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#19 Mark Evans

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 07:20 AM

Alistair thought that the mistake sounded better than what he'd written and asked the player it continue doing it. According to Alistair this completely blew their minds - they really were not comfortable with the idea of ignoring the score and playing a mistake.

Chris

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Sounds as if the quartet in question has not worked with any great number of "alive" composers. Composers changing their minds multiple time while in rehearsal has been the rule rather than the exception in my experience.

As far as not being comfortable ignoring the score, well no, that wouldn't go over very well playing Mozart or Beethoven in performance. It's gonna happen and you move on not thinking about the "boo-boo'' so's ya don't make another one in the process. I can assure you that someone afterward will point out your mistake and perhaps give the measure and beat. Just a part of the genre :blink: .

The trick I find is to let the music pass through you as if you were a prism allowing your "truth" to be added to that of a Mozart or Beethoven. The earlier Baroque composers from the Italian style like Handel and Vivaldi invited invention at particular points in the music, very clearly saying "Whatcha got hotshot".

Teachers can get caught up in "the tyranny of the printed page" as Stuart so beautifully states. It is the eventual charge of the student who wishes to move beyond the studio and claim creative freedom to throw off or bend the rules of any teacher or mentor (the good teacher expects and hopes that day will come).

Edited by Mark Evans, 09 July 2005 - 10:57 AM.


#20 stuart estell

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 02:47 PM

The tyranny of the printed page, and especially the reverence some teachers have for it, can be a terrible thing if it becomes stifling :(

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I think what we have here is the clash of two world views: the traditional and the classical, and it also exists in folk song (most clearly in the stultifying reverence paid to the words in Rise Up Singing in the States, but it also happens this side of The Pond).


Chris, I think it also applies entirely within the classical world too rather than necessarily being a difference-of-genre thing. There are plenty of classical teachers who will get students to slavishly apply whatever markings are on the page, even when it's patently obvious that the composer didn't know what he was on about (e.g. particular phrasing not suiting the instrument it's written for etc.) I was lucky that my piano teacher encouraged me to be creative in terms of interpretation; others aren't so lucky.

Of course, in so-called "classical" music the boundaries dictate that you don't change notes about at will - but there are times when you have to. I have small hands and am physically unable to do some of the things demanded by the Rachmaninovs of this world without doing a bit of covert "juggling" :)

Mark, I think you're probably right about the quartet in question. With my composer's hat on, in the past when I've had players capable of adapting, it's almost impossible to resist the urge to tinker during rehearsal. And I'm always happy for players to make adjustments. So long as people are prepared to play it, the music has a life of its own once you've written it down or printed it out.

And the other thing I mourn is the decline of the improvised cadenza in performances of concertos these days. I fear it's a mark of how many classical students are taught about playing their instruments, but not about how music actually works, that so few of them are prepared to do it. I once performed a Mozart concerto and improvised the cadenza for the last movement (admittedly I used a written one for the first movement :rolleyes: ) and there's no feeling like having an orchestra hanging on your every move because they're having to actually _listen_ for their cue to come back in :D :D

Hmm, this post has rambled away from the main point again... ho hum :)

Edited to say, Mark, I think your idea of adding your own "truth" to the truth of the composer is absolutely spot on. I shall steal that and use it in future ;)

Edited by stuart estell, 09 July 2005 - 02:48 PM.


#21 Mark Evans

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Posted 09 July 2005 - 03:56 PM

I mourn is the decline of the improvised cadenza in performances of concertos these days. I fear it's a mark of how many classical students are taught about playing their instruments, but not about how music actually works, that so few of them are prepared to do it. I once performed a Mozart concerto and improvised the cadenza for the last movement (admittedly I used a written one for the first movement  :rolleyes: ) and there's no feeling like having an orchestra hanging on your every move because they're having to actually _listen_ for their cue to come back in  :D  :D

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Bravo Stuart! That is the way it was meant to be. Many of the cadenze shoved down students' throats were concocted during a time when people manhandled the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Haydn turning it into some late Romanitc nightmare...not even to mention Handel and the other Baroque composers.

That is why I am very excieted about the period performance movement which started in England :) . These cats make up, on the spot, the cadenze and ornamentation. It's very alive and in my opinion the area where creative things are happening in "classical" music. They are also nutty enough to be folk musicians (I mean that in a good way).

