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Posts from the ‘MUS654 2017’ Category

Shuffle the deck: Scales becoming tunes #MUS654

Listening, and thinking on the way music creeps under your skin to make you move… I spent this week thinking on scales and their relationships as part of #MUS654 – of notes to notes, and yes, the relationships of the notes to people. Context can be everything and it can change so much. The way things are ordered, presented, and the way we look at them is important for how people attribute meaning.

For each type of musician, there are different physical parameters that influence the mechanical logistics of how we paint our sounds. Let me explain… in my last post I talked about how singers don’t use ‘fingerings’ for their notes. They have intense links between the conceptual understanding of what needs to be done to achieve a certain pitch and then they make the sound. There is no looking (down the throat!) to check they have the right positioning. Yes there are physical aspects of singing that can be seen – like mouth shape and torso placement/use, but there are unseen aspects and somehow there is a strong connection between the mind and the outcome.

Likewise for other instruments the mind is very important, but there is this pesky other bit that cannot be ignored… As a cellist, I work with my hands Read more

Scaling it up: More than a ladder?

Talking with a number of different instrumentalist:

An ukulele player, bassist, violinist, clarinettist, and a singer about #MUS654 topic of Scales and the Relationships of Notes.

Discussing how scales are specifically used and understood within and across different instrument specialisms opened some eyes and gave us food for thought.

We started with big quesitons:

What actually are scales for? When do we play them? When do we learn them?

It seems perspectives shift with experience as well as with instrument. There is a basic awareness that scales mean notes and the relationships of notes. This equates to building a geographical knowledge on some instruments. The physicality of the instrument was accessed through scales, in effect adding steps to the ladder. Beyond understanding this geography, some people said the usefulness of scales was simply as an exercise in dexterity – and that students ‘do’ scales because they have to.  (Image CC-BY by Naveen P.M.)

Ouch. That sounds unpleasant, complex, and maybe unnecessary?…

But then the singers piped up. Read more

On melody, meaning, & relationships of notes #MUS654

Melody is something that speaks to people. It sings, it moves, it has meaning. I was musing over this as I sat with my cello, playing different two-note combinations across the strings as I warmed up my fingers and my ear. While playing, I thought – what am I doing?

  • Listening
  • Feeling
  • Tunig
  • Manipulating the sound as I moved the bow left to right
  • Changing dynamics
  • Breathing

Was this exercise a melody? or could this be a melody? I think it didn’t start as a melody, but as I thought about it and changed my perception, it became melodic.

Last week in #MUS654 we heard Duane Padilla explain that a melody was the notes of a scale mixed up. Ah, yes! -I’d like to add an ‘and’, so: the notes of a scale mixed up and played with some intention. Duane didn’t say that bit in words, but he did in sound – through his playing.

That intention comes from different sources including our understanding of the harmonic language-framework (tonality), experiences where we have heard those or similar sounds, and both musical and extra-musical associations. Then we can project that onto the music via a host of instrument-specific techniques.

I invite you to dip into this week’s #MUS654 topic exploring Scales and the Relationships of Notes to question, deepen your awareness, discuss, and further our (collective) understanding of some of the frameworks that enable us as musicians to add that intention to our sounds and create expression.

Let’s start with a question for you all:

When in your music making (from whistling to concertising) do your notes become melody and what gives them meaning?

Leave a comment or share something and tag it #MUS654

Featured image CC BY-ND by kiera.chan

Lyre Bird: #MUS654

I was thinking about melodies and the #MUS654 topic of ‘what makes a melody?‘ when I remembered about the lyre bird. No, this is not a veiled political comment, I’m talking purely about a very unique bird that lives in Australia. It is distinct to look at, with its long pluming tail, but the sounds it makes are truly extraordinary.

On the #MUS654 page on melody I suggested imitating a bird, but perhaps not this one! It has evolved a lifestyle that involves singing singing singing through the winter, as this is its mating season. Also there is a need to really woo the lady bird as she only produces a single egg every two years. Thus the song is amazing. Have a listen…. this two minute video is worth watching. See if it challenges your understanding of how birds and other natural sounds fit into music and everyday listening:

Your turn!

If you haven’t had a go imitating some birdsong, have a go. Xeno-Canto is a database that has over 373,800 recordings of birdsong. You can search by species and choose the tweeter of your choice to listen to and imitate. Remember you can share a link on your own blog, tweet it with the tag #MUS654, or share in comments on this post or on the the #MUS654 page on melody.

Featured image CC-BY by Hardy Humphries

Listening to the world MUS654

It’s the beginning of this year’s #MUS654 and we’re looking at all things sound for this week. Under the #MUS654 tab (at the top of the page on this website) are all the sessions and this week’s topic: The Mechanics of Sound has to do with sound. Every year I come to this with fresh ears as I learn to listen again. What does my world sound like? What can I hear?

