Category Archives: Language

Campie Musical Evening 2012

Last night saw the return of Campie’s Musical Evening, where guitarists perform in addition to brass, recorders and choir. Many thanks to Danny, my ‘recording engineer volunteer’. The guitarists played a mixture of group pieces and solos – ranging in age group from P5-P7. Our guest, Louise – a former pupil, now in S3 – also played a solo.

Here is the guitarists’ programme:

01 Group – The Water is Wide

02 Maggie – Twinkle Twinkle

03 Daniel – Patapan (featuring Daniel’s introduction in French “Je voudrais jouer Patapan”)

04 Group – Symphony Theme

05 Dylan – Spanish Dance  (featuring Dylan’s introduction in Spanish, “Querría tocar Danza Española”)

06 Group – Polish Dance (featuring Daniel counting in the group, in Polish, “Jeden, dwa, trzy, cztery”

07 Hannah – Gypsy Dance

08 Louise – Banjo Bill

09 Luke – Sweet Child of Mine

10 Group – Toccata

Music and the Brain

I’ve lately become a great fan of the slightly inelegantly named webiste, Brainpickings. Today they posted on Facebook (don’t knock it – it’s not all egotism) a list of 7 Essential Books on Music, Emotion and the Brain. I feel that two titles have been unfairly omitted: Steven Mithen’s The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind and Body and Daniel Levitin’s The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature - both of these links lead to lead to Amazon’s ‘look inside’ feature.

Bilingualism – and also music…

I’ve always felt somewhat cool towards the oft-quoted links between Music & Maths, feeling that Music has more in common with Language(s). As neuroscience reveals an equal amount of our intuitions to have been either true or misguided, I was pleased to see this article about some recent research led by Nina Kraus – one of the most engaging speakers at last June’s Music/Neuroscience conference hosted by Edinburgh University. It suggests that bilingualism – and music –  are advantageous when it comes to processing sound. Much of this comes to being able to block our distractions – increasingly necessary in our busy world.

Afro Cuban Rhythm

Bouncing from one YouTube video to another, I recently came across a great series of films on Afro Cuban Rhythm – with very clear explanations of how the rhythms are layered. The central protagonist is maestro of Cuban rhythm, drummer Ignacio Berroa. There are some very good musicians involved, but I’ll let him introduce them to you.

Key to understanding the whole thing are the two main rhythms of the clave (although the qutoed graphic below from Wikipedia includes three – the extra one begin in 6/8). Note the interesting etymology of the word clave:

cla·ve [klah-vey]
noun - one of a pair of wooden sticks or blocks that are held one in each hand and are struck together to accompany music and dancing. Origin: 1925–30; American Spanish, Spanish: keystone < Latin clāvis key

This little graphic from Wikipedia may help to outline the key rhythms:

At the end of the 5th video (and running well into the 6th) there is a chance to see if you can keep the clave part going once they temporarily drop out of the music. Now there’s a challenge for you.

Pattern & Surprise

From the earliest lessons pupils learn to make sense of the language of music through the idea of pattern and surprise. This is one of the best examples I can think of – from Cello Concerto No. 1 by Shostakovich.

Here is the first phrase – a 5-note motif: Shostakovich – Cello Concerto – Sample 1

Now, phrases 1 and 2 – same rhythm (making it a sequence) – change of pitch (distinguishing sequence from simple repetition): Shostakovich – Cello Concerto – Sample 2

Patterns usually break away on the third phrase and sure enough the space at the end of the 5-note pattern has been filled with a 6th note: Shostakovich – Cello Concerto – Sample 3

But there is is another über-surprise hot on the heels of that. What would you do next? This? Shostakovich – Cello Concerto – Sample 4

 

 

European Day of Languages

Tomorrow (Mon 26 Sept) is European Day of Languages. Like all Mondays I’ll be spending it in two primary schools. A really good way to involve pupils, without major distraction from the task in hand, is to have them ‘count in’ the tunes in a variety of languages. This table is very helpful. Handy time-saving hint to avoid lengthy scrolling, for those not already addicted to keyboard short-cuts:

  1. Control+F
  2. Type the name of the language you want in the search box which should appear at the top-right of the screen

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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The Song Is You

Long fascinated by the crossover between music and language, I was delighted to come across a dissertation by Jonathan Pearl entitled Music and Language: The Notebooks of Leoš Janáček. The Czech (or more accurately Moravian) composer was taken by the idea that character was manifest in prosody and strove to come up with melodies for his operatic characters which were true to the music of their speech.

