The kids are back in school, meaning that one out of every four high-schoolers is entering his or her senior year. That’s college-picking time, and for some parents it’s a stressful ordeal. We get calls from concerned parents. They want to know “What major should my child choose? Which majors […]
Here’s a topic I’d like to start writing about more often… the applicability and transferability of musical skills.
This is especially true of the so called “21st Century Skills” so often debated in the world of K-12 Education. Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and so on… these are the ones employers are increasingly looking for. These are the skills, frankly, that consumers need more of from the businesses they patronize. And for anyone looking for more innovation (i.e. pretty much everyone) these are essential skills.
And music delivers on each one, and then some.
With knowledge so readily available (Google it!) and technology and markets changing faster than ever, there are worse strategies for remaining employable than to learn a discipline that will teach you how to communicate, collaborate, think critically and creatively, and perhaps most importantly to LEARN and PRACTICE.
Then you can pick most any professional direction you like and you’ll have the tools you need for a lifetime of growth, and the ability to adapt as your career develops into something no one today could even conceive of.
Now this looks interesting… comprehensive online “conservatoire” dedicated to learning how music works. Great design. Excellent price. I’ll check out the content this week and post back anything worth sharing. In the meantime, why don’t you try a lesson or two and let us know what you think.
I generally agree with all the recommendations thus far and am especially fond of Toch’s Shaping Forces of Music.
I’ve also found a lot of inspiration, guidance, and clarity from the more recent publications on music and the brain. Composing “good” music is as much about how it’s perceived by the listener as it is about melody, harmony, form, orchestration, etc. While the latter are essential tools, these books have informed how I use those tools and the musical decisions we composers make in every bar of our music.
“Education is a process of learning how to become the architect of your own experience and therefore learning how to create yourself.”—Elliot W. Eisner. The Arts and the Creation of Mind (p. 24). Kindle Edition.
This was posted on the “corporate blog” of a software company. 5 minutes could be well spent pondering as to why we should see this kind of thing happen more often.
It could also be called “Everyone Should Make Some Music” or “Everyone Should Write a Story” or “Everyone Should Make a Dance”. Different mediums, but will likely have the same generally positive effect.
In each of these cases the same will likely be true… Your painting/music/story/dance will suck. The good part, of course, is THAT’S NOT THE POINT!
My favorite line: “The only way you can go wrong is by being too self-important with the whole thing.”
Good heavens how I wish I could go to this tonight. It is precisely what classical music needs more of right now. Take the old yet timeless, infuse it with the now, then revel in the what-will-happen of it all.
In response to Emilymaxine9’s question about Honey White by Morphine, let’s go ahead and do a full 5-part review of this tune, since it’s the first 4 parts of musical speech (sound, rhythm, melody, harmony) that ultimately create the 5th part (form).
Sound: This is a driving rock tune in the classic sense with a dark, fuzzy sound. but they get that sound from a unique instrumentation, namely from two baritone saxophones supported by a rather dry sounding bass guitar. But they sound like a velvet sledgehammer when playing the hook in unison. Another sound issue that stuck out to me was the drummer alternating between using the hi-hat and the rims on various sections. Listen closely and it really changes the whole texture of the band’s sound from wet to dry.
Rhythm: The rhythm is pretty straight forward here… a driving rock tune in the classic sense. So you have a tempo somewhere around 145bpm (I’m guessing) and 4 beats per bar. The drummer is hitting the backbeat on 2 and 4 nice and loud. There’s also a subtle bit of “hemiola” in the hook but not enough to really unpack it here. But that, more than anything, is what gives the hook its hook.
Melody: Most of the melody here is in the hook: Ba da do DEE da do da do DEE da do. Ba da do DEE da do… dwe dwe dwe dwe do. Vocals are more of an impassioned statement than a melodic phrase. But clean crisp melodic vocals would be out of place in this song anyway.
Harmony: There’s no chordophones at work here… no guitars or keyboards generating several pitches at the same time. So the harmony is really driven by the melody, which means it’s driven by the scale: the collection of pitches being used in the melody. It’s a decidedly minor, blues harmony at work here. The minor part gives it the darkness; the blues part gives it grease, or perhaps “a little more fat” is a more appropriate phrase.
