Friday, November 18, 2011

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Music for the French horn is thought to have originated from the fields, plains and forests of Europe. Hunters and poachers used the bright and superb upper ranges of the Horn with loud dynamics to sound above the busy array of hounds and other noisy features of “the hunt”.

The earliest evidence of Horn notation is the music of Hardouin, published in 1856 , using small black and white squares to represent approximate pitch, in a hunting style.

George Turberville (mid 16th century) also pioneered in writing for Horn, by rhythmically notating the hunting Horn sounds.

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The Horn as a hunting utility became increasingly popular during the times of King Louis XIV, of France. It was mainly used in courtyard music and ceremonial activities, however the composer Francesco Cavalli used the Horn in his first opera “Le Nozze di Teti e di Peleo” . The “Call to Hunt” fanfare displays the use of the major third, exclusively featured in the Horn section. Although Cavalli may have just used the Horn as an appropriate instrument for a hunting fanfare, he was the first to musically notate the brilliance and clearness (especially at fff) of the Horn’s middle range to generate a “call”.

Ironically, it wasn’t until a Bohemian heard the sounds of this “Hunting Horn” in the French courtyards and enclosures of King Louis XIV, that the sounds of the Horn were notated for ensemble and solo works. Franz Anton bought many varieties of Horn back to his Bohemian homeland and spread the convention of Horn playing across his country. More importantly, he wrote much sonata-like Horn ensemble and solo music. Although Cavalli may have been the first to bring Horn indoors (in his first Opera), Anton was the first to keep it there.

The 17th and 18th centuries saw chamber music; music for ensembles to be heard by aristocrats. Johann Sebastian Bach wrote operas, chamber works and sonatas for a small variety of basic music instruments. Over time, the Horn was subtly added to Baroque ensembles. Innovators such as Ludwig von Beethoven and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart included the Horn exclusively in symphonic works and Wind Serenades (respectively). Mozart even wrote a set of concertos for the Horn.

As composers demanded for new types of sounds to be played and for new types of expressions to be conveyed, technological hindrances limited the Horns tonal abilities. The invention of the rotary valve at around 180 vastly broadened the horizons for the Horn, and it was almost permanently added to the orchestra.

The commencement of the 0th century saw the new Impressionistic artistic style. Claude Debussy’s inspirations, manifested in works such as Voiles and La Cath�drale Engloutie , abandoned the conventional phenomenon of “tonality” , and displayed music as an evocation of colours.

Oliver Messian furthermore developed this concept, by creating his own series of chords and harmonies to each display a different colour.

Russian composer Stravinsky pioneered in the art of neo-classicism, that is, adopting the old techniques of the past and using them in new and different ways.

Mid century western music like Anton Webern and Arnold Schenberg exhibited the more so new musical style of Serialism.

Other landmark works such as Edgard Varese in his work Ionization, and ???? in 4’” both pushed towards the ultimate modern compositional goal, “the liberation of sound”.

As we have seen, composers have been using the horns tone colours for centuries. Its wide register and unique physical shape help to achieve a wide variety of different colours and sounds.

The mere shape of the Horn also allows a wide range of dynamics. Although dynamics can have a large effect on tone colour, it reserves a unique musical category of its own. In contrasting a romantic works scored for orchestral/ensemble Horn such as Strauss’s Don Juan, to a classical work, for example Symphony 41 by Mozart, a great change in dynamic range is evident. Composers have turned to a greater range of dynamics over time, thus resulting in greater demands for solo, ensemble and orchestral works, for those including the horn.

Lastly, composers look to different expressive techniques to portray or express different ideas and feelings within works. With an instrument such as the horn, many different unconventional techniques can be used to do this.

This essay will analyse a series of 6 works that exploit the Horn’s tone colour, dynamic range and use unconventional expressive techniques, in the late 0th century. Works such as Benjamin Brittens’, Seranade (Opus 1) have used the Horns’ upper register as an endorsement of colour within the vocalists’ solo range .

Other works like Bakery Hill Rising, by Vincent Plush, portray scenes and/to evoke feelings through the solemn use of the Horn’s “heroic” middle to upper registers.

Brett Dean writes music for 6 horns in his large scale orchestral work Beggars and Angels, and uses a mixture of conventional and unconventional techniques to illustrate his impressions of harmony and tension, respectively.

Oliver Messiean uses the full register and full dynamic range, mixed in with many interesting and bizarre horn techniques, to generate a call in his work Appel Interstellaire .

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