So often sounds wash over us. Listening is a strange thing compared to sight. With sight, we can close our eyes and ‘make it go away’, but not so with sound. Bathed in sound from dawn to dusk and in between, the world never stops. Sitting in my office now, lights off, sun coming through the window, through the quiet I can hear the tappity tap of my keys and I wonder what else can be heard. I know there are programmes that can identify what you type by listening to the sounds of the patterns of typing, and the loudness of the different key strokes. What does the world around me reveal?

There are so many things that I am unaware of.

I recorded myself typing the text above. See if you can hear the patterns of my typing. Can you hear when I made mistakes and went back to correct them?

On this week’s page there are several activities you can explore. I have chosen this as an ice breaker, because it’s fun, and everyone can participate- whether you consider yourself to be specifically musical or not. I have recorded a ‘soundscape’ of something that I encounter every day. Your job is to listen and guess what it is. Please leave your guesses in the comments below 🙂 and in a few days I will post the answer in the form of both words and a picture. Don’t spoil the answer by reading all the comments first!

As a musician, listening is crucial; it is distinguishing between the smallest nuance. It is a skill that we continue to develop, and we can choose to open our ears to the world around us and to hear it with new vibrancy. What can you notice? What is around you? What sounds do you like and can you pinpoint why? So many questions…

Have a go recording your own soundscape, and do look at the other resources and activities on the page. Whether you are in #MUS654 for the long haul (all 10 weeks!) or just happened by the page, welcome and let’s explore the world of sound together. I am always open to questions or comments, and would be delighted if you shared your comments and creations so others could join in, widening the conversation.

Featured Image CC BY-NC-ND by Images by John ‘K’

Learning on your own

I love learning and I love teaching, and I love to make things fun. My classes started last week and I made a little video with the help of my son to illustrate what happens while ‘learning’. (insert cheshire cat grin here) If you need a good giggle, this one’s for you. Image CC BY-NC by Greg Hirson

See in learning stuff, could be any subject, there is content and then you have to figure out how to actually assimilate it and make it real for you, so that in the big wide world it means something and is useful. Very often we are given a ‘to do’ list and are set free to ‘learn’. The to do list is the what, and seldom includes the how or why. When I showed this video in class, it made my students cry with laughter, not because it is slapstick, but because it’s true. Read more

Time to open #MUS654 for 2017

It’s the start of another academic year, and I have just welcomed a new group of wonderful final year students to my undergraduate class on repertoire for the young performer. It’s a great one, in that we are so diverse, from classical to folk to rock and yet all on a common path of figuring out how to create a year-long curriculum for a learner. One of the first things I tell people is that I am not in a position to tell them how to ‘do’ their instruments. I can advise and guide on how to learn and devise learning. Time to open our minds! (featured image CC BY-SA by Eddie van W.)

We have more in common than we think – even with this year’s group spanning ukulele, clarinet, electric bass, voice, and violin. With all my classes we have no textbooks, and I strive to gather as many resources as possible for the students. For some classes these are paywalled, and fortunately we have access. For this class, there are many great resources that serve our purposes that are freely available. Over the past few years I have developed an open educational resource that is the closest thing to a text book that we have. It is here as the #MUS654 pages. There is a drop down menu for the pages, and I’m going to keep a grid of all the posts I make this year on a page there.

The idea was born out of two things:

  1. I can’t tell everyone what to do (I really could not pretend to have the expertise in ALL the instruments- that would be beyond pretentious)
  2. The people who can advise are out there, and so I thought wouldn’t it be great if my students worked to engage with you all, and in turn you were all invited to join in as well! (yay!)

What I had devised was like a mooc, but it isn’t a class that people need to register for. It is more of a cMOOC (that’s where everyone connects up and they devise the content). I didn’t realise it when I started this class in 2014, but that’s what I was creating. In this project/#MUS654, we discuss the commonalities of music, planning, engagement, but you have to do the heavy work and make the content for a curriculum (if you want). Otherwise you could just dip in and out and join in with anything that takes your fancy.

Learning to reach our and network is more than half of the game for musicians today.

So if you are a player, performer, enthusiast, teacher, learner, or just fancy yourself as a person who enjoys a bit of music – you are warmly invited to join in with any or all of the goings on here. Those studying with me at the University of Chichester will be following along with the content from now until the beginning of December, and I’ll announce the weeks with a blog post and share it as widely as I can. Feel free to look at Session 1: The Mechanics of Sound and see what you think…

You can participate by:

  • Tweeting (in your own account, or feel free to make a fake account just for this if you prefer to remain detached from your normal profile)
  • Blogging
  • Commenting on the main pages and posts here, on this website

You are in control of how publicly or privately you post.

I encourage you to tag things with #MUS654 and I’ll be searching! If I’m clever, this year I’ll figure out how to aggregate blogs! (these technical things hurt my brain sometimes 😉 )

 

I look forward to having you share the musical journey with us! We can learn a lot from one another.

Here’s to #MUS654 2017

Laura

Image CC By by Sharon Mollerus