Category Archives: Musical Grammar

Music & Maths

“Music is the pleasure the human mind experiences form counting without being aware that it is counting”     Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716)

I was intrigued to hear that the maths department at MGS are developing an initiative where they hope to coordinate with other departments about those areas of their subject which have a mathematical component. Aside from the obvious cross curricular benefits, there is a second reason behind this initiative. The idea is to check that, where we refer to the maths of any area in our own subject, we avoid confusing pupils by sticking to the same procedures they themselves would be using in a formal maths class i.e. offering resonance and not interference.

I threw down a few headings and ideas and passed them onto the Music link, Adrian Marchant.  Just a few moments blasting away in a mind-mapping programme allowed quite a few ideas to surface under these general headings (in no particular order): formula; proportion; inverse proportion; inclusive counting; percentage; intervals; subdividing; transposition; division (of the scale); the law of diminishing returns and Venn diagrams.

I’ll post a little more on this when things begin to take shape.

Although a local, as opposed to national initiative, this reminds me of Language Across The Curriculum, the evaporation of which strikes me as a loss.

The Full Monty

Yesterday, I experience the widest range of musical experience possible in a single day.

I spent the day at NBHS where the youngest pupils’ reading range is around a dozen notes. Others were putting the finishing touches to their Standard Grade programmes (we now know the examiner’s visit to be in early March).

From there I went to Edinburgh University’s Faculty of Music to rehearse with a postgraduate student from Vigo in Galicia (Northern Spain). We are putting together a short programme of Scottish and Galician traditional music for a concert put on by City of Edinburgh Council – the idea of which is to welcome immigrants to the city. It had been 25 years since I last entered a warren of practice rooms and the cacophonous endeavour brought on a wave of nostalgia.

From there we went to The Queen’s Hall for a concert by Mr. McFall’s Chamber – the pinnacle of writing, arranging and performing. The programme featured musicians from Edinburgh and Newcastle/Northumbria and the (no doubt) minimal rehearsal time was belied by the fantastic musicianship. At that level, one can’t help feeling that music is the first language of those involved.

Connect 7

Minor Endings

Major = Happy, Minor = Sad.

This has served for generations as a first step to aural identification of the two basic chord types.

Major = Reliable, Minor = Slippery Customer. How’s that, then?

The makeup of a major scale, once learned, remains learned. The minor scale, once conquered, simply grows another head and reappears in disguise. Brought about by historical change and (multi)cultural influence,* Continue reading Connect 7

Musical Grammar 3

Those pupils who become interested in harmony often do so through experimenting with writing their own music. They hear sounds they like and hope to incorporate them into their comopsitions and arrangements. However, the source tune may not be in the same key as their own piece and a more formulaic understanding may be necessary to enable them to use these favourite sounds. This is the process we use to name any interesteing chords which crop up in a piece: Continue reading Musical Grammar 3