Sight-reading and expectation

I recently took part in some interesting research in that intriguing Venn diagram intersection of music/language/psychology.

To ensure that the tests weren’t skewed by knowledge of what was being studied (so called Observer Effect) I simply followed instructions and asked later. Basically I sat at a piano keyboard prepared to sight-read various short musical samples for right hand only. My eyes were tracked so that the researcher could see exactly what I looked at and for how long.
One thing which became clear was that I looked down at my hands too often, even although there was a square on Middle C and a thin Blue Tack ridge on the G above that. The span of notes involved was a 13th ( from the G below Middle C to the E above the next C up).
Once it was all over, it was explained to me that the research was looking to see whether our eyes would linger over odd and incongruous moments the way they do when we read language. For example, “the cat sat on the sat” will, unless you are a modernist poet, make your eyes linger on the final word, which doesn’t, in any conventional sense really “fit”. Musical equivalents included, for example, an excerpt in the key of D in which the sharps which qualified it as ‘being in D’ were cancelled by natural signs. Interestingly, the weren’t many rhythmically weird moments – probably because that would have made the reading tricky. What was being sought was our reaction to oddness – not difficulty.
When I find out more about the results I will ( with the blessing of the researcher) post more.

Open Goldberg

Those studying composing/arranging and listening in SQA Music exams pretty soon come upon variation form. If you’re lucky enough to have an iPhone or iPad you can download a free app containing a recording by Kimiko Ishizaka along with a score (with moving cursor) of one of the best sets of variations of all time, Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

You can get the iPhone app here  http://www.opengoldbergvariations.org/soundsnips-free-iphone-app-featuring-open-goldberg-variations

and the iPad version here:

http://www.opengoldbergvariations.org/musescore-releases-free-ipad-app-open-goldberg-variations

Sibelius 7

Staff and students currently scaling the steep learning curve from Sibelius 6 to 7 may find some cheer in the wealth of YouTube tutorials in existence. A simple search revealed the following:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sibelius+7+tutorial&oq=Sibelius+7+tut&gs_l=youtube.1.0.0l6j0i5.4216.6353.0.8126.4.4.0.0.0.0.123.410.2j2.4.0…0.0…1ac.1.n0PwzZ7mIII

 

Here is the first one on that list:

Sound Editing for Oral Historians

The second project in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) was to put together a short course, explaining the basics of sound editing so that local, oral historians – using the free program, Audacity, could edit and present their work. Of course this is equally applicable to music.

Here it is…

Sound Editing in Audacity for Oral Historians

Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)

In October 2011 I applied to participate in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP). Under the mantle of Creative Learning Networks, the idea was to enhance creative learning in the (public sector) workplace – school, community etc. One spin-off would be that silos who have neither time not opportunity to communicate would have reason to come together, in the interest of learning. This very much appealed to my cross-curricular mind-set.

Under the leadership of Ruthanne Baxter – then Arts Education Officer and Manager for Creative Learning Network in East Lothian – I was paired with Caroline Mathers at the John Gray Centre in Haddington, soon to be moving into its new premises in Lodge Street. Various ideas were discussed and two projects were agreed:

  1. a short series of videos where working composers would give tips to pupils to help with the composing/arranging component of the SQA Music courses
  2. an online course in the basics of sound editing – using the free program, Audacity and aimed at oral historians

The latter idea seemed especially fitting for two reasons:

  1. the John Gray Centre is, among other things, a museum devoted to local history and community
  2. this seemed, to me, to fit the cross-sector brief

Five composers were initially scheduled to be involved in the video interviews but, due to various commitments, two were unable to take part. Nevertheless, I feel that the three videos we have will be invaluable to students of composition.

I shall post each of the two outcomes individually.

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

 

 

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" /]

Taking a stand

It’s funny how modernity in music can occasionally be as much to do with appearance as with sound. Do you remember, for example, the first time you saw an electronic drum-kit? Or someone with a wearing a keyboard like a guitar? Or a singer with a radio-mic attached?

I saw an ad for a “music stand” the other day which had a decidedly 21st century look. You can see it here – go half-way down the page and look for Clamps.

A colleague told me earlier this year that many young jazz players turn up to jam sessions with a real book in iPad format – capable of transposing a song into other keys. This invokes the thorny perennial about technological advances eroding skills which practitioners once honed through hours of woodshedding.

The following videos give some idea of the look and feel of this way of working:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/G6fBT_6Sphg?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /][kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3jt-AhkKn2E?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]