Category Archives: Harmony

Matthew Warnock

Most criticisms of social networking I come across share two common elements: the complainer often has less experience than those at whose ears the comments are aimed; the complaint features accusations of egotism.

I’d like to offer an alternative example – one of someone sharing their learning, free of charge.

Matthew Warnock is a man I have never met. However, he is a guitarist and teacher and posts useful material on his website, which he then mentions on Facebook – I came across this through a mutual friend – that’s the networking bit. This seemed sufficient grounds for making contact.

I was particularly impressed with recent posts on pentatonic scales (general Wikipedia explanation here). For some guitarists, there is only one pentatonic scale – usually used in blues. For many there are two – major and minor. Matthew’s recent posts featured the lesser known:

Dorian Pentatonic Scale

Lydian Pentatonic Scale

Lydian Dominant Pentatonic Scale

Mixolydian Pentatonic Scale

Mixolydian b13 Pentatonic Scale

Locrian Pentatonic Scale

Melodic Minor Pentatonic Scale

Each post features the scale, scale patterns and licks in the context of a chord sequence.

Thanks, Matthew.

Why not try them out?

Music, language and hearing (or not)

There’s really much, much more to this video by Charles Limb than the couple of points I’m about to select but here goes….

There is a very clear depiction, at 06:15, of the difference of range of frequencies (Hz) and level (dB) in music and language.

There is also an interesting demonstration, at 07:07, of how those of us with normal hearing take pitch perception for granted – compared to cochlear implant patients, whose perception can be out by as much as two octaves[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/bTE0MRRXNzs?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

There is also a very interesting talk on neuroscience and musical improvisation by the same author here – look out for great demo of piano improvisation by Keith Jarret at 01:15 – including some nice ‘outside playing‘ at 02:08 [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/BomNG5N_E_0?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 

 

The Latest Scores

 It’s hardly surprising that, in a culture of written music such as the western classical tradition, the look of the music has become more complicated throughout its centuries-old develpment. If you’ve not had the opportunity to see some more out there scores, there is a great collection on the YouTube channel of the enigmatically named ch252525.

Here is an example (click the link above for more):[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/XpCfdRVXG1E?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

p.s. the Google Ad on screen is not part of the score :-)

The Unanswered Question

Can you recall a sea-change in your thinking taking place after a book, documentary, film, argument talk, lecture? I’ve written here before on Leonard Bernstein’s Norton Lectures, on music and linguistics, The Unanswered Question, and the effect they had on my musical thinking. All six lectures are now on YouTube.

One thing I learned much later was that Bernstein had memorised the scripts! If you have several hours to spare, not necessarily all in the same day, then I can’t recommend them highly enough:

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Morten Faerestrand

I was pleased to receive a Youtube friend request from a great jazz guitarist and teacher – Morten Faerestrand. In addition to great videos – nice sound good film quality – there is the option to sign up for TABS for each of the lessons – all of it FREE.

You can find Morten’s site here.

In the meantime, here are a couple of samples: [kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/7u3QL8RroO0?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/mkpY2WahsQ8?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Your Brain on Improv

Many musicians are in awe of the ability to improvise in others and nervous at the prospect of being called upon to do it themselves. Many non-musicians find it bewildering that anyone can create on the hoof in solo or ensemble situations. Dr. Charles Limb, takes a look at the workings of the brain, comparing particularly memorised and improvised content in this TED video At the beginning of the talk, he stresses how he will be asking more questions than providing answers – the science is in its infancy, after all. But these are good questions:

  • What is creative genius?
  • Why does the brain seek creativity?
  • How do we acquire creativity?
  • What factors disrupt creativity?
  • Can creative behaviour be learned?

The title of the talk, Your Brain on Improv is, I feel certain, a nod to Daniel Levitin‘s great book, This is Your Brain on Music (look inside it here).

