Wednesday, September 25, 2013

1 Understanding Musical Line

Part 1. Understanding the line and other shapes in music

I have been speaking to my flute students quite a bit lately about discovering shapes in their music.

(Illustration is an excerpt from "Kincadiana" by John Krell. Click on it to enlarge.)

In flute we use musical line to direct our phrases, our breathing, and our energy. We learn when to expend energy, when to save it, and when to emphasize the direction, and when not to.
I plan to write on that  in several posts over the next week or two. (let's hope.:>)

In the beginning,  it's about recognizing when the flute is actually singing the parts of two voices, or one, or three. These questions arise even in Bach's simplest melodies.

And in very simple terms finding the musical line is about whether the ascending line is adding energy; and the air speed is rising.

Is the bass note implied to remain ringing in the mind's ear?

Is the melodic figure being sung in the descant?
Where are the arpeggios heading?
Where's the goal point? Where's the climax of the idea?

To me this is one of the most fascinating topics, and I have some practical, physical flutey input for beginners on this journey of discovery.
So in the meantime, while I gather my tiny thoughts, here is a terrific depiction of musical shapes and line, using piano music visualizations.

It totally shows the concept of "shape" and relationships of musical lines, in real time. (youtube)

James Boyk, solo piano - Debussy, Reflets dans l'eau (Reflections in the water)

More on this topic in upcoming posts. But meantime, enjoy the discoveries you'll make between your eyes and your ears. What? It's a human interpretation brain! ha ha.
Fascinating stuff. And it's all accessible with human imagination! What an artistic pallet to bring to your simplest tunes!
Sept 26th:
More from this music animator:

Debussy Arabesque No.1 (youtube)
This is a fantastic example of showing impulsive pulse, and flexible rhythmic groove. Just goes to show how metronomes don't work for polishing the moving and flexy rhythms in your Debussy!


Pianist - Stephen Malinowski (who created these music animations)

Best, Jen

Go to part 2 of this article series:  Musical Line  - Outlining and Breath Energy

Comments (5)
Blogger OrcasMom said...

Hi Jen - I am just finishing Laila Storch's wonderful biography of oboist Marcel Tabuteau, who was Kincaid's colleague in the Philadelphia Orchestra and at Curtis. The concepts of determining the musical line with style, taste and grace, and of precisely placing notes on the line and on the breath (not making the notes with breath) ware central to Tabuteau's much-praised style and teaching, as it was to Kincaid's. Fascinating. I look forward to more posts on this subject that adds beauty, color and shape to merely producing notes. Do you recommend "Kincaidiana"?

Thursday, September 26, 2013 6:42:00 AM

Blogger jen said...

Dear Orcasmom,
I will have to read Storch's book. Yes, I'm interested in Tabuteau. If you'd like to write something up,or jpeg some samples, I would certainly be pleased to add them to the above article. So fascinating. "Kincadiana" is a tiny book; not very many pages, and 1/3rd is a list of it's not chock-full of info, but quite sparing and general. one has to read between the lines. I would take it out of the library for sure. If you buy it, it's not expensive. ($15 at National Flute Assoc. I believe).
Love to chat more and to see some samples. Meanwhile I'll find the Storch. Thanks.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 10:29:00 AM

Blogger OrcasMom said...

I will look through and see if there are some quotes or paraphrases from Laila's book that would be share-able. It's long but a quick read. I will try to find "Kincadiana" at the library.

The video you found is just wonderful! The combination of aural and visual shaping really brings it alive in several dimensions at once. The accompanying comments include a really interesting exchange about different types of synesthesia.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:04:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

Quotes and paraphrases would be fabulouso! You can email me and I can post your stuff here. That would be AMAZING. Thanks. jen(at)jennifercluff(dot)calm ha ha

Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:55:00 PM

Blogger jen said...

The video is great. Some truly good thinking has gone into the visuals; they are not just random algorhythms like the early computer visuals that just annoy. This level of visualization, for me, shows analysis of the actual form, line, phrasing, bass lines, dual parts, and phrase-activity-direction plus effects of point-i-listic vs. legato playing. I'll have to search the James Boyk site for more info on the Montreal artists who created the visual effects. Good follow up pointer. Thanks.

Thursday, September 26, 2013 12:59:00 PM


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