Jonathan Pearl does a much better job of explaining it – either here in the full-length dissertation or here in a shorter version (look for Eavesdropping with a Master: Leos Janácek and the Music of Speech). Very interesting reading!

Illustrating this idea with a single YouTube clip is tricky so instead let me embed a clip of one of Janáček’s most famous non-operatic works – the final movement of his Sinfonietta, conducted here by Pierre Boulez. Listen out for great trumpet section work at 5:00:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/d5QBSMjdIFI?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Conference 1

I recently experienced four days which I would have to sum up as amongst the most stimulating but toughest days I can recall. They were spent at a conference (organised by the Mariani Foundation and hosted by Edinburgh University – specifically Katie Overy of the IMHSD) entitled: The Neurosciences and Music: Learning & Memory

 Stimulating for the following reasons: 

  • dedicated, uninterrupted time to devote to an area of fascination which often only pops up intermittently – namely the intersection of music, language, memory, learning, science (of various sorts)
  • the world’s leading thinkers – many of whose names I had already come across – were presenting recent research
  • the questions/comments often added another dimension to the talks – I noted that resonant, thought-provoking questions were equally likely from delegates in identical or contrasting fields to the speaker

 Tough for the following reasons: 

  • although I am now very interested in science, I do not have a scientific background – my last formal contact was failing Higher Chemistry and Physics in 1977
  • speed – all speakers were keen to run to time and presentations were necessarily quick – this meant that slides containing acronyms, data, graphs, brain scans etc. seemed to be racing by*
  • concentration – not my own (although this was no doubt challenged) but more the concentration of 18 hours of listening and a further 6 hours of poster viewing/chat to authors over four days was quite dense 

I would equate the content of those four days with at least a year’s reading, TV/radio documentaries, on-line exploration. For that reason, I was glad to have my Zoom H2 mp3 recorder with me and intend to re-visit many of the talks in order to write things up over time. Until then, though, here is an outline of content to give some broad overview of the content. 

*One of the delegates seated next to me, using an iPad, switched seamlessly between – typing, photographing, videoing. That’s the way to go! Other devices are available :-)

Neurosciences and Music IV: Learning & Memory

 DAY 1  – Thu 9 June

 

  Registration

 “Working with Infants and Children”

 Workshop 1Experimental Methods  – 4 x 30 minute presentations

 Workshop 2 – Social / Real World Methods – 4 x 20 minute presentations

 Day 2 – Fri 10 June

 

 Keynote lecture - Human memory – 45 minutes

Symposium IMechanisms of Rhythm and Meter Learning over the Life Span – 3 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 2Impact of Musical Experience on Cerebral Language Processing – 4 x 30 minute presentations

Symposium 3Cultural Neuroscience of Music – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session I – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 3 – Saturday 11 June


Symposium 4 - Memory and Learning in Music Performance 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 5Mind and Brain in Musical Imagery – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 6 - Plasticity and Malplasticity in Health and Disease – 5 x 20 minute presentations

Poster session II – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 

Day 4 – Sunday 12 June

Symposium 7The Role of Music in Stroke Rehabilitation: neural mechanisms and therapeutic techniques – 6 x 20 minute presentations

Symposium 8Music: A Window into the World of Autism – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Symposium 9Learning and Memory in Musical disorders – 4 x 25 minute presentations

Edinburgh International Film Festival previews – neuroscience is a theme this year – 15 min presentation

Conclusions and thanks.

Poster session III – 2 hours to view posters/chat to authors/take away A4 version handouts

 18 hours of talks – 6 hours of poster sessions

45 Speakers

300+ delegates

It never rains but it pours…

… I hate that expression – but anyway.

Tomorrow sees the Neuromusic IV conference kick off. I’ve been looking forward to this for ages. I intend to write up (m)any interesting things when it’s over (it runs till Sunday). Fittingly the conference closes with a concert and jazz session, at which I have offered to play what has become one of my favourite tunes (see video below).

On Saturday evening, I’ll be taking time out for a much loved musical experience – a Calton Consort concert (what a poet!) Had that not been on, I’d have gone along to this Edinburgh Contemporary Music Ensemble event. I’ve just been listening to some audio from previous events.

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