MUSI 112: Listening to Music
- Rhythm: Fundamentals
In this lecture, Professor Wright explains the basic system of Western musical notation, and offers an interpretation of its advantages and disadvantages. He also discusses the fundamental principles of rhythm, elaborating upon such concepts as beat, meter, and discussing in some depth the nature of durational patterns in duple and triple meters. The students are taught to conduct basic patterns in these meters through musical examples drawn from Chuck Mangione, Cole Porter, REM, Chopin, and Ravel.
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MUSI 112 - Lecture 3 - Rhythm: Fundamentals
Chapter 1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Musical Notation [00:00:00]
Professor Craig Wright: Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning. I think things are going to work better today. I’m optimistic about the audio equipment and about our slide material and things such as that. All cell phones off and we will begin. Don’t forget sections start tonight at seven o’clock and there’s another set at eight o’clock and then Friday afternoon at one thirty and Monday morning. We’ve got that all online for you. And you do your work product and you bring it to sections and hand it in to your TA in section each time. So that’s the way this works. I’ll be sending you a global e-mail bringing you up to date with some other things later on this afternoon. Okay. So today we — Actually, before I get to that, any questions from you?
Student: Yeah. Is there stuff to do —
Professor Craig Wright: Is there stuff to do for section tonight? Yes, but only the stuff that was assigned, the Listening Exercises that are assigned early on. It’s just one, nine through 11, which you’ve probably had done for days now so you just bring that material and hand it in. Others will be assigned tonight. This is shopping period. We’re started sifting through things and then we’ll get rolling. Gentleman.
Today we’re going to come to what I would call the nitty-gritty of the course. We no longer have any introductory material but we’re going to jump into musical notation and we’re going to be dealing with things such as half notes, quarter notes, things like that, but before we do this I’d like to say a couple of words about musical notation because it affects how we deal with music, how we treat music.
Musical notation is a particularly Western phenomenon, and when you stop and think about it only we in the West, and by West what I mean is the United States and Canada and Western Europe and Russia, parts of South America, only we use musical notation and we use it principally for our high art music. That’s not to say that the Chinese don’t have an esoteric form of musical notation, that the Indians do not have an esoteric form of musical notation. They do, but it doesn’t intersect quite as intensely as musical notation does in Western cultures. Most cultures around the world, if you stop and think about it, don’t use musical notation. But we do here with our art music and that has two advantages.
Let’s talk about the advantages first. One, it allows the composer to specify rather precisely what he or she wants, to sort of write things out in the form of musical details, so as the result the creator in this Western art form takes on greater importance than the creator in other cultures where the composer so to speak is more or less anonymous and perhaps synonymous with the group as a whole.
So again the process of notation allows the composer to loom larger. And secondly there’s another advantage of notation. It allows us to preserve the work of art. We can kind of freeze dry this thing and store it and then bring it back to life more or less exactly as the composer had intended. But this, if you stop and think about it, takes the traditional balance of things and throws it out of proportion.
In our art music, our symphonies, concertos, genres of this sort, the performer is actually much less important. Let’s think of this as architect and carpenter. The great architect, the thinker, is the composer and the performer, the violinist, gets this piece of — gets this blueprint or black print in the case of musical notation and is expected simply to replicate the black print. Well, that’s very different than what happens in other kinds of music.
Let’s talk about pop music for a second: jazz, rock, hip-hop, blues, that kind of thing. You go over to Toad’s Place and you see the band come out and the first thing they do is plunk this in front of them? No. That’d be ridiculous. How many of you — I was walking with a student over to my office after lecture the other day to get some material to him. How many of you play in a rock band or have ever played in a rock band? Okay, a number of you. Young lady out there, did you use musical notation? No. That would be kind of silly. Right? It’s — Okay. So how is it done? Well, it’s all done aurally and we’ll talk a little bit more about that as we go along.
So the composer in the West is very important, more important than the composer in other cultures. Other cultures don’t use this type of prescriptive notation.
