The resources in timbre are also quite limited, as the piece is composed for a single instrument. The piano is a great instrument with regards to dynamic range, but not quite as versatile in terms of timbre. The problem that springs from these limitations, especially the first, is how to fulfil the needs of a musical composition to provide enough variety so that the music would engage the listener, have forward momentum, and contain a sense of tension and resolution, which is fundamental for musical syntax.
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It’s really something, even in robotic MIDI form. The chromaticism leapt right out at me on first hearing. It’s worth going on a little journey so you understand what chromaticism is and why it’s a big deal. The chromatic scale is the one you get when you play all 12 notes in the Western tuning system, all the notes on the piano or guitar or whatever. The chromatic scale sounds pretty bad. It’s too much information. The notes don’t feel like they’re related in any particular way, like there’s any logic to them.
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All this is corroborated by an intensification of dynamics, which grow gradually into fortissimo (1:05 onwards). A first climax is reached in the Prestissimo section: (d.) is now played by both hands and the staccato articulations are now accented, longer (and therefore heavier) notes (1:58).
The MIDI version is richly informative. There are long passages where there’s almost no rhythmic correspondence between the notes as written (and as “performed” in the MIDI) and the way that humans perform them. People are playing the same notes in the same order, but have pretty much thrown Bach’s written rhythms out the window. But the MIDI isn’t a very satisfying listening experience.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet, “Swan Lake, Opus 20” contains a very distinct melody that you might not think you’d recognize until you hear it. At 0:03 of Act II, the oboe solo clearly establishes the perfect fifth in a beautiful descending line.
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The best way we’ve found to practice identifying note intervals by ear is to associate each interval with a familiar song or melody that you could likely sing in your head already. All you have to do is commit a piece of the melody to memory, and voilà, you’re on your way to interval recall!
The best syllabic recontextualization that I know of is DJ Premier’s use of a Biz Markie vocal in “Nas Is Like” by Nas. When Biz raps the line, “I’m highly recognized as the king of disco-in’,” he pronounces “recognized” as “recogNAAAHZed” with a loud and nasal emphasis on the last syllable. In “Nas Is Like,” Nas ends the first verse, “And of course, N-A-S are the letters that spell…” Then Premier scratches in Biz seeming to say “NAAAS.”
It’s totally fair to assume this song is in C minor. Sure, C minor chords shows up here and there, and much of the melodic content could be attributed to the C minor pentatonic scale. I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking this song is in C minor.
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Jeremy is a Montreal-based musician, sound artist and improviser who loves giving advice to emerging artists on how to make their tours more effective. He writes, records and performs electroacoustic “concrète” music for tape, oscillators and amplified objects and surfaces, as well as solo guitar. He has performed and released material throughout Europe and the UK, Asia, the US and Canada, mostly with his trio Sontag Shogun.