On Wednesday we began our look at music with a discussion on the different components of music. Rhythm, melody, harmony, timbre, and texture were all mentioned, with timbre being the one that I was least familiar with. Timbre, from what I understood in class, helps determine how many instruments are playing by identifying the characteristic sound that each instrument produces. Although I had heard of the other terms before, I never knew exact what they were, how to identify them, or their importance to music. Listening to different songs being played, and discussing these different components and the roles they played in each, turned out to be the best way to change that. Overtone was also something we discussed during Wednesday’s seminar and was a bit harder for me to comprehend. However, after an example was produced through the use of a piano, it became much clearer. Later in the class we were given sheet music, which I found to be very confusing considering I never learned to play an instrument and never had any interest in singing. I was a bit disappointed because I expected to do more with the sheet music and hoped I would finally get to learn how to read it. Instead, we went over some basic concepts that I feel I would have been able to figure out on my own. On the other hand, what I really enjoyed about Wednesday’s class was our introduction to opera. I thought looking at La Traviata after watching a film version of it was very interesting. The comparison helped me appreciate opera and see how much more emotion there can be in an opera compared to a film or show.
During Monday’s class we listened to different pieces of music and examined how the five main elements of a piece of music were used to evoke different emotions in the listener. These elements were: rhythm, melody/tune, harmony, timbre and texture. One of the pieces which we listened to was ‘The Rite of Spring’ by Stravinsky. This piece of music intrigued me because it involves multiple different melodies and rhythms simultaneously. The sounds of the woodwind instruments such as the english horn combined with the harsh brass of the trumpets and the deep sounding timpani made me think of a magical land where peaceful creatures are being attacked by vicious predators. The story is that of a predator and its prey. When I was listening to this piece it reminded me of Titans Spirit- by Trevor Rabin. In both pieces there is a conflicting timbre as the woodwind instruments evoke peaceful and innocent emotions and the brass and deeper sounding instruments evoke images of danger and violence.
In addition to ‘The Rite of Spring’ we listened to Praeludium II by J.S. Bach. When listening to this piece we discussed how the repetition and the fast rhythm of piece was reminiscent of a malevolent machine which was out of control. Even though the piece was written in four four time it is composed entirely of sixteenth and thirthy-sixth notes which made me as the listener feel as though I was trying to keep up with the song as it raced ahead of me. The repetition of the base note also adds a darkness to the piece. The base note acts as an anchor, allowing the melody to float above it and then yanks it down when it starts to stray too far out of bounds. Additionally when I look at the piece I find it interesting that there are no crescendo or diminuendo markings, yet when I listen to the piece performed the pianist uses the base note as a guide for the volume. When the base note is low the piano gets softer in volume, while higher base notes allow the piece to grow in volume.
As a musician I look forward to exploring deeper into the art of composition.
During Monday’s seminar, for the first time in my life, I learned a great deal about musical sounds. I saw how text should have congruency to give the action taking place a more lively experience. A lot of things about music seemed improvised, which was a very novel concept to me. We went over the four elements that compose music, which are rhythm, melody, harmony and timbre/texture.
When Naomi sang “I feel pretty” from West Side Story, and the professor added her part to the melody, the music had more texture and feeling. The rhythm gave the listener an understanding of where to tap their feet. The rhythm tells me where to tap my feet, it makes me feel comfortable around the music a little more. We learned to recognize patterns in the music page called “Praeludium”. I had never dealt with musical notes, so learning about them was definitely an amazing experience. It was fascinating to learn how playing certain notes faster or slower can give off a feeling of progression and suspense. Praeludium #2 had less consonants and more dissonance, and without the distance, there was more “crunch”.
Next we listened to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. It had a celebratory type of suspenseful feeling. It reminded me of winter wonderland where the instruments got louder and added suspense and excitement to the big finale. Slowly all the instruments joined in, creating a remarkable finish.
Personally, this has been one of my favorite seminar classes to date. I always knew about musical composers like Beethoven, but I never actually sat down and listened to their works. Neither did I ever analyze these things. It was a unique experience that makes me appreciate being a student at Macaulay, because at any other place, I know I definitely wouldn’t have learned about music in this way.
In today’s seminar, we spoke about something very close to my heart: music. I really do believe that music is more than just notes played on an instrument. Even without lyrics, music contains so much emotion inside of it that deserves to be appreciated. When we listened to Professor Kahan play Praeludium 1 by Bach, that emotion flowed seamlessly and beautifully with every key played.
