Themes of Romanticism

  1. Glorification of individual feeling
  2. Revolt
  3. Supernatural and Macabre
  4. Freedom from Artisic barriers
  5. The boundless quality of music

Glorification of individual feeling

  • Harks back to Rosseau
  • Everyday life seen as dull and meaningless
  • Free excercise of individual will and passion seen as highest good


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  • An age of political revolutions

       -Late 1700’s:America, France

;;;;;; -1848:France, Germany, Austria, Italy

;;;;;; -Many musicians took up political causes

  • Also social revolutions

;;;;;;;;-Fewer barriers between class

;;;;;;;;-Greater social mobility

The supernatural and the macabre

  • Many supernatural or macabre subjects

;;;;;;-Dreams, nightmares, demons

  • Composers created spooky music-new strange harmonies and sounds

Freedom from artistic barriers

  • Poetry became more musical
  • Paintings and musical works given “poetic” titles
  • Wagners “total artwork” concept
  • Blurred effects cultivated

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; -half obscure verbal meanings

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;-Ambiguous shapes and color blends

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; -Imprecise yet rich and evocative sounds

The boundless quality of music

  • More “abstract” than other arts
  • Not restricted by literal or physical
  • Could express inner experiences more deeply
  • “All art aspires to the condition of music”(Wlater Pater)

Style Features of Romantic Music

  • Hard to define
  • Artist expected to have individual style
  • Constant strive for higher experience
  • Innovation essential


  • Rubato time
  • A sign of individual expressivity
  • Reflected Romantic “Blurring” tendency


  • Italian tempo rubato = robbed time
  1. tempo speeds up, slows down
  2. melody can move in and out of phase with beat
  3. seldom notated


  • Most recognozable feature of romantic music
  • wider range
  • dramatic buildups
  • more irregular in rhythm and phrasing
  • overall, more spontaneous
  • many indiviadual emotional shadings


  • supports emotional wuality of music
  • also savored for its own sake
  • new chords and progressions
  • chromaticism

tone color

  • finally important as melody, rhythm, or form
  • new instrument design
  • orchestra grew to modern size
  • composers mixed colors with great freedom
  • conductors needed for control and balance sounds

Program music

  • Nonvocal music written in association with a literary source
  • conveys momentary emotion
  • tells a story, paints a mood, personality, or concept


Miniature compostions

  • last only a few minutes

;;;;;;;;;; -mostly songs and short piano pieces

  • conveys a momentary emotion


Grandiose compositions

  • opposite of miniatures
  • more movements, more instruments, longer time spans
  • often blended with poetry, religious ideas, philosophical, or drama