Here’s a thought for you. Musical notation was the first graph in Western culture. “How could that be?” you’d say. How could that be? Well, if you go back to the formation of musical notation from the ninth through the twelfth centuries, we see that very early on these two dimensions of music, the two axes of music that we talked about before, pitch vertically and duration horizontally, are in place and we have these spots in this grid. So musical notation: the first grid pattern in Western culture — but it does lock us in in interesting ways that we may — you perhaps have never considered — compared to how music is made in other cultures.
Let’s see how some music is made in other cultures. We’re going to play here now as our first excerpt an Adhan, and what this is is the Islamic call to worship which is sung across the world thousands of times every day, and as we listen to this I want you to think about the vocal production here. What’s interesting are all of the vocal nuances, so let’s listen to just a bit of this please. [music playing] Okay. Let’s stop there. Fascinating. What a wonderful sound, but the beauty of it is all between what we would call the notes. We would specify a precise frequency here, another one up here, but what that gentleman was singing was all the stuff in between. That made it very beautiful, and there’s no way in God’s earth that we could replicate that to the Western system of musical notation.
Let’s take another example. We’re going to go to the realm of Western jazz here and I’m going to pick on Chuck Mangione. Anybody ever heard of Chuck Mangione? Yeah. Okay. Brian, our tech guy, has. He’s an older fellow. He’s sort of my age, and the reason I mention Chuck Mangione is that years ago I went to school with him. He was a couple of classes ahead of me at the Eastman School of Music. I was a fledgling pianist. He was a very good trumpeter. Indeed, he was winning Grammys when he was in his twenties and has been recording sort of esoteric jazz and sometimes more pop jazz thereafter. Now you can go to a Mangione concert. He will sometimes play the Shubert Theater there and they’ll have two hours of spectacular jazz, but what you won’t see, again, is any sort of music in front of them. So how do these musicians generate two hours of music with no music in front of them? Does this mean he doesn’t read music? Of course not. You can’t get through these conservatories like Eastman or Juilliard or Curtis without being introduced to an intense regimen of musical notation, but it would get in the way of the music.
So let’s listen to a track here, a sax solo, and I am going to try to keep — make some sense out of this — because it gets more and more complex — by following the electric bass underneath so let’s listen to an old tape. I used to go to bars in Rochester and listen to this guy and tape his stuff. So here’s Chuck Mangione with his saxophonist and a saxophone cadenza. It’s a wild riff for saxophone. [music playing]
That’s probably enough. It gives you an idea. Now how in the world would you ever notate that? To produce this as a pre-scripted document that anybody else could follow? It was all improvisatory. If they tried to notate it, again, it would take all the spirit out, all the heart out of the music. Well, how do they do that? How do these performers play such long spans of music without any notation? Is it all memorized? Well, it’s not memorized as we think of it, and you may have had music lessons along the way and your teacher and your mother said, “Go memorize your piece.” It’s not memorized like that.
There are certain basic patterns that they have. They might say for that sort of music:, “All right. We’re now going to have a thirty-two-bar solo. We’ll be in the key of E-flat. We’re going to work through a one, six, four, five, one chord progression as — We’ll come back to that. We’ll sit on the dominant chord for eight beats and I (Chuck) will look over and everybody else will come back in at the end of Chris’s solo.” It would be that kind of thing, kind of head charts, general plans, and within that general plan a lot of freedom of expression.
So having said that about musical notation — something about a cautionary tale about musical notation — we should think about how it affects the way we compose music in the West and how we perform music in the West. When you go to a concert of classical music and the music is played and you start to talk, what happens? Somebody will go, “Shh.” Right? We go to these concerts and we have to be so quiet. Why do we have to be quiet? That doesn’t sound like much fun. Why do we have to be so quiet? It’s because we have these performers up there that are reading this blueprint and everyone is listening, basically, to see how accurately they can reproduce, revivify, this artistic artifact. So that’s sort of what’s going on, but it really does affect how we behave, even, in a concert.
Now if you go to concerts of other cultures and they are engaged in their own classical, not just popular, but classical music, Indonesian gamelan music for example, the audience will be there swaying back and forth, clapping, applauding with the performance with particularly good solo, the same thing with Indian sitar music, that classical tradition. Oddly, it’s much more like going to a jazz concert where the audience is sitting maybe around tables or something like that and encouraging and interacting with the performers, but again in those cultures no notation.
