Funstuff and Inspiration > Music Theory Question

Discussion in 'Funstuff and Inspiration' started by DWise1, Jul 8, 2017.

  1. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    My friend and I were fulfilling a dream of hers of being in the Goldener Saal of the Wiener Musikverein listening to Daniel Bärenboim conducting Mozart. And something occurred to me.

    Although I never learned to play an instrument, I have studied music theory. In music theory, you usually work with a keyboard instrument such as a piano so that you can work with both melodic and harmonic intervals, including chords.

    While the piano is polyphonic, most major instruments are monophonic, capable of playing only one note at a time.

    What occurred to me that night was the idea that the multiple violins could be playing the other notes of the chords.

    Could a musician here confirm or refute that idea?
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  2. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    That's exactly how it works.
  3. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Wow, I guessed right. Of course what they're doing is more than just building chords, but it's the same idea. Now I want to start reading some scores to see it in action.

  4. cornutt

    cornutt Well-Known Member

    Classical music is not usually orchestrated that way, though. Back in the '60s and '70s there was a keyboard instrument called the Mellotron that produced sound by dragging strips of recording tape past playback heads when keys were pressed. The company produced sets of tapes with sounds of instruments playing single notes, that they had recorded. It was sort of an analog version of a sample playback synthesizer. One set of sounds that was used a lot was a set called "three violins" that was just that: three violins playing notes in unison, a note for each key on the keyboard. The progressive-rock keyboard players like Mike Pinder and Tony Banks discovered that if they played big 5-6 note block chords using this sound set, they got an effect very unlike a string section.
  5. SwingingAlong

    SwingingAlong Well-Known Member

    You will find reading scores fascinating. Seeing the melody move from one instrument to the other, at the same time as hearing it, just, wow. Others might post a few ideas, but try looking at some Mozart for a start:)
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  6. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    This is not a musical question, it´s an ideological question. At the end of the 18th century two concurring styles merged into a fusion style called viennese classics. The baroque style, also called strict style was based on the counterpoint technique of composing. All notes of the melodies originated in a more or less sophisticated way from inversions of one initial riff at the beginning of the piece. The other style was the rococo or galant style. The counterpoint was disempowerd, the basso continuo was downgraded to an instrument among others. Homophony ruled over polyphony. In rococo the melody was the centre of the music, belcanto arose, and the music changed to easy listening. Mozart and Haydn put both developments together again giving rise to the viennese classical music style.
    So in the end there will be no ample answer to your question. Every piece of classical music will be different. You will find those homophonous passages (played in the Musikverein) besides rather polyphonous pieces.
  7. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Sitting in the audience watching an orchestra playing, it very often looks like all the violins are playing the same notes because we see all the bows moving in unison. One (ie, a non-musician) could naïvely assume that they are indeed all playing the same notes and they are doing so in increase the volume (which one would assume was necessary before electronics, microphones, and speakers). Of course, that would be wrong. A better explanation would be that they are playing different notes (ie, harmonic intervals) using the same rhythmic patterns. And of course, when they start playing different rhythmic patterns then the non-musician observer would lose track and interest and focus his attention elsewhere. So everybody bowing in unison makes an impression whereas bowing differently not so much, even though bowing differently is where the really interesting stuff happens.

    Again, I can see why a keyboard instrument, such as a pianoforte (or Hammerklavier, now just called a piano), would be a composer's workbench. With it, you can work out the melody lines for several instruments at the same time.

    As overly simplistic as my question was, I'm still stoked that I was on the right track.
  8. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    by the way.... welcome back!
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  9. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    At university (California State University) from 1971 to 1976, I spent a lot of time in the library. We had a record library with listening booths that had headphones. We also had library stacks with musical scores (ML ???). At the time, I felt like rock music was stagnating so I switched to "classical". I also had not clue how to dance so I took some music theory classes in order to study and learn rhythm -- it turns out that music and dance use that term differently, kind of close to the same but still differently. And the switch to "classical" only confused the dancing side in ways that I could not even begin to understand at the time.

