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Listening Gallery: How Music Makes Sense

Module by: Anthony Brandt. E-mail the author

Summary: This module includes exercises to practice listening for varied repetition.

Note:

Please note that you must have the most recent copy of Macromedia's Flash plugin installed to play the musical examples.

The following short works or excerpts are each based on a single pattern that is repeated throughout the work.

These terms will help you answer the questions about how the basic patterns are varied.

Definition 1: Accompainiment
The support underlying a melody. For instance, in a typical show tune, the singer performs the melody, while the band provides the accompaniment.
Definition 2: Contour
Whether the basic pattern is played right side up or upside down
Definition 3: Density
How many notes are played at the same time. For instance, if a pianist plays a chord with all ten fingers, that sound is of higher density that if she or he were to just play with a single finger.
Definition 4: Dynamics
The loudness of the music
Definition 5: Fragmentation
Smaller segments of the basic pattern are repeated, rather than the whole
Definition 6: Orchestration
The instruments that are playing the pattern.
Definition 7: Register
How "high" or "low" the pattern is played. Men sing in the low register, women in the upper. The pianist's left hand generally plays in the low register, the right hand in the upper.
Definition 8: Speed
How fast the pattern is played

Definition 9: Grouping
The number of notes in a pattern. For instance, the pattern "da-da-dum, da-da-dum, da-da-dum " consists of a series of three note groupings, whereas "da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum, da-da-da-dum" is made up of four note groupings. "Da-dum, da-da-da-dum, da-da-dum" consists of mixed groupings.

Problem 1

Listen to Bach's Invention no. 14 in B-flat Major. Musical Example: Johann Sebastian Bach, Invention in B-flat Major In the following list, mark all of the ways that Bach uses to vary the repetition of his basic pattern:

Register
Contour
Density
Speed
Fragmentation

Problem 2

From the following list, what most contributes to varying the repetition in Chopin's Prelude No. 23 in F-Major? Musical Example: Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 23 in F-Major

Speed
Dynamics
Register

Problem 3

In the following excerpt from Gustav Holst's The Planets, the short melody is repeated fifteen times. How many times is the melody repeated exactly the same way? Musical Example: Gustav Holst, The Planets, 'Mercury'

0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7

Problem 4

From the following list, mark all of the ways that Holst uses to vary the repetitions of the melody.

Accompaniment
Contour
Dynamics
Orchestration
Speed
Register

Problem 5

In Charles Ives' song The Cage, the piano accompaniment is extremely unified. Except for the unexpected chord at the word "Wonder," the accompaniment consists only of varied repetitions a single, complex chord-as a way of showing a leopard confined in its cage. Musical Example: Charles Ives, The Cage In the following list, mark all of the ways that Ives uses to vary the repetition of the chord:

Speed
Register
Dynamics

Problem 6

Ligeti's Musica ricercata No. 1 is based on just a single note: Only the very last note is different! In the following list, mark all of the ways that Ligeti uses to vary the repetition of the single note. Musical Example: Gyorgy Ligeti, Musica ricercata No. 1

Speed
Density
Dynamics
Groupings
Register

FURTHER LISTENING: Bernard Rand's "Le Tambourin" is a suite of orchestral pieces drawn from his opera about Vincent Van Gogh. In the movement "Sorrow," Rands creates repetition without redundancy by modeling his compositional method on a technique used by Van Gogh. In sketching his model, Van Gogh placed three sheets of paper on top of one another. His first, rather spare sketch left imprints on the pages beneath. He then removed the top sheet and repeated the process, adding more detail. He then performed the same operation with the third sheet, making it the most elaborate. Rands treats his music in an analogous manner: He presents an initial passage of music. He then repeats this music identically, but adds new details. A third layer of music is then added to the first two. Thus, the music gradually accumulates in the same way as Van Gogh's imprints.

Glossary

Accompainiment:
The support underlying a melody. For instance, in a typical show tune, the singer performs the melody, while the band provides the accompaniment.
Contour:
Whether the basic pattern is played right side up or upside down
Density:
How many notes are played at the same time. For instance, if a pianist plays a chord with all ten fingers, that sound is of higher density that if she or he were to just play with a single finger.
Dynamics:
The loudness of the music
Fragmentation:
Smaller segments of the basic pattern are repeated, rather than the whole
Orchestration:
The instruments that are playing the pattern.
Register:
How "high" or "low" the pattern is played. Men sing in the low register, women in the upper. The pianist's left hand generally plays in the low register, the right hand in the upper.
Speed:
How fast the pattern is played

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Musical Examples
  1. Johann Sebastian Bach, Invention in B-flat Major
  2. Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 23 in F-Major
  3. Gustav Holst, The Planets, 'Mercury'
  4. Charles Ives, The Cage
  5. Gyorgy Ligeti, Musica ricercata No. 1
Johann Sebastian Bach, Invention in B-flat Major
Johann Sebastian Bach, Invention in B-flat Major
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Sony SK87754 — Glenn Gould, piano
Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 23 in F-Major
Frédéric Chopin, Prelude No. 23 in F-Major
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Deutsche Grammophon 431 584-2 — Martha Argerich, piano
Gustav Holst, The Planets, 'Mercury'
Gustav Holst, The Planets, 'Mercury'
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LSO 029 — Sir Colin Davis, London Symphony Orchestra
Charles Ives, The Cage
Charles Ives, The Cage
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Etcetera 1020 — Roberta Alexander, soprano; Tan Crone, piano
Gyorgy Ligeti, Musica ricercata No. 1
Gyorgy Ligeti, Musica ricercata No. 1
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Sony 62308 — Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano