Expressionism is an artistic movement that stresses intense and subjective emotion. Artists that use expressionism usually focus on their inner feelings instead of depicting outward appearances. Expressionism is an art concerned with social protest. Some characteristics of expressionist music are that it is episodic with a fragmentary form. It involves a great emotional magnitude. Also, it is discontinuous. Most expressionist works stress harsh dissonance and fragmentation. They also take advantage of extreme registers and unusual instrumental effects.
Some examples of expressionist compositions are Pierrot lunaire by Arnold Schoenberg, A Survivor from Warsaw also by Arnold Scheonberg, the opera Wozzeck by Alban Berg, and Five Pieces of Orchestra by Anton Webern. Arnold Schoenberg’s music is emotionally intense and has a literary program. The major center of jazz was New Orleans, which was the home of important jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Ferdinand Morton, and Joseph Oliver. Jazz in the New Orleans style was played by a small group of five to eight performers.
The melodic instruments that were played in New Orleans style are the cornet, clarinet, and trombone. The melodic instrument players would improvise several contrasting melodic lines at the same time, which produced a polyphonic texture. This collective improvisation was the most distinguishing feature of New Orleans Jazz. The cornet in the New Orleans style was the leader and it played variations of the main melody. The clarinet produced a countermelody, which is usually played at a faster rhythm. The trombone played a bass line that was simpler than the upper lines.
The different rhythms and independence of the rhythms created a sense of excitement in New Orleans style. One representative work of New Orleans style is Dippermouth Blues by King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band. This is a good example because it is based on the chord progression of 12-bar blues and New Orleans jazz was usually based on 12-bar blues. Swing jazz developed in the 1920s. It was mainly played by big bands. In contrast to the New Orleans style, a typical swing band had about fourteen or fifteen musicians grouped into three sections, which are saxophones, brass instruments, and rhythm.
The rhythm consisted of piano, percussion instruments, guitar, and brass. Because this band was consisted of a lot more people, it needed music that was more composed and improvised. It also needed music that was arranged which means it was notated in written-out parts for each musician to read. The main melody of a swing band was usually accompanied by saxophones playing sustained chords, or by saxophones and brass instruments playing short, repeated phrases called riffs. The arrangers used a rapid acceleration of brass and sax riffs to create tension and excitement.
Swing’s harmonic vocabulary was richer and more varied than that of New Orleans jazz. An 8-bar phrase was used in swing style. An example of swing jazz is Duke Ellington’s C-Jam Blues. Expressionist painters, writers, artists, and musicians use deliberate distortion to assault and shock their audience, to communicate their tensions and anguish of the human psyche. It conveyed the anguish felt by the poor and the oppressed. The main function of early jazz music was to entertain. It was used in opera, chamber music, folk music, popular music, dance music, and even sacred music.
Jazz was usually for bands to play to an audience as loud as they could. It was for people to dance to. Bebop was a complex style of music usually for small jazz groups consisting of four to six players. This music was meant for attentive listening and not dancing. The bebop melodies were more varied and unpredictable than early jazz. One similarity is that Expressionist music and bebop music were both not meant for dancing to. Expressionist music was to illustrate tensions and anguish and usually not for dancing to.