Monday, February 6, 2017

Music and Art Through the Ages: Part 6: Romantic

The Voyage of Life, 1842 by Thomas Cole
Around 1815-1920 in Europe, a new movement called Romanticism emerged. It was pushed forward by the Industrial Revolution and in essence it was a revolt against what the classical era had been. It was seen in art, music, and literature. In general, Romanticism dealt with nature, the past, mystic and supernatural ideas, spiritual experiences, extreme subjectivism, and attention to national identity.
Romantic Music  is not as easy to put in one pot like the other time periods. Composers started to do their own things, so we start to get into different styles like Nationalism, Impressionism, Absolute vs. Programatic, and many others. We will focus on just the styles I mentioned, but there are many other styles that are prevalent during the Romantic Period.

Get into the spirit of romanticism by memorizing some beautiful poetry. I suggest Lord Byron‘s She Walks in BeautyJohn Keats‘ Asleep! O Sleep A Little While, or William Blake‘s Ah Sunflower.


Bernardo O’Higgins leading the Chilean troops in the Battle of Rancagua (October 2, 1814).
Romantic Nationalism was apparent in both art and music. In music, it was a focus on folk songs and was a way to show cultural independence from other nations. In art, it was a way to portray their culture as unique and highlight the importance of their geography. In some instances, the governments hired (or even forced) artists and composers to be nationalists; but, for the most part, they created their masterpieces out of love for their country.
Pick a region and study the culture, geography, and people of the region. Listen to the composers and look at the art. Create a notebook or write a report to bring it all together. Here are some suggestions to use:


  • Composer: Frédéric Chopin
  • Listen to any of his mazurkas and polonaises to get a feel for his nationalism


  • Composer: Jean Sibelius
  • Listen to Finlandia
  • You can hear the water, fjords, and majestic mountains.Spain


Composer: Enrique Granados
Listen to Goyescas and/or Danzas españolas
Artist: Goya
Granados composed Goyescas based on Goya’s art

United Kingdom

Listen to Fantasia on Greensleeves
The original Greensleeves composition is credited to King Henry VIII

United States

  • Composer: Aaron Copland
  • Listen to Appalachian Springs or Billy the Kid or Hoedown from Rodeo
  • Do you get the feeling of the beautiful old mountains or the rugged wild west?


Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk, 1908
Impressionism was a short lived period during the 1870’s and 1880’s.  It was found in art and music. Instead of focusing on clarity and definition, artists and composers sought to convey atmosphere, movement, and light. The most well known impressionistic artist is Claude Monet, but some other notable artists include Camille PissarroEdgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste RenoirClaude Debussy is the best known for his impressionistic music, although Ottorino Respighi and Paul Dukas also dabbled in this style.

If you can get to a museum, this art is beautiful to soak in and see in person. This is, by far, my favorite art time period. I love the colors, the beauty, the everything. If you can’t get to a museum, search Google for “Monet Artwork” and you will find so many beautiful paintings he created.  After looking at the art with your kids, have fun with this craft where you make your own impressionistic painting.

Listen to Debussy. If you think impressionistic art is beautiful, you haven’t experienced the music!  This is a long compilation of his best known pieces, and you can skip around to the different songs, or you can put it on in the background while you relax and paint (see above activity).


There was quite the debate among composers whether or not music should be absolute, made just for the sake of being music, or programmatic, written with a story in mind. Some composers flip flopped back and forth during their careers and couldn’t decide.

Listen to some absolute music like any Mozart symphony. Alternately, watch The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (by Paul Dukas) from Disney’s Fantasia. Disney depicts the story wonderfully, and who doesn’t like to watch Mickey Mouse? All of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 is great to watch for program music.

Film scores are program music. I would suggest taking a song from a film your children have not seen and have them listen to it. You can have them write a story to go with the music, create a drawing based on the music, or have them orally tell you what they think might be going on in the music. You can also use classical music, and some suggestions would include Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite  which includes Morning Mood, and Into the Hall of the Mountain King.

Here is the outcome of our Peer Gynt Suite pictures. I didn’t tell the kids anything about the music beforehand, and only told them about the “stories” after I saw what they did. I wanted them to be creative on their own.

Our next and last stop takes us into modern and contemporary music. Get ready for some interesting chords, because this will be a thrilling stop!

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