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Posts tagged ‘song’

Lyre Bird: #MUS654

I was thinking about melodies and the 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 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 , or share in comments on this post or on the the #MUS654 page on melody.

Featured image CC-BY by Hardy Humphries

Romanticism: It’s happening! #CClasses

This is session two of three in this round of the Connecting Classes project. What’s happening here is a different sort of teaching where actually you control the pace, and how and when you pause, reflect, and interact with both the content and with others. For this class, we have core lectures like many classes, but we do various things alongside this project as well. I record/archive all my lectures so that students can look back for a particular reference or find a bit of analysis that they might have missed or not quite taken in during the class. We use of an interactive reading list, so they can click straight through to the university’s subscription material and have the references I’ve used at their fingertips. This Connecting Classes project is one more way to engage, and for me it is possibly the most fun.

The idea (for those of you not in the room) is that we, who are in the room will all be listening and commenting on the three interviews below. We will use our own devices to listen. That means the room will look odd to a passer-by. They might peep in and see a room full of silent people with headphones on who are tapping into computers or their phones. I promise we are all on task! As we listen, we take notes and all our comments, ideas, questions, are typed and shared as Tweets. The tiny detail that makes this useful and a pedagogical tool is that we TAG our notes with both the project hashtag and the class hashtag:

#CClasses #MUL316

The beauty is that you (who could be across the world) are also welcome to join in when and where ever you can. The value of using Twitter is that anyone can join in, and with the tags, we can add your comments to our group notes. The live event is happening today, 4 Nov. 2016 at 11 am GMT, so you will see lots of activity then…

Let’s get to it!

Today we are listening to three interview with professional musicians on the topic of Romantic Music. They total 30 mins, and I suggest you give yourself an hour to listen and comment. If you can look on Twitter for the hashtag #MUL316 you will see other people’s comments too and maybe you can reply to someone – you may have the answer they are looking for! Enjoy!

  • 25961d_6941cf070a1542ae927abe640afaa362-jpg_srz_325_257_85_22_0-50_1-20_0Our first musician is Katherine Schultz, a cellist from Portland, Oregon. She speaks to us about practising and approaching this music in the following 10 mins. of audio.

  • 2bii-j-plowright-photo-2-reduced-for-web-page1Next Jonathan Plowright, concert pianist and Head of Keyboard at the University of Chichester, speaks about understanding and context within this music. He himself is preparing to record the complete piano music of Brahms:

  • 0lb7vgkcFinally we hear from a vocalist. So much of the great Romantic music literature is for voice. Mezzo-soprano and Head of Voice at the University of Chichester, Susan Legg (@susanlegg) takes us through the first song in a song cycle Frauenliebe und-leben by Schumann, identifying key features and explaining how the voice and piano work together with the words. She finishes the interview by performing the song. Beautiful!

I am hugely grateful to our musicians for allowing me to interview them, and for their willingness to share their expertise and knowledge with us.

Please keep listening and adding comments. This is meant to be a catalyst for further discussions and is by no means limited to the 11am time slot. If you tag them #CClasses and #MUL36 I will be able to find them and add them to the story! (I will share that via this website, so the public can see)


Join us next week as we hear from composers and conductors on their views about having their music performed and performing the music of others (relating of course to Romantic composers!). I am telling you the topic in case anyone would like to do some prep homework and come up with a spectacular reference to the views of a known or unknown Romantic composer on this topic for our discussion next time!


Featured image CC BY-NC by Smackfu

The Birds… what are they saying?!

Today as part of I had a go at one of the tasks from Session 2 about ‘What makes a melody?’ that asks us to copy and/or fake some birdsong, and MAN, it’s hard!! I enjoyed this, and I admit to limiting myself to about 10 minutes to listen and figure out something. It was a busy day here! The process of listening to the birds and going from something so abstract to working out some semblance of what they were saying was interesting as a process and revelatory in musical terms.

The process was quite hilarious, because if you look at me, I might be trying to play some broken glass instead of music. I started by listening to a conglomeration of birds and trying to pick out something from this mix of birds in the garden.

Then I tried to record just one of the birds and sat down to listen to it over and over:


When I realised that this was not going to happen without a lot of listening and experimenting, I decided to have a go faking it a bit.