Everyone in the class had their own reactions to Bach’s piece, but generally, everyone agreed that it was a very relaxing, peaceful piece of music. Once again, even though it had no lyrics that would depict happy thoughts, the notes played together evoked a sense of relaxation and tranquility. When we used our imaginations, we could even tell stories about what the piece was about. Being a musician, I had the ability to understand what chords were played and was able to immediately feel, say, the tranquility of a major or a suspension chord, and the darkness and sense of intrigue of a dominant 7 or diminished chord. What really impressed me, however, were the options and thoughts of the non-musicians; they reminded me why I love music so much in the first place. When I heard how my classmates interpreted the piece and explained how it made them feel, I was immediately taken back to the reason why I originally started playing music: to be able to speak emotion and be able to tell a story with something much more powerful than words. While words will be comprehended, music will stay with you for a lifetime and leave a lasting impression. Hearing the dark feelings of the classmates that came from Praeludium 2 showed the power of music when it can be deeply appreciated. Even though some classmates had never played a single note of music in their lives, they were still able to provide vivid descriptions of what had gone through their minds when a piece of music had been played.
Monday’s class we were introduced to music. Professor Kahan explained that there were four main “pieces” that make up music. The first being rhythm, then melody, followed by harmony and timbre/texture. This particular seminar was probably one of my favorites, looking at sheet music and talking about music reminds me of my years in choir. This accompanied by Professor Kahan’s piano playing made this class particularly enjoyable. Before this class, I had not known about timbre and texture being multiple instruments playing simultaneously. Depending upon the level of instruments playing it can make the music feel thick or thin.
Something else that could change the feeling a piece exudes is text. By inserting text into a piece it can emphasize how one views the piece. A song like “I Feel Pretty” has such an upbeat rhythm words are simply an accessory. The meaning of the song is typically congruent to the music. Which truly does make sense, in “I Feel Pretty” changing the word “pretty” with “ugly” would be completely out of place with the song. One should also take in to account, musical improvisation, otherwise known as, the part of music that happens spontaneously. The freedom a musician can have while performing a piece, I think, adds to the creation of a musician’s signature style.
In class we also got our first taste of opera. How beautiful the music was and how passionate these singers were about what they are singing truly excited me about going to the opera. What stood out to me was how a moment in “movie time” about saying “I love you”, could be only a minute long. In contrast, in “opera time” it could take up to five minutes. Having that patience for performing is quite admirable. Ultimately I am looking forward to Wednesday where I can observe, at first hand, the physical exertion these singers put into their singing to express the deep emotion in the pieces they sing.
Monday’s class was an intro to music. We defined that the four elements of music are rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre. These four elements are combined to make each piece of music unique. When Naomi sang “I Feel Pretty” from the musical West Side Story, Professor Kahan played the piano to accompany Naomi’s singing. When the piano was played, it added texture to the song. It also provided rhythm and harmony. Professor Kahan also pointed out the rhythm in the song. The rhythm was “one, two, three, one two three” with emphasis on the “one.”Naomi had a beautiful voice and I loved how she participated in teaching the class about the four elements of music.
Another piece of music that the class was introduced to was the Praeludium I by J.S Bach. This song is very dainty and soft in texture. It is also very soothing and calming. When the song got louder, it created more of a dramatic feeling. It also seemed as if it was telling a love story. This song reminded me a lot of the Ave Maria because they both start similarly and have that same delicate texture. In Praeludium II, the song sounded much different and gave a much different feeling. This song was much more dramatic and frantic than the first. It had a very mechanical texture and evoked a scary feeling. I liked both pieces of music. However, I loved Praeludium I. That song made me feel nice and calm compared to Praeludium II.
Today, I thought our discussion of music would come rather naturally to me being that I play the horn. I was mistaken. In today’s discussion, I looked at music in a way I have never before. When the sheet music was handed out, I thought the discussion was going to be extremely unfair, and perhaps frightening, to those who don’t know how to read music just as if someone handed me an essay in another language. Once we started the discussion, I realized that we were approaching music in a similar fashion to how we approached visual artwork.
We began our discussion by talking about if we saw any patterns in the sheet music. I thought, “Yeah, a whole bunch of sixteenth notes” but hearing the non-musicians talk about what they saw made me realize I was being close-minded. Some people described the notes as “going up and down” or “increasing”. It was really interesting to hear other people talk about music in non-technical terms. Another musical redefining moment for me was when we talked about how you can have a completely different song from similar notes by rearranging the four musical elements (rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre and texture). By emphasizing one element or another you can get a completely different feel as we saw in the two pieces by Bach, Praeludium I and Praeludium II. I had never thought about that before so, now whenever I listen to a piece of music, I’m always thinking about which element is being emphasized.