[In Western art music], everybody sits there sort of mummified, waiting for this great work of art to come back to life. It’s an interesting thing. And isn’t it typical of us in the West to take something, music, which is expression and feeling and motion and movement, a response to sound, and turn it into complex patterns, complex patterns that can be visualized and rearranged and analyzed, and nowadays even digitalized. What we’ve done is take this spontaneous response to the creation of sound, and bodily movement with sound and replaced it. We’ve replaced the ear and the heart, the ear and the body, with the eye and the mind. Ours a much more visual — it’s a much more analytical — type of approach to music and it has its pros and cons. We get great Mahler symphonies yet we have everybody sitting there rock-still at these concerts.
Chapter 2. Beats and Meters [00:14:42]
Okay. Having said that and pointing out the advantages and disadvantages of notation, let’s plunge in then to a discussion of it. I’ve put on the board up here the following and we’re going to review this. It’s simply material found on page fifteen of your textbook but let’s review it. We say this is a beginning course so we assume no previous knowledge. If you’ve read through that material, and you should have read through it by now, you know that we have a value in music. It’s called the whole note. What the whole note is, what all these symbols are, are simply representations of duration so we have a symbolic language here that’s going to represent the horizontal axis, the axis of duration. And this whole note obviously can be subdivided into two half notes and each of the half notes into two quarter notes, each of these quarter notes into two eighth notes, and so on. So these are symbols telling us how long a particular frequency is to endure.
Similarly, just as we have symbols for the presence of sound and its length, we have symbols that represent the absence of sound. We call those of course, what? Rests. Okay. So we’re resting over here. We’re not making any music. So we have the notes and their values and the rests. Notice that they’re all pretty much duple in their divisions. Now here’s a question for you — all duple divisions. How do we make — How do we get triple arrangements in music? How do we do that? Well, we take our basic note and what do we do to it? I bet — I’m sure some of you know this. How can we get a half note that actually equals now three quarter notes? What do we do? Gentleman here. Add a dot. What does that do to this value specifically in terms of ratios? It adds — Okay. It adds fifty percent or a half to that and that means instead of two quarter notes that we now have three, and we can do the same thing to any one of these other values here, and that’s how we get our triple relationships. Okay? So those are the basic note values normally with a duple division but we can superimpose triple by using a dot and the absence of sound.
Now let’s talk for a moment about the idea of pulse in music and the beat in the music and rhythms in music. We all know that there is this thing in music called “beat” and to the extent that popular music is more interesting and that you — everybody likes it and will go dance to it is because it’s really foregrounding beat and rhythm in an important way that classical music does not. So I’ve put this idea of the beat up on the board here. It’s really just a pulse. It’s very much like the human pulse. This is the pulse of music, and music theorists ever since the late fifteenth century from music theory Francinus Gafurius on — we could go all the way back then — have said that the pulse in music is basically at the same tempo as the human pulse, which comes out to be about oh, we’ll say seventy-two beats if you will, pulses, per minute.
So we have this pulse, and it’s just kind of out there streaming, beat, [sings], but we don’t like undifferentiated, disorganized material in the West. Our psyche says we’ve got to bring rational organization to this. Ever think about this? Why do we have this periodicity when you take history courses? Why do we have the Renaissance, the baroque period, the classical period, the romantic period and so on? We have it in music. We have it in history. We have it in the fine arts. Why do we have it? It’s simply a convention established after the fact that allows us to organize material in ways that we can grapple with it, ways that we can understand it.
So in music what has happened is that we have organized this steady stream of beats in ways that we can understand. We organize them. We subdivide these into units of two, for example, groups of two like this, or we have an undifferentiated stream like this. I am convinced — even though I’m sure that the Toyota Motor Company didn’t organize it this way — I am convinced that on my automobile when I do not plug in my safety belt that there is a bell ringing, “DING, ding, ding, DING, ding, ding.” I don’t think they were thinking of that in terms of triple meter. I think they were just a succession of dings, but I’m hearing it — my mind wants to hear this organization, so there’s another organization here of units of three. As you may know, there’s yet another organization where we could group this in units of four, but for all intents and purposes — there are a few nuances to it — four is simply a multiplication of two. So in our course we are only going to have two types of meter, duple and triple.
