On Tuesday I got to see Greta and Nora performing with the Davidson College Symphony Orchestra. As usual, they did a fantastic job playing and the orchestra received a standing ovation. One of the pieces they played was Bedřich Smetana’s tone poem “The Moldau,” which, as the conductor explained, took us on a journey across what is now the Czech Republic. We heard two streams converging into a river, a peasant dance, the city of Prague, and finally the end of the river as it empties into a large one. Or did we just think that’s what we heard because that’s what the conductor told us to hear?
A tone poem is supposed to tell a story, but generally the composer tells us what the story is about, in advance. Can we actually tell what a musical work is “about” without someone telling us? Are people with more musical training better at uncovering what a work is about? Maybe this week we can find out.
In this week’s study, you’ll hear seven short excerpts from classical works that express particular meanings intended by their composers. Your job is to guess, in just a few words, what the work is about. Don’t use adjectives, like “beautiful” or “tempestuous” — say what it’s really about, like “a river” or “climbing a mountain.” If you don’t know, just make a guess — maybe “random” guessing will actually sometimes come up with the right answer.
As usual, the survey is short, with just 17 questions. It should take about 5 to 10 minutes to complete. You have until Thursday, April 30, to respond. There is no limit on the number of responses. Don’t forget to come back next week for the results!