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Basic Musical Terms and Concepts

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Basic musical terms and concepts like: tonality, pitch, scale, melody, range, motion, theme, motive, texture, beat, meter, rhythm, tempo, arrangement, composition, improvisation.
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    Basic Musical Terms and Concepts This is a list assembled to help you through some of the conversation. Tonality Pitch, Notes, Tones  perceived quality of sound, recognized in terms of how high and low (in western music) and identified usually by letters of the alphabet, or by solfege, or by numbers Fixed , universally recognized that a=440Hz Relative pitch , not universally recognized measure Absolute  pitch, bending  pitch Tone  and Semitones (Steps and Half steps,doh-ra (whole step), mi-fah (half step) Micro tones: sounds between the whole and half steps, common in music of the middle east and Asia) Scale : set of pitches arranged in consecutive order from high to low (or low to high), with a particular relationship to each other, some pitches are more important than others, doh re mi fah so la ti doh (12345671), can be in collections of 5,6,7,8 pitches We don’t ascribe emotional value to scales, but in Baroque era that happened, as well as in other parts of the world i.e. the raga, sets of pitch associated with particular times of the day, seasons, events Tonality  tied to ideas of pitch hierarchy i.e. tonal center usually pitch 1 in the scale, and associated with tonic chord Chord : three or more pitches sound simultaneously i.e. vertical set of pitches. Western system, hierarchy of chords Key signature : relates to use of particular scale/mode and associated chord progression  Mode, like a scale, derived from church modes and used in jazz Melody : horizontal set of pitch Coherent succession of pitch, pitch organized into a meaningful unit, sometimes tied to text i.e. song Range : Distance between highest and lowest pitch—wide or limited range Motion : movement from one pitch to another Melodies move in particular ways: Conjunct  eg. doh re mi fah, from one pitch to neighboring pitch, much popular song disjunct  motion: leaps in the motion eg. free jazz contour : shape of the melody theme : musical idea, usually a melody that is used frequently in a composition, recurs motive : shorter than a theme, usually a short rhythmic or melodic idea that is varied and transformed riff  : short rhythmic or melodic motive that is repeated and not transformed (jazz especially) for a short time range : span of pitch between highest and lowest Special kind of melody hocket : melody constructed out of several interlocking voices singing individual pitches consecutively   perform example: doh a deer a female deer, ray a drop of golden sun Tone Color or Timbre  how to distinguish between different instruments eg. wind instruments—sound of a trumpet vs a saxophone; human voices, individual singers can  produce distinctive sounds in their voices eg. Ella Fitzgerald vs Billy Holiday vs Sarah Vaughan Texture  general fabric of sound created Monophonic: single sound Polyphonic: many sounds Homophonic: chordal texture Heterophonic: more horizontal in orientation i.e. two melodies singing basically the same contour, one more ornamented than the other Chordal Texture: Harmony  —the basis of European classical, and much popular music Relationship between pitches sounded at the same time Consonant, dissonant Interval: distance between two pitches Chord, three or more pitches in a set Chord progression tied to idea of functional harmony i.e. hierarchy of chords TONIC, DOMINANT Harmonic rhythm—pushes the music forward, induces sense of motion Rhythm and Meter Time-Keeping Beat : steady marking of time, foot tapping, often divided into smaller units called pulses Strong beat—beats that are accented in metered music (western classical music, this is bt 1 and 3) Weak beats—not accented Off-beat—same as syncopation eg. way down in swanee river, playing with expectation of strong and weak beats Meter : organization of sound into measured units and is tied to time signature i.e. ! , 4/4, 6/8 Fixed usually in twos or threes (in so called “western music”) Mixed—changing throughout the piece Irregular meter 2 plus 3, 5 +7, etc., Free meter—without a strong sense of regular accentuation Measures or bars of music: organization for writing purposes, usually be metrical pattern NOTE  Some musical cultures use others ways of organizing musical time i.e. Indian classical music has a concept of tala, these are very long rhythmic patterns that guide the  performance, sometimes up to 164 beats per cycle. Measures or bars of music: western music’s organization for writing purposes, usually by metrical pattern Rhythm Duple, 1-2,1-2 Triple, 1-2-3, 1-2-3 combined in two lines—cross-rhythm, African music, jazz  additive rhythm, irregular division i.e. 5 + 7 vs 3 + 3 +3 (Bulgarian, Indian classical music) divisive rhythm—equal division of beats i.e. duple triple Tempo : how fast or slow  Form  overall structure of a piece or performance Chorus  (in jazz and popular music), usually 32 bars, just repeats Verse-refrain Call and response or antiphonal Free form or through composed Cyclical, overlapping phrases   Performance: tension between freedom and restraint Improvisation  pieces developed in performance, extensive preparation, not two pieces ever the same Composition: frequently written down, preconceived pieces, usually rehearsed, prize exact rendition of written score Arrangement  usually an expansion of a precomposed melody for instrumental ensemble, expansion of materials, difficult boundaries with composition. Music Text relationship : how do words fit with the music Syllabic, melismatic, florid, plain Relationship between text and tone (tonal languages) How do we hear music ? ã   What meanings do we give to sound (possible ideas to explore in journals), do we think about the cultural ramifications of individual performances? ã   Questions for you to write about in your journals ã   Take one or two pieces of music you are familiar with, and start to listen to them as cultural texts i.e. with the tools that we are developing for analytical listening. How does this affect what you now hear in a piece? ã    Now speculate on the music as a cultural practice, interpret the sound, write about first what it means to you personally and then of its significance as a larger cultural form. General Questions   ã   Ensemble : who are the performers, voices (male/female), instruments (name types, or specific) ã   Textures—  homophonic, monophonic, polyphonic, heterophonic   ã   Voice : vocal, range, timbre/tone quality, range o   Relationship to text? o   Relationship to larger musical style, genre of performance ã   Form : clues to form, repetition, texts, textural shifts, harmonic progressions ã   Rhythm/Meter  (time keeping), ties to body movement?  Then how do these sounds/words inform us about larger cultural practices? Race, gender, class, social status, history etc. What is the relationship between individual performance and larger cultural practices?
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