Intro to Music Notes

1 January 2017

Listener Casual listeners are probably the most common type of listeners. So, what is a casual listener? This type of listener likes having music playing, filling the environment with sounds. Whether present as a background to drive, study, work, exercise, or hang out with friends, music is an accompaniment to the casual listener’s daily activities. Sometimes the music simply mask the sounds of a noisy street. The casual listener may be conscious of the sound or merely consider it part of the environment.

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In any case, this type of listener views music primarily as a mood enhancer or as pleasant part of the environment. The Referential Listener Sometimes music may remind people of past events, or it may bring to mind particular images, feelings, or situations. At times, these external references are so strong that the music is not really heard anymore; instead, the listener is caught up in the memories of the person, event, or feeling. Although it is undeniable that extra-musical connections or associations may be developed through listening, referential listeners tend to relate to music exclusively in that way.

Composers are aware of the associative power of music and sometimes intentionally title their compositions to bring certain connections to mind. Music of this type may follow an explicit story or program, and is therefore known as program music. By contrast, music that is not associated with a particular story, image, object, or event is called absolute music. Regardless of the composer’s intent, those whose main connection with music is through memories of some sort are known as referential listeners. The Critical Listener A critical listener’s primary motivation is to identify what is wrong with a erformance.

For very scrupulous critical listeners, every detail of the performance must be perfect, including the accuracy of the notes. Such listeners may even demand perfection in live music, with anything short of perfection considered a poor performance. Holding music to high artistic and technical standards is not unreasonable. However, listeners ought to consider the differences between live performances and synthetic, perfected recordings that have been edited to eliminate mistakes. In live performances, mistakes occur.

Performers miss notes, instruments go out of tune, and there are noises and distractions from the audience. Concentrating on technical perfection while ignoring other aspects of a musical performance may detract from the music, and it often keeps the listener from wholly enjoying the music and what it has to offer. Furthermore, the piece’s purpose may not coincide with the critical listener’s motivation. When a mother sings a lullaby to put a child to sleep, the quality of a performance must be judged not by musical standards, but on the basis of whether or not the song has put the child to sleep.

It is not important if the mother does not sing every note perfectly so long as the other elements, such as hushed volume, steady speed (tempo), and a big dose of tenderness, are present. The Perceptive Listener The last listener type, the perceptive listener, combines the characteristics of the previous three types of listeners but is not limited by them. The perceptive listener: Like the casual listener, enjoys sound for sound’s sake, but asks: What is it in the music that makes me feel this way? Is it the way the performer is interpreting the music? Is it because of the volume or speed at which it is played?

Is it because it is sung, played by instruments, or because it has a good balance of unity and variety? Is it a combination of all these elements? If so, which combination is at work? Like the referential listener, may have associations with the music being heard, but also tries to remember: When and where the music was heard most recently. What other works from that composer or performer she knows. Like the critical listener, is aware of the quality of a performance but goes beyond the technical aspects to seek understanding and appreciation of the human and cultural values embodied in the music.

Furthermore, the perceptive listener: Attends concerts regularly and listens with concentration. Uses appropriate musical vocabulary, not lay terms like “mellow” or “upbeat,” to describe music. Tries to develop an awareness of different musical styles and realizes that there are significant and valid differences among these styles. The perceptive listener is open to all kinds of music. Realizes that music is created for many different purposes and by many different kinds of people. Really tries to understand the music and what makes it interesting before passing judgment on it.

Would never decide that she does not like a certain kind of music without having listened to it. Tries to learn something about the music before listening to a live or recorded performance of it. Is aware of the fact that a piece of music, regardless of style, might take some time to reveal its structure, meaning and beauty, and is therefore prepared to reserve judgment until she has heard it many times. Note Name Symbol Rest Equivalent Whole Whole note Whole rest Half Half note Half rest Quarter Quarter note Quarter rest Eighth Eighth note Eighth rest Sixteenth Sixteenth note Sixteenth rest

Intervals The distance between two pitches is called an interval. As you know by now, pitches may be indicated by the position of a note on the staff or by a letter name (for example, A, G, or D). Another way of putting it is that an interval is the distance between two letter names. To find out the interval between two notes, count the number of letter names between the two of them. Make sure to include both notes in your count. For example, the interval from any note to its nearest neighbor (for example, C and D) is two. We call that a second. The interval between D and A would be a fifth.

Why? Well, if you count D as note number 1 (remember, you include both letter names in the count), E would be 2, F would be 3, G would be 4, and finally, A would be 5. The interval between E and A includes four consecutive letter names, and is, therefore, a fourth. Intervals may be ascending (as in the previous example) or descending. Descending intervals are calculated exactly the same way as ascending ones. For example, the descending interval between A and F is a third. Here is the breakdown: count A as note 1. The next letter name counting down from A is G; G is note 2.

Before G comes F, our destination, which is note 3. You have easily found that the descending interval between A and F is a third. Volume, also referred to as dynamics, is one of the most important aspects of sound. Composers use volume as a way of controlling the emotional content and shape of a piece. Therefore, it is interesting to note that composers generally did not mark their scores with instructions about volume until well into the 17th century. Instead, they depended on musicians to determine the appropriate levels of volume for a specific performance space.

Developed Instruments Versus the Synthesizer The following table illustrates the main differences between a highly developed musical instrument (for example, the piano or violin) and the synthesizer. Developed instrumentSynthesizer Highly developed playing technique. Great diversity / inconsistency of playing techniques. Dependable relationship between performance gestures and the sound produced. Relationship between technique and sound varies considerably depending on how the synthesizer is programmed. Standard shape and construction. May have any shape, size, or controller interface.

Controllers range from traditional keyboards to such innovative devices as the Spatial MIDI Controller. Certainly history’s least standardized instrument in physical appearance. Characteristic sound (timbral palette) and sound ideal. Can make almost any sound. Associated repertoire with all its cultural implications. Virtually no standard repertoire. Shared terminology and teaching tradition. Terminology is confusing and inconsistent due to contradictory marketing practices of major manufacturers. Well-established conventions of use in standard ensembles.

Use in ensembles is only beginning to emerge. Let’s go back to the three criteria outlined at the beginning of this page. In terms of versatility, the synthesizer may be used in a variety different musical circumstances. However, when it comes to identity and development, the synthesizer falls short. There is no ideal sound that a synthesizer makes; moreover, there is no standard way to develop or play a synthesizer. Electronic Generation of Sound The synthesizer generates sounds electronically. As you know, to generate sound you need movement.

Something has to vibrate. In the case of electronic instruments, this movement is the oscillation of electric current as it changes polarity from positive to negative. That is, it oscillates back and forth from positive to negative charges. Movement generates waves, and the timbre and volume of the sound you hear will depend on the shape of the wave, which is also called a waveform. It is difficult to explain this process without getting too technical, but let’s give it a try. There are two basic ways of generating sounds electronically: by synthesis and by sampling.

We are concerned mainly with synthesis, which refers to creating sounds electronically from previously-generated waveforms. How are these waveforms generated? Think of it as a chain of events. The first link in the chain is, as with any other musical instrument, a sound source. In the synthesizer, this sound source is an oscillator. The next links in the chain provide ways of manipulating the sound. This is done using different types of filters. The final link in the synthesis process is to amplify the loudness of the synthesized sound. This is accomplished through an amplifier.

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