Category Archives: Concepts

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" /]

 

 

Musical Terms

There was a time when many used to feel that it was fine to question Wikipedia’s accuracy. I never really felt this and can’t recall spotting an error – perhaps I know less than those critics.

I’m impressed by their glossary of musical terms – particularly the iPhone version, the alphabetical arrangement of which is elegant and user friendly. A nervous pupil, en route to a grade exam, could do worse than to look check up a few of these in the car. At home on PC it is a great resource – particularly when used in conjunction with Windows search function – Ctrl+F then the first few letters of the term in question.

Of course, when it comes to SQA concepts, there is no better site than LTS’ one – where audio illustrations of the concepts are included.

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

 

 

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

TeachMeet 2011

This evening I’m heading up to TeachMeet 2011 chez Scottish Book Trust as one of the 7-minute presenters.

My theme is Literacy, Numeracy and Games in Instrumental Lessons. Seven minutes will allow a an average of 6 seconds per slide. So it will be a broad brush, hurried affair with the intention that people can download the ppt from here.

So here it is: Literacy-Numeracy-Games-in-Instrumental-Lessons

She Moved Through The Education System

Below is a clip of former NBHS pupil, Zoë Moskal-Guy, performing the traditional Irish ballad, She Moved Through The Fair, at The Meadows Festival 2011. Now approaching end of her 1st year at the Academy of Music and Sound (Edinburgh branch), Zoë formerly represented the school and the local authority in concerts, Burns Suppers, musicals (Les Miserables; Guys and Dolls; Back to the 80s; Fiddler on the Roof) and out of school events (VOCAL Conference @ Marine Hotel; Head Teachers’ Conference @ John Muir House; Well-being Scotland Conference @ Our Dynamic Earth; Commonwealth Forestry Conference @ EICC). Also featured in some of the linked video footage are former NBHS pupils, Callum Devine; Fraser Fulton; Bess MacArthur; Polly Waters. We wish them well in their careers, with many thanks for all the playing!

This is the best example I know of a song with a very free meter – at times so free it disappears altogether:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/rOU2b9zZrDY?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Prosody Revisited

Tidying up at the end of a primary school day, I was delighted when two P5 girls helped out without being asked. For some reason, best known to themselves, they burst into an animated version of Two Little Dickie Birds. Then one suggested, “why don’t we play that song?” I replied,  “we could, but I’m wondering if it’s more of a poem than a song. If we took the words away, would there be any tune left for us to play?”  After a moment’s reflection, one said:

Da dada dada da,  dada dada da  –

Da da dada – ,  da da da 

Dada da dada – ,  dada da da

Da da dada – ,  da da da  –

The inflections in the voice were identical to the version with words.

So, what is the prosodic equivalent of the popular line, “I’m a poet and didn’t know it?”