Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The State of Modern Music

Today's practitioners of what we once called "modern" music are finding themselves to be suddenly alone. A bewildering backlash is set against any music making that requires the disciplines and tools of research for its genesis. Stories now circulate that amplify and magnify this troublesome trend. It once was that one could not even approach a major music school in the US unless well prepared to bear the commandments and tenets of serialism. When one hears now of professors shamelessly studying scores of Respighi in order to extract the magic of their mass audience appeal, we know there's a crisis. This crisis exists in the perceptions of even the most educated musicians. Composers today seem to be hiding from certain difficult truths regarding the creative process. They have abandoned their search for the tools that will help them create really striking and challenging listening experiences. I believe that is because they are confused about many notions in modern music making!

First, let's examine the attitudes that are needed, but that have been abandoned, for the development of special disciplines in the creation of a lasting modern music. This music that we can and must create provides a crucible in which the magic within our souls is brewed, and it is this that frames the templates that guide our very evolution in creative thought. It is this generative process that had its flowering in the early 1950s. By the 1960s, many emerging musicians had become enamored of the wonders of the fresh and exciting new world of Stockhausen's integral serialism that was then the rage. There seemed limitless excitement, then. It seemed there would be no bounds to the creative impulse; composers could do anything, or so it seemed. At the time, most composers hadn't really examined serialism carefully for its inherent limitations. But it seemed so fresh. However, it soon became apparent that it was Stockhausen's exciting musical approach that was fresh, and not so much the serialism itself, to which he was then married. It became clear, later, that the methods he used were born of two special considerations that ultimately transcend serial devices: crossing tempi and metrical patterns; and, especially, the concept that treats pitch and timbre as special cases of rhythm. (Stockhausen referred to the crossovers as "contacts", and he even entitled one of his compositions that explored this realm Kontakte.) These gestures, it turns out, are really independent from serialism in that they can be explored from different approaches.

The most spectacular approach at that time was serialism, though, and not so much these (then-seeming) sidelights. It is this very approach -- serialism -- however, that after having seemingly opened so many new doors, germinated the very seeds of modern music's own demise. The method is highly prone to mechanical divinations. Consequently, it makes composition easy, like following a recipe. In serial composition, the less thoughtful composer seemingly can divert his/her soul away from the compositional process. Inspiration can be buried, as method reigns supreme. The messy intricacies of note shaping, and the epiphanies one experiences from necessary partnership with one's essences (inside the mind and the soul -- in a sense, our familiars) can be discarded conveniently. All is rote. All is compartmentalized. For a long time this was the honored method, long hallowed by classroom teachers and young composers-to-be, alike, at least in the US. Soon, a sense of sterility emerged in the musical atmosphere; many composers started to examine what was taking place.

The replacement of sentimental romanticism with atonal music had been a crucial step in the extrication of music from a torpid cul-de-sac. A music that would closet itself in banal self-indulgence, such as what seemed to be occurring with romanticism, would decay. Here came a time for exploration. The new alternative --atonality -- arrived. It was the fresh, if seemingly harsh, antidote. Arnold Schonberg had saved music, for the time being. However, shortly thereafter, Schonberg made a serious tactical faux pas. The 'rescue' was truncated by the introduction of a method by which the newly freed process could be subjected to control and order! I have to express some sympathy here for Schönberg, who felt adrift in the sea of freedom provided by the disconnexity of atonality. Large forms depend upon some sense of sequence. For him a method of ordering was needed. Was serialism a good answer? I'm not so certain it was. Its introduction provided a magnet that would attract all those who felt they needed explicit maps from which they could build patterns. By the time Stockhausen and Boulez arrived on the scene, serialism was touted as the cure for all musical problems, even for lack of inspiration!

Pause for a minute and think of two pieces of Schonberg that bring the problem to light: Pierrot Lunaire, Op. 21 (1912 - pre-serial atonality) and the Suite, Op. 29 (1924 serial atonality). Pierrot... seems so vital, unchained, almost lunatic in its special frenzy, while the Suite sounds sterile, dry, forced. In the latter piece the excitement got lost. This is what serialism seems to have done to music. Yet the attention it received was all out of proportion to its generative power. Boulez once even proclaimed all other composition to be "useless"! If the 'disease' --serialism --was bad, one of its 'cures' --free chance --was worse. In a series of lectures in Darmstadt, Germany, in 1958, John Cage managed to prove that the outcome of music written by chance means differs very little from that written using serialism. However, chance seemed to leave the public bewildered and angry. Chance is chance. There is nothing on which to hold, nothing to guide the mind. Even powerful musical personalities, such as Cage's, often have trouble reining in the raging dispersions and diffusions that chance scatters, seemingly aimlessly. But, again, many schools, notably in the US, detected a sensation in the making with the entry of free chance into the music scene, and indeterminacy became a new mantra for anyone interested in creating something, anything, so long as it was new.

I believe parenthetically that one can concede Cage some quarter that one might be reluctant to cede to others. Often chance has become a citadel of lack of discipline in music. Too often I've seen this outcome in university classes in the US that 'teach 'found (!)' music. The rigor of discipline in music making should never be shunted away in search of a music that is 'found', rather than composed. However, in a most peculiar way, the power of Cage's personality, and his surprising sense of rigor and discipline seem to rescue his 'chance' art, where other composers simply flounder in the sea of uncertainty.

Still, as a solution to the rigor mortis so cosmically bequeathed to music by serial controls, chance is a very poor stepsister. The Cageian composer who can make chance music talk to the soul is a rare bird indeed. What seemed missing to many was the perfume that makes music so wonderfully evocative. The ambiance that a Debussy could evoke, or the fright that a Schonberg could invoke (or provoke), seemed to evaporate with the modern technocratic or free-spirited ways of the new musicians. Iannis Xenakis jolted the music world with the potent solution in the guise of a 'stochastic' music. As Xenakis' work would evolve later into excursions into connexity and disconnexity, providing a template for Julio Estrada's Continuum, the path toward re-introducing power, beauty and fragrance into sound became clear. All this in a 'modernist' conceptual approach!

Once again, though, the US university milieu took over (mostly under the stifling influence of the serial methodologist, Milton Babbitt) to remind us that it's not nice to make music by fashioning it through 'borrowings' from extra-musical disciplines. Throughout his book, Conversations with Xenakis, the author, Balint András Vargas, along with Xenakis, approaches the evolution of Xenakis' work from extra-musical considerations. Physical concepts are brought to bear, such as noise propagating through a crowd, or hail showering upon metal rooftops. Some relate to terrible war memories of experiences suffered by Xenakis, culminating in a serious wound. To shape such powerful sounds, concepts akin to natural phenomena had to be marshaled. From the standpoint of the musical classroom, two things about Xenakis are most troubling: one is his relative lack of formal musical training; the other, or flip side, is his scientifically oriented schooling background. In ways no one else in musical history had ever done, Xenakis marshaled concepts that gave birth to a musical atmosphere that no one had ever anticipated could exist in a musical setting. One most prominent feature is a sound setting that emulates Brownian movement of a particle on a liquid surface. This profoundly physical concept needed high-powered mathematics to constrain the movements of the (analogous) sound 'particles' and make them faithful to the concept Xenakis had in mind. There is, as a result, a certain inexactitude, albeit a physical slipperiness, to the movement of the sound particles. Nice musical smoothness and transition give way to unpredictable evolution and transformation. This concept blows the skin off traditional concepts of musical pattern setting! Its iridescent shadows are unwelcome in the gray gloom of the American classroom.

