Listening to Mozart, I have noticed several key elements to his writing that you will not find in modern music. Which I ask as to why they are not present.
- Not changing key with each flat, sharp or natural
I used to wonder what had happened to my music. Why more security in the keys had led to more monotonous music. And the truth was, strict adherence to the key, is what most music is like. I was more creative when improvising without a strict mind map of the key, but a palette of emotion or ‘harmonic expression’ when playing. Sharps and flats which aren’t part of the key are the spices and herbs that make the music different from standard key based scale/chord degree sounds.
Accidentals as dark/light – accidentals ♭ – flats ♯ – sharps are used in modern music as an indicator of key, pretty much that’s it. Sometimes we think of accidentals or different chords appearing as a modulation. And for most modern music, this is right. However, more flexible thinking sees accidentals, and added chords as colourings.
In a harmony music theory interview. Jacob Collier expresses, going round the circle of fifths in the clock-wise direction adding sharps, we ‘brighten’ the sound, and going anti-clockwise, we darken the sound. Mozart uses this feeling to darken and lighten the mood, along with, complimentary to modulating through chords.
Having tried this, I have returned some of the soul and individual character to the music I play. Leaving blocks of knowledge behind, I am lost again to the mystery of sound, the all too familiar fixed key accidentals.
3. False modulation, key flexibility
Mozart is able to change in and out of keys, sometimes without fully changing, two chords into another key, may be V of another chord in the key, or simply a total shift. Modulation, or several bars of another key, or mini-series of chords may simply be an effect.
4. Give your music bookends
As a songwriter you can sometimes want to go to the main pudding, however, it is good to have an intro to your music, and an outro. Something that builds in, with a gap before the main part, in the case of the piano concerts, before the piano.
5. Play with the melody and stretch it like play dough
When you think Mozart, do you think rhythm? Perhaps one of Mozart’s strongest points of Mozart is his rhythmical sense of throwing phrases or motifs, a few notes that characterise the melody around.
He presents the melody in different ways, and gradually splashes different parts of the piece overlapping or interrupting other parts, along with throwing the key into total disarray.
The format in itself may get familiar, and may become repetitive, however it is a strong format, which leads to believe that Mozart is a genius. How he wrote these scores without hearing the back, and with such playful musicianship is a wonder to me.
Although some of the technicality, length and complexity may be impossible to transfer in our lifetimes, at least we can attempt to transfer some of the knowledge and wisdom.
I often think, that forming ourselves without reading is like a president forming himself without reading classics, text-books or current affairs. And not writing and reading, not being able to store music away. As if all music disappeared on performance. That is what we create when we disregard musical composition as part of performing. We take the memory and personal reflection out of music that writing it and reading it brings.