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Fundamental Concepts, Methods & Modes in the Humanities

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Neoclassical Period

Neoclassical artwork, especially in architecture, still outshines those of any other art period, and even the most inexperienced in artwork people would still recognize it as one of the best art periods in the human history. Neoclassical works of art are visually impressive. ‘Classical’ and ‘imposing’ are the descriptive terms of the neoclassical period. Neoclassicism arose from the complicated work of the classical Greek and Roman architecture.

Neoclassicism started in 1775 and lasted up to 1825. Its name is used to represent the trend in literature and art, whose followers had a profound interest in, emulation of and admiration of classical artists and heritage of Rome and Greece. Neoclassicism is also called the age of Enlightenment. This period is known for its famous philosophers, such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Montesquieu, who discussed the value of common personality and human power in reasoning and overcoming problems in the world. This era inevitably resulted in the conflict between newer and older ideas. The new attitude and ideas stimulated American and French revolutions during the last quarter of 18th century (Finland, 2009).

This paper will be discussing the features of Ancient Classical period, which Neoclassical art period borrowed and continued. Neoclassicism replaced Rococo and Baroque art movements. Artists of this period expressed their ideas through literature, paintings, music and theater performance, and architecture. Primarily, the period was supposed to be rather bland and unemotional as compared with the earlier periods. Neoclassical art was a movement that attempted to recapture the classical lifestyle of the Greeks and Romans and their spirit of culture, architecture and thoughts.

Music of Neoclassicism portrayed the changes that occurred in various societies where music was being written. During this era, public music concerts became an important part of life. Earlier, music was written only for the courts and churches. During this period, there appeared a new idea that the music could be written for entertainment and enjoyment of the common people. As a consequence, the music concerts appeared.

In Classical period, Greek artists consciously attempted to render animal and human forms in a realistic manner. The early Classical period is known as the Severe Style. It is perfectly exemplified in the sculptures at Olympia, which have plainer drapery forms. It is aimed at deliberate depicting emotion in faces and of different ages. The Classical period could not have been achieved by using the old techniques of carving from a stone block. Rather, it was promoted by using clay on armatures and copying figures into a stone. Classical era is a period of formality. Art is characterized by restraint and careful attention to mode and elegance. The formal model was created on the basis of thematic development and different structures that are in harmony. The composition of the classical music fluctuates in mood. The themes may fluctuate certain movements. Sometimes, even striking contrasts in one theme are possible. Themes in classical music gradually express conflicting feelings of elation and surges of depression. The conflicts and contrasts have control of such great neoclassical music composers as Beethoven and Haydn, impacting the logic and unity of a wide range of emotions. Moreover, classical composition is rich in rhythmic patterns, including syncopations, unexpected pauses and changes from long notes of music to shorter ones (University of Oxford, 1989).

Baroque Era

After the 1600, the European culture came up with a new art style called the Baroque. The term “baroque” means irregular and it is commonly applied to the undisciplined and dynamic creativity of art work of the 17th century. In the beginning, the Baroque art style grew from a catholic pomp, accompanying Counter- Reformation. Later, the art style confidently spread to the north and it gained the popularity at the royal courts, where it was a symbol of emerging ruling power of the new monarchies. The Baroque approach established a combination of massiveness, power and drama intensity, where it embellished its work with color, pageantry and theatrical adventure.

Referenced Work of the Baroque Period

The Baroque architecture and painting was centered in Italy. The most known representative of the school of Baroque architecture in the 17th century is the Giovanni Bernini (1598-1660). The artist designed the Colonnades at the outside of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the whole art plan illustrated the Baroque style by using the vast spaces and curving lines. More than hundred of churches and several public buildings in Europe displayed the elaborate Baroque beauty by the use of colored marble, scattered cupolas, unbalanced extensions, and twisted columns and by use of intricate designs.

The 17th century brought Baroque innovation into the music art. Forms of expression moved from the exalted calmness of the Palestrina to a new Baroque emphasized melody that was supported by harmony. The instrumental music, especially the one with violin and organ, gained popularity during the same period. The outstanding innovation of this art era was the innovation of the opera, which had its origin in Italy and later conquered the whole Europe.

