One of my favourite games, called into play to allay the tedium of supermarket shopping, is to guess the origin of foreign languages before I’m near enough to hear the words. What’s this nonsense, I hear you read. But really, you can tell from the tunes. However this becomes more difficult when foreign nationals are speaking English, as the mixture of our words to their tunes tends to hide the traces. Try out your ear on this online spot the accent quiz.
Thanks to Omniglot for the link.
Have a look at Benjamin Zander‘s enthusiastic TED talk on classical music (and much more).
Thanks to Ewan for flagging up this inspirational talk on education and change by Sir Ken Robinson. It coincided with his being presented with the Benjamin Franklin Medal on Monday. Sponsored by Edge (not that one, the other one), the talk, given at the RSA is available in mp3 format for the moment, with a video to follow here soon. Although slides are referred to in the talk, you can get by without visuals – with the possible exception of the moment where Earth is compared to other stars & planets.
If you haven’t already seen it, I can’t recommend highly enough Ken Robinson’s TED talk. His book Out Of Our Minds: Learning To Be Creative, is on my reading list.
My ears pricked up this morning at the mention of the Street Vibe Festival of Sound which takes place today in London’s The Scoop. The idea of the event is to highlight the appeal of science through music and other arts. The short report on Radio 4’s Today included efforts by Stephen Mesure (Director of The Creative Science Consultancy) and South African percussionist and composer, Eugene Skeef to produce music from carved instruments. The most convincing of these was a carrot built on the whole tone scale.
The report grabbed my attention, not because I plan to race down to London to take part, but because I have been thinking along similar lines. Discussions are to be opened up in a school I visit with a view to pupils and staff playing a more active role in assemblies. The possibilities for cross curricular links seem huge and I see music as being able to play a big part e.g. music & maths; music & science; music & languages – in addition to the more obvious pairings like words & music or music and dance.
The idea which immediately sprang to mind is a piece based on the harmonic series – the physical and mathematical reality which underpins the evolution of Western harmony and instruments over the last 1,000 years. Yes, start small – that’s my motto.
One of the bonuses of keeping this blog is that searching for useful hyperlinks – such as the one for the whole tone scale (above) leads me to interesting resources for pupils. From the same source come this short, interesting video about chord construction.
An intensive Chopin weekend is underway on Radio 3 – details of programmes here. Interesting programmes include Discovering Music, which takes an analytical look at Chopin’s Four Ballades, and World Routes, which explores the folk music of Chopin’s native Poland.
The dedicated website contains tutorials, a profile and timeline of the composers life, video footage of performances, many external links and, for the interactively minded, an audio quiz. There is also a gallery of photographs relating to Chopin’s fraught holiday in Mallorca in 1838 with George Sand and her children. Sarah Walker‘s programme about this goes out at 2:30 on Sunday afternoon.
One of the tutorials, given by David Owen Norris, outlines the difference between the type of piano for which Chopin wrote and present day pianos. Those familiar with the music will not be surprised to discover that the touch of pianos back then was lighter and shallower, light and rapid playing. Classical guitarists will be familiar with a similar situation. The music of Fernando Sor, Mauro Giuliani, Dionisio Aguado etc. was written for a guitar which was not only smaller than the modern version but had a much lighter action (less tension in the strings). There is an impressive collection of such guitar in the Anne Macaulay Collection of Plucked String Instruments which is housed (alongside other impressive collections) in Edinburgh’s St Cecilia’s Hall.
I don’t normally watch BBC’s Young Musician of the Year – not because I don’t enjoy watching talented young people perform, but more because I find the competitive element a little distasteful. While I acknowledge that many a great career has been launched this way, I’d rather just enjoy the performance. This is now possible thanks to the BBC providing video footage. The videos contain far more of each soloist’s programme than broadcast time could possibly allow. May I recommend this fine performance by Jadran Duncumb on guitar. Once there, you’ll be able to navigate your way around the other performances and interviews.
One of the things I’ll miss most when we are finally forced off the road by environmental conscience, economics or government edict is the phenomenon of accidental cinema. This usually happens when traffic lights coincide with reflective music on the radio. The relentless narrative of life suspended, time seems to slow down and pedestrians are involuntarily cast in wistful tableau whose mood is most likely at odds with their current state of mind. Like most poetic moments, it never lasts – the lights change, the screen returns to its functional role, and the ears and eyes which wove the fiction together resume the more prosaic scrutiny of the road ahead.
My experience is that most pupils, when asked about the mood of a piece of music, rather than simply supply adjectives, will describe a scene which matches that mood. The following moment, which confirmed for me the suggestive potential of music, coincided with a pedestrian crossing en route to school: extract
Musical analogies crop up everywhere but this is a particularly unusual example.
In a post yesterday I referred to a program called Hyperscore but, as the central subject matter concerned a video featuring a very specific application, I didn’t dwell on the technicalities of the program. Well, the other reason is that I’ve never seen the program. However, after writing the post, I had a more detailed look at this video and looked at these particulars and I can see a place for a program like this in schools. Composition in SQA courses is certainly not the ideal setting as the program seems to be to composition what flat-pack furniture is to carpentry. However, primary or S1/S2 might prove more suitable . There are many people with an intuitive feel for how music fits together who are neither musically literate nor sufficiently proficient on an instrument to participate in the creative process – and produce some kind of finished product.
At $79 (less for site licence) it’s probably worth investigating. If only we knew someone in East Lothian familiar enough with music and IT to review it.