    So I would check out a record and pull the score off the shelf and read the score while listening to the music. Even four decades later, I can still see the piano's melody line in the Emperor Concerto (Beethovan, Piano Concerto Nr.5, Opus 73) walking up and down the scale with the violin's little "da-te-Da" propelling it upwards yet again. That is also where I learned, by reading Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, that cannons can only play whole notes of one single pitch, trailing whole notes for that matter.

    I will reach the age of 66 towards the end of the year and will undoubtedly retire at that time. Part of my plan is to participate in the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI). It is a program in many colleges and universities for seniors to come on campus and continue learning. Besides their own peer-offered classes and workshops, they can also audit the regular classes and use the college/university facilities, including parking (I think that's where most of the expense is). I do have a lot of research I want to do but have not been able to since work keeps getting in the way. And I look forward to checking out a record, pulling a score off the shelf, and getting in some very enjoyable reading.

    A few other things:

    1. Score reading. During my time at Cal-State Fullerton, I was a German major. At that time, Alpine Village in Torrance (still there) had a German Kino that showed German films (no longer there), so I went there often (a lot of those movies are now available on YouTube). One film was a period piece from maybe late 1800's of a married woman of social station having an affair with a student, etc, etc. One of the scenes was in a theatre where a musical concert was being performed. Up at the very top of the hall, above the nose-bleed section, was the row for the students. No seats, only a continuous counter to lay their scores on. And that is how, with the cheapest admission prices available, students could hear the music and follow the scores.

    2. Music and dancing and how my switch to "classical" screwed up my dancing. To begin with, music was not a part of my early life; we did not get a record player until I was about 14 years old. No kind of social life until college (1969), but even then with no guidance. Then around 1971 I switched to "classical". That music was extremely rich and I found myself listening to what all the voices were saying. Such that the one voice telling me the dance count was always drowned out. Years later after I started learning to dance, I heard a woman complaining about people who go to a concert and just sit there motionless -- "Why go to a concert if you're not enjoying it?". I had to explain to her that they were indeed enjoying the music. They were listeners for whom listening is a purely mental experience. They simply have not made the connection between music and physical motion.

    My ex-wife before we married for 28 years "tried" to teach me how to dance. The course was just one sentence: "Just listen to the music and do what it tells you to do." That did not work for me, I simply could not make that work, so for the next quarter-century she kept harping on me that I had no sense of rhythm and could never learn to dance. Ironically, some of my partners have complimented me on my "natural sense of rhythm" and I remember in group classes a lot of little whining sounds from partners who now had to rotate away from one of the few guys in the class who knew what they were doing.

    Polyphony was my big downfall. As a listener, I heard everything, every melody as it played against all the other melodies. In all that, there was one basic rhythm that I was supposed to listen to and follow in order to dance. Starting out, I simply could not hear that voice to follow since all the other voices were distracting me away. It took me time and effort to filter out all the other voices so I could isolate and follow that one voice. Only after having reached that point could I then allow myself to also listen to the other voices.

    Side-note. Salsa music is notoriously poly-rhythmic. My first dance was salsa, but just because somebody at work had arranged for a salsa teacher to come in right after work. Throughout those lessons, I had to follow the teacher's count all the time, because I could not hear the count in the music. Then after a four-year absence from salsa, I started salsa lessons again. The teacher required all his students to take at least one month of beginner lessons before moving up to intermediate. The very first night, he invited me into intermediate. I cannot explain it, but I could suddenly feel the counts in the music.

    3. Regarding your avatar: Sind Sie ein Steppenwolf? Oder eine Steppenwölfin? For decades, that is one novel that I always took with me to wait for appointments. In the original German, of course. Just about the only practice of German that I'd had for decades.
  10. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Thank you. I know that my past behavior was detracting from the forum and I do apologize for that. I do very much hope to be a much more positive influence from now on.
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  11. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Of course and as I've already expressed, I believe, there's a lot more going on there. As I've already mentioned, I will be retiring towards the end of the year and intend to become involved in academic pursuits and opportunities in which I can explore the things that you have described. I am an engineer by trade (software, which most engineers will tell you, with some good reason, doesn't count) and by inclination, so my first reaction to almost everything is wanting to look under the hood to see how it works. Music is no different. I'm looking forward to it!