If you’ve ever wondered what jazzers are referring to by the expression playing outside, then pay particular attention to what Keith Jarret does at 2:12 in the video within the video. As you lead up to this moment, try to focus on the key – the centre of gravity of the piece – and see if the outside playing threatens it. Then imagine how he feels!

Blackbird

You’d think a “lesson” with no dialogue couldn’t be up to much – but this one seems to get away with it quite nicely:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/U0Hbo0cVoME?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

In addition to the nice, clear playing, it’s as good a demo as you’ll see of the concept of parallel 10ths – and also a fantastic example of effortless, economic left-hand technique.

Music: An Explanation by a Guitar Hero

Better late than never? Having been on holiday I’m a little late with this short write-up of an Edinburgh International Science Festival event but, as it was so good, here goes.

Dr. Mark Lewney is a physicist and a guitarist. Last year I went to his excellent Rock Guitar in 11 Dimensions and reviewed it here. This year he presented Music: An Explanation by a Guitar Hero – a look at the physics underlying sound/music. Without wishing to spoil the show for those who may have the chance to see it later, let me say that he took us on an engaging journey from the sine wave – through the world of harmonics (overtones), the importance of the fundamental, 4th and 5th notes, the short step from there to the pentatonic scale, which is used in folk musics across the world – notably in the blues.

He finished the talk with some thoughts on music’s purpose in our evolution – the topic of much debate – such as from 2:24 – 7:03 in this video). One thing is clear, though: prosody (the music of speech) matters – it’s not just what you say it’s how you say it.

This was an excellent, funny and informative presentation. This cross-curricular take on life is, I feel, at the heart of CfE.

You can see Mark Lewney in action in YouTube videos here.

My further explorations on prosody took me here to a fascinating series of lectures by Peter Roach

p.s. 

I forgot to mention one of the most elucidating facts of the evening – and one of the simplest. 

When non-musicians ask musicians why orchestras need conductors, there are many common answers: 

  • apart from waving the baton, the conductor is the person who has led rehearsals and is in charge of the interpretation
  • orchestral players can end up sitting many metres away from their colleagues and it’s hard to hear – conductors can ensure the overall balance and timing of the group
  • the conductor is the fore-runner of drummer and mixing desk

 However, Mark Lewney’s audience participation illustration was much better and more direct and more memorable. He asked the audience to clap to a beat which, having started, he left in our hands – with out eyes shut. The timing soon began to drift. He asked us to open our eyes and sync with him. The timing improved. Closing our eyes again, the timing deteriorated. Opening them, and following his lead, we were back in sync. The reason? Light travels approximately 874,000 times faster than sound*. Relying on the sound, we had to wait for it to bounce off the back wall of the hall. Syncing to the beat, we were exactly in time.

 * Speed of sound

  •  343.2 metres per second
  • 1,236 kilometres per hour
  • 768 miles per hour

 Speed of light 

  • 299,792,458 metres per second
  • 1,079,000,000 kilometres per hour
  • 671,000,000 miles per hour

Virtual Choir

Many thanks to Ewan McIntosh for flagging this up - Eric Whitacre‘s Virtual Choir singing Lux Aurumque (Light and Gold)  - a beautiful blend of music and technology:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/D7o7BrlbaDs?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


The idea and its history is explained here:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/zyLX2cke-Lw?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

I found the following translation of the text of Lux Aurumque here:

Lux

Calida gravisque

Pura velut aurum

Et canunt angeli

Molliter modo natum

Light

Warm and heavy

As pure gold

And the angels sing softly

To the newborn babe

The following related videos might also be of interest:

Singing instruction (although this is for another work – Sleep):[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dWCTKnbqE6s?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Recording instruction:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/IrQRVI8y5j8?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]


Conducting track (instruction first and then real time conducting kicks in at 5:18)[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/uh1c2xWVWiA?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Score of Lux Aurumque (moves along with music)[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/aLBKyLT-j4w?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]