In their haste to keep musical things musical, and to rectify certain unwanted trends, the official musical intelligentsia, (the press, the US university elite, professors, etc.) managed to find a way to substitute false heroes for the troubling Xenakis. Around the time of Xenakis' entry into the musical scene, and his troubling promulgation of throbbing musical landscapes, attendant with sensational theories involving stochastic incarnations, a group of composers emerged who promised to deliver us from evil, with simple-minded solutions erected on shaky intuitional edifices. The so-called 'cluster' group of would-be musical sorcerers included Krzysztof Penderecki, Henryk Górecki and Gyorgy Ligeti. These new musical darlings, with their easy methodologies, gave us the first taste of the soon-to-emerge post-modernism that has posed as our ticket to the Promised Land for the last thirty years. It seemed that, just as music finally had a master of the caliber and importance of Bach, Schonberg, Bartok and Varese in the person of one Iannis Xenakis, history and musicology texts seemed not to be able to retreat quickly enough to embrace the new saviors, all the while conspiring against an all embracing creativity found fast, and well-embedded within the turmoil of the stochastic process.

Alas, Xenakis has been exiled from American history, as much as the powers have been able to do so! His competition, those in the intuitive cluster school, became the fixtures of the new musical landscape, because their art is so much easier than that of Xenakis. Ease of composing, of analyzing and of listening are the new bywords that signal success in the music world. Those who extol such virtues herald the arrival and flourishing of post-modernism and all its guises, be it neo-romantic, clustering or eclecticism. The proud cry these days, is "Now we can do about anything we wish." Better, perhaps, to do nothing than to embrace such intellectual cowardice.

The promise of a return to musical fragrances that walk in harmony and synchronicity with intellectual potency was precious and vital. It should signal the next phase of evolution in the creative humanities. The challenge to write about this potential of a marriage of humanities was overwhelming. No adequate text seemed to exist. So I had to provide one. All that was lacking for a good book was a unifying theme. 

Algorithms control the walk of the sounds. Algorithms are schemata that work the attributes of sound to enable them to unfold meaningfully. An algorithm is a step-function that can range from a simple diagram to stochastic or Boolean functions. Even serialism is an algorithm. While they are important, algorithms take second place in importance to the focus of music: its sound. This concentration is given a terminology by composer, Gerard Pape: sound-based composition. Isn't all music sound based? It's all sound, after all.

Well, yes, but not really. The point of the term is to highlight the emphasis of the approach being on the sound, rather than on the means used for its genesis. In sound-based composition, one concentrates on a sound, then conjures the way to create it. In serialism, ordering takes precedence over quality. The result often is vapid: empty sound. Directionless pointillism robs music of its vital role, the conjuring of imagery, in whatever guise. The other leading practitioner of sound-based composition is Dr. Julio Estrada. In his composition classes and seminars at UNAM (Universidad National Autonoma de México), he emphasizes the mental formation of an imaginary, sort of an idealized imagery. Then the composer/students are directed to formulate a conspirator sound essence that conveys something of the élan of this imaginary. Only then, once the construct of sound is concocted, is the method of sound shaping in the form of notation employed. Understanding of imagery and of fragrance precedes their specification. This is a sophisticated example of sound-based composition.

A curious, special case arose out of the arcane methods of Giacinto Scelsi, who made explicit what long had been lurking in the background. He posited a '3rd dimension' to sound. He felt that the trouble with the serialists was in their reliance upon two dimensions in sound: the pitch and the duration. For Scelsi, timbre provides a depth, or 3rd dimension, explored only rarely until his groundbreaking work. He devised ways to call for unusual timbres, and evolutions of timbre that resulted in his focusing on the characteristics of, and the transformations between (within!), attributes of single tones. Indeed, his Quattro Pezzi are veritable studies in counterpoint within single tones!

This concept of sound-based composition provided the unifying seed around which a book could be built. It would be one that could salvage something of the first principles of the union of intellectual discipline and a vibrant sound context: that is, music with meaning, challenge, discipline, ambience and something that requires courage and commitment in its conception. Such would be a music that yields special, beautiful, powerful, alluring fruits, which, nonetheless, disclose their secrets only reluctantly, demanding skillful teasing out of their magic.

This epiphany revealed a road by which we could reestablish the Xenakian ideal of musical power attainable primarily through processes that have their basis in the physics and architecture of the world around us. Here was not only the answer, the antidote, if you will, to the rigidities of serialism, but also a cure for the sloppiness of unconstrained chance composition. Here was a way out of the impasse confronting composition in the 1960s. The question should be not what method to use to compose, for that leads only to blind alleys (serialism, chance or retreat), but why compose? What is in the musical universe that can open pathways not yet explored, pathways that reveal something that stir a soul? What is the best way to accomplish that?

If we abandon the search for unique roads and for challenge, we will become the first generation ever in music to proclaim that backwards movement is progress; that less is more. Yet the very apostles of post-modernism will have us believe just that! They hold that the public has rejected modernism; the public has held modernism to be bankrupt. Post-modernists will lure you into the trap that, because of its unmitigated complexity, serialism promised only its demise. "The only road into modernism is sterile complexity; we need to root this out, and return to simplicity. We won't have a saleable product, otherwise." This is the thinking that gave us minimalism, the nearest relative to 'muzak' one can conjure in art-music. One composer, a one-time avant-gardist, actually apologized for his former modernity, on stage, to the audience, before a performance of his latest post-modern work!

There is an inscription in the halls of a monastery in Toledo, Spain: "Caminantes, no hay caminos, hay que caminar" (pilgrims, there is no road, only the travel). This was a beacon for one of music history's most courageous pilgrims - a fighter for freedom for the mind, for the body, and for the ear: Luigi Nono. His example could serve us all well. He exposed himself to grave danger as a fighter against oppression of all kinds, not least of all the musical kind. It takes courage to create. It isn't supposed to be easy! Nothing worthwhile ever is. It would seem to me that Nono's example serves as the antithesis to that of the previous composer.

I examine music history of the 20th century to find clues as to why certain composers generate more excitement than others. Is it possible that sound-based composition has flourished in an intuitive way from back into the 19th century? Has it been around a while, but just not codified explicitly as such? I feel that is so. To some extent the roots of this idea can be found in the so-called nationalism of such composers as Bartók and Janacek. Nationalism has gotten something of a bad rap due to folksy, cutesy concoctions usually redolent within its environments. But, upon reflection and examination, the more rigorous efforts in nationalistic composition yield tremendous fruits. Note especially Bartók's highly original devices of twelve-tone tonality (e.g., axis positions and special chords). Less well known, but important as well, are the special folk vocal inflections resident in Janácek's music. These special qualities spilled over from the vocal to the instrumental writing. So it appears that we can make a strong case for sound-based composition (composition focused on special sound qualities) being rooted in the music by the turn of the 20th century.

The process of creation is the focus; not the glorification of the superficial sounds that only mimic real music. The reinstatement of Xenakis', Nono's, Scelsi's and Estrada's ideals to preeminence was crucial. The recognition of these trends, in preference to those of the more facile and easily attractive ones espoused by Penderecki, Ligeti and others, had to be ensured. The easy lure of cluster music had to be resisted.

If we don't make this distinction clear, all that follows is nonsense. Too many people apply modernism to anything that resided in the 20th century that contained a little dissonance. That is a common error. For others, modernism exists in any era - it simply is what's happening at a given time, and is appropriate as a description for music in that era. This, too, is wrong for its reluctance to confront the creative process.

We mustn't yield to these impulsive descriptions, for to do so renders the profound efforts of the 20th century meaningless. There is a unifying thread in music that qualifies it to be considered modern, or modernist, and it isn't just a time frame. Modernism is an attitude. This attitude appears periodically in music history, but it is most effectively understood in the context of creativity, most pronouncedly found late in the 20th century. Modern music is the music composed that results from research into the attributes of sound, and into the ways we perceive sound. It usually involves experimentation; the experimentation yields special discoveries that bear fruit in the act of composition. This distinction is crucial; for even though much cluster music, and some neo-classical music, contains high dissonance, their focus is reactionary. The experimental work of Schonberg, Berg, Webern, Bartok, Varese, and that of some Stravinsky, is forward-looking, in that the music is not a solution unto itself: it provides a template for further work and exploration into that area. Even more so, the works of Cage, Xenakis, Scelsi, Nono and Estrada.

