Friday, April 13, 2012

Classical Elements of music

Let me tell you are story. When I was younger (few years ago) I had many friends and as so often with friends, we had similar taste in music. We as individuals thought we were unique, but in our effort to be unique, we actually were just like each other, and not unique at all. We all wanted to stand out for our individuality but not be recognized as a freak. We wanted to be who we are caring not what others think but all the while wanting everyone to like us (vanity?). I was wiser then and I am less smarter now.

We played our music that we thought was the cutting edge and unlike anything anyone had ever done. Then we discovered that sometimes, nobody wants to hear something experimental and unlike anything that preceded our music. Never once thinking that our experimental new sound might just simply be horrible to listen to if you are not whacked out on a a vat of beer and surrounded by social misfits. Some of us resolved to continue this thing of ours even if it meant, YIKES, going to college to learn some skills and culture. We thought we were cultured after all, we were fungi's (ha ha fun guys get it?) .......... Back to reality. Low and behold, the clouds parted and angels sang. We learned that music is acutely very similar to vocal communication. There were (oh god) rules! Rules and methods that (constrict creativity?) allow us to interact musically. These rules of order would help us talk and think through our music instruments. Give us order so we would all talk at once and be rude. This new found new thing called an education would allow us to possible play something that we liked and also those listening would like to hear.

Finding out that people liked to hear us opened the door to this age old exchange - Money. But wait, we are young, unique and well, very piss poor. Things aren't free? That's right, we had to buy strings, fix amps, get new public address systems, and buy blank....wait for it.... yes! Blank cassettes for recording our songs and distributing the songs to the local college campus news paper bins. Yes, we put them in there for free! We thought stubbornly that people would now come to our shows, love us, and give us money to do it all over again. Right, some capitalist snapped up the tapes and used them to record their own favorites songs from their favorite artist. We effectively helped the competition. So we learned another difficult lesson, that we were horrible business people! However, during this time we were still attending classes and learning about music. Taking advanced theory meant we would have to learn to sing solfeggio aloud! What the hell? Hey man, I'm a musician, not a singer! Wham! My Teacher, a tiny firecracker with eye's befit that of an eagle, would slam her seemingly 1000 pound book on the lectern and yell, "Come on class - STUDY YOUR LESSONS!." Mrs Dougherty would insist we learn our programs even if it killed us and her. She scared me so much that I I knew my only means of doing well was to meet the monster face to face and by that I mean, signing up for tutoring with Mrs. Dougherty. And learn I did.

So far you have read that I have had my head handed to me several times. First, I am unique, just like everyone else in this world. But rather, not so unique unless I applied myself. Second, I had to learn that I knew nothing about music and would not learn much by hanging out with my friends mindlessly hammering on our musical instruments. The third lesson was that I to put my "nose to the grindstone," and learn the classical elements of music well enough that once I was good enough - I could forget about them and jam along with my friends and enemies alike. Probably less with my enemies....

Have I made music my career? Well, my life isn't over so we will see. I do not regret learning as I did nor will I ever stop seeking more in-depth knowledge of music. I feel that every musician has something to offer but as I grow older I must admit that I will not sit still for musical tripe. My focus is more acute and there has to be something there, sometimes intangible, often adept. As the sands of time grow lighter, pyrotechnics are much less appealing, I am less apt to listen to cacophony. And let me get this straight - I don't like smooth jazz. I'd rather listen to the Ramones than Kenny G. But when I do make such assertions, I do so now with more culture, more acumen. That is why I am a snob.

The classical elements of music:

DynamicsDynamics refer to the volume or loudness of a tone. Dynamics range from very soft (pianissimo), to very loud (fortissimo). Crescendo means gradually becoming louder. Decrescendo means gradually becoming softer.

MelodyMelody is the part of music that we can sing. It is a series of notes arranged in a particular rhythmic pattern and divided up into smaller units called phrases. Melody is the horizontal structure of music.

Tempo - tempo comes from the Italian word meaning time, and refers to the pace of the piece of music. Tempo markings are in Italian and range from very slow (adagio), to very fast (presto).