Influence of Baroque on the World of Art

Baroque has influenced the world of art in various ways. During the Baroque period, the art theaters involved the use of the multimedia experience. Beginning with the actual architectural space, some of the technologies that were used on the Broadway or in commercial plays were invented during the Baroque period. They involved a lot of changes, for example the theatre stage was transformed from a romantic garden to the interior of a palace. Many musical forms that flourished during the Baroque era, such as concerto, sonata, cantata and the symphony, had defining techniques that were used in developing Baroque music. Baroque style is still in use today in decorating homes in a rich way. The style is well-known for being dramatic and opulent, for something that has transformed simple homes into flamboyant by using cushion covers, upholstery, linen and curtaining.

Comparison of the Two Periods

Capitol Hill in the United States of America or Prado Museum in Madrid are the examples of elaborate neoclassical architecture. The buildings are symmetrical, imposing, elaborate and timeless works. Neoclassical period was a reaction to the baroque movement, which is characterized by the use of shapes, minimal use of symmetry and its statement of individual’s wealth position and status. Neoclassicism arose as a contrast to these characteristics. Unlike the Baroque period, during which convoluted shapes and curves were used, Neoclassical period can be characterized by the use of basic geometrical styles.

Unlike the Baroque period, which includes the variety of great music composers and important trends, the classical period includes only three well-known composers: Wolfgang Mozart (1756-1791), Franz Haydn (1732-1809) and Beethoven Ludwig (1770-1827). During classical period, important stylistic changes can be seen in the instrumental forms; concerto, symphony, sonata and in music chamber. Earlier, when the music was created for churches, its composers tended to be more conservative than the composers of secular music. This explains why composers used stylistic innovations when creating instrumental music, which was different during the choral music period. The classical melodies are among the most tuneful and are easy to remember. The themes that use sophisticated compositions may also have a folk or even a popular flavor.  Classical music sounds are balanced and symmetrical because they are often composed of up to two phrases which have the same length. The second phrase of the melody usually begins just as the first one, but ends in a conclusive way and is easier to remember (Finland, 2009).

The instrumental and choral forms of music style overlapped during the classical era to an unprecedented degree. The development of instrumental forms of music was used to improve the effects in choral music. Classical music was different from the music that followed it. Baroque music period was less complex because during this period of music history it was much clearer and had more explicit indications concerning tempo, expressive and dynamic qualities of music.  Choral music of classical era tended to be homophonic and to have a lighter texture. Nevertheless, it had the same rhythm flexibility as compared to Baroque music. There was supposed to be lightness in choral lines along with the rhythm energy, the Baroque music was sort of heavy. Pieces in the classical period shifted smoothly from one type of the texture to another. An art of classical music begins as a homophonic melody with simple accompaniment, but later changes to a more complex polyphonic texture.

Social and Historical Conditions that Brought Classical and Baroque Period

Classical Period

During the Classical period, such well-known cities as Athens and Sparta were great rivals. After Persians were defeated in the war, the strengths of the two societies brought the heights of art and culture. Classical period seeds were sown by around the 8th century with the Homer committing to writing and, therefore, creating code of conduct and ethnic identity for Greeks. Emergence of the Olympic Games also created the identity of Greek.

The philosopher Socrates lived during the Classical period. The philosopher did not leave any of his own writings. Luckily, his student Plato left some in a form of written dialogues on various topics. The point of artwork was in asking questions until one arrived at the essence of the subject. The philosopher believed that the point of life was not in attaining riches but it in learning oneself. The philosopher believed that virtue was the most valuable possession and he tried to point out how little the people knew. The philosopher was executed by the state for corrupting the youth of the city. He believed that the society should be governed by educated governors, who would be trained from the very childhood.

Music was something magical in Ancient Greece.  Pitch systems and rhythms were ruled by the laws of mathematics that governed the universe and were capable of changing the human souls. This is known as a Doctrine of Ethos, an art form that emphasized humanistic features together with drama, sculpture, poetry and other forms of art in the Ancient Greece.

The social and political development of the Classical period had a lot of influence on the European society. The Classical period is seen as a cradle of western civilization. The economic and social structure of the Classical period had many features in common agricultural civilization. Warlike groups settled down to occupy themselves with agriculture. The Greece culture showed an extraordinary tendency to form and beautify the artwork with the influence of the geographical conditions it was born in.

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