Just because we can’t have in real life practices doesn’t mean that we should be putting ensemble practice to the side. I’m working on a set of lessons we can do together that will help our group play skills, and this mini project is a hint at things to come.
MPR has their new daily music lesson up, and I was thrilled to see that its focus connects to some of the things we had been discussing in our February rehearsals. Do you remember when we played tag with a solo? One member played a measure from a piece of music, at at the following measure, the next musician had to be ready to take over – repeating through the group until the entire song had been played. The goal was to make it sound like one one instrument was playing instead of (in our case) five by matching the rate of decay for each last note in a measure. It was a really great exercise in reading music, counting together and listening carefully to match the tone and volume of the other players. What you might not know is that we were also experimenting with melodic contouring – the shape that is created with a line of music.
Today’s assignment = head over to the MPR lesson on Melodic Contouring. Take a careful look at the line drawings they posted, then pick one of the listening samples. Create a basic line doodle of what you think the melodic contour of your chosen clip looks like. Take a picture and send it to me. (Make sure your song title is on your doodle so I know which clip to listen to!) Then – and this is the really fun part! – get ready to see how visual artists get creative with melodic contouring.
There is a growing movement of animators to create line riders – tiny cartoon characters that ride a line of music. A year ago there was barely a handful of videos on YouTube and it was strictly classical music. At this point, there are line riders for pop songs, techno, soft rock, and even the mashups made popular by The Piano Guys. The ability to see the shape of music changes the way we hear it, as well as how we play it.
Watch the video for Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King and leave me a comment telling me if you thought the animator did an accurate representation of the music with their line drawing. Remember that harmony and rhythm combined with the melody make a three dimensional shape, so remember to listen to how the piece changes around the melody as you watch the line move.
I can’t wait to see what you create!
PS – Bonus tip: sometimes the melodic contour can be a hint as to the quality of music. Think about the shape of one of the songs on your current play list – is it complex or is it simple? Is it repetitive or is it varied?