Caroline Shaw

Entr’acte by Caroline Shaw is perfect mix between joy and anxiety. Caroline Shaw is a composer who makes several connections to the past while still making an effort to create new sounds that are well blended into classical traditions.

The composer works with harmony in a fascinating way. At first she uses joyful melodies that capture your attention as a listener. The texture of this piece is mostly thin because of the constant parallel movement except for when she suddenly adds chromatic passages. Caroline incorporates extremely dramatic dynamic contrast throughout this work. For example, the beginning of work is expressed with swells of sounds that diminuendo quickly. The effect it creates is like push and pull of sound. I would consider the nature of her work to be gentle and light-hearted. When it comes to rhythm, there are often moving eighth notes that help you keep track of time. This is especially helpful when she quickly increases and decreases the tempo of the music creating a push and pull effects. The composer also uses chromaticism frequently as a transition to either go to a new section or to repeat a section. Minor extended techniques are used in this modern work. For instance, the one technique that stood out the most was when the performers dampened their strings and continued to bow on the strings in a similar rhythmic pattern to the melody from the beginning of the piece. The form of this piece is similar to that of a Minuet. The beginning is the Minuet and the middle section is a bouncy and lively trio played mostly in pizzicato that later transitions back to the original theme.

As for the connection to the past, I hear several traits that make connections to more traditional styles of Western classical composition. Many open harmonies and parallel motions are present which remind me of musical composition form the renaissance period. Another major trait that I noticed was the form she chose to compose her music in. As I mentioned before, there is a connection between the classic minuet and trio and this piece. This ternary form, like a common minuet, has its three sections of ABA’. Although the recapitulation is not exact in the trio section, the composer hints back to it by ending the piece with a gentle strumming of the strings from the cello. There are also some hints of folkloric playing techniques. More specifically, in the transition from the trio to the recapitulation. While the viola plays arpeggios, the first and second violin play in parallel fourths, creating a folk-like sound.

In conclusion, Caroline Shaw is a composer who is clearly tied to traditional western practices. Although she works with several techniques and sounds that don’t apply to older traditions, she still makes several connections to the past.

Leroy Medina

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