Seminar 9-24-12

I never really understood music. Music was just something that I listened to and took for granted. When listening, I never consciously paid attention to what was going on in the background. If it sounded good, I listened. That all changed after sitting through this week’s lecture. After talking about the different aspects of music, including rhythm, melody or tune, harmony, timbre and texture, I realized there was more to music then an appealing sound. Who knew that you needed all of these things to come together to form musical piece!

To illustrate all of these aspects coming together, Professor Kahan asked Naomi to sing a few lines of “I’m So Pretty” from West Side Story. (She really did a great job being put on the spot like that!) This demonstrated how each element contributes to the finished piece. The singer provides the melody. The piano or music provides rhythm to keep the singer in time while increasing the texture of the piece. When it all comes together correctly, the harmony is fantastic! I had absolutely no clue that music had so many variables.

Another piece we examined was “Rite of Spring” by Igor Stravinsky. The piece started out very soft and relaxing, as if I was alone in a peaceful forest. All of a sudden, it sounds like someone is tiptoeing softly towards me. The first thing that came to mind was Elmer Fudd in “Rabbit Season” with Bugs Bunny. After a few seconds of this soft music, the tempo increased and I felt like I was reliving a scene from “Jaws“. The change in tune and tempo invoked several different emotions in me throughout the piece.

Now, we were asked to take everything that we discussed about the pieces and apply it to an opera. As a class, we watched a scene from Camille, a 1936 movie about a man professing his love to a courtesan at a social engagement. In the scene we watched, it took the man about 35 seconds to explain to the woman that he was was madly in love with her. We then watched a scene from La Traviata, in which a man essentially does the same exact thing, however it took the singer 10 times longer to express that same emotion with the same amount of enthusiasm. Yet, the amount of emotion invoked in the opera viewer is incomparable. I guess that that is what makes the opera the opera. The heartfelt emotion and enthusiasm of an opera can make anything feel more beautiful and romantic!

Stephanie Solanki, 9/24/12

I thoroughly and completely enjoyed today’s class session. I am a musician; I play guitar and sing in my church’s band every Sunday and can also play guitar classically. Music theory is something that I’d love to get into. I think that this was a very toned-down type of theory class, which made me so happy.

The four fundamental components of music are rhythm, melody, harmony, and timbre/texture. I knew what the first three were very well, but timbre/texture were knew terms to me. I loved listening to the different pieces and seeing the different combinations of the “Big Four” components. It was so interesting how a little change in one of the components sets it apart from all other pieces.

“Praeludium I” was heavenly. I notices a very distinct rhythm set by the 1st and 5th notes. the bass notes add a depth in the middle of the song that contrasts the dominant high notes of the melody. The homogeneity created a soothing feeling, like a lullaby. There was no climax. Volume and dynamics create a climax, but this piece was very tranquil.

“Praeludium II” was not calming. It was rather suspenseful. Dr. Kahan said it was like a “malevolent machine,” a concept that I’ve never thought of before, but I realized how well it  fit the piece. Different configuration of basic elements of music create a different sound. Dissonant notes in this piece set it apart from the first piece in which the notes were consonant.

In the “Rite of Spring” by Stravinsky, I noticed a very strong bassline. There was a dominant, repetitive melody broken up by they elimination of the bass to transition from one melody to another. I thought it was interesting that the harmonies among the instruments created an eerie sound. There was a very futuristic sounding strings part paired with a basic 1-2 bass rhythm. I also noticed the contrast of the staccato baseline paired with very long sounds in the background.

In Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” I thought it was so interesting that Dr. Kahan said “more humanity, as represented by more instruments, is added to the tune.”  There were different musical events occurring under the dominant melody in the piece. The staccato bassline contrasts the fluid dominant melody provided by upper string instruments. The climax in the piece was a departure from the standard tune of “Ode to Joy” and is brought on by the fast beat of the upper strings.

We then looked at the use of music in productions, like in a movie and an opera performance. In “Camille” with Greta Garbo, there was quicker pace. In “Un di felice” from “La Traviata,” the music was like a waltz. It was an aria. It had a slower pace, which made the content or text of the song more dramatic and realistic. It illustrates the process of him falling in love with her, rather than just a love-at-first-sight type of infatuation in “Camille” where he remembers what she was wearing.



Introduction to Music: 9/24/12

Let me begin this post by saying that music is a hobby for me.  I can’t play any instruments or read music, but I do enjoy listening to music, regardless of genre or artist, and I am always willing to listen to new types of music.  Today in Seminar, we began by identifying the Four Basic Principles of Music, and applying them to Praeludium 1 and Praeludium 2.  Dr. Kahan played both pieces of music on the piano for us, which was beautiful to listen to.  We were asked to describe what emotions the two pieces of music brought about when we heard them and because the two pieces were slightly different, so were the responses and feelings that the music evoked.  Praeludium 1 was soft, pretty, calming, the undertone to the song, Ave Maria.  It was repetitive, but it also had a climax that everybody was able to recognize.  Each of us thought of a similar but slightly different scene which could be put to this piece of music.  For most of us, it was a romance scene, with the climax being a conflict, for example, a reason the two lovers could not be together.  I thought that Praeludium 1 was enjoyable and relaxing, and I could easily put the image of a love story to the music.  That was great for me, since I’m a very big fan of romance stories.

Praeludium 2 was the same repetition of notes, and had a similar configuration, but it was frantic, rapid, and not at all soothing.  This compilation consisted of dissonant chords, whereas Praeludium 1 consisted of consonant chords.  Praeludium 2 had the distinct sound of something like a mechanical machine.  It was also very repetitive, but the sound was much harsher and “crunchier” than Praeludium 1.  While I found Praeludium 1 to be soothing and enjoyable, I also enjoyed Praeludium 2.  It was exciting and fast – moving, and in my head, I imagined it to be the music for a chase, or something adventurous and interesting.

While I enjoyed analyzing both pieces of music, and listening to Dr. Kahan play them with such elegance and skill, my favorite part of class was beginning to look at the opera.  We were first shown a clip from the movie, Camille.  In this clip, we see a man telling Camille, played by Greta Garbo, that he loves her, and the following scene finds her telling him not to love her, because she likes her life the way it is, and is not capable of love.  We then saw this same scene, but in an opera format.  We were shown a clip from La Traviata, by Guiseppe Verdi, starring Placido Domingo, a famous tenor.  This scene is showing the same conversation as Camille – a man expressing his love for Camille and her turning him down.  However, in the opera, it is expressed with much more feeling and emotion.  In the movie format, the whole scene takes about 3 seconds. In the opera, this conversation takes about 3 minutes.  The opera has the ability, I think, to take any scene or conversation, and make it beautiful and emotional.  It gives the audience something more than the mere drama of the movie screen.  I enjoyed seeing both versions of the story, but especially the opera, and I became interested in seeing what happens in the rest of the story.

I look forward to our continuing lectures about music – its form, its compilation, and everything that contributes to the art of music.  Just as with art, I find it interesting to analyze different pieces of music and uncover what they contribute or contributed to society.