These organizations, taking the beat and organizing it into groups, is called superimposing meter on the music. Then we want to indicate that meter to the performer. It’s a way to tell the performer how this music is to be executed. So what do we do? Well, in music the most basic symbol for the beat is the quarter note. The quarter note usually carries the beat. Okay. So here we have a series of groups of two quarter notes. We have the convention of music of writing this symbol indicating the beat-carrying unit of four so I’m writing a four underneath each of these. Then I look up here and say, “Well, in this duple pattern I have two of these quarter notes.” So I’m going to write a two out there. That (4) tells a performer that the quarter note is carrying the beat. And the 2 says that there’ll be two in each of your units. These units we call bars or measures, and just to finish this off down here, we would have three quarter notes, of course, in this particular arrangement.
Okay. Now ultimately what happens with this is that we begin to take this stream and organize it into different patterns. I can go [sings], something like this, and we would call that a rhythm, superimposing longs and shorts, different patterns, patterns that oftentimes repeat. The dividing up of this stream into different patterns, often repeating, of longs and short, is superimposing rhythm over top of this basic beat which is organized in terms of these meters.
So are there questions about that? Did that seem straightforward enough? Now as you may know — some of you may have played clarinet in a high school band or something like that, neither here nor there if you did or did not — but you may know that there are other meters out there, these things called six-eight (and nine-eight). I was thinking this morning [sings] four, five, six, one, two, three, four, five, six, one, two. Well, that’s a beat of basically a duple meter with a triple subdivision, but we’re not getting into triple subdivisions here. In our course the beat is always going to be a — divided, to the extent that it’s divided — always going to be divided into two. We have only so-called simple meters rather than compound meters. If you want to learn about compound meters, go take music 210 and become a music major. That’s the kind of thing that they get into but we’re not doing that here. We’re interested only really in two things: One, can you differentiate between duple and triple meter; and two, can you recognize some very basic rhythmic patterns? And we’ll be doing some of that today. Questions again?
Chapter 3. Exercises Distinguishing Duple and Triple Meters [00:23:10]
Okay. Let me play some music at the piano. This is Bulldog. Isn’t this the Yale fight song? Who wrote this? Anybody know? You’ve probably heard it eight zillion times at football games. It’s great — What a wonderful fight song — Yale was so lucky to have this as. So yes, I think I hear somebody out there.
Student: Cole Porter.
Professor Craig Wright: Cole Porter. Who was Cole Porter, as I glance through my music here? Oh, phooey. I’ve lost it. Who was Cole Porter? He was a Yale graduate, class of 1914, and unfortunately I seem to have misplaced — Well, I can generate a little bit of it here. [plays piano] Okay. I was sort of trying to remember the first page of the missing music there. So is this in duple meter or triple meter? [plays piano] Huh? What do you think and how do we find out? Tap your foot. Did we find any music? [plays piano] Ah, thank you. Enlightenment from Lynda. [plays piano] What — What’s the key here? What do you listen to? How many think it’s in duple meter? Raise your hand. How many think it’s in triple meter? Okay. Almost everybody thinks it’s in duple meter and that’s correct.
Now we worked through this just a little bit once before. What is it that tells us that it’s in duple meter? It’s the bass [plays piano] because it’s organizing itself very strongly in duple patterns. There’s one other interesting thing in here. This would be? Well, let’s think through this in one additional way, and that is — notice that in duple meter we have a strong beat, right, “strong, weak, strong, weak, strong, weak, strong weak” in that sense or if we have triple it would be “strong, weak, weak, strong, weak, weak.” There would be two weak beats or two unstressed beats between each strong beat. We could do this [plays piano] and we’d have the “Waltz of the Bulldog.” It’d be pretty cool [laughter] to see actually.
So there it’s — I’m simply taking the Cole Porter piece and throwing in an extra beat in each measure, an unstressed beat in each measure, and it works out pretty well. Notice — this would be — Harvard would have had a field day with this melody if he — Cole Porter — had not done one thing. He makes this really rather snappy by the use of this kind of stuff. [plays piano] We’ll come in on [sings] and then it’s [sings]. What’s that a good example of? Syncopation, yeah. The term is on the board, and it’s a good example of syncopation, sort of jumping in ahead of time, cutting off the beat, getting in there ahead of time and throwing off the metrical balance for a very short period of time.