    As I mentioned, at the Wiener Musikverein we watched Danial Bärenboim conduct Mozart. My friend, for whom being in the Musikverein was a long-time dream, delayed our return to the Garderobe for our things as she tried to explore as far as allowed. Since we were the last ones and so had time to chat with the woman working there, we did. We liked the performance, but she said that some patrons complained about the performance saying that Bärenboim had no idea how to conduct Mozart. My own music appreciation schooling informs me of the shift between Mozart and Beethovan from patronage to audiences buying tickets. It was during that time that musical instruments were redesigned to be louder, to be able to play to a huge hall instead of intimately to a small room of patrons and their guests. Beethovan sold tickets to the public and played big. Mozart was still part of that patronage world. I think that that was part of what those critics were talking about.
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  12. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    Hear, hear!
  13. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    [voice="Wayne and Garth grovelling on the ground before Alice Cooper"]We are not worthy! We are not worthy![/voice]

    I honestly and truly know that I am not worthy.

    Most of my life I have not been a joiner. But every time I find myself within a group, I want to try to contribute to that group. To volunteer my own efforts in contributing to that group in practical matters or to that event, even if it's only helping to set up the chairs or to put the chairs away. I guess that my main fear there is that my mere presence would detract from the entire community.

    I had posted much on this/these forum(s) that was disruptive. I am sorry, even though I may have meant most of what I had posted.

    At the same time, they were still also disruptive, which is unforgivable.

    In short, I have a lot to atone for.
  14. Don Pedro

    Don Pedro New Member

    That's how it really works.. I think..
  15. Larinda McRaven

    Larinda McRaven Site Moderator Staff Member

    No reason to dig up old graves. Let's just be happy and productive now!
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  16. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    You must have some very talented people were you live. Interm. after 1 month ?.

    Liked your post .
  17. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    I think it was more of a probationary thing, since he must have gotten a lot of new students who had had previous experience. Most of the students were Hispanic and may have grown up with salsa and other Latin party dances. His classes were all completely bi-lingual with everything he said being repeated in the other language, usually first in Spanish and then in English. I would get it the first time in Spanish.
  18. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Being Spanish is NOT an automatic gateway to fast improvement. On the contrary, having taught 100s of latino's over the years ( in some basic Spanish and of course English ) , 99% didn't have a clue .Many also had no clue about the music .
    What is even worse IMO, are those who have danced for some period and bring with them bad habits .

    I'm still not convinced that one can take a body of newcomers and instill foundation work to completion in one month . Enabling them to dance basics ?..Yep, and I also know that is what the majority want ( sadly )
  19. DWise1

    DWise1 Well-Known Member

    Please tell me, is every single new student who walks in through your door a complete and absolutely beginner who has never received any dance training in the past or who has never had absolutely any dance experience in the past? If you are being honest, then your answer should be "no".

    You should have a number of new students walking in through your door who have had previous instruction or previous experience. So how do you place them?

    You should also have some new students who are over-confident in their own abilities; I've been told that many in our local West Coast Swing community have been dancing for decades, never had a lesson, and are not good at it. So how do you place them?

    I would think that the solution would be to start them in the beginning class in order to see how they do and then advance them based on your assessment of their actual level.

    What had amazed me about my own advancement that very same first night was that it had been four years since my initial instruction (with no salsa in the meantime) and although I couldn't even begin to follow the music previously, now suddenly it was clear to me.

    The other point was that Hispanic culture concerning social dancing is different from Anglo culture. Social dancing in Hispanic parties appears to be far more common, which would mean that Hispanics starting to learn to dance should be more likely to come into it with more exposure to social dancing and had probably done it some themselves.
  20. tangotime

    tangotime Well-Known Member

    Actually. I'm teaching a lady as of now who has never danced in any form. She is probably in her mid 60s, and she is not the first ex.

    ALL of my class students are placed into my beginners class, and every week I commence with a basic waltz sequence and if a salsa class, same thing applies, basics.

    I live in a part of the UK which has a lot of retiree's, and the majority are couples and invariably it's the man who has little or no experience .The larger problem is their attendance regularity. Ironically, people who are retired seem to have less time than those that work !

    My classes are usually small in number ( 4/6 couples ) so I include all levels and give each an assignment .

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