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An American in Paris

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james palmer

on 23 September 2015

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Transcript of An American in Paris

An American in Paris
George Gershwin, 1928
Section A
has five main themes (A1-5), and two
subsidiary themes.
Rising accaciatura
Falling minor 7th
Rising minor 7th, bar 3
Four 16th-notes followed by rising 4th
Precise articulation-staccato etc.
Key of Db major
Db-G rising augmented 4th
Three accented 8th-notes represent taxi horns
key of F#major, notice use of E# the # 7th
use of heavy accents
accaciatura in bar 2 and 4
syncopated rhythm in bar 2
played by lower brass
subsidiary theme
lower part is a descending chromatic scale
upper part consists of rising semitone and 3rd
falling sequence separated by 5th each time
both parts in groups of three 8th-notes across 2/4 meter
rising triplet lead-in
driving 16th-note rhythm used a lot in developed forms
distinctive falling intervals of augmented 4th and major 6th
second pattern rises up a semitone from Ab
in key of Bb major
played in upper range of clarinet
rising chromatic scale at end of phrase
key of E major
repeated rhythm pattern beginning on 2nd 8th-note of bar
final part of melody based on rhythm and melodic shape of end of A1
played by brass with final section in woodwind
Section B
has two main themes (B1-2), and two subsidiary themes
played intially by trumpet
slower pace, lyrical melody
4/4 meter
key of Bb
blues inspired with use of blue notes-Db is flattened 3rd
Accompanied by off-beats on 2nd and 4th beats

short filler used between sections
rises in semitones
use of syncopated rhythm on third and fourth beats
accented staccato notes
subsidiary theme
based on rising and falling arpeggios
played by solo violin over a sustained chord
use of triplet 16th-notes
oscillating 8th-note idea
rising tones grouped in pairs
intense, and drives forward to next musical idea

played by trumpet
D major
use of accents and staccato creates a swing rhythm, typical of jazz
off-beat, syncopated rhythm in second bar
The piece is made up of:
Live recording
A section
, bars 1-391
B Section
, bars 392-591
, bar 592-681
This is the most important element in the work.
Gershwin used his skills from Tin Pan Alley and writing musicals to create memorable melodies.
This he achieved by repetition.
Gershwin based his melodies on repeated motives, and then repeating melodies many times with changes in harmonisation, instrumentation etc.
Repeated motives
Theme A1 is based on three notes, C,D and E. After the first use this is repeated five times and slightly varied. It is repeated in bar 12, so by bar 17 the motive is heard 12 times.
Short motives
Most melodies are derived from short motives.
The three taxi-horn notes are heard 12 times up to bar 59.
These two bars of theme A4 are repeated three times before an answering phrase is heard, itself played nine times.
Repetition and development of melodies
Gershwin creates variety by:
reharmonising the melody (B1 harmonised differently b.564)
adding countermelodies (ne added to A1 b.79)
changing key (B1 is in Bb b.396 but G in b.431)
changing rhythm (A1 rhythm is changed b.208-219)
rhythmic augmentation (b.130-1 horns, is augmentation of 129. A4 augmented in 675-6
rhythmic diminution (A5 b.269-72 in diminution 273-4 and 301-320
using them as countermelodies (A1 horns b316-7, A4 horns 665)
Gershwin's melodies have a hint of the blues scale by the use of 'blue notes'.
This is most typically the flattened 3rd and 7th
Theme B1 is the best example of this with the Db being the flattened 3rd of the chord of Bb
The cello countermelody in bar 405 contains a flattened 7th, Ab
Harmony and tonality
Harmony in the piece is essentially diatonic, but enhanced with influences from 20th century classical music and jazz.
chromaticism-b.64-67, 239-248, 434
augmented chords-b.77
'wrong note' harmonies (unresolved dissonance)-horns b.40-43
bitonality-b.559, 3rd 8th-note-Db and Ab heard at same time
added-note harmonies (6ths, 7ths, 9ths)-b.106-109, 204-225
parallel movement-cello b.16-23
major/minor chords-b.256, 265, 678 (chords with major and minor 3rd)
Harmony is complex but there is a clear sense of key.
This is created by strong CADENCES. New sections are often preceded by the dominant of the new key.
b.106-110, where the key is Bb is prepared with a held chord of F, its dominant.
key structure
isn't very tight, but the beginnings and ends of the two main sections establish F major, but with Bb as an important subsidiary key
F major
: Section A opening and ending
Bb major
: Section B openin
F major
: Coda
Rhythm is heavily influenced by jazz, musicals and dances such as the 'Charleston'
Gershwin also used rhythmic techniques used by the neo-classical composers. (such as use of irregular metres and polyrhythms)
He keeps the music unpredictable which helps create rhythmic interest
1. Syncopation
This takes the following forms:
off-beat accompaniment (for A2 b.28-63, A5 b?249-299, B1 b.392-405
syncopation in the melody (A3 b.98-100, B1 b.404, beats 2 and 4 of melody 'sync' b. 471-475
syncopation produced by patterns that accent every third 8th-note within duple or quadruple metres (b.24-27, flutes b.239-245, wind b.669-673)
syncopation produced by irregular subdivisions of the bar (accents b.103-4 in 3+3+2 pattern, 3+3+2 patterns b.494-500, 3+2+3 rhythm every second bar in bars 516-540)
2. Polyrhythm
Gershwin often swaps a melody temporarily from duple to triple metre, such as 3/8 or 3/4, while keeping a strong duple or quadruple accompaniment, 2/4 or 4/4.
b.555-571: 3/8 is combined with 4/4 in b.564-571

b.655-661: 3/8 upper strings is combined with idea A5 in 2/4, brass.

4th and 8th-note triplets are used against regular duplets creating polyrhythms-b.287-290 and 355-349
3. Changes of metre
There are few changes of metre which is surprising .`
Section 1 is mostly in 2/4 and section B 4/4, with a few switches between these two metres in the coda.
In section A there are a few changes in passages whose accompaniments are mostly 4th-notes. b.204-219 and 311-332
4. Regularity
This is important as it makes the irregularities more noticeable.
One of the main factors creating regularity of rhythm are the omm-cha accompaniments.
Examples in 2/4 and 4/4 are in bars 1-23, 79-86, 119-146, 278-281, 482-491

The first beat of the bar is often emphasised by the melodies, in which two-bar phrases are common. (Themes A1, A2, A4, A5, B2)
The texture is almost entirely melody-dominated homophony. Exceptions are the odd bar of monody, b.201, 515, and passages of homorhythm, b.556-560.
Countermelodies are frequent, particulalry those added to theme B1, cello b.414
Held chords with melodic fragments are often used in transition passages, b.358-391, 479-481
Pedal notes are common, often with changing harmony on top, b.97-104, 239-248, 461-464
The piece is for s symphony orchestra: woodwind (3332) with doubling (piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet), standard brass (4331), expanded percussion, three saxophones, celeste and strings.

Percussion includes four taxi horns each on a different pitch. He uses a range of percussion tehniques borrowed from jazz and musicals
snare with wire brush-b.265
snare rim shot-b.350
cymbol tremolo played with a stick-b.361
timpani hit in the middle with no tonality-b.564
The jazz flavour is emphasised by the use of alto, tenor and bass saxophones, trombone, tuba and trumpet played with a 'felt crown', pizzicato strings and off-beat percussion.

Orchestration is colourful throughout with effects like:
brash-sounding high clarinets
a cor anglais solo accompanied by muted strings
woodwind flourishes
handstopped horns and muted trumpets
celeste/pizzicato string chords
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