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

and the iPad version here:

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:…0.0…1ac.1.n0PwzZ7mIII


Here is the first one on that list:

The Art of Fugue

I always look forward to notification of a new YouTube upload by Smalin aka Stephen Malinowski. I’ve linked to several here before but this one is a cracker and features: 

  • his uniquely colourful system for portraying pitch and duration
  • the option to watch in 3D – with the right specs
  • mention of the following musical concepts:
  • augmentation – doubling the length of notes in the theme
  • diminution – halving the length of notes in the theme
  • inversion – turning the theme upside-down; as he explains the M-shape becomes a W-shape
  • if you watch the hands closely you’ll also see ‘finger substitution’ – where a finger, which is keeping a note down, is ‘relieved’ by another so that it can move on to its next job; the complexity of the music comes through here as many of the notes are effectively being played twice

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

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.

Happy Birthday Heinrich

If you are a guitarist then today is the day joyously to play D# - string 4, fret 1. The reason to celebrate the 155th birthday of Heinrich Rudolph Hertz (1857-94), the man after whom the calibration of pitch frequency is named. That D# (the one below Middle C)  is the nearest note to 155 Hz.

1 Hz = 1 cycle per second – that is to say that the D# in question makes the air vibrate 155 times per second.

Orchestras in the west tune to A  = 440 Hz, with the exception of the French who prefer 444 Hz.

But the situation has not always been stable. Harpsichords in the Baroque were tuned to A = 415 Hz; some organs were tuned to A = 465 Hz. The French preferred 398 Hz.

Human hearing range is 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz (20 kHz).

The range of a piano is 27.5 Hz (no point in going much lower) to 4186 Hz (we could perceive notes which are much higher than this, but would we enjoy them?)

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="" 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="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]