The composers chosen for discussion herein are the ones I consider to be the most exemplary models in the development of sound based composition. They are as follows:

-Janacek (nationalist inflection) 

-Debussy (chord-coloration) 

-Mahler (expressionism and tone-color melody) 

-Ravel (impressionism) 

-Malipiero (intuitive discourse) 

-Hindemith (expressionism in a quasi-tonal context) 

-Stravinsky (octatonic diatonicism) 

-Bartok (axial tonality, arch form, golden section construction) 

-Schonberg (expressionism, atonality, klangfarbenmelodie)) 

-Berg ('tonal' serialism) 

-Webern (canonic forms in serialism, klangfarbenmelodie) 

-Varese (noise, timbral/range hierarchies) 

-Messiaen (modes of limited transposition, non-retrogradable rhythms, color chords) 

-Boulez (special live electronics instruments) 

-Stockhausen (pitch/rhythm dichotomy) 

-Cage (indeterminacy, noise, live electronics) 

-Xenakis (Ataxy, stochastic music, inside-outside time attributes, random walks, granularity, non-periodic scales) 

-Nono (near inaudibility, mobile sound, special electronics) 

-Lutoslawski (chain composition) 

-Scelsi (the 3rd dimension in sound, counterpoint within a single tone) 

-Estrada (The Continuum)

There is so much glitter in the world, and so much noise pollution that we are being rendered incapable of reflection and of creative thought. We become mortified at the thought of a little challenge. We are paralyzed when faced with the challenge of keeping our evolutionary legacy in focus. We cannot afford to trade away quality for mediocrity, just because mediocrity is easier and more enticing. This would not be an acceptable social outcome. To live we must thrive. To thrive we cannot rest.

Entertainment is a laudable pursuit in certain settings and times. It cannot be the force that drives our lives. If a composer desires to write entertaining music, that is all right. But that composer must be honest about his or her motives for doing so. Do not write entertainment and then try to con the public by claiming this is great music. It is best to be able to discover the key to the writing of a music that can fulfill a need for tomorrow. By understanding nature, the nature of sound and the human condition, we can write music capable of conveying something essential. That goes beyond entertainment. It fulfills music's most crucial purpose: providing a teaching role. What better way to go through a learning process than to find oneself doing so while wrapped in a cocoon of beauty? Music can be our best teacher.

It is all right to find beauty in old sources. Even Respighi can be very charming, engaging. It is also just as good to listen to soothing, euphonious music as it is to write such music. But can't we as composers do better than this? Why can't we give something besides pleasure to tomorrow? Young composers today are at a crossroads. They can fulfill a vital mission by helping fulfill a tradition that carries on a cultural legacy. Today's composers must begin to dream; and then compose.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Problem With Music Advocacy

Have we, as an interested group in music education, damaged our own efforts simply by labeling it as "music advocacy?" I, along with many music educators, am very thankful for "VH1 Save the Music," and other music advocacy efforts. But only those who are already passionate about the value of music education truly champion those efforts. Although the term, "music advocacy," has its place within the circle of music supporters, it is a misrepresentation in general society.

The word, "advocacy," indicates helping an underdog. It places it in a category of sympathetic efforts toward something worthwhile in need of saving. Contemplate the term, "child advocate." What pictures come to mind? Visual images of children in need pulling on your heart-strings of giving, right? We love them and want to do more for them, but invoking emotions of sympathy only reaches a few. Think of all the phrases that include the word, "advocate," or "advocacy." What is your instant emotion? pity? charity? sympathy? empathy? left-wing? righteous? desire to fight for the cause?

Why do we feel that way? It indicates a need to fight for the defenseless, vulnerable, needy. Who puts on the gloves and does the defending? The one's closest to the underdog. Those with a deep compassion and emotion connected to the victim.

How do they fight for the victim? They work to bring the world's attention to the problem. They paint graphic pictures through word and images that guilt people into giving. Those most passionate for the defenseless work tirelessly, attempting multiple methods to reach the masses, but only winning a few.

Music is not the underdog in reality, just in the education system, and in lack of funding. In our efforts to improve the perception and financial support, we sabotage the greater mission to revere and admire. Music is not something to sympathize, but to admire and seek to aspire to greatness. What if we turned sympathy into admiration?

People love winners. People love champions. People want to be part of the winning team. It inspires them to go after their dream and admire those who did and succeeded. For example, I'm not much of a sports fan, but when the local high school team begins advancing to the state playoffs, I'm there with the rest of the town. Everyone loves a winner. Sound familiar?

Now contemplate a contrasting picture-Shawn Johnson. Have you heard of her? A young girl from Iowa had a dream. With only the support of her family and coach, Shawn focused on the gold and passionately dedicated her time, energy and talent toward achieving excellence, and she did. Shawn obtained a gold and silver in the 2008 Olympics held in China-and hasn't stopped yet.

Before the Olympic season, only those within the gymnastics' circle knew of Shawn Johnson. Similar to only those within the music circle are aware of the benefits of music instruction in a person's life. Shawn Johnson is not a sympathetic picture. No one is a martyr for Shawn Johnson. No one needs to be or even wants to be. Shawn Johnson is one girl who had a dream with an action plan. She had a small support team of her family and a coach. Shawn did not recruit "advocacy" groups to help pull her along and represent her case. She did not see herself as an underdog. She was going for the gold-the Olympic gold.

Did she dedicate a percentage of her time reaching for sympathy votes and support groups? No. As she poured her heart into her work, she began to excel and as she began to win, the world clamored to see her, learn about this incredible success story, take pride in her as one of our own in the U.S. Everyone admired Shawn's dedication and proudly claimed her as a representative of what is possible when you aspire for excellence in your craft. For Shawn Johnson that is gymnastics. For us, it is music.

Millions of kids take gymnastics, but it's only the excellent ones that the world wants to watch. Many people are involved in music, but it's only incredible musicians that draws the world's attention.

The large majority of U.S. citizens never attend, or watch, or participate in gymnastic events, but in the summer of 2008, all U.S. eyes were watching Shawn, willing her to win and celebrating her victories. Google Shawn Johnson and you will find articles and video clips from around the globe. Fan clubs and web pages came into being. All of this from one girl with a dream that took the necessary action to make it happen.

People love a winner. People want to be apart of the winning team. People gravitate and seek out winners. They want to be part of that dream.

Music is a winner. We, musicians and music educators, know that. Anyone who sits in an audience and is moved to tears from the sheer beauty of the perfectly sung notes in a musical or opera, or the exquisite sounds of the instruments in an orchestra or band that cause people to rise to their feet in impulsive applause, understands. Music experienced at that level does not evoke sympathy, but awe. Everyone that experienced the incredible music shares it with enthusiasm to anyone who will listen. Like a virus, everyone clamors to experience the magical moment created through music. All eyes turn toward the source of the inspiration and want to experience it again.

We know that, but does society? We need to stop portraying music education as an underdog needing rescued and start exclaiming the opportunities for incredible experiences unlike any other. If our music programs inspire and excel as winners, all eyes will turn to us and want to be part of what we are doing. They'll experience what we already know and music will be viewed as the hero it already is.

"Music advocacy?" I don't think so. Within our music circle? Maybe, but only within our circle. We need to view it as something with wondrous awe that we are excited to share, not defend. Does music education need more support and help to keep it in existence? Absolutely. No question. But we are going about it the wrong way. Outside of the music world, the phrase, "music advocacy," hurts the mission before it even starts. The term indicates a solicitation for sympathy votes before you even understand what they are about. They only really effect those who are already passionate about music and already see the problem. Music education will NEVER be elevated and perceived with respect with labels that indicate defenseless losers and illicit pity.

Pursue excellence in music with a single-focused passion and people will follow. Pursue excellence in music education with passion and people will rally and clamor to be part of the success of their kids-your students.

We treat music education like a needy child trying to compete in an olympic games out of sympathy votes. Only eyes of pity on that child-and then they are fleeting. Music education needs to be Shawn Johnson, and in many schools it is perceived with admiration and respect. Music performed with excellence already is admired and respected with wonder and awe by those who have the privilege to witness it. There are many examples from Paul Potts and Susan Boyle to Kristen Chenoweth, Bobby McFerrin, Yoyo Ma, etc. Pursue excellence in music education and the world will notice and be inspired.