RhythmRhythm is the heartbeat of music. As music passes in time, it is divided into perceptible sections, and each section subdivided further.

Harmony Harmony is the combination of two or more notes to produce new sounds called chords. We can say that harmony is the vertical structure of music. It adds depth and texture to the piece.

FugueIn the organization of a fugue, several parts (or voices) enter successively in imitation of each other. The opening is called the subject, the imitations are called the answer, and the sections in between are called episodes.

Rondo The last movement of a symphony or sonata is often in the Rondo form. The term rondo comes from the French “rondeau” meaning round. The rondo is a lively movement with a recurring theme. Its form is A-B-A-C-A-D-A. The listener becomes more familiar and comfortable with the theme each time it returns.

MotifA motif is a short musical idea, usually a subdivision of a theme or a phrase characterized by its rhythm, melody or harmony.

CodaCoda, or “tail” in Italian, is the very last part of the music. This small section brings a large work of several movements such as a sonata, or a symphony, to a satisfying conclusion.

Sonata form - the rules of sonata form apply to the first movement of a sonata or a symphony. The movement is divided into three main sections, the exposition, the development and the recapitulation. The exposition states the primary theme in the home key of the piece and then transitions to the secondary theme in a new key. The development is a “working out” of these two themes reaching a climax before returning to the primary and secondary themes in the recapitulation. This time both themes are in the home key.

Timbre Timbre is musical color. Each instrument has its own color and produces its own mood or emotion. Varying combinations of instruments produce different textures and distinctive colors.

Measure A "measure" in music is the term for the "box" of musical text in between two consecutive bar lines. A measure contains a particular number of beats, as noted in the time signature. For example a measure in 3/4 time will contain three quarter note beats. A measure in 4/4 time will contain four quarter note beats.

Theme and Variation - the theme is the melody that forms the building block on which each variation is based. Variations are permutations of the theme. One example of Theme and Variations is Mozart's Variations on the familiar melody, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”

Concerto - A term applied to any ensemble for voices and instruments. Now it is used to describe a work for solo instrument(s) with orchestra.

PhraseUsually a melody will divide itself up into two halves called phrases. Two phrases form a musical period. Each phrase ends with a cadence, a 'resting' place in the music. The first phrase of a musical sentence generally ends with a cadence that is incomplete, or feels as if it is left dangling. The second phrase ends with a cadence that gives a sense of finality.

Syncopation The displacement of the accent in syncopation drives a piece of music forward. While syncopation is common in ragtime and jazz, it provides an element of surprise in classical music. Syncopation comes from the Greek word meaning “cutting short.”

A Minuet A minuet is a dance which originated in France and became popular in the European courts of the 18th century. The minuet is in triple meter and its form is A-A-B-A: a first section which is repeated, a contrasting Trio section, and a return to the original material of the first section.

Symphony A symphony is a large work for orchestra usually consisting of four movements.

Orchestra An orchestra is a large instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments.

Meter Meter, as in poetry, depends on the placement of the accent. You can feel the meter of a piece by tapping with your hand with the pulse. A Triple or Waltz meter is STRONG-weak-weak, or ONE-two-three. Duple meter is a steady ONE-two, ONE-two. Quadruple meter, common time, is ONE-two-THREE- four, with the ONE being the strongest, the THREE being the second strongest, and the two and four being the weak beats.

ScherzoThe word scherzo means “joke” in Italian. Beethoven preferred using the vigorous scherzo, rather than the more reserved minuet, as the third movement in his symphonies, sonatas, and chamber works. Later composers wrote scherzos as independent pieces. Examples include Chopin's Sherzos for piano, and the Sorcerer's Apprentice of Paul Dukas, a symphonic scherzo.

SonataThe classical sonatas of Haydn and Mozart were composed for solo instrumentalist, or solo with piano accompaniment and were generally written in three movements. The first movement, sonata-form; the second movement, slow and introspective; and the final movement, a rondo to bring the piece to a lively conclusion. 

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