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The Classical Music Period

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The classical music period coincided with a revolution in thought called the age of enlightenment, which focused on the search for intellectual freedom. Unlike the preceding Baroque music which emphasized textural intricacy, classical music is characterized by it's near obsession with structural balance and clarity, however many other elements were integral to forming the musical foundations for the Classical period.

The music of this era began with a pre-classical, somewhat transitional music style called Rococo which was a reaction to the rigidity and seriousness of Baroque music. Rococo style occurred around 1720. This music with its refined ornamentation is usually seen as connected to the movement in art and the worship of Greek or Athenian culture. The style can be summarized as charmingly melodic, graceful and pretty. It was the beginning of music that was designed specifically to be entertaining. Polyphonic texture was replaced by simple homophony and repetition of short phrases became the characteristic of the style which was also known as gallant.

Homophony (music in which melody and accompaniment are distinct) dominated the Classical style, and new forms of composition were developed to accommodate the transformation. Sonata form is by far the most important of these forms, and one that continued to evolve throughout the Classical period. Although Baroque composers also wrote pieces called sonatas, the Classical sonata was different, it had four sections; the introduction, the development, the exposition and the coda. The texture of a composition could often change during a piece to a more complex polyphonic texture but most composers chose always to at least start with a homophonic texture to maintain the pieces tunefulness.

Classical composers tended to be liberal when it came to rhythmic patterns, unlike baroque music in which a few patterns are repeated creating perpetual motion, classical compositions can feature many changing patterns. As well as this, classical style used syncopations, unexpected pauses and often jumped from long notes to short notes. Also featured, were sudden or gradual changes from patterns of note lengths. The only fairly consistent aspect of classical rhythm was the common time signature which kept the music simple and enjoyable.

Melody was an essential and important part of any classical composition. Differing from the Baroque period, a classical melody was usually tuneful and catchy. They are usually created using two phrases of the same length, with the second phrase starting like the first but ending conclusively. This was done to make the music sound symmetrical and balanced. Also, a classical melody may have a popular or folk flavour and composers may even borrow themes from other popular tunes.

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