How do we achieve this? Teach kids with passion. Practice with passion. Conduct with passion. Educate parents with the beneficial facts of music education and instruction, but not as a plea, but as an exciting opportunity to involve their kids in the best. We have something that is in desperate need-smarter, brighter and more creative citizens. Music education instills, develops and exercises those qualities. We have wonderful tools available for today's children.

Teach with passion and the term, "music advocacy," will become obsolete.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Potential And Purpose Of Music

The dictionary defines Music as "the science or art of combining tones into a composition having structure and continuity:Also as vocal or instrumental sounds having rhythm,melody,or harmony. 

This is a wonderfully academic definition and be it far from me to question the authority of the dictionary,however this definition describes more the process of producing music than it defines what music actually is. Music is far more than a science it is in fact a creative force a spiritual dimension of life. Music has been apart of the human experience in every culture and society of mankind since time began. From the earliest cultures of man until now music has been used to express a wide range of human emotions from love, joy and celebration to sadness,anger and fear.Music has been used to inspire patriotism,incite wars and promote peace. Music is so much apart of us that we could not imagine a world or an existence that did not include this dimension of life. My point here is not to make a case for any particular genre of music but rather to help us understand that whether we know it or not the reason music is so much apart of us regardless of our age, race ,cultural background, or preferred musical genre and the reason it affects us the way it does is because in essence music is spiritual.

Understand that any thing that has the ability to alter our mood(positively or negatively), give language to feelings we cannot express, or transport us back in time or forward into the future is a spiritual force. Music does all these things on varying levels. When we speak of things being spiritual we are speaking of that which possess the following: potential,purpose and power


At this point I must inform you that music like many other things in life such as money and even religion has the potential for good as well as evil. If we believe that music is spiritual than it is crucial 

to understand that there is a good and an evil side to spirituality and spiritual things. For example the same knife that can be used to prepare a wonderful meal can also be used to mortally wound some 

one. The same wealth that can be used to feed the poor and promote positive change in the world could also be used to fund the trafficking of Illegal drugs or guns. In recent years the positive potential of music has been rediscovered as many mental health and therapy organizations are now including the use of music as a part of there therapy and recovery programs. Yet this is nothing new, in the bible there is a story of a great king named saul who was tormented in his soul and mind by an evil spirit. it was recommended to him that he employ the service of a skillful minstrel(musician). He was made aware of a young man named david who it was said was a cunning(expert,master) musician. David was brought before the king and he became the kings personal attendant. Whenever king Saul would start having one of his tormenting episodes David would play his instrument and the scriptures declare that as david played Saul would be refreshed and made well (read more in I SAMUEL 16). The positive potential of music to change our society and culture cannot be underestimated. Which brings us to the next thing we must understand about music.

The Highest Purpose

Someone has aptly stated: "that when the purpose of something is not known abuse is inevitable" 

when those who have been uniquely gifted to release the dimension of music into the earth fail to 

understand the reason for there gift it is possible to unknowingly(and in some cases knowingly) use the musical gift in a way that it becomes a conduit for the release of evil,perversion and negativity into the world. This is where we come to a very important point. music in and of it self is a neutral spiritual force. what do I mean? Its like a glove lying on a table it's just there until someone with the ability to give it form puts his or her hand into it and then it assumes the form of the hand that it contains. In the same way music with all of its potential and possibility simply hoovers in the spiritual atmosphere around us awaiting to be employed by some one who has the musical ability to take it and form it into a song or composition and bring the awareness of it into the earth for the world to hear. When this process takes place the music simply assumes the form of the one forming it. What ever philosophy of life or worldview the gifted musician holds good or bad will inevitably be transmitted into there music and songs. So what is the purpose of music? I do not believe that we can answer this question, until we answer the question of the origin of music. since we know that music is a neutral spiritual dimension, we must then conclude that it has a spiritual origin. in other words, that which is spiritual comes from that which is spiritual. The bible declares in the book of John 4:24 that "God is a spirit" one of the most profound aspects of God's spiritual nature is the creative aspect of his nature, in fact the first thing we learn about God in the bible is that he is the creator of all things,that means that every realm,domain,sphere,atmosphere and dimension was created by God(read Genesis 1 &2). in the book of revelations 4:11 it says "worthy are you our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for you have created all things, and because of your will they existed, and were created. All things include the dimension of music with all its potential and power which includes those who have been gifted musically to release the benefit of music into the earth. Herein lies the purpose of music.

Let me say right here that I am not talking about whether your chosen genre is classical, jazz, pop, r&b gospel or contemporary Christian, the issue is one of heart motivation. As a gifted musician,composer,singer what is the heart motivation behind your music. The bible says that that our highest motivation as musician's should be to perform,write and produce music that glorifies God and demonstrates the greatness of his creative spirit in the earth. Might I add that that this does not always mean that the songs or musical compositions have to be in the genre of what is known as gospel or Christian music. If the music was inspired buy Gods creative spirit 

and the heart motivation of the musician or composer was to inspire and add value and meaning to 

the life of the hearers in a positive, creative,powerful and beautiful way than this is a good work that glorifies God. This is what we learn when study the life of Great composers of the past such as Bach, Handel, Beethoven and Mozart. These men were master musicians and composers who were aware that there musical genius was a divine gift, but their music was more than just religious, it was inspired by Gods creative spirit within them. I only use the classical genre to make a point not to say that it is better or more meaningful than another genre,however there is reason why the works of these men are still used and referenced in the musical programs of our institutions of higher learning and even today are used as bench marks of Excellence and music mastery.

My point is that music has a purpose and the potential to change the spiritual climate of the earth. 

And I believe that we are about to see a modern renaissance as the creative spirit of God inspires 

musically gifted individuals both inside and outside of the church to begin to compose and bring fourth 

music that will promote change in our societal and cultural landscape.

If you are a musician reading this and in your heart you sense that this is your destiny begin 

by asking God to change your heart, recognize that your gift was given to you by the God of heaven and earth to be a conduit of his presence and voice to the world. dedicate your life to knowing God in a personal way and dedicate yourself to the craft of your music as a service for humanities good.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Complete Definition Of The Music

Music Portal

Music is a form of art that involves organized and audible sounds and silence. It is normally expressed in terms of pitch (which includes melody and harmony), rhythm (which includes tempo and meter), and the quality of sound (which includes timbre, articulation, dynamics, and texture). Music may also involve complex generative forms in time through the construction of patterns and combinations of natural stimuli, principally sound. Music may be used for artistic or aesthetic, communicative, entertainment, or ceremonial purposes. The definition of what constitutes music varies according to culture and social context.

If painting can be viewed as a visual art form, music can be viewed as an auditory art form.

Allegory of Music, by Filippino Lippi

Allegory of Music, by Lorenzo Lippi


1 Definition

2 History

3 Aspects

4 Production 4.1 Performance

4.2 Solo and ensemble

4.3 Oral tradition and notation

4.4 Improvisation, interpretation, composition

4.5 Composition


[edit] Definition as seen by []

Main article: Definition of music

See also: Music genre

The broadest definition of music is organized sound. There are observable patterns to what is broadly labeled music, and while there are understandable cultural variations, the properties of music are the properties of sound as perceived and processed by humans and animals (birds and insects also make music).

Music is formulated or organized sound. Although it cannot contain emotions, it is sometimes designed to manipulate and transform the emotion of the listener/listeners. Music created for movies is a good example of its use to manipulate emotions.

Greek philosophers and medieval theorists defined music as tones ordered horizontally as melodies, and vertically as harmonies. Music theory, within this realm, is studied with the pre-supposition that music is orderly and often pleasant to hear. However, in the 20th century, composers challenged the notion that music had to be pleasant by creating music that explored harsher, darker timbres. The existence of some modern-day genres such as grindcore and noise music, which enjoy an extensive underground following, indicate that even the crudest noises can be considered music if the listener is so inclined.