Form: The interesting component of this piece, and the one that emilymaxine9 asked about, is the form. All the other components of this song would point to a standard verse/chorus approach to the form, but Morphine instead does something of a rondo here. Rondo is a classical music term for a form that looks like AB AC AD AE etc. There’s a main theme (A) followed by a departure… something that’s different (B). Then the theme comes back (A) and then another departure ( C) different from the last departure. This continues until the composer decides to stop. In the case of Honey White, A is the hook. Here’s how I would map out the form:
A - A1 - A1 - B - A - A1 - C - A - D - A2 - A1 - A1 - B
Here’s how each section corresponds to the music
A: after the initial trills it launches into the hook, just bass and bari saxes, no vocals
A1: then the vocals come in, sounds like a new section because you’re focused on the melody, but listen to the instruments underneath and they’re still playing the hook, or a subtle version of it. Basically the same musical material with a slight twist, hence A becomes A1
B: Vocals sing “Oh honey”. Drummer thins out the texture with rims instead of hi-hat. Bass plays a “pedal” which simply means stays on the same bass note for a long time, which takes the harmonic motion and calms it down.
A: back to the hook, instruments only
A1: vocals come back in over the hook
C: Vocals sing “Devil made of honey”, another departure from the hook, but different material from B
A: back to the hook, instruments only
D: vocals sing “She said…”, another departure from the hook, but different from B and C, this is a “breakdown” where most of the instruments drop out and the texture gets very thin, often used to build up to a big release in the next section.
A2: Voila! Big release in the form of a solo for the bari saxes. But again, the hook is the underlying musical material here, hence A becomes A2 (because it’s not the same as A1)
A1: vocals come back, singing exact material as the very first A1 “Honey white”
B: Back to the pedal in the bass with vocals singing “Oh honey”
So there you have it. Honey White by Morphine is a rock ‘n roll rondo.
I am trying to figure out the song form for Honeywhite which is sung by Morphine. I love the intro and that they play with no guitars. It's just a saxophone, 2 string bass and drums.
Hi Emily. Wow… I totally missed this message. For all I know you could have sent this years ago (because tumblr doesn’t seem to date messages).
Anyhow, cool song. I’ve listened to it a couple times now and will write a post about the form later this week. Basically it’s a “rondo” form, but it takes a little more explanation than that, hence the post.
“I read a profile of her once in which she talked about the black holes of outer space, not the soul. She told her interviewer the note that emanates from them is a deep and constant B-flat, a key she loves. She added, too, that a man who once played bass for her had synesthesia—meaning that when he played notes, he saw colors—and that when he played a B-flat what he saw was “very, very, very black.””— Nell Boeschenstein on Emmylou Harris, in a piece for The Morning News that is about much more than Emmylou Harris (this is not to say that Emmylou Harris wouldn’t be a totally laudable focus for a reflective essay). (thx, Edith’s longreads!)
We had a white rat. Whenever I took out my conga drums to practice, Lady J. would stand up on her hind legs and sway to the beat. She appeared absolutely mesmerized by the rhythm. When I stopped drumming, she stopped swaying. When I started up again, she started swaying again.
“Fun and art are natural allies (despite often appearing separately), and forcing them to do battle just divides us into tinier and tinier camps, where we can only talk to people who like precisely the same kinds of culture that we do. That benefits absolutely nobody — not artists, not audiences, and not the quality of discourse.”—From a fantastic article about “cultural omnivores” by Linda Holmes @nprmonkeysee. I think it pretty much sums up the whole point of Do You Speak Music.
Josh Jackson runs a radio show for WBGO in Newark called The Checkout. Every week he interviews prominent jazz musicians about their latest projects, and at the end of the interview he asks each of them the same question… “What does it mean to live with music?”
Quite simply, to live with music is to see the world through another lens.
Consider for a moment that words and language are the tools of thought. They are the manifestation of our ideas, and when we speak of things, we speak of them as they are represented within our minds.
For instance, the French do not drink red wine. They drink wine-red. In French the adjective follows the noun, not the other way around like in English. Consider how this subtly changes the relation of those two concepts in the mind of the French speaker, and thus subtly changes their idea of red wine, or wine in general.
In China, no one gives a clock as a birthday gift because the word for “clock” is pronounced the same as the word “to end”. So giving a clock as a birthday gift would be like wishing someone that their birthdays would end… bad gift. So simply because of the language itself, those two concepts are linked in the mind of the Chinese speaker in a way that doesn’t exist to the French or English speaker.
Now consider the notion that music is a language. That means that understanding music gives you a new set of tools for understanding the world. Speaking the language of music gives you a new way of relating different ideas, of translating concepts, of perceiving your environment and communicating with others. It allows you to understand the world in a deeper, more profound way than you had before.
To live with music is to live a richer, more vibrant, more meaningful life.