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ICL1P View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote ICL1P Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2018 at 7:27am
And I thought the answer to the ultimate question was forty-two. 😀
Ifor
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote morris_minor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15 Oct 2018 at 10:50am
Ifor - that's what popped into my mind too!

Kory - thanks so much for that detailed answer. Would I be right in thinking that this comes to down to the imperfection of musical notation? Is not the only absolute about this the pitch of a note? Note durations are relative to each other - and dependent on tempo and a performer's interpretation. Likewise changes in dynamics.

A long while ago when I was playing around with MIDI synths and sequencing I'd pop, say, a Bach fugue into the computer and the result was dead accurate and musically sterile. Painting by numbers for sound!

We need the human input!
Bob

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kory Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2018 at 12:55am
Bob,
You're absolutely right about the only absolute being pitch. Except of course, for early music adjustments of the tuning. But pitch is the most immovable of the variables in notation. Rhythm is pretty close to being fixed, though there are plenty exceptions that notation can't accommodate (i.e. the Viennese offbeats of Strauss waltzes that the Vienna Phil gets so right, and others struggle to imitate, that are not notated at all.)

Nonetheless, I don't think the flexibility/imprecision of notation is an imperfection, but actually a strength. It allows for interpretation. If there were to be no room for interpretation the art would go out of music. It would all sound like that computer generated music. Yikes! It's the imprecision that allows for personality and preference. 

It's the human element that makes the difference, that's for sure.
Kory

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote morris_minor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2018 at 9:40am
The wriggle-room you referred to earlier when talking about tempo obviously extends to rhythmic interpretation too. How many times does a dotted-quaver/semiquaver pair sound like a crotchet/quaver triplet? And note accents and modifiers - a dot or line over a crotchet - change the feel of a piece as interpreted. And my last random point (!) - it was a long while before I realised that Beethoven's 5th didn't start with a triplet but an upbeat. (I forget now whose performance made me get this).

But it would be very boring if every performance of a piece of music sounded the same!
Bob

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Kory Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2018 at 11:38am
Bob, 
You are so right. All these variations make this a fascinating world full of discovery and meaning. And experimentation! I'm glad you mentioned Beethoven 5. The Zander recording of the 5th, like all his recordings, includes a fascinating lecture, this one particularly on tempo. It's just brilliant, and speaks to several of the issues we've been musing about. Tempo regions, and flexibility, and conductors trying to get it right. I use it every year with my conducting students as we discuss these ideas. You'd love it.

Well, on we go in our voyage of discovery. 

I appreciate your knowledge and insights, snd I'll enjoy seeing what you're listening to as time goes on.

Kory

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote morris_minor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2018 at 3:19pm
I'm always listening to Walton's 1st Symphony, Kory. I must have 20 different versions (not that I'm obsessed with it or anything) and most have their "good" and "bad" points for me, a very amateur score reader! Andre Previn's 1966 RCA takes some beating though it isn't the best recorded.
Bob

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote discrete badger Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 16 Oct 2018 at 10:22pm
From my own dabblings as a musician amateur, there's yet another aspect to this tempo thing!

As listeners, we naturally think of a recording as being on an LP or on a streaming music service; but we're not always aware that, improvisation aside, this is really a recording of a recording! The first recording was made slowly in the brains of the musicians; when they absorbed the music into muscle movements; when they decided on their interpretation, fingerings, breaths, voicings, dynamics, pauses, performance tempi, and memorised it.

The apparently-effortless performances of top musicians on the concert platform, where the music simply flows through them and their instrument apparently unhindered by any technical difficulties, only appear like that because of enormous effort and dedication that has occurred away from the stage. It's true indeed that making it look effortless takes much effort! This is not to suggest that musicians don't vary their interpretations to suit any particular occasion, but that when they do so, they're drawing on a strong foundation of knowing the music in great detail.

And the tempo connection? Fast pieces of music can't, generally, be played fast until they are learnt! There are simply too many decisions to make about how difficult passages can physically be played to make them quickly enough before the next note is due! The conscious "clock speed" of the brain is too slow! True, a professional musician will be able to draw on a lifetime's experience of how similar passages were played, and advance through this slow practice phase quickly. 

But here's the tempo paradox - as we know from some performances we may not like listening to - some pieces of music easily lose their vitality, their flow, their meaning if played too slowly. But this lost meaning is needed to inform the choices that the musician must make in preparing their performance, because certain techniques make certain forms of expression easier or impossible. As a simple example, it is impossible to obtain legato on the Piano (smooth joins between notes) if one chooses to use only the index finger!

Further, slow tempi allow use of some techniques which will be impossible when the piece is at performance tempo, and if they are learnt, must then be unlearnt! So the musician learning the music has to be very much on their guard against this, and try to bring passages up to a moderate tempo relatively quickly, at least where there is some sort of flow and spirit of the music to hone the rest of the preparation work.

The challenge is then to gradually raise this moderate tempo to performance tempo; all the while checking that the decisions previously made are adhered to. With discipline, the intact performance gradually transfers to "muscle memory", or, as neuroscientists armed with FMRI scanners might opine, the brain builds new hardware to allow the consciously learned capability to become unconscious!
 
Some musicians then go on to bask in their new-found mastery of the piece by playing it too fast! But that's the hallmark of mere amateurs like me...
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