20th century composer John Cage disagreed with the notion that music must consist of pleasant, discernible melodies, and he challenged the notion that it can communicate anything. Instead, he argued that any sounds we can hear can be music, saying, for example, "There is no noise, only sound,"[3]. According to musicologist Jean-Jacques Nattiez (1990 p.47-8,55): "The border between music and noise is always culturally defined--which implies that, even within a single society, this border does not always pass through the same place; in short, there is rarely a consensus.... By all accounts there is no single and intercultural universal concept defining what music might be."

Johann Wolfgang Goethe believed that patterns and forms were the basis of music; he stated that "architecture is frozen music."

[edit] History as seen by []

Main article: History of music

See also: Music and politics

Figurines playing stringed instruments, excavated at Susa, 3rd millennium BC. Iran National Museum.

The history of music predates the written word and is tied to the development of each unique human culture. Although the earliest records of musical expression are to be found in the Sama Veda of India and in 4,000 year old cuneiform from Ur, most of our written records and studies deal with the history of music in Western civilization. This includes musical periods such as medieval, renaissance, baroque, classical, romantic, and 20th century era music. The history of music in other cultures has also been documented to some degree, and the knowledge of "world music" (or the field of "ethnomusicology") has become more and more sought after in academic circles. This includes the documented classical traditions of Asian countries outside the influence of western Europe, as well as the folk or indigenous music of various other cultures. (The term world music has been applied to a wide range of music made outside of Europe and European influence, although its initial application, in the context of the World Music Program at Wesleyan University, was as a term including all possible music genres, including European traditions. In academic circles, the original term for the study of world music, "comparative musicology", was replaced in the middle of the twentieth century by "ethnomusicology", which is still considered an unsatisfactory coinage by some.)

Popular styles of music varied widely from culture to culture, and from period to period. Different cultures emphasised different instruments, or techniques, or uses for music. Music has been used not only for entertainment, for ceremonies, and for practical & artistic communication, but also extensively for propaganda.

As world cultures have come into greater contact, their indigenous musical styles have often merged into new styles. For example, the United States bluegrass style contains elements from Anglo-Irish, Scottish, Irish, German and some African-American instrumental and vocal traditions, which were able to fuse in the US' multi-ethnic "melting pot" society.

There is a host of music classifications, many of which are caught up in the argument over the definition of music. Among the largest of these is the division between classical music (or "art" music), and popular music (or commercial music - including rock and roll, country music, and pop music). Some genres don't fit neatly into one of these "big two" classifications, (such as folk music, world music, or jazz music).

Genres of music are determined as much by tradition and presentation as by the actual music. While most classical music is acoustic and meant to be performed by individuals or groups, many works described as "classical" include samples or tape, or are mechanical. Some works, like Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, are claimed by both jazz and classical music. Many current music festivals celebrate a particular musical genre.

There is often disagreement over what constitutes "real" music: late-period Beethoven string quartets, Stravinsky ballet scores, serialism, bebop-era Jazz, rap, punk rock, and electronica have all been considered non-music by some critics when they were first introduced.

[edit] Aspects as seen by []

Main article: Aspects of music

The traditional or classical European aspects of music often listed are those elements given primacy in European-influenced classical music: melody, harmony, rhythm, tone color or timbre, and form. A more comprehensive list is given by stating the aspects of sound: pitch, timbre, loudness, and duration.[1] These aspects combine to create secondary aspects including structure, texture and style. Other commonly included aspects include the spatial location or the movement in space of sounds, gesture, and dance. Silence has long been considered an aspect of music, ranging from the dramatic pauses in Romantic-era symphonies to the avant-garde use of silence as an artistic statement in 20th century works such as John Cage's 4'33."John Cage considers duration the primary aspect of music because it is the only aspect common to both "sound" and "silence."

As mentioned above, not only do the aspects included as music vary, their importance varies. For instance, melody and harmony are often considered to be given more importance in classical music at the expense of rhythm and timbre. It is often debated whether there are aspects of music that are universal. The debate often hinges on definitions. For instance, the fairly common assertion that "tonality" is universal to all music requires an expansive definition of tonality.

A pulse is sometimes taken as a universal, yet there exist solo vocal and instrumental genres with free, improvisational rhythms with no regular pulse;[2] one example is the alap section of a Hindustani music performance. According to Dane Harwood, "We must ask whether a cross-cultural musical universal is to be found in the music itself (either its structure or function) or the way in which music is made. By 'music-making,' I intend not only actual performance but also how music is heard, understood, even learned." [3]

[edit] Production

Main article: Music industry

Music is composed and performed for many purposes, ranging from aesthetic pleasure, religious or ceremonial purposes, or as an entertainment product for the marketplace. Amateur musicians compose and perform music for their own pleasure, and they do not attempt to derive their income from music. Professional musicians are employed by a range of institutions and organizations, including armed forces, churches and synagogues, symphony orchestras, broadcasting or film production companies, and music schools. As well, professional musicians work as freelancers, seeking contracts and engagements in a variety of settings.

Although amateur musicians differ from professional musicians in that amateur musicians have a non-musical source of income, there are often many links between amateur and professional musicians. Beginning amateur musicians take lessons with professional musicians. In community settings, advanced amateur musicians perform with professional musicians in a variety of ensembles and orchestras. In some rare cases, amateur musicians attain a professional level of competence, and they are able to perform in professional performance settings.

A distinction is often made between music performed for the benefit of a live audience and music that is performed for the purpose of being recorded and distributed through the music retail system or the broadcasting system. However, there are also many cases where a live performance in front of an audience is recorded and distributed (or broadcast).

[edit] Performance

Main article: Performance

Chinese Naxi musicians

Someone who performs, composes, or conducts music is a musician. Musicians perform music for a variety of reasons. Some artists express their feelings in music. Performing music is an enjoyable activity for amateur and professional musicians, and it is often done for the benefit of an audience, who is deriving some aesthetic, social, religious, or ceremonial value from the performance. Part of the motivation for professional performers is that they derive their income from making music. Not only is it an income derived motivation, music has become a part of life as well as society. Allowing one to be motivated through self intrinsic motivations as well, as a saying goes "for the love of music." As well, music is performed in the context of practicing, as a way of developing musical skills.

[edit] Solo and ensemble

Many cultures include strong traditions of solo or soloistic performance, such as in Indian classical music, and in the Western Art music tradition. Other cultures, such as in Bali, include strong traditions of group performance. All cultures include a mixture of both, and performance may range from improvised solo playing for one's enjoyment to highly planned and organized performance rituals such as the modern classical concert or religious processions.

Chamber music, which is music for a small ensemble with no more than one of each type of instrument, is often seen as more intimate than symphonic works. A performer is called a musician or singer, and they may be part of a musical ensemble such as a rock band or symphony orchestra.

[edit] Oral tradition and notation

Main article: Musical notation

Musical notation

Music is often preserved in memory and performance only, handed down orally, or aurally ("by ear"). When the composer of music is no longer known, this music is often classified as "traditional". Different musical traditions have different attitudes towards how and where to make changes to the original source material, from quite strict, to those which demand improvisation or modification to the music. In the Gambia, West Africa, the history of the country is passed aurally through song.

When music is written down, it is generally notated so that there are instructions regarding what should be heard by listeners, and what the musician should do to perform the music. This is referred to as musical notation, and the study of how to read notation involves music theory, harmony, the study of performance practice, and in some cases an understanding of historical performance methods.

Written notation varies with style and period of music. In Western Art music, the most common types of written notation are scores, which include all the music parts of an ensemble piece, and parts, which are the music notation for the individual performers or singers. In popular music, jazz, and blues, the standard musical notation is the lead sheet, which notates the melody, chords, lyrics (if it is a vocal piece), and structure of the music. Nonetheless, scores and parts are also used in popular music and jazz, particularly in large ensembles such as jazz "big bands."

In popular music, guitarists and electric bass players often read music notated in tablature, which indicates the location of the notes to be played on the instrument using a diagram of the guitar or bass fingerboard. Tabulature was also used in the Baroque era to notate music for the lute, a stringed, fretted instrument.

