Category: Musical Subjects

  • Dynamics

    I wonder if some of the other musical subjects are envious of ‘dynamics’. Its very name sounds like a superpower. How about the others? ‘Duration’ sounds world weary; ‘Augmentation/diminution’ feels like a medical procedure. ‘Meter’ sounds like something a bureaucrat made up. But ‘dynamics’? It’s very name is brimming with life-force energy. (Note: the image…

  • Rough Sketch

    Confession: I frequently have a hard time learning my own music. This is probably not uncommon for composers who primarily write music for others to perform, but I am definitely writing for myself. Lately, when I compose it is usually an attempt to personalize a musical subject that I will eventually be working with in…

  • Tonality

    So, yes, the relationship between two tones is not necessarily black and white (see previous post). Tonality puts those two tones into a context which could consist of the many shades of gray, unrestrained technicolor or a tasteful complimentary color pallet. When I use color in a drawing I sometimes have trouble limiting myself. However,…

  • One Small Step…

    Whole and half steps are kind of like air. We tend to not pay too much attention to them unless something unexpected happens. For years they were certainly invisible to me – or rather, inaudible – unless I made a mistake in a musical passage, an easy enough thing to fix for pianists. It didn’t…

  • Picturing Music

    I’ve been thinking about representation lately. No, I don’t need a lawyer. I’m talking about how we ‘picture’ music. As an experiment last week, I asked my kids to draw a picture of rhythms we were working with during the session. I didn’t ask them to use notation. Some of them are too young to…

  • Meter

    Part of a series of posts on the ‘musical subjects‘ I am working with in my classrooms and thinking about as a musician and teacher. I often turn to Walter Piston when I want some inspiration for teaching or for my own practice. Here’s what he says about meter in his book, “Counterpoint”: “In itself,…

  • Subdivision, Simple Meter

    Note: this is the first in a series of posts about the musical subjects I am working with in my classrooms and thinking about as a teacher and musician. If I continue long enough, I’ll eventually index and categorize them. Each one will include a subject, some notes, descriptions of some activities and  some target…

  • Musical Subject: Beat

    I enjoy working with the subject of ‘beat’. The phenomenon itself is so fundamental it can be a challenge to define it. It’s like asking, “What is air?” We can all produce a quasi-scientific definition of the air we breathe, but our experience of it could not be more fundamental to our existence. Yet it…