This is a sequel post to Styles of Composition — Writing. Please read it before you read this post. Thanks.
On the one hand, we have complex, heavy, and unemotional compositions, which are vigorous and characterized by structure and grandeur. When listening to such music, personal and emotional responses are minimal, as the mind is involved in the development of the theme by the use of complex notes and their inter-relationships set in a mathematical framework. The Baroque and Classical musical eras — Bach, Haydn, and early Mozart — are representative of this style of composition.
Easy Listening Music
On the other hand, we have soft music, which has a flow and rhythm that makes it suitable for easy listening. Mental concentration is minimal as the music is based on elementary note variations and harmonies. But there is a sentimental touch to such music that involves the emotions of the listener. Folk tunes, pop songs, and simple melodies are examples of such music.
Superlative music is a harmonious synthesis of these two styles of composition. It involves the greatest effort on the part of the composer and offers the most rewarding experience on the part of the listener.
Here, a profound theme developed by a simple set of notes within a complex harmony is presented with the grace, charm, and simplicity of soft music.
The result is that the listener’s mind is awed by the combination of melodies of the greatest strength and beauty with contrapuntal devices of the smoothest mastery and the listener’s heart overflows in response to the poignant human emotion embedded in the composition.
The principal technique employed in the composition of such superlative music is that of counterpoint. It is the technique by which two or more melodic lines are combined so that they establish a harmonic relationship while retaining their individuality. Very much like sentences in the superlative style of writing.
The mind of the listener is awed by the development of the theme through integration of the intricate melodies into a coherent whole, and his heart is swept away by the passionate, subtle intimacy of the orchestration.
It is this unison of the heart and mind that makes listening to such music a rewarding experience. Isn’t the sense of fulfillment that prevails after such communication what every composer and listener seeks?
The last three symphonies of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart offer a classic example of the superlative style of composition. They are masterpieces which still excite audiences and baffle musical scholars.
No wonder that they have been called ‘the apotheosis of the symphony’!