Generally music which is to be performed is produced as sheet music. To perform music from notation requires an understanding of both the musical style and the performance practice that is associated with a piece of music or genre. The detail included explicitly in the music notation varies between genres and historical periods. In general, art music notation from the 17th through to the 19th century required performers to have a great deal of contextual knowledge about performing styles.

For example, in the 17th and 18th century, music notated for solo performers typically indicated a simple, unornamented melody. However, it was expected that performers would know how to add stylistically-appropriate ornaments such as trills and turns.

In the 19th century, art music for solo performers may give a general instruction such as to perform the music expressively, without describing in detail how the performer should do this. It was expected that the performer would know how to use tempo changes, accentuation, and pauses (among other devices) to obtain this "expressive" performance style.

In the 20th century, art music notation often became more explicit, and used a range of markings and annotations to indicate to performers how they should play or sing the piece. In popular music and jazz, music notation almost always indicates only the basic framework of the melody, harmony, or performance approach; musicians and singers are expected to know the performance conventions and styles associated with specific genres and pieces.

For example, the "lead sheet" for a jazz tune may only indicate the melody and the chord changes. The performers in the jazz ensemble are expected to know how to "flesh out" this basic structure by adding ornaments, improvised music, and chordal accompaniment.

[edit] Improvisation, interpretation, composition

Main articles: Musical composition, Musical improvisation, and Free improvisation

Most cultures use at least part of the concept of preconceiving musical material, or composition, as held in western classical music. Even when music is notated precisely, there are still many decisions that a performer has to make. The process of a performer deciding how to perform music that has been previously composed and notated is termed interpretation.

Different performers' interpretations of the same music can vary widely. Composers and song writers who present their own music are interpreting, just as much as those who perform the music of others or folk music. The standard body of choices and techniques present at a given time and a given place is referred to as performance practice, where as interpretation is generally used to mean either individual choices of a performer, or an aspect of music which is not clear, and therefore has a "standard" interpretation.

In some musical genres, such as jazz and blues, even more freedom is given to the performer to engage in improvisation on a basic melodic, harmonic, or rhythmic framework. The greatest latitude is given to the performer in a style of performing called free improvisation, which is material that is spontaneously "thought of" (imagined) while being performed, not preconceived. According to the analysis of Georgiana Costescu, improvised music usually follows stylistic or genre conventions and even "fully composed" includes some freely chosen material (see precompositional). Composition does not always mean the use of notation, or the known sole authorship of one individual.

Music can also be determined by describing a "process" which may create musical sounds, examples of this range from wind chimes, through computer programs which select sounds. Music which contains elements selected by chance is called Aleatoric music, and is often associated with John Cage and Witold Lutosławski.

[edit] Composition

Musical composition is a term that describes the composition of a piece of music. Methods of composition vary widely from one composer to another, however in analyzing music all forms -- spontaneous, trained, or untrained -- are built from elements comprising a musical piece. Music can be composed for repeated performance or it can be improvised; composed on the spot. The music can be performed entirely from memory, from a written system of musical notation, or some combination of both. Study of composition has traditionally been dominated by examination of methods and practice of Western classical music, but the definition of composition is broad enough to include spontaneously improvised works like those of free jazz performers and African drummers.

What is important in understanding the composition of a piece is singling out its elements. An understanding of music's formal elements can be helpful in deciphering exactly how a piece is constructed. A universal element of music is how sounds occur in time, which is referred to as the rhythm of a piece of music.

When a piece appears to have a changing time-feel, it is considered to be in rubato time, an Italian expression that indicates that the tempo of the piece changes to suit the expressive intent of the performer. Even random placement of random sounds, which occurs in musical montage, occurs within some kind of time, and thus employs time as a musical element.

[edit] Reception and audition as seen by

Main article: Hearing (sense)

Concert in the Mozarteum, Salzburg

The field of music cognition involves the study of many aspects of music including how it is processed by listeners.

Music is experienced by individuals in a range of social settings ranging from being alone to attending a large concert. Musical performances take different forms in different cultures and socioeconomic milieus. In Europe and North America, there is often a divide between what types of music are viewed as a "high culture" and "low culture." "High culture" types of music typically include Western art music such as Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and modern-era symphonies, concertos, and solo works, and are typically heard in formal concerts in concert halls and churches, with the audience sitting quietly in seats.

On the other hand, other types of music such as jazz, blues, soul, and country are often performed in bars, nightclubs, and theatres, where the audience may be able to drink, dance, and express themselves by cheering. Until the later 20th century, the division between "high" and "low" musical forms was widely accepted as a valid distinction that separated out better quality, more advanced "art music" from the popular styles of music heard in bars and dance halls.

However, in the 1980s and 1990s, musicologists studying this perceived divide between "high" and "low" musical genres argued that this distinction is not based on the musical value or quality of the different types of music. Rather, they argued that this distinction was based largely on the socioeconomic standing or social class of the performers or audience of the different types of music.

For example, whereas the audience for Classical symphony concerts typically have above-average incomes, the audience for a hip-hop concert in an inner-city area may have below-average incomes. Even though the performers, audience, or venue where non-"art" music is performed may have a lower socioeconomic status, the music that is performed, such as blues, hip-hop, punk, funk, or ska may be very complex and sophisticated.

Deaf people can experience music by feeling the vibrations in their body, a process which can be enhanced if the individual holds a resonant, hollow object. A well-known deaf musician is the composer Ludwig van Beethoven, who composed many famous works even after he had completely lost his hearing. Recent examples of deaf musicians include Evelyn Glennie, a highly acclaimed percussionist who has been deaf since the age of twelve, and Chris Buck, a virtuoso violinist who has lost his hearing.

Further information: psychoacoustics

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Benefits Of Learning Music Theory

That's music to my ear is a common phrase used to express a person's emotional response to how a particular tune can make them feel. Some people listen to music all the time. Some study the art of playing an instrument. It's therapeutic; it's enriching; it's a way of creating moods in any environmental setting. If you are interested in music for more than the pure enjoyment people get out of listening to it, then learning about music theory is an ideal mode for you.

Music theory can be an important attribute in a person's life, for many reasons. People often ask, "Is music theory necessary?" "Why do we need it?"

First of all, even though you don't have to understand how to read sheet music to perform as a musician, you will need an understanding of music theory. It opens so many other doors for you in the world of music. Music theory will not show you how to understand music, but with music theory you will be able to communicate musical ideas, explore music in whole new ways, and redefine the tremendous scope that entails the magical world of music.

Music theory allows you to voice your opinion with others in the field, expand your musical horizon. Give a little input to a fellow musician and you'll get something in return.

Notations And Communicating With Other Musicians

Music lovers all develop a keen sense of awareness, musically speaking. Sometimes, musicians explain that if they study music theory, then it'll stunt their creativity. Wrong! The world's greatest composers were all masters of music theory: Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, J.S. Bach. These experts composed a keen understanding of the theoretical concepts. Years were spent studying the concept, down to some of the smallest details.

Music can be played by ear, picking out tunes without the aid of written music. Your ears can be your guide. The reason this is brought to light is that some musicians with strong theoretical training often disregard the art of playing by ear.

Think of playing music by ear this way: We're all born as non-verbal creations. Communication begins with crying, making sounds, displaying body language. Parents quickly become experts on baby talk. It's an innate sense. Over time, language develops by mimicking sounds. Toddlers don't learn nouns and verbs; they learn to speak by example. Music can be the same way. Hence, the reason so many people pay top dollar for live performances. It's invigorating, magical.

Understanding Harmony And Chord Progression

Chord progression and harmony, two features of music theory, help broaden any musician, regardless of their genre of study. Chord progression is a series of chords that are used to harmonize music. All compositions use chord progression. Those that improvise - which, as already mentioned, adds charm and magic to the environment of music - invent brand new melodies that blend in with an existing chord. It's a musical transition, something that must be practiced, repeatedly. The great composers and musicians develop chord progressions and transitions until it becomes natural, a second-natured maneuver.

