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Kai Roberts Mr. Cantrell 2 British Literature 2/16/12

The French Revolution's Effects on Music

The French Revolution was a very prominent event in history and brought about many changes. One key thing that was influenced by the French Revolution is music. Although there were not a lot of specific ways in which it affected music, it set one great milestone in the world of music. When the French Revolution ended, the Romantic era began. The Romantic Era brought about many changes to music, specifically its styles, forms, and compositional goals (CUNY.edu). Many people who were playing and writing music during or shortly after the French Revolution had a new view on how it should sound. They began using their experiences and emotions to express how they felt through their music. When compared to some of the PreRomantic musical eras, such as the Baroque era, the Romantic Era is not as technical or precise. There is also a less structured sound to the music of this time period. It was all about having the freedom to be emotional and more interesting (Kauble). One of the direct results of this new style of playing was the new concept of harmonic color, brought about by the start of the Romantic era. This came through three new forms of music created by composers of the Romantic era- art songs (also known as lieder), piano (dancestyle and free from), and descriptive pieces (also known as tone poems). Art songs combined

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Romantic poetry with voice and piano, which was very expressive. Piano music was used very prominently in Romantic music, both stylistically (like waltzes and mazurkas) and free form (like fantasies and rhapsodies). Large-scale symphonic works called descriptive pieces were also created to express emotions through new harmonies, as well as other new sound techniques. These all allowed for a great deal of personal expression (Miller). The composers of this time began writing music that was definitely affected by the Revolution. Some of the early French Romantic composers included Jean-Baptiste Duvernoy, mile Jullien, and Hector Berlioz. These three composers, specifically, were perhaps affected more by the French Revolution than many other Romantic composers because they were alive during the events. Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" is one of the most prominent compositions of the early Romantic era. As the era went on, the idea of expression through the arts became more and more popular, and eventually the impressionist movement happened. This was a high level of personal emotion through the arts. Some of the most prominent French impressionist composers were Maurice Ravel, Gabriel Faur, and Claude Debussy. Debussy's "Syrinx" is perhaps one of the most well-known flute solos from the Romantic era. It, along with many other of Debussy's pieces, were very free and expressive, which brought out the indirect effects of the Revolution greatly (The Music Chamber). Although the French Revolution did not directly affect music as a whole, it brought about the start of the Romantic era. This certainly affected music greatly and perhaps started a musical concept that may have never come about. With the ideas of playing with emotion and freedom, musicians of the Romantic era were not only indirectly influenced by the Revolution, but revolutionary themselves.