The flexibility of rhythm in classical music has greatly increased recently. There are a ton of rhythmic patterns used in classical music, including syncopations, upbeat stresses, variations in note values, etc. There aren’t many repeating patterns in a baroque composition. There is a constant rhythmical change in classical music.
The classical music composed between 1700 and 1750 is the most like modern popular music in terms of pace and rhythm. This music frequently has a steady tempo and even pulse that is maintained throughout the entirety or a portion of the song. The music of the time was frequently used as dance music because the composers used a lot of repeating rhythmical patterns that made the music simple to dance to. Consider listening to The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Friedrich Händel’s Water Music, or the Brandenburg Concertos by Johann Sebastian Bach.
Despite orchestral music written in the second half of the eighteenth century being less frequently associated with dance; it frequently has an even pulse. For example, pay attention to the fast sections of a symphony or string quartet by Joseph Haydn or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The same is true of Ludwig van Beethoven’s musical compositions. Additionally, he began to change the pulse and employ increasingly complex rhythmical rhythms. And in his well-known “Fate” Symphony (Symphony No. 5), it is the recognizable rhythm—ta, ta, ta, trauma—on which the entire symphony is based.
It is uncommon for orchestral music from the 19th century to be appropriate for dancing or working out since the rhythms are so intricate and the tempos are more varied—even within the compositions themselves. Much of this music was composed to be heard intently in a performance hall. However, this does not imply that the rhythmical component is less significant; on the contrary, Johannes Brahms was one of the composers who developed intricate rhythms. Beginning with the forceful hammering of an even beat, his Symphony No. 1 later develops intricate rhythmical patterns and, on occasion, several rhythmic layers that are at odds with one another. During the same period, other musicians continued to create solely dance music, as did Tchaikovsky for his well-known ballets The Nutcracker and Swan.
These cutting-edge rhythms were used in a variety of ways by the inventive composers of the 20th century. Claude Debussy wrote music that frequently uses intricate and subtle rhythmic elements, but frequently lacks a steady pulse and where the rhythmical patterns may be hidden or masked. This enables the music to billow or float, as in his famous song La Mer (the sea). Others composed equally complex music with more pronounced and distinct rhythmical patterns. Every instrument is sometimes used as a percussion instrument in the music written by Igor Stravinsky, Belá Bartók, and Serge Prokofiev, which can cause the listener to perceive timing and pulse differently. Even in Stravinsky’s ballets like The Rite of Spring, this music is difficult to dance to.
Orchestral music with a fast tempo and distinct and repeated rhythmical elements was still being composed in the 20th century. A good example of this is Ravel’s Bolero, where the rhythm, which is initially only played on the snare drum, governs the entire composition, and gradually amplifies until its overwhelming conclusion. The “theme of invasion” is also accompanied by a distinctive rhythmic pattern on the snare drum that gradually increases in intensity in the first movement of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7 “Leningrad.” “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Gustav Holst’s The Planets is another example. Here, the use of the same rhythmic pattern repeatedly heightens the unease, especially given the unusual and startling 5/4.
Many classical music composers have made improving musical rhythms a top priority. This means that a large portion of music written after 1800 is difficult to dance or work out to. Still, it can be a rich and exciting experience if one lets a variety of different rhythms fill their ears, heads, and bodies.