Okay. So that’s a duple meter piece and what we’re trying to do here is just hear if we’ve got one strong and one weak beat or one strong and two weak beats. How do we — How should we do this? How are you going to do this? Well, I think one thing that’s very helpful is for you to start to move, to move around, to sway, tap your foot. Now we can’t do this during a test in here. It’d be a little bit annoying but we really have — we really do have to do this. Now musicians, being a bit more uptight oftentimes, classical musicians, than other more spirited folks, have developed this tradition of using conducting patterns. Right? So for duple meter we just go down, up, down, up. It’s kind of — maybe a little shape over to the right, down, up, down, up, that kind of thing, and for triple we do down, over, up, down, over, up, down, over, up. Okay? So I’m going to start playing here and you are going to start conducting. You’re going to listen just for a second and then you’re going to move and you’re going to move using the conducting pattern. [plays piano]
Okay. Good. Now I see some of you out there from — like this, not really participating, and if I can get up here — Think about this. I’m old. I’m sort of used to thinking of myself a “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” I have every reason in the world to be repressed. Right? [laughter] I could — [laughs] This — So if I could be up here making a fool of myself on a daily basis, you guys are much younger than I and known for outrageous behaviors. You can certainly get in here and move and flow and go with the beat here. So here we go. Everybody together. [plays piano] Much better. Okay. I’m watching — Good. Virtually everyone has got the downbeat here. You’re not going [sings]. You’re going[sings], so there is a sense of downbeat and we’ll come back to that in just a moment.
Let’s do a triple meter one. Here we go. [plays piano] Good. Excellent. Very good. Now I’m going to modulate, [plays piano] go to a different key. [plays piano] Can you conduct this? Okay. There’s a little confusion here so let’s try to do it together. Are you ready? [sings] Okay. Now this gentleman out here is actually doing it different from what I am doing and what most of you are doing, but you know what? He’s doing it correctly. We’re doing it incorrectly. [sings] What’s wrong here? We’re off because our downbeats, our strong pulses, always have to come on the first part of the bar, this note. The first part of the bar is called the downbeat. It’s the most important thing and our conducting pattern always has to have the downbeat of the hand in sync with the strongest impulse in the music, the strong. The downbeat in the music comes with the down motion of the hand. So we were getting [sings]. Oh, there’s the downbeat, [sings] but we were putting that on two, [sings], and we don’t want that. We want [sings] at that point.
Chapter 4. Conducting Basic Meter Patterns: Exercises with REM, Chopin, and Ravel [00:31:26]
So what do we have here? What’s happening? Well, there’s a little bit of music before the downbeat. That’s called a pick-up. Okay? So we have a little pick-up, [sings]. I was thinking of a diver in the Olympics. They go out there — They do these little steps just before they spring off of the board, [sings], kind of gets you, really landing good and hard on that downbeat, so the downbeat is very important to us and we could conclude this by saying that although all music has a downbeat, not all music starts with a downbeat. Sometimes when listening to music you have to wait. Listen for a while and your body almost will start to tell you, start to signal to you, where the downbeat is. Is it really your body that will signal this to you? I doubt it. It’s your brain up here processing all of this information. We talked about the auditory cortex the first section and maybe there are other parts of the brain that are factoring in here as well, but how is it that composers send this information to, let’s say, our auditory cortex here?
How do they do that? Well, there are four principal ways that composers signal to us the whereabouts of the down beat. Okay? So let’s review — let’s focus on that just for a moment. Okay. Way number one: That has to do with duration. Notes are simply longer, held longer. That’s how we have the sense of where the down beat is. [plays piano] You have old Amazin’ Grace — I guess it’s a spiritual, right? Beautiful. It’s beautiful. But think about that. [sings] [plays piano] And all of those long notes are coming on the downbeat so that’s how we start to hear that as a downbeat, and that’s how we know to make our hand go down at that point so that’s one way.
