Pachelbel's Canon in D and Barber's Adagio for Strings Essays

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The two pieces chosen for this paper are particularly famous and are recognizable audibly, if not by name, by the majority of western populations. Pachelbel’s Canon in D was virtually forgotten from the 1700’s until it was rediscovered in 1919 by Gustav Beckmann. It gradually gained publicity, and burst into the popular culture after being used as the score for a movie, it is now by far the most famous canon and of the most well known pieces of baroque music.

The canon is a musical form popular in the Baroque period and is characterized by imitative counterpoint in which multiple voices, in this case violins, play the same piece of music but start at different times and in different keys. Pachelbel wrote his canon for 3 violins and a
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While some modern performances include the guige, most play the Canon alone.

The exact year that Pachelbel wrote his famous Canon is an apparent mystery, it is generally accepted as having been composed in the 1680’s although one author theorizes that it may have been in 1694 for Johann Christoph Bach’s wedding. While it is difficult to find any record of what inspired Pachelbel to write this Canon, it has inspired an extraordinary number of composers of both classical and more modern styles of music.

Adagio for Strings was composed by Samuel Barber in 1936 at the tender age of 25 while vacationing in Europe. The time was a tumultuous one, immediately following the great depression and clouds of conflict looming in Germany. In search of stability, the arts as a whole rejected the new frightening transformations and revolutions of the 20th century, instead turning to earlier practices and techniques in a period referred to as Neo-Classicism. With regard to music, it rejected the musical experimentation of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and looked to reconnect with the classical period. Barber’s Adagio, the second movement of his String Quartet Op. 11, reflects this trend, albeit with deep emotion dominating the work. Barber found inspiration for this piece in a passage from Vergil’s Georgics which describes how a small stream grows incrementally until it becomes a large river. It’s influence can be seen in the trajectory of the piece as it gradually

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