The "Fairy Tale" Genre in Music

“After everyone had left the house, Cinderella went out to her mother’s grave under the hazel tree, and cried: ‘Shiver and shake, dear little tree, gold and silver shower on me.’ Then the bird threw down to her a gold and silver robe and a pair of slippers embroidered with silk and silver…

On the second day, when the festival was renewed and her parents and stepsisters had started forth again, Cinderella went to the hazel tree and said: ‘Shiver and shake, dear little tree, gold and silver shower on me.’  Then the bird threw down a still more gorgeous robe than on the previous day…

On the third day, when her parents and sisters had started, Cinderella went again to her mother’s grave and said: ‘Shiver and shake, dear little tree, gold and silver shower on me.’ Then the bird threw down a dress which was so magnificent that no one had ever seen the like before, and the slippers were entirely of gold.”


Fairy tales often include these types of three-fold repetitions.  Something will happen, it will have an effect, and then the same thing (or a very similar thing) will happen again and so forth.

But rondo form in classical music works in a very similar way.  The music features a certain section of music that keeps returning throughout the piece.  If you’re trying to imagine a story for the music, this could be confusing–after all, books don’t tend to repeat the same thing over and over.

But fairy tales do.  So we can consider that a rondo may be telling a fairy tale of some sort (that’s one listening option, at least).  Of course, the type of repetition in rondos isn’t exactly the same as in fairy tales, but the similarities are still pretty clear.

Interestingly enough, the rondo was most popular among composers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries…around the same time the Grimm brothers were collecting their fairy tales in order to preserve the traditions of the pre-industrialized world.  Coincidence?

Maybe, maybe not.  The rondo did start to become popular before the Grimm brothers collected these stories.  But what if the rondo stayed popular longer because of the presence of fairy tales? Or what if the Grimm brothers were, in a way, influenced by the music to desire that type of story? Was there something in that specific time period that made such repetition in either literary or musical form desirable to readers and listeners?

Who knows.  While this is all conjectural and would require a lot of research to come close to finding an answer, it’s still pretty cool to think about!


Rondo example:

Do you think there could be a link between fairy tales and rondos? Do you think a fairy tale is a good story map for a rondo?


You can also follow me on Twitter here.

Published by Aubrey Leaman


Reply heres...

Login / Sign up for adding comments.