. Jacques Loussier is known for his laid-back, jazzed up Bach. (Bach I and Bach II, Goldberg Variations, and more) Everything's Gonna Be Alright by Sweetbox is hiphop Bach.
In this class students continue to explore some of the stylistic attributes of the Baroque Era. Using the qualities they applied to a work by Bach (excessive, ornamental, contrasting, full of tension, full of energy) students consider the same Baroque tendencies in a sculpture of Constantine by Bernini. It may help students to refer to the principles of design in visual art: repetition, pattern, balance, emphasis, contrast, rhythm, proportion, and movement.
|Excess & Ornamentation
||Bernini's Constantine (1657) is excessive and ornamental when compared with a classical sculpture. It's exuberant! Horse and rider are composed of bulging muscles and billowing cloth. Baroque sculpture addresses the senses directly, through the emotions rather than the intellect. We're moved by the moment as if it were being staged just for us. To a Greek artist used to restraint, such an emotionally intense sculpture would seem excessive.
||Contrast itself is one of the principles of design in visual art, and this work is full of opposite pulls. It has full deep shadows and bright highlights; the horse's mane and tail are made of swirling patterns; the cloth sweeps in long, clean lines: the body of the horse is smooth and bursting with muscles. The rider is a vertical shape, the horse is rather horizontal, and the cloth forms a zigzag. All these patterns and textures make vivid contrasts.
||Think of the word tension and its meanings. You can feel emotional tension when you?re frightened, worried, or full of excitement. There is also tension in the arts, the pull of opposite forces in visual art and music. Constantine has both types of tension. You sense the adrenaline in both horse and rider. This is a moment full of excitement. There is also visual tension, the counterpoint of vertical and horizontal lines, and opposing forms that occur when heads and bodies are thrown upward and backward.
||This work of sculpture looks as if it is ready to burst out of its framework. There are many breaks of plane that cause the reflection of light and make for a flickering, energy-filled surface. The uplifted forelegs of the horse imply that it's becoming, rather than being. And what else could a horse and rider be about, other than forward movement?
Remind students that the arts of any era are a window into culture. Both the music of Bach and sculpture of Bernini are good examples of the 17th century fascination with ornamentation, contrast, tension, and energy. Revisit the idea that the 17th Century was a time marked by crossover between the arts and sciences. The world was more expansive than people had ever dreamed. Scientific ideas were alive in the minds of physicists--and also in the minds of musicians, painters, and architects. To recap this lesson, students might review their answers to the Multiple Choice Question and practice drafting an answer to the Open Response Question. As a homework activity or final classroom discussion students might explore other Baroque works and test their abilities to point out distinctive Baroque characteristics. A good starting place for independent research is: National Gallery of Art--The Triumph of the Baroque
Vocabulary for the Baroque - Top
- The Baroque Style
(visual arts 1580-1700; music 1600-1750)
- Elements of Music
- Principles of Design in Visual Art
Resources, Materials, and Instructional Support - Top
- The Best of Bach, RCA Victor
- The Very Best of Jacques Loussier, Air on a G String, Music Club MCCD 399
- Web and Text Resources
- National Gallery of Art--The Triumph of the Baroque
- Sporre, Dennis. The Creative Impulse An Introduction to the Arts-- Fifth edition;
New York: Prentice Hall, 2000.
- Bach to the Future Bach to the Future. The Press, 19 July 2000, p33.
- Electric Library (13 Oct. 2000)
- Learned Musician by Christoph Wolff.
- Johann Sebastian Bach. Classical.net (13 Oct. 2000).
- Use this site to listen to Bach's music.
- Johann Sebastian Bach. Encyclopaedia Britannica (13 Oct. 2000).
- Kamien, Roger. Music: An Appreciation. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc., 1992.
- Machlis, Joseph. The Enjoyment of Music: An Introduction to Perceptive Listening. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 1984
- Smith, Timothy A. J.S. Bach: Greatest Composer? Sojurn. 1996.
- http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/meer.html (16 Oct. 2000).
- Bach, fugues, canons, and Baroque music.
- Musician consultant (for Baroque qualities in Bach)
- John Cummins, music director Christ Church Cathedral, Lexington