You are welcome to the "truth" line. It grew out of the philosophies of my three voice teacher/mentors: Elena Nikolaidi, Richard Cassilly and Phylis Curtin. Sadly only Ms Curtin is still with us and teaching the Seminar at Tanglewood each summer.

#22 Stephen Mills

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Posted 31 August 2005 - 01:41 PM

I have just stumbled across a review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 9, pp. 26-31 (2005) entitled “Absolute pitch: perception, coding and controversies” by Daniel Levitin and Susan Rogers of McGill University, Montreal. I found it very interesting and so I have resurrected this thread, quoting below many of the authors’ provocative assertions. I have no special expertise in this area and won’t attempt to defend or further interpret any of the statements. My occasional comments appear in italics.

Absolute pitch (hereafter referred to as AP vs. relative pitch, RP) is defined as the ability either to identify the pitch of a tone presented in isolation or to produce a specified pitch without external reference.

AP occurs in 1 in 10,000 people.

Sometimes regarded as a mark of musicianship, AP is in fact largely irrelevant to most musical tasks. Being unable to turn it off, many possessors of AP perform dramatically poorer at judging whether a melody and its transposed counterpart are the same, a task that many non-AP musicians accomplish with ease. Some find songs transposed to unfamiliar keys disturbing, as if one day you went to the market and found bananas to be purple and tomatoes blue.

Growing evidence suggests that many people in addition to AP’ers may have stable, long term auditory memories for pitch. This is 1 of the components of AP, called “pitch memory”, while AP possessors have the additional component of “pitch labeling”. Some of the evidence: When people without AP are asked to identify a pitch or key, the modal (single most common) response is the correct one (see figure). [I personally am not quite convinced by this. The range of response varies over 4 octaves. Does the tendency of the population to center over the true pitch mean that people possess rudimentary AP (some memory, without labeling), or that the population tested is as likely to guess high as low, and so centers around the true pitch. I did not check the original article to see if they had considered this.] If asked to sing popular songs that currently exist in only 1 key and thus have an objectively correct pitch, most people sing at or near the correct pitch. Quite often, this is tied to the lyrics. For example, people tend to pitch the word “hotel” correctly at G when asked to sing “Hotel California”. [no accompaniment or external references are present, remember.]
ap2.JPG

AP is automatic [not further defined in this article], categorization occurs without deliberation, is accompanied by large differences in speed of performance compared to non-AP attempts, and can be done easily while engaging in other tasks.

AP’ers as a group do not have exceptional pitch acuity. Also, AP is neither “absolute” nor “perfect” in the ordinary uses of those words. AP’ers often make octave errors and semitone errors (confusing tones 6% apart). It appears AP is not an all-or-none ability, but exists along a continuum. Musicians not claiming AP score up to 40% on pitch labeling tests, where 1/12, or 8.3% is chance. Even true AP’ers, who score better than 90% in naming pitches, are no better than other musicians at noticing when one tone is out of tune with respect to another. Hence, there is nothing “perfect” about AP – it is just the ability to place tones within nominal categories with a high rate of success.

Some AP’ers can only label tones produced by one particular instrument (usually piano, of course, and sometimes called ‘absolute piano’). This suggests that their internal template is bound up with the timbre of that particular instrument, so presumably a life-long concertina player might have absolute pitch specific to concertina [insert joke here].

Some people have AP for only a single tone – often their tuning note. They can get good scores on AP tests by using RP for all tones but their one internal referent, but are betrayed by the increased reaction time for the other notes. Some people develop AP on mistuned instruments and will make constant errors thereafter. [This is truly sad.]

Many animals, wolves for example, use AP to identify members of their own pack. Starlings and rhesus monkeys try first to solve pitch tasks with AP, but can move to RP if necessary. Monkeys, but not songbirds, are able to use “octave equivalence” in performing tasks.

AP is acquired before the age of 9; no known cases exists of an adult acquiring it. Because piano instruction starts with the white keys, many AP’ers are best at these notes. Speakers of tonal languages (e.g., Mandarin Chinese) are more likely to have AP.

Controversy exists as to whether AP acquisition requires explicit training or can result from incidental exposure to music. Most AP’ers report having acquired the ability without remembering how or when it occurred.

Edited by Stephen Mills, 31 August 2005 - 01:47 PM.