Now another way is through accent, and to exemplify this let’s turn to some classical music, the music of Mozart, so here we have Mozart’s Fortieth Symphony, his famous G Minor Symphony, and we’re going to go ahead and start to play it. [music playing] Okay. Good. Several of you were actually conducting this. That’s great. Okay. This happens to be in duple meter and that’s fine. That wasn’t the question here but great, you’re hearing that and I’m delighted.
What Mozart has done here — If we could get the score up here of Mozart’s music — we would see that he has put a little arrow over top of — a wedge — over top of each of the down beats [plays piano] so that the string player will really accent those, but the string player would be accenting them anyway. Why? Any violinists in here or anybody who ever played a string instrument? What are you always told to do? If you are playing a downbeat with an up-bow, are you in good shape? No, no, no, no. Your teacher would not be happy with that. Your bowing pattern is probably backward at that point. String players are taught, whether it’s cellists going this way, downbeat, or violas and violinists coming down this way, that the downward motion of the hand or the pull across, the strong pull across, should come with the downbeat; that emphasizes the downbeat. That’s how we know the downbeat. So so far we’ve had duration and accent. Mozart is actually writing accent into this.
The third way that we — that composers signal to us, that we pick up almost intuitively the whereabouts of downbeats, is through patterns of accompaniment. We’ll call it range.
Okay. So here’s a waltz by Richard Strauss, not to be confused — no, excuse me, by Johann Strauss, not to be confused with Richard Strauss whom we heard last time. [plays piano] And so on. What’s important here is the left hand. [plays piano] That’s why we hear a triple pattern here. We’re hearing two weak beats, and the strong beat is always in the lower position here so we’re getting low, middle, middle, [plays piano] low, middle, middle, or it could be something as we had the other day in the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto, [plays piano] low, middle, high, low, middle, high, but each time the downbeat seems to be coming in association with that lowest note. So range or position here in the accompaniment can oftentimes signal this information to us.
And finally, and most important — these others have been pretty straightforward — but what has not been straightforward is something that you might listen to many, many times and not be aware of, and that is chord changes. We have chords in music. [plays piano] They’re these building blocks that support the melody and they have to change for that melody to be consonant all the time. But where they change oftentimes is on the downbeat. Most frequently, chord changes come on the downbeat so composers signal to us in a fourth way the downbeat by means of chord change.
Now we’re going to play just a little bit of pop music — a bit of pop music here, and by playing this you might think that I think that I’m hip or with it. We’re going to play some rock and roll. Do I look hip or with it? Hopelessly out of touch with popular culture and nobody knows this better than I, and to prove this I have chosen a piece because there’s a little story with it. I like this piece because it does something and I’ve used it in previous years, and I put it on and I would announce, “I’m now going to play out of the — It’s an album called Document by REM [pronounces “rem”],” and put it on and REM [“rem”] and it’s fine with me. That’s what it says, “REM,” [“re,”]on the printout, and about two years after I was doing this a student came up and said, “Professor Wright, it’s really not “Rem.”” Oh, it’s not?” Okay. So that’s how distant I am from all of this, but let’s listen to a little of this.
It’s in a straightforward four. Rock really comes forth not so much in twos but in fours so we’ll call this a 4/4, and you can beat a four pattern to it or you can beat a two pattern. It doesn’t really matter but notice that whenever the chords are changing they’re changing on down beat. So let’s hear a little bit of this and then we’ll stop so they don’t sue us for copyright infringement and then we’ll go somewhere else and take another chunk. [music playing]
Okay. So that’s all they’re doing there. Every time they’re changing your hand is going down, so chord changes may be the most powerful of all of these aspects of where the down beat is.
Okay. I had intended to give you just a little bit of a rhythmic quiz but let’s just do one of these things. Here’s something else we have to do in here. We have to hear a rhythm and recognize it so we have a series of rhythms on the board up there. Please choose a rhythm for excerpt one, you can choose rhythm A which is [sings] or you could choose rhythm B, [sings].