It was a lot trickier than I expected, and the easiest bird to do was the one that just went ‘chirp chirp’ because I could just play one note, and that was followed by a pigeon – coo coo! I didn’t include those, because I thought it was more interesting to hear that I had a go and it wasn’t necessarily perfect (or even close!). To be honest, my first dozen attempts sounded like a lot of untidy trills, and the birds don’t really do trills. I was imposing aspects of classical music. It is habit to go from what you know, and I needed to listen. Birds hold notes and flit between intervals. They don’t really have vibrato. They don’t often trill. They don’t hold individual notes for long. It is very interesting when you attempt to copy it. I was notably frustrated at14156857293_bd514fdc8d_z how difficult I found it, and I do not think this is because it is impossible to either hear or do, but it is not something that I am used to. This taught me what it was like to do something new, and that itself was a useful lesson.  There were odd leaps to in-between the notes, and if it was scored, I really think I might have minded, not chosen to listen, or at the very least not enjoyed it. Still, somehow when I hear the birds sing those songs, I love them and am entranced by the way they leap octaves, project, and have ceaseless energy for their calling. (Image CC BY SA by Ferruccio Zanone)


There are, of course, other examples of sounds that aren’t necessarily birds, but are still reminiscent of other things… and this clip below is something near and dear to me. Something from my childhood – cartoons! Here is the Tom and Jerry music played live by the John Wilson Orchestra at the Proms in 2013. You can listen from the beginning or if you just want a glimpse of the effects, jump to 3 min 50 sec for a good 15 sec passage… Hope you enjoy it!


Featured image CC BY by Jon Bunting

It’s all about melody: Week 2 #MUS654

In Week 2 of we are thinking of all things melodic. There is birdsong, a spattering of cool riffs, and a discussion on the way a tune gets stuck in our heads. We have a custom made video by Gypsy Jazz violinist Duane Padilla about the components of melody. We read from the historical writings of Mattheson from the 1700s that still hold relevant today, and for those of you hungry for more, there are links to four hours of lectures by Bernstein on the qualities that make it a melody… There is plenty to get into!

Melody is certainly more than notes. Is there something about context that gives those notes meaning? There can be things that stick as meaningful and hardly seem melodic to others, but they have significance because of… it’s hard to say. Sometimes both for a musicians and a listeners, those meaningful moments seem possibly ineffable.

Is that really true?

This week’s tasks provide a chance to unpick those different aspects of melody, take time to reflect, understand, explore, and make those seemingly ineffable things articulate. We do this through sound, notation, and words. If you have the time to dip in and join us, it will be delicious. Participation is voluntary, and there are no prerequisites or requirements for engagement.The class is open and music lovers, performers, and teachers of all levels are invited to join us.

Where is it?

You can find the session page on the dropdown menu under the tab (or follow the link at the beginning of this post.) I’m looking forward to playing around with the task of copying some birdsong tomorrow, and then I’m going to tweet about it (pun, pun!).


Image CC BY-NC by Haberdashery Pie

I got something to say.

Every day is a journey in learning and life and this past year has been no exception. I remember starting a conversation in January with ‘what if…?’ – having no idea how things would take shape. Everything was a question, from funding to how the collaborations would spin out. At one point I found myself in California last May in a breakout group of a dozen people – age 9-45, students, professionals, -a real mix of life, in the middle of Yosemite National Park and one of those people was Nik Koyama (who is someone also fuelled by the same passions and cravings for life, growth, and connection). As we walked, Nik asked me about the collaboration that was happening and unfolding and Nik asked: ‘what do you want to do with this? where is it going? what are your goals? … for a couple of months or next year?’ and I without hesitation I said that it wasn’t about then, about where we haven’t yet arrived, about where we’re going – what I really wanted was to be here right now and to let that happen.

All we have is now. Each now, one after another, and there is magic in that. It goes back to so many things- belief (self-efficacy of course!), permission to learn, to experience, to explore, awareness, attention, reflection, connection, and all of these create value. Educationally as a teacher I continue to learn to trust my students and I give them more and more freedoms. Freedom to design their assessments, choose their focus, make collaborations, reach out and go beyond what I can conceive. Read more