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Symphony of Psalms by Mind Map: Symphony of Psalms
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Symphony of Psalms


Igor Stravinsky - Russian C20th Composer

Influenced by Russian Orthodox

"It is not a symphony in which i have included psalms to be sung. On the contrary, it is singing of psalms that i am symphonising"

Moved away from extreme sophistication of rhythm and instrumentation towards economy and simplicity

Common use of repeated short melodic and rhythmic patterns

Symphony - Sounding together

Orchestra too large for church, more for concert platform

Inspiration - "A vision of Elijah's chariot climbing the heavens... never before had i written anything quite so literal as the triplets... to suggest horses and chariots."

Four part chorus and large orchestra as equal partners

Word Setting

Creates music with ideas rather than words

Individual phrases are often set with the syllables in the wrong place

More interested in sound of words than meaning


b31 - sforzando chord

b36-40 - crescendo to 'Laudate Dominum' rhythm

b48 - tutti loud chords

b50-52 - sopranos marked 'cantabile non forte'


b10 - 'In sanctis ejus' slow minim movement

b40-47 - triplet figures representing the rise of the chariot and horses to heaven

b65 - the rhythm of idea 2 is shifted forward a quaver to form the setting of the key words of the movement - 'Laudate Dominum' (praise the lord)

b65-98 - homorhythmic scales leading to a second climax at b98

b126-134 - triplets against quavers of 'Laudate Eum'

b146 - 3/2 - in response to the text 'choro' (dance) the minim beat becomes extremely slow from b150 (48bpm) so the dotted rhythms are solemn


Setting of Psalm 150


Bar Refences


3rd and last movement of the symphony

Each section corresponds with the setting of a phrase or sentence of the psalm

An orchestral interlude may appear between choral passages. These are based on similar melodic or rhythmic patterns

b144-146 - Climax

b2, 102, 205 - Three statements of acclamation 'Alleluia' marks the start and end of sections in the movement

b23-52 - first orchestral interlude

b99-149 - varied repeats of earlier material

Orchestral Interludes


Six Key Motifs

Two Main Ideas

Slowly revolving melodies are reminiscent of cells of Russian folk music and orthodox chant

Constant thread of slowly revolving ostinato patterns - hypnotic effect

b205 - alleluia returns once, followed by complete resolution of all tonal tension with simple C major triad with which symphony ends


Constantly changing



Ensemble consists of a choral and instrumental section, each treated independently and equally

No upper strings - too much vibrato

Stravinsky preferred clear tone of trebles to sopranos for their 'coolness of timbre'

No organ/clarinets - timbre too warm

Wind and brass sections enlargened

Unique orchestra

Although text refers to cymbals, none present

Two pianos add percussive incisiveness

Stravinsky displays innovative handling of natural harmonics which produce different timbres


Textures dominated by ostinati

Hard-edged clarity is a hallmark of Stravinsky's style

Layered textures and sudden textural changes maybe reflect his knowledge of late renaissance and early baroque music

Bar References


Stravinsky's treatment of tonality described to be 'an escape from the excesses of late Romantic chromaticism'

Use of bitonality

Many factors contributing to the cacophony of dissonance to be heard during parts of the movement

Bar References


b1-3 - Voice parts slide around chromatically leading to a cadence into C minor

b4-11 - Clashing chords (BITONALITY) resolve to C major triad (tonic) in b7 on latin word for God

b6(3) - Shock E natural in bass part. FALSE RELATION between Eb in the voices and E natural in instrumental parts (bass and timp)

b7-8 - Tutti chord over 5 8ves

b10 - 'In Sanctis Ejus' - slow minim movement, Eb voice clash with E natural bass

b10-11 - FALSE RELATION in soprano and alto parts, E nat and Eb

b21-22 - 'Laudate Dominum' quiet C major chord almost tutti. 1st section ends with TIERCE DE PICARDIE

b23-24 - Drops to just dble bass and cellos who have flattened 7th Bb which is a v.modern sound, no 5th in chord

b32-43 - chords used to generate excitement as it steps up in the horns from C major triad to a D major triad (secondary dominant' then an E major triad (secondary dominant of D)

b40-47 - triplet figures culminate in massive D major chords with bass G#

b51(4) - loud tonic chord C major

b144-146 - massive E major chords with A# bass

b149 - F# major triad

b150-156 - G major arpeggio in bass trombone and dble bassoon heard against different arpeggiated chords in voices

b155 - FALSE RELATION bass trombone and dble bassoon Bb against B natural

b205 onwards - Complete resolution of all tonal tension with final tonic C major triad ending the movement. Only root and 3rd (accentuates major)