Incidental music

Incidental music

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Incidental music is music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

 in a play
Play (theatre)
A play is a form of literature written by a playwright, usually consisting of scripted dialogue between characters, intended for theatrical performance rather than just reading. There are rare dramatists, notably George Bernard Shaw, who have had little preference whether their plays were performed...

, television
Television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 program, radio
Radio
Radio is the transmission of signals through free space by modulation of electromagnetic waves with frequencies below those of visible light. Electromagnetic radiation travels by means of oscillating electromagnetic fields that pass through the air and the vacuum of space...

 program, video game, film or some other form not primarily musical. The term is less frequently applied to film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

 music, with such music being referred to instead as the "film score
Film score
A film score is original music written specifically to accompany a film, forming part of the film's soundtrack, which also usually includes dialogue and sound effects...

" or "soundtrack
Soundtrack
A soundtrack can be recorded music accompanying and synchronized to the images of a motion picture, book, television program or video game; a commercially released soundtrack album of music as featured in the soundtrack of a film or TV show; or the physical area of a film that contains the...

".

Incidental music is often "background" music
Background music
Although background music was by the end of the 20th century generally identified with Muzak or elevator music, there are several stages in the development of this concept.-Antecedents:...

, and adds atmosphere to the action. It may take the form of something as simple as a low, ominous tone suggesting an impending startling event or to enhance the depiction of a story-advancing sequence. It may also include pieces such as overture
Overture
Overture in music is the term originally applied to the instrumental introduction to an opera...

s, music played during scene changes, or at the end of an act
Act (theater)
An act is a division or unit of a drama. The number of acts in a production can range from one to five or more, depending on how a writer structures the outline of the story...

, immediately preceding an interlude, as was customary with several nineteenth-century plays. It may also be required in plays that have musician
Musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

s performing on-stage.

The use of incidental music dates back at least as far as Greek drama
Greek literature
Greek literature refers to writings composed in areas of Greek influence, typically though not necessarily in one of the Greek dialects, throughout the whole period in which the Greek-speaking people have existed.-Ancient Greek literature :...

. A number of classical composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

s have written incidental music for various plays, with the more famous examples including Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

's Egmont music
Egmont (Beethoven)
Egmont, Op. 84, by Ludwig van Beethoven, is a set of incidental music pieces for the 1787 play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It consists of an overture followed by a sequence of nine additional pieces for soprano, male narrator and full symphony orchestra...

, Franz Schubert
Franz Schubert
Franz Peter Schubert was an Austrian composer.Although he died at an early age, Schubert was tremendously prolific. He wrote some 600 Lieder, nine symphonies , liturgical music, operas, some incidental music, and a large body of chamber and solo piano music...

's Rosamunde music
Rosamunde
Rosamunde can refer to:* The German name for the Beer Barrel Polka* Music by Franz Schubert:**Rosamunde incidental music**Rosamunde String Quartet **Impromptu in B flat major, Op. 142 No. 3...

, Felix Mendelssohn
Felix Mendelssohn
Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Barthóldy , use the form 'Mendelssohn' and not 'Mendelssohn Bartholdy'. The Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians gives ' Felix Mendelssohn' as the entry, with 'Mendelssohn' used in the body text...

's Midsummer Night's Dream music, Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet
Georges Bizet formally Alexandre César Léopold Bizet, was a French composer, mainly of operas. In a career cut short by his early death, he achieved few successes before his final work, Carmen, became one of the most popular and frequently performed works in the entire opera repertory.During a...

's L'Arlésienne music, and Edvard Grieg
Edvard Grieg
Edvard Hagerup Grieg was a Norwegian composer and pianist. He is best known for his Piano Concerto in A minor, for his incidental music to Henrik Ibsen's play Peer Gynt , and for his collection of piano miniatures Lyric Pieces.-Biography:Edvard Hagerup Grieg was born in...

's music for Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen
Henrik Ibsen was a major 19th-century Norwegian playwright, theatre director, and poet. He is often referred to as "the father of prose drama" and is one of the founders of Modernism in the theatre...

's Peer Gynt
Peer Gynt
Peer Gynt is a five-act play in verse by the Norwegian dramatist Henrik Ibsen, loosely based on the fairy tale Per Gynt. It is the most widely performed Norwegian play. According to Klaus Van Den Berg, the "cinematic script blends poetry with social satire and realistic scenes with surreal ones"...

. Parts of all of these are often performed in concerts outside the context of the play. Vocal incidental music, which is included in the classical scores mentioned above, should never be confused with the score of a Broadway or film musical, in which the songs often reveal character and further the storyline. Since the score of a Broadway or film musical is what actually makes the work a musical, it is far more essential to the work than mere incidental music, which nearly always amounts to little more than a background score; indeed, many plays have no incidental music whatsoever.

Some early examples of what were later called incidental music are also described as semi-opera
Semi-opera
The terms Semi-opera, dramatic[k] opera and English opera were all applied to Restoration entertainments that combined spoken plays with masque-like episodes employing singing and dancing characters. They usually included machines in the manner of the restoration spectacular...

s, quasi-operas, masque
Masque
The masque was a form of festive courtly entertainment which flourished in 16th and early 17th century Europe, though it was developed earlier in Italy, in forms including the intermedio...

s, vaudeville
Vaudeville
Vaudeville was a theatrical genre of variety entertainment in the United States and Canada from the early 1880s until the early 1930s. Each performance was made up of a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together on a common bill...

s and melodrama
Melodrama
The term melodrama refers to a dramatic work that exaggerates plot and characters in order to appeal to the emotions. It may also refer to the genre which includes such works, or to language, behavior, or events which resemble them...

s.

The genre of incidental music does not extend to pieces designed for concert performance, such as overtures named after a play, for example, Beethoven's Coriolanus
Coriolanus
Gaius Marcius Coriolanus was a Roman general who is said to have lived in the 5th century BC. He received his toponymic cognomen "Coriolanus" because of his exceptional valor in a Roman siege of the Volscian city of Corioli. He was then promoted to a general...

overture, or Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (Russian: Пётр Ильи́ч Чайко́вский ; often "Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky" in English. His names are also transliterated "Piotr" or "Petr"; "Ilitsch", "Il'ich" or "Illyich"; and "Tschaikowski", "Tschaikowsky", "Chajkovskij"...

's Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet (Tchaikovsky)
Romeo and Juliet is an orchestral work composed by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. It is styled an Overture-Fantasy, and is based on Shakespeare's play of the same name. Like other composers such as Berlioz and Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky was deeply inspired by Shakespeare and wrote works based on The...

fantasy-overture.

Modern composers of incidental music include John White
John White (composer)
John White is an English composer and musical performer.-Life:White trained and taught at the London Royal College of Music...

 and Lorenzo Ferrero
Lorenzo Ferrero
Lorenzo Ferrero is a contemporary Italian composer with a predilection for opera, a librettist, author, and book editor. He started composing at an early age and wrote over a hundred compositions thus far, including twelve operas, three ballets, and numerous orchestral, chamber music, solo...

.

External links

  • The Foresters Web Opera – Score by Sir Arthur Sullivan for a play by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, with additional music arranged by persons unknown. Available online in an extremely complete state, down to the shortest trumpet fanfare, and thus an extremely useful example of Victorian incidental music.