So I’m about to play a piece. It’s by Chopin. Which rhythm is in play here? Which rhythm am I playing? Is it A or is it B? [plays piano] So what do you think? How many think A? How many think B? Okay. So that’s not too challenging. We’ll be doing some of that. Then [plays piano] Chopin is sitting here and he modulates; he changes key. What about this? Is it — This is number two. Is it A or B? [plays piano] Lovely. Wasn’t it lovely, a little thing by Chopin? How long did it take old Chopin to think that up, do you suppose? Two seconds? Three seconds of white-hot inspiration? I’m sixty-four years old and I haven’t had one second of genius in my entire life. [laughter] This is really depressing. It’s discouraging. I soldier on but it hasn’t come to me. You are younger and I’m sure that your moment of genius is out there. It’s really the difference between perseverance, in my case, and genius — pure, unadulterated genius — in the case of Chopin. What a beautiful melody. In any event, the answer is what? For two, is it A or B? [plays piano] What do you think? A, yeah, so that’s his rhythm, A there. All right.
We’re going to end with one final exercise. It’s a fun piece I think. It’s fun to do. It’s a piece by Maurice Ravel called Bolero. It’s a unique piece. Maurice Ravel was a French composer writing in the early twentieth century. It’s a unique piece because what he does is take some very basic patterns and simply repeats them over and over and over again for about fourteen and a half minutes depending upon the tempo that the conductor is taking the music. So let’s listen to a little bit of this music and I want you, maybe as a group, to tap with your foot, your hand, whatever, just the beat as you hear it. You don’t have to pay any attention to this. We’ll come to this in just a moment, but just tap and we’ll all — maybe eventually all together the beat. Here we go. [music playing]
Most of you are not tapping. So everybody start tapping where you think it is. [music playing] Okay. Good. All right. Gentleman out here in the orange shirt. I’m going to have you be a conductor. You were doing really well and you were conducting correctly early on. So good. Here’s what we got. Most people have [sings]. Some people are going [sings] and in this course we would know whether you’re hearing duple or triple based on some other information so don’t worry about if you’re doing [sings]. That’s a little bit fast for a beat. What you’re doing there is actually subdividing the beat into two, but don’t worry about that. That’s fine. You’re doing eighth notes and the rest of us are doing — other people are doing quarter notes. Okay. So the beat is [sings].
Now what music have we been hearing here? Santana, where are you? Okay. Come on up here. Take a look at this. Lynda, come on over here and take a look at this. We should have rehearsed this in advance. We did not do this. These are two ladies that are very experienced singers. I want you to just stand right up here, please. They have not been forewarned about this! Take a look at this. [sings] We’re going to do it together. Here we go. You’re going to sing that top melody. One, ready, go. [sings] Okay, and we’re just going to keep — It’ll be fine, and we’re just going to keep going and once you get to the end one then we’re going to repeat. Okay? Here we go. Two, sing. [sings] Okay. So you’re going to keep going over and over and over like that. I’m going to be this thing here. Let’s just go — This is the percussion. [taps rhythm] Okay? There is no pitch to it. It is just rhythm. Up here we have melody and rhythm. Here we have just rhythm. Underneath we have [sings]. We have basically harmony, but it has a simple rhythm to it. It’s a rhythm with a couple of different patterns. You, students, are going to sing this. Okay? So here we go. Everybody together, ready, sing.
Okay. So here we’re going to go — The gentleman in the orange shirt — I hate to do this to you but we’ve got thirty seconds. Stand up. You were doing a great job. [laughter] Stand up and you can — That’s fine. You can face me. We’ll coordinate it better this way, and just conduct this in three. I’ll start conducting with you and then you take over. Here we go, one, ready, go. [taps rhythm] [singing] Okay. Great. This is actually terrific. We’re going to take it to Hoboken and Sheboygan. We’re going to play across the world with this group. Okay. Thank you very much, ladies.
The point here — final point and then I’ll let you go. This is a melody with rhythm. This is pure rhythm. This is a harmony with a very simple rhythm here. Who is playing the beat? I asked you to conduct the beat or to tap the beat. Most people — And everybody was tapping the beat just fine and dandy, but notice up here nobody is playing the beat. There’s nobody up here that’s playing the beat. The brain perceives all of this complex information and it processes it and it extrapolates from it the beat, but again nobody in music — except the bass drum player in a marching band — nobody in music ever does anything except just play the beat. Okay. So I’ll see you starting this evening in sections.
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