If a musician improvises in a more interconnected manner, these new melodies show the musician the progression as one whole unit, and not a series of bumpy transitions. The more practice that goes into this aspect of music learning theory, the more interesting substitutions they will develop along the way. Once the concept of chord progression and its structure is understood, it will be easier to remember. Jazz musicians, therefore, show a keen interest in the study and analysis of chord progression.

The study of music theory will show musicians and musical scholars that the objective, initially, is not to consider an entire composition in one sitting. Instead, musicians, students and teachers alike, view a chord progression in segments, or units. These units correspond to musical sections known as stanzas.

A stanza is the complete statement and development of a single musical idea. It's a fairly simple act of dividing pieces into small manageable sections, with the melody itself forming, or suggesting the boundaries for sound.

Tonality, another element of chord progression, means different things to different people. Some would consider it to be this: any piece of music with a well-defined key center. Others envision any music that uses the conventional chords as tonal.

Music without the use of chords in a functional manner to reinforce a tonal center is not tonal. It is referred to as non-tonal music. The names of these styles are not always agreed upon between musical connoisseurs. But expressing difference is one key element that makes music such a beautiful art form, with countless possibilities.

So, if you are considering studying music, be it to play an instrument, teach music, or simply hone in on personal curiosity, learning music theory is a must for you.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Technology in and For the Instrumental Music Classroom

Music education, in some form, goes back as far as education itself. While sometimes struggling for legitimacy, it nonetheless has had its champions. More recently, as technology has flourished within education, technological applications designed specifically for the teaching of music have been developed. While much of this technology is designed primarily for the classroom there are programs designed for the student to utilize in the home, albeit limited to those students with a home computer and internet access.

The teaching of music in the American educational setting dates back 1838 when Lowell Mason introduced singing classes to Boston grammar schools. Instrumental music appeared in fits and starts over the next fifty years but was never included during the school day; rather, it was relegated to the ranks of extracurricular activities. Around the turn of the century, instrumental music began to see some acceptance into the classroom, though often was taught by those untrained in the area of music education. Moreover, little if any standardization of the instrumentation or music literature existed. (Rhodes, 2007)

Near the conclusion of World War I the quality of school music began to increase. This was due primarily to veterans who, after having been musically trained in the various service branches, began to fill music teaching positions in the schools. Band, however, was still regarded as an extracurricular activity. (Ibid)

In 1907, the Music Supervisors National Conference or MSNC, (now known as the Music Educators National Conference or MENC) was organized to support school music. In 1912 a proposal was made to include, as accredited subjects, a number of music activities including choruses and general music. Band was included - but at a much lower priority. Later, however, at the Cleveland MSNC conference in 1923, Edgar B. Gordon stated,

"The high school band is no longer an incidental school enterprise prompted largely by the volunteer services of a high school teacher who happens to have had some band experience, but rather an undertaking which is assigned to a definite place in the school schedule with a daily class period under a trained instructor and with credit allowed for satisfactory work done." (Ibid)

In the same year, and likely due to the increase in both acceptance and importance, Carl Greenleaf (then head of C. G. Conn Ltd.) helped organize the first National Band Contest in Chicago. Later, in 1928, he directed the Conn company to contribute to the founding of the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan and later supported publications designed to support band directors. While these endeavors may have appeared somewhat self-serving in light of his position with Conn, they nonetheless helped establish school band as a significant part of school curriculum. (Banks, 1997)

Despite a gradual, while still limited, acceptance of instrumental music within the school curriculum, budget cuts have often curtailed or even eliminated these programs. Further, with the recent increased emphasis upon "teaching to the test" due to the pressures of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and similar state requirements, support for the inclusion of music in schools has begun to wane. Michelle R. Davis, in "Education Week," stated "The federal No Child Left Behind Act is prompting many schools to cut back on subjects such as social studies, music, and art to make more time for reading and mathematics..." (Davis, 2006) This is most unfortunate considering that the study of music, especially instrumental music, has proved to be beneficial for all students - even increasing their ability to reason and problem-solve.

Many theorists have contributed to the elevation of music as central to education, or at the very least, demonstrated that limiting the school environment to the "Three R's" is short-sighted. Howard Gardner postulated his "Multiple Intelligences" theory with the understanding that children do not possess identical propensities for learning. Not only do they have differing capacities for learning but have differing capacities for learning in many areas. These areas, as he explained, are the varying intelligences of which he speaks. Originally describing seven intelligences (of which music is highlighted) he identified two specifically (linguistic and logical-mathematical) as "the ones that have typically been valued in school." (Gardner, 1999, p41) Obviously, Gardner recognized that the educational system was not reaching all students - only those that could "do school" well. Gardner did not limit his study, of course, to the mere existence of multiple intelligences but demonstrated that a given person can be strong in more than one, enabling those intelligences to interact one with the other. He explained that, "there are other ways in which different intelligences can affect each intelligence can mediate and constrain the others; one intelligence can compensate for another; and one intelligence can catalyze another." (Gardner 2, 2006, p219) He further extolled the advantages of a musical intelligence by explaining that "...a strong musical intelligence may lead a person engaged in a linguistic task to be more sensitive to the rhythmic properties of language as well as its meaning." (Ibid, p223)

While many may assume that music and the study thereof is associated primarily to that which is heard, it is also related quite closely to mathematics. Dahlhaus, reflecting Rameau stated that "music had its origins in the Pythagorean proportions; (i.e., music is a mathematics)." (Gargarian, 1996, p137, 138) Regardless of whether or not one agrees with the theory that music is mathematical in toto, there should be little dispute as to the relativity of music notation to mathematics. Indeed, introducing the coordinate, or Cartesian, plane appears to aid the new music student in understanding the horizontal (x), and vertical (y) axes of music notation. Simply stated, the horizontal (x) axis on the music staff relates to duration while the vertical (y) axis relates to pitch. This, of course is a reflection upon Gardner's aforementioned theory of intelligence interaction.

There is further evidence that instrumental music study is advantageous for the student. In 1995, Gottfried Schlaug, et al, published a study, "Increased Corpus Callosum Size in Musicians" wherein they described an increase in neural fibers across the Corpus Callosum (CC), contributing to its enlargement. They further were able to determine that this increase in fibers/CC size was attributable to instrumental music study. (Schlaug, et al, 1995) Obviously, the supposition can easily be made that, if there is greater cross-talk between the two hemispheres of the brain (specifically, the left - thought to be the analytical, and the right - thought to be the creative) the result would be a person with a greater, more creative, problem-solving ability.

Reflecting upon Gardner's theories, as well as those of Schlaug, et al, it should surprise no one that others have confirmed links between music and other skills. Bahr and Christiansen in their article "Inter-Domain Transfer Between Mathematical Skill and Musicianship" published findings demonstrating that students who had studied music demonstrated superior performance on mathematical tasks provided there was some structural overlap with music. (Bahr, Christiansen, 2000) This "structural overlap" could be nearly anything, including the relationship of dividing measures or notes into fractions, relating pitch to frequency, or, as aforementioned, establishing the link between the coordinate (Cartesian) plane and the music staff.

With this enhanced problem-solving ability; this increased awareness of mathematical concepts, it would not be a grand leap to assume that music students might perform well with classroom technology. Indeed, music students should be expected to do at least as well as other students with regard to technology. If that is true, then the next step would be to assume that they would do especially well with technology geared especially to them.