Toward the end of class, we began speaking about operas. One really interesting thing that was mentioned was how deep emotion is translated through physical exertion of the voice. That’s so intriguing and I’ll remember that when we go to see Turandot.
– Amber G
Today was a very interesting class and has made me look forward to the upcoming opera because I enjoyed listening to classical music and learning more about it. Just by listening to the different pieces carefully, and seeing the different patterns, I learned a little bit about sheet music today and how the different elements of music come into play in the composition of a piece.
When professor Kahan first handed out the sheet music for the different pieces of music, I was completely lost. All of the notes on the pages were a mystery to me, it was like someone gave me a novel written in Greek and told me to take a glance at it. Then when professor Kahan told us to look at the sheet while she played “Praeludium I” I came to understand the sheet a little better, which was very interesting. I saw that there was three different notes being played repeatedly, with one note being the dominant one. Then, when she played “Praeludium II,” I saw the same notes on the page and the same pattern, however the notes were put much closer together and there were more notes on the page. When professor Kahan began to play this piece, it became very clear that having these changes in the piece created an entirely different feeling to the music. Although both pieces had the same harmony and melody, they had different rhythms and textures, which completely affected the emotions given off by the pieces. The first piece had a very calming tune, while the second was described very well as a “Malevolent machine.”
On a very personal note, today’s seminar class was nice change for me. Instead of focusing on analyzing paintings like we have been, we analyzed music. I have always found classical music to be more interesting than art. I think this is because I have always had a strong interest in learning how to play an instrument.
In the beginning of Seminar today, we first discussed the four basic elements of music. They are rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre/texture. The only one that left me a little perplexed was timbre, which by definition means the character or quality of a musical sound or voice. After the foundation of music was laid out, we delved deeper and explained the fact that music without text leaves meaning to the imagination. When the context isn’t provided for the listener better known as the audience, it’s up to one’s bountiful imagination to put two and two together, and come up with the deeper meaning behind it all. All four elements of music work together, but in some pieces one of the four will strike you the most, making it more prominent than the others.
I think that sometimes the notes of the song sound just like what its like when it’s sung. Melodies evoke a sense of feeling that can range from happy to sad and cheerful to gloomy. For example, West Side Story is a modern take on Romeo and Juliet. It takes place in the upper West Side of New York City, which in the 1960s was controlled by lots of gangs, and bestowed the name “ghetto.” We soon transitioned and listened to various works by the composer Johann Sebastian Bach. I brought up the point that different sounds evoke a wide range of emotions. If the composer plays louder, I think it hints at the fact a climax is present. Johann Bach’s first praeludium, I think depicted emotions of calmness, and the notion of bittersweet. His second praeludium was a little different in the way that it evoked emotions such as: darkness, suspense, franticness, and dystopia. I think it’s kind of ironic that the rhythm, cords, and melody can all be the same but get different emotions because of the variant configuration of elements. One of the last works we listened to was The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky. In this case, I think timbre matters because if it’s high or low, it’ll evoke different emotions; in this particular one timbre got really loud and intense symbolizing the climax. In fact, this music was written for a ballet. This particular class has definitely taught me not only the basic elements of music, but the concept that the way you see something can be completely different in the way another person views it, even though its played the exact same way. This idea relates back to Ways of Seeing, perception is everything!
I have been a student for the majority of my life, a dozen years to be precise. Throughout all of elementary school, junior high and high school, I have never experienced a student sing in any of my classes, ever. I did, however, have music class in elementary school. There was, technically, plenty of singing in that class but the students just muttered the words in order to get through the class. Other than that class, it is hard to fathom that with all the teachers and broad range of classes I had, the teachers or professors never asked a student to sing. This is why I adored this session of Seminar, something new was involved.
In order to develop a point about the elements of music, Professor Kahan asked a student to sing something from the film, West Side Story. I mentioned the song, I Feel Pretty, which the professor seemed to like because she knew how to play the song on the piano and she asked a student to sing it. Personally, I love the song; it is comical, simple and singing along is easy. Nobody sang along the student though, probably because everyone wanted to sit back and listen to the student’s great voice, including myself.
I take pleasure in the fact that the class has such a light and musical atmosphere. I would have never thought that I would experience such a whimsical class in college, especially my freshman year. In a year full of monotone general education courses, I pray towards the next class a song like, I Feel Pretty, will be relevant.