#23 Samantha

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Posted 31 August 2005 - 03:32 PM

[snip] ... I fear it's a mark of how many classical students are taught about playing their instruments, but not about how music actually works, that so few of them are prepared to do it ... [snip

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Completely off topic, but people are not even taught the basic physical science of how their instrument works nowadays, it seems. I was at a summer music school recently and found myself to be the horn-in-charge of a section of five who were faced with some transposition problems (in Delibes' Les Chasseresses for those who care). I looked at the parts for a couple of minutes and worked out a quick fix for what was, basically, the same note pattern rising by a semi-tone through three bars. Although I explained the theory behind the "quick fix" I don't think any of them understood what I was saying, which was based on an understanding of how the horn works. At least it came out all right in the final concert (which is the main thing, after all, I suppose!) :ph34r: !
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#24 David Barnert

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 08:22 AM

I have just stumbled across a review in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 9, pp. 26-31 (2005) entitled “Absolute pitch: perception, coding and controversies” by Daniel Levitin and Susan Rogers of McGill University, Montreal.  I found it very interesting and so I have resurrected this thread, quoting below many of the authors’ provocative assertions...

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This is truly an interesting post, but I must make one correction:

Some of the evidence: When people without AP are asked to identify a pitch or key, the modal (single most common) response is the correct one (see figure). [I personally am not quite convinced by this. The range of response varies over 4 octaves. Does the tendency of the population to center over the true pitch mean that people possess rudimentary AP (some memory, without labeling), or that the population tested is as likely to guess high as low, and so centers around the true pitch. I did not check the original article to see if they had considered this.]

But this is not what "modal" means in the context of statistics (rather than music). It is defined right there in the quote ("single most common").

Mean = Average (total of all values / number of values).
Median = Middle value (50th percentile: half are higher, half are lower)
Mode = Most commonly occurring value.

When the author says "the modal (single most common) response is the correct one" there is no sense of "centering around" (which would be the case if we were discussing the mean response). The statement is saying that more subjects chose the correct response than any other, not that high guesses and low guesses tended to balance each other out.

#25 Stephen Mills

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Posted 05 September 2005 - 09:53 AM

I don't really disagree, David. Any difference in opinion we have on this is subtle at best and not related to misunderstandings of measures of central tendency. Incidentally, the parenthetical expression "single most common" were my words; I missed it when I was inserting the italics, and I also reworded fairly freely elsewhere for conciseness.

There can certainly be no argument with the statement that 0 errors was the modal response - that's a concrete observation in black and white on the figure. (0 is also virtually the mean and median, although I did think I detected a very slight imbalance to the high side).

Why your point must necessarily be correct is that if the participants had absolutely no sense of pitch, the distribution would be completely flat - in other words, all responses would be equally probable.

My point was that, in the absence of AP, the responses might be, and sometimes were, an octave or more off. If the subjects had enough pitch sense to be at least somewhere in the ballpark, and I think most of us have that much, then any lack of a systematic bias towards higher or lower would lead to a centering around the true pitch. This effect could occur with pitch sense so weak relative to AP as to be hardly worth discussing as rudimentary AP, IMO. This ability to perform anywhere greater than random may be all the authors were claiming, although I took it to be a slightly stronger argument.

I think the data of individuals rather than the whole population would have been more interesting. The central limit theorem of statistics does suggest that the distributed response of a population will center around the mean; without bias (a skewing tendency), this will also be the population mode. The combined distribution of a lot of individuals most of whom do not center around 0 errors could, and probably would, combine to center around 0.

Edited by Stephen Mills, 05 September 2005 - 02:40 PM.


#26 Rob

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 04:11 PM

Relative pitch is the ability to come up with (or recognize) a given note if the pitch of another (reference) note is already known. Another way of saying this is that it is the ability to recognize and reproduce intervals.


Relative pitch is the essential friend of mine as an orchestral tympanist -- starting with one pitch, you need to be able to quickly move to a pitch based off of your current pitch. It's generally made easy with a few 'pneumonics'... (A few for example):

3rd: Doorbell (ding dong)
4th: Here comes the bridge (dum, dum dum dum).
7th: My bonnie lies over the ocean (my bonnie)
Octave: Somewhere over the rainbow (somewhere)

Kinda neat -- having been in choir as well, it made for a smooth transition going from non-tuned percussion into tuned percussion.

Edited by Rob, 07 November 2005 - 04:12 PM.


#27 keeper

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 05:31 PM

Yep. I was a music major at college and one of the best tools given to me was to reference every discrete interval with a memorable extract from a song. Couple this with a subconscious 'drone' holding the tonic, you get a powerful combination to identify a pitch-class.

