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Posts tagged ‘Expression’

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

Applied imagination: Are the walls real?

Last week I had the privilege of teaching on the Applied Imagination module at the University of Warwick. Imagine, a two-hour session in a studio that was a copy of where performers stand in a play, with lighting rig all around, a catwalk above, black brick walls and everything that makes a stage – except the audience. What a setting. This was our stage.

The class consisted of 18 from across the different disciplines offered at the university, and our session began with a recap from them (for me) of their understanding of working within a discipline and branching out to cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary and even trans-disciplinary. They used the analogy of boxes. (I thought of shoe boxes) One discipline stays within the box, cross jumps from one box to another, inter uses the boxes to make a linked fort-type structure, and trans- that’s when I piped up and joined the discussion with the analogy that you just tip all the boxes out and make a pile in the middle.

This class was like that – we were a mix and were all together. I didn’t even introduce myself beyond: Hi, I’m Laura. They had all read the chapter ‘Whole Students’ from my book, and so they did know something of me. I didn’t need to be put into any other boxes. I began with telling them that when thinking of all these boxes – oh there are so many boxes, in life, in education, in people’s expectations of us, the list could go on – when thinking of these boxes, the walls aren’t real. Are they?

(gosh that was heavy. Did I really say that?!?)

(I did)

Of course the walls are real, but very often they are built by people and sometimes even built by us. That was something to keep in mind, in the background as we went through various activities and discussions. The overall themes were:  Read more

Picture the sound… #MUS654

One of the elusive topics in music learning and teaching is expression and meaning. How can we work in one medium (sound) and have to explain it in another (words?)? Often the intention of the teacher and the experience of the student can be so far apart, and we may never know it. This week I got creative and a bit silly and set my class loose with the project of picturing the sound. Really – I gave them all sorts of dried pulses, pasta, rice, seeds, nuts, bits of cotton wool, cake decorations, big sheets of paper and asked them to create the picture they heard as people performed to them. This sort of invitation is usually met with two different reactions, often in close succession, excitement followed by a tentativeness and doubt.

Oh WoW!

and then…

but I don’t know what to do?

Read more

On hope

I am going to indulge in my thoughts. (3 min read) For a second day I have woken up early, before the birds, and before the light, because my head is full of so many different things. I cannot express how turbulent the past few days have been, and enlightening. I think. When I first made my website I put the few words to describe myself in the corner – and I did the same some years back when I joined twitter – a few words to explain. What about the essence?  

Essence can be so lovely – like the taste of the first English strawberry of the season, picked from the garden. I say English not to be patriotic, but because these Elsanta strawberries are different Read more

Listening to expression – putting phrases to paper

Today in class we did something different: we drew. That wasn’t all we did, but it was a fantastic catalyst for the session and the students and I thought you might join us…

The students came prepared to play something on their instruments and they knew that we were following up the MUS654 lesson on the session on Phrasing and Musicality. They were slightly surprised when I gave them each big sheets of paper. What were these for?? I wanted them to experience thinking of the music in a different way, and asked them to create a representation of what they heard. This was something that we could discuss and that the performer could see, take in, and respond to. Being presented with a clean slate and being told that anything goes is not always the way we are taught to learn. It can be really refreshing to un-peel the layers of expectation and to be allowed to express yourself.

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It was a pleasure to see the students explore the music and different ways of communication and understanding and playing. It was a fun session and a challenge to have a go exploring representations in a different medium.

One of the students gave me permission to share part of her performance so you could join us and have a go putting your pen/pencil to paper and see where it leads you….

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