Bach v Handel v Scarlatti v Telemann (and so on)

My most advanced student and I sat down the other day to decide exactly which works would go into his diploma program (exam in November/December) and which would get the flick. My student had been working on the Bach C minor Partita, but as much as we both loved the Capriccio we were struggling with the notion of turning the other required movements into part of his performance program. It all just seemed so turgid, with a displeasing noise to signal ratio. Could we get away with dispensing with this major work from his program? How would the balance of the recital be affected by taking this out of the equation? We pulled out the syllabus and thought about replacing this selection with a Prelude and Fugue. And we had no trouble identifying some Preludes on the list that would show off this student’s strengths and sensitivities to best advantage. It’s just that when we came to think about him

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Key Signature ≠ Key

It’s the 21st Century. We’ve had modulations and chromaticisms, bitonalities and even atonlities, and you’d think that in 2011 we’d have a modicum of sophistication regarding the tonal centres and key relationships we discover in the music we play. But no, an insistence that the key signature tells us the tonal centre of a piece of music has gone from being an example of anachronism to being a deplorable trend in most major Australian cities (!). To be fair, we do call those congregations of accidentals at the beginning of each line of music a key signature; that is, this term implies that the accidentals signify a key rather than simply the notes required to be played a tone or semitone higher than the straight note name pitch. But in a post-atonal, neo-modal world it defies experience to assume that an absence of key signature signifies the C Major/A minor duopoly. Imagine my horror/bemusement/outrage/despair some 10 years ago on seeing a

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Talking About Music….

You know the line “talking about music is like dancing about architecture“? It’s true: talking about music is a little like dancing about architecture (or singing about economics, if you prefer that version of the line), but I make this claim as someone who loves to sing about economics and who constantly dances about architecture. Talking about music is one of my favourite things to do. I’m both fascinated by the way music works and astonished at its power to unite and divide, to motivate and to soothe. I think about music nearly all the time; admittedly, this is my ‘job’ as a composer, music educator, music publisher and marketer, but I’m certain that my musical jobs are the result of my thinking about music nearly all the time, rather than the other way around. Mostly, I like to think and talk about the way music makes us feel. This makes me a tad unusual in academic and art music circles,

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Major Harmonic Revisited

The last scale-of-the-day I blogged about (back on February 20) was the Major-Harmonic scale, and when I wrote my post about this particular pattern I found myself with little good to say about it (much to my own surprise). I complained about the clichéd cadence that this pattern allowed, and surmised that it may well have been the first scale to which I was impelled to give a thumbs down. This negative assessment was no doubt impacted on quite considerably by the fact that that weekend I was supposed to get my first 8 hour sleep since 2006 (pregnancy, newborn, toddler who doesn’t sleep through) and thanks to noisy hotel neighbours it just didn’t happen. But I think maybe more germane to my disdainful summary was that I was only thinking about this pattern in its C incarnation. This is an important point, because I know full well that the physical sensation of any pattern changes from one semitone to

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Scale of the Day: Major-Harmonic

This week let’s look at what I regard as being a kind of reverse of the mystery scale from the previous scale-of-the-day post.   Just as in our ‘mystery scale’ this is a major scale with a change made to only one note, but whereas last time we raised the 5th, this time we are lowering the 6th: same pitch, different degree, and very different end result. Here it is on C: It’s called Major-Harmonic in a fairly obvious way, the tail of the harmonic has been attached to the head and torso of the major pattern, and here’s our hybrid. Being, to our diatonic ears, a hybrid, one might unthinkingly assume that this scale is a curiosity, rather than descriptive of real life music-making. But take a listen to the chords this pattern makes: The most significant change from the major scale triads is the chord IV is now chord iv – yep, it’s minor. [And along with that we have

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Scale of the Day #2: The Simpsons Scale

Rather than alter the original post (which would make the comments below somewhat hard to follow) I will leave it as is, but point out that “The Simpsons Scale” certainly does have a name within the jazz tradition, the Lydian-Dominant (just as last week’s scale has a name within the tradition of South Indian classical music, “Mayamalavagowla”), so in reality when I call this scale “The Simpsons Scale” I am boldly naming what hundreds of thousands in the world of jazz have named before. (And note that this scale has a name in the South Indian tradition  [Mouli’s comments below]). Now this scale isn’t actually called “The Simpsons Scale”, but since it isn’t actually called anything [in western theory] I have decided to boldly name what no one has named before. In reality the Simpsons scale is the melodic ascending pattern starting on the 4th degree, but it happens to be the pitch pattern used for the tonic harmonies in

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