Somewhat recently, technologists, recognizing a dearth of technologically-based music applications began to develop computer programs for music education. Music theory websites began to appear, many having been produced by, and linked to, symphonic organizations. Others have been produced by teachers and graduate students either as part of coursework or perhaps for their own use (and anyone wishing to utilize the application). A quick search of the internet reveals that there are quite a number of available technological tools produced and published for the music student. There are interactive music games, in-class keyboard music theory applications, countless online pitch and rhythm websites, and, perhaps most powerful, applications known as "computer assisted instruction" (CAI)" specifically for the music classroom and student. In January 2005, Steven Estrella published the findings of a study demonstrating how music teachers in the U.S. used music technology. Among his findings, he discovered that approximately twenty percent of the survey participants used some form of CAI as part of their instruction. The survey further discovered that the predominant software application was "SmartMusic." (Estrella, 2005)

SmartMusic is a teacher/student interactive application allowing students to practice, at home, with a synthesized band or orchestral accompaniment. The program can also, with an included microphone, record the student's efforts and grade them using rhythm and pitch data. The student can immediately see their results and can retry if they wish. The recording and the accompanying grade are then emailed to the student's teacher/director and automatically entered into the teacher's database grade book. The program includes accompaniments for around thirty-thousand compositions including band and orchestra method book pieces. (Nagel, 2007) While early reviews of the program were mixed, the company that produces SmartMusic, "MakeMusic," was apparently responsive to teacher/consumer complaints and suggestions. The program requires that the home version be installed on the students own computer and, in earlier versions, installation, setup, and microphone placement were problematic. In the latest version, SmartMusic 11, many of these issues were addressed either by simplifying the process or with enhanced user guides. (Whaley, 2008)

For the classroom, SmartMusic holds a wealth of applications. The most basic functions of the program include a displayed tuner and metronome. (A music classroom with an interactive whiteboard can make excellent use of SmartMusic's utilities.) The teacher can then play a pre-recorded version of a piece to be studied and, while the students are playing along, can instantly record them independent of the pre-recording for later playback. The program also includes fingering charts for all instruments so a quick check for the students perhaps needing additional instruction is easily accomplished. Keys and tempi can be changed easily, if necessary, and if a single performer wishes to play with a pre-recorded accompaniment, that accompaniment, "listening" to the performer via a microphone, can follow the performer's changes in tempo - not unlike what the conductor of a symphony orchestra would do in a live performance. 

As important and powerful as SmartMusic is in the classroom, its most powerful application - and the primary purpose for which it was intended - is that of a home practice and assessment tool. There are literally thousands of accompaniments and scales included in the software as well as thousands of music titles. Once the students have subscribed, downloaded (or installed from a CD), and set up the home version of the program, the teacher can design playing assignments which the student then accesses at home on their own computer.

Playing through a microphone to the program's accompaniment gives an instant visual and aural response; while the recording of the student's performance is played, their correct notes are displayed in green while mistakes are displayed in red. The student can decide upon and set their own tempo, then practice with the computer-generated accompaniment as many times as they wish prior to recording for a grade. In short, the student is in control while at home. Students having access to broadband internet and a reasonably up-to-date computer can fully realize the potential of the program - as well as their own. (Rudolph, 2006) 

But what of those students not fortunate enough to have a computer at home - let alone internet access?

Obviously, the power of SmartMusic would be largely lost on those students without a home computer or internet access. The cost of the home version is small, and some districts have even provided the subscription free of charge for their students. (Nagel, 2007) However, can districts provide a workable computer and internet access or all of its students?

David Thomas stated that schools have made great progress in the introduction of computer and internet access. However, that access, for disadvantaged students, remains at school. (Thomas, 2003) Thomas further quoted then U. S. Secretary of Education, Rod Paige:

"We need to address the limited access to technology that many students have outside of school. There is much more we can do. Closing the digital divide will also help close the achievement gap that exists within our schools." (Thomas, 2003)

A 2007 study in New York revealed that between seventy and eighty percent of students have computers at home. (Traber, 2007) One might suggest that the real numbers cross-country are actually much lower.

There are many music students dependent upon school-provided instruments, method books, and even instrument supplies such as reeds and valve oil (usually provided out the teacher's own pocket). These students are already behind their more affluent counterparts and cannot afford private lessons, let alone a workable computer and internet access. These are the students who could benefit most from a program such SmartMusic. However, as useful and powerful as SmartMusic is, it cannot by itself bridge this "digital divide" that still exists.

Educational technology holds great promise for the student musician but until a method for equitable access is discovered, disproportionate achievement will persist.


Bahr, N. & Christensen C.A. (2000). Inter-Domain Transfer Between Mathematical Skill and Musicianship. In Journal of Structural Learning & Intelligent systems (Vol. 14(3), 2000, pp. 187 - 197). US: Gordon & Breach Science Publishers

Banks, Margaret Downie (1997). A Brief History of the Conn Company (1874-present). The National Music Museum.

Davis, Michelle R. (2006, April). Study: NCLB Leads to Cuts for Some Subjects. Education Week.

Estrella, Steven (2005). Survey of Music Educators and Music Technology. Shearspire.

Gardner, Howard (1999). Intelligence Reframed, Multiple Intelligences for the Twenty First Century. Basic Books/Perseus Books Group: New York

Gardner, Howard (2006). Multiple Intelligences - New Horizons. Basic Books/Perseus Books Group: New York

Gargarian, Gregory (1996). The Art of Design. In Kafai, Y., & Resnick, M. (Eds.). Constructionism in practice: designing, thinking, and learning in a digital world. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

Nagel, Dave (2007, August). Tucson USD Gives SmartMusic Subscriptions to Students, THE Journal.

Rhodes, Stephen L. (2007). A History of the Wind Band - The American School Band Movement. Lipscomb University.

Rudolph, Tom (2006, February). The Wide World of SmartMusic. Music Education Technology.

Schlaug, Gottfried; Lutz, Jäncke; Huang, Yanxiong; Staiger, Jochen F., Steinmetz, Helmuth, (1995). Increased Corpus Callosum Size in Musicians. Neuropsychologia, Vol. 33, No. 8, pp. 1047-1055, Retrieved June 19, 2008 from

Thomas, David (2003). Internet Access Soars in Schools, But "Digital Divide" Still Exists at Home for Minority and Poor Students. U. S. Department of Education.

Traber, Chris (2007, September). Poor Students Struggle In Class. News.

Whaley, Roger (2008, September 10). SmartMusic 11! - MakeMusic has released SmartMusic 11!. The Band Ed Tool Shed (Weblog).

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Techno Music Relies Heavily On The Beats

Techno music is genre of music that makes heavy use of studio effects, synthetic sound with fast beats. Techno music concentrates more on the beat rather then the lyrics or the other elements of a song. This music is a form of electronic dance music was prominent during the 1980s and was hugely popular in places like Detroit and Michigan in United States. The term techno music is derived from technology and the creation of this genre of music is largely credited to D.J. Ben Russell after he made appearances in Detroit radio. After getting success in Detroit radio as a new genre of music techno music, this music spread out and expanded to other areas and by the 1980s emerged worldwide. Often techno music is confused with terms like dance music and electronic music. Typical instruments used in techno music include sequencer, sampler, keyboard, drum machine and synthesizer.

The Belleville Three a group of men who attended college at that time primarily developed techno music. This group of friends who were also budding musicians found their inspiration from Midnight Funk Association a five hour late night radio program hosted on several Detroit radio stations. Derrick May, Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson were the members of The Belleville Three. Typically the music was made for clubs largely based on the underground style of music, but there was largely an urban take on the music. Techno music is purely electronic music intended for and dance; the music combines the sound of classic German electronic and a feel of urban American music. As stated earlier, this music emphasizes more on the beats of the instruments and machine sound of drum, synthesizers and other instruments.

The history of the origin of techno music can be traced to Detroit; in fact the music grew and gradually developed globally from there only. Originally the music developed when musicians made use of cheap electronic items and used them to bring out the kind of music that they love. Initially techno music was conceives as party music when the music was popularly played in radios stations, but gradually the music developed in its own genre worldwide. Several high school clubs such as Hardware, Beats, Snobbs, Weekends, Brats, Rumors and comrades contributed their own bit in making techno music popular. They developed and nurtured the dance music scene locally by creating music that was liked by club goers.

Techno music can be made in several ways; a compositional technique can be made and developed to suit the instruments that are being used. Traditional methods of music making are not applied for making techno music. Some of the most effective techno music is that which consists of cleverly mixed pattern of different types of music and instruments. Since techno music relies heavily in instruments, music makers have to be cautious about how the instruments are wired. If this is not done in the proper way the resulting music can have an impact on the music that has been created.


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