BTW, I tried to develop perfect pitch by attempting to pitch an A=440 first thing every morning for about ten years, then checking it with a piano'. I found that I did get consistently closer to the correct pitch after several years.

#28 m3838

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 06:29 PM

A friend of a friend of mine had perfect pitch.
He was a musician and his name was, I believe, Gennady. He drank alot too.
Anyways, he couldn't listen to anything but perfect recordings, any scratch, inconsistency, wrong tempo, key, modulation drove him crazy. It was literally painful for him to hear a song in the "wrong" key. Everything should have been performed just as written.

I can whistle what I need to, exept really tricky, like Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, for example.
I was never concerned with correct key, and with push/pull diatonic you play what you can in a given key. So now I'm transposing (aurally) some french muzette and russian easy listening jazz for C/F Club accordion. The harmony is another thing. There only this much you can do with 8 bass/chord buttons, but they did a good job at selecting the bass/chords at Hohner. So the harmony works sort of OK. It's a bit interesting and unusual sometimes, but it's working. Sure a few passages sound too heroic and not as sensual as in original, but I'll have to live with it.

Needless to say, Gennady would be totally disabled by my playing.

#29 JimLucas

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 08:21 PM

A friend of a friend of mine had perfect pitch.
He was a musician and his name was, I believe, Gennady. He drank alot too.
Anyways, he couldn't listen to anything but perfect recordings, any scratch, inconsistency, wrong tempo, key, modulation drove him crazy. It was literally painful for him to hear a song in the "wrong" key. Everything should have been performed just as written.

So if there was a recording of music (e.g., traditional) that had never been written, then what? Was he unable to hear it? :unsure: :)

#30 Boney

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Posted 08 November 2005 - 09:57 PM

So if there was a recording of music (e.g., traditional) that had never been written, then what? Was he unable to hear it? :unsure: :)

Small children will react this way sometimes. If they hear a song in a different key from what they're used to, some will complain that it's "wrong." These kids don't necessarily have perfect pitch, just ears that aren't used to hearing songs "changed."

#31 m3838

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Posted 09 November 2005 - 05:49 PM

Jim:
So if there was a recording of music (e.g., traditional) that had never been written, then what? Was he unable to hear it? :unsure: :)

Me:
I haven't tried, but Gennady was a typical classical musician. He didn't listen to folk music. It was too primitive for him. So I guess if he listened to a song that hasn't been written, he'd accept it as annoying background noise.

#32 Mark Evans

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Posted 10 November 2005 - 06:07 AM

he couldn't listen to anything but perfect recordings, any scratch, inconsistency, wrong tempo, key, modulation drove him crazy. It was literally painful for him to hear a song in the "wrong" key. Everything should have been performed just as written.


Hm, so this Gennady...how does he handle a performance of Robert Schumann's song cycle "Dichterliebe" by a baritone? The cycle's "original" key relationships favor a tenor voice. However, some of the most prized recordings and live performances have been done by baritones who present the work with the keys transposed to something less stressful.

#33 m3838

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Posted 11 November 2005 - 02:56 PM

I guess he'd prefer tenor. It's been a decade since I saw him.

#34 keeper

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 04:25 AM

I haven't tried, but Gennady was a typical classical musician. He did not listen to folk music.


Are these two sentences connected?

#35 Mark Evans

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Posted 12 November 2005 - 07:51 PM

Hm, I think Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven would laugh at the very idea of the two ("classical" and "folk") not being connected. Although not from the "classical" period, I think Dvorak may have been inclined to chuckle as well. They all used thematic material from folk tunes.

Edited by Mark Evans, 12 November 2005 - 07:54 PM.


#36 David Barnert

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Posted 13 November 2005 - 10:53 AM

It's generally made easy with a few 'pneumonics'...

Actually, the word is "mnemonics" named after the goddess of memory (which is where that word came from). I'm a doctor, and doctors frequently use mnemonics to remember medical arcana (the names of the bones of the wrist, or the names of all the diseases that include a given symptom). But doctors are also the most likely to call them "pneumonics."

7th: My bonnie lies over the ocean (my bonnie)

Sorry, but that's a 6th. A 7th (a minor 7th, anyway) would be "There's a place for us" from West Side Story, which also gives us two examples of tritones: Ma-ria and "Cool" (bo-y).



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