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13 May 2014

Perfect Pitch: Pros & Cons

Ear Note by Molly GermaineThe “ear for music” is a mysterious and unexplained thing. For the first time you may face this phenomenon when enrolling your child into a music school. The procedure of checking whether the kid has an ear for music or not usually looks as follows: a certain melody is played on the piano and the child is asked to sing to it. Besides that, depending on the amount of your luck, the entrance examination may also include having to repeat a rhythmic pattern, perform a popular song, or, if you are out of luck, to name all the notes. While ‘ear for music’ is a popular term, the ‘absolute pitch’ or ‘perfect pitch’ is normally heard only within the circle of professional musicians. I first heard it myself while taking exam at the music school for gifted children. Here’s how it happened.

The examiner, a skeptically disposed teacher, asked me to name the note I had just heard.

– But how can I name the note if you didn’t allow me to hear the tonality?! – I asked, surprised.

– Just like that. Simply tell me what note do you think it was – the teacher replies.

– Hm… but how can I know?! – I think to myself, and say aloud: – Perhaps, E…

For the next few seconds a silence settled, disturbed only by the ticking of the wall clock over the piano that suddenly seemed so deafeningly loud.

– E-flat, - the examiner pronounces slowly and watches me closely.

That was the only time when I got close to feeling that special kind of attention that’s given to children with perfect pitch. Why the only time, you’ll ask? Simply because I do not have perfect pitch. I have a very common music ear, and the (almost) correctly guessed note was just a lucky coincidence.

The curious thing is that many scientists interpret the perfect pitch as an inborn-only ability to ‘imagine’ sounds and define their pitch. And, as strange as it may sound, already from birth this ability can be “developed to different extents”. For instance, someone can define the notes played on piano only, or even played in a certain range only. Others can hear the pitch regardless of the tone color, up to hearing “at what pitch” the door creaks or the bee buzzes. But in both cases the distinctive feature of such an exceptional ear for music is its inborn nature.

My solfeggio class consisted of 12 pupils, all of which, except a boy and me, had perfect pitch. I had to do the melodic dictations “by feel”, silently singing each sound to myself and counting the needed notes from the key tones of the scale. While I needed about 8 playbacks for all the calculations and 1-2 more additional revisions, my classmates needed only 2-3 playbacks, even though the teacher prohibited making notes while the music played.

Camino del Lago del Valle by Ignorant WalkingBut there are two faces to everything. I noticed an interesting peculiarity: children with a perfect pitch often have difficulties with music theory. And here’s why. Imagine that theoretical studies are a long way from the bottom of the mountain to its peak. The way itself would be the study of the theoretical basics – the structure of intervals and chords, their relations, roles in tonality, etc. While reaching the peak would mean the ability to solve a musical task, in our case – the correct writing down of a melodic dictation or defining the chords in a harmonic chain. Those who know the theory can distinguish the sounds played in a music fragment on the basis of their theoretical knowledge. And the perfect pitch kids would have to go all the way up from analysis to solution.

Such pupils can be compared to travelers who were taken to the top on a helicopter and who don’t know how to find their way back down. I often observed the following situation: those with a perfect pitch, when asked to name the chords, could name the notes but couldn’t explain their harmonic functions. It was pretty clear to me: why do they need to learn the functions if they can already hear the notes played? Nevertheless, the teachers were of a different opinion and the perfect pitch wasn’t protecting anyone from a bad mark.

Just like travelers, after conquering a mountain peak, get some fit muscles as a bonus, perfect pitch holders, on their way to develop it and master musical relations for solving a musical task, receive theoretic music thinking as a reward.

In conclusion, I’d like to address all those who haven’t been given the absolute pitch by mother nature: in the end, it doesn’t matter how many talents you’ve got, but the way you multiply them does. There are many ways to conquer the peak. It is important to understand which way leads you up there and stick to it until the peak yields to you.

Photos: "Ear Note" by Molly Germaine, "Camino del Lago del Valle" by Ignorant Walking. Source: Flickr.com

17 Apr 2014

Ludovico Einaudi: 10 curious facts about composer and pianist

His name is well known among the lovers of instrumental music balancing on the edge of minimalism, classical and pop music. Mesmerizing with its deeply emotional sounding, music works by L. Einaudi can be heard all around: in movies, on radio, in commercials and TV programs. His compositions are often used as soothing music background in cafes and restaurants, trade centers and exhibition halls. The expressive sounds immediately immerse the listener in the beautiful world created by the talented composer. Just like a light breeze picks up a hovering bird, the piano music by Ludovico Einaudi carries our thoughts away from the daily routine. The magic sounds of the piano lovingly touched by the great composer has already conquered world’s most famous music halls – Royal Albert Hall, Arena di Verona, Sydney Opera House and others.

For all those who are familiar with and fond of the creative work of Ludovico Einaudi we have prepared some interesting biographical facts about this well-known Italian composer and pianist.

  • Einaudi comes from the family of a famous Italian publisher and his grandfather was Italy’s second president. The future musician received his first piano lessons from his mother.
  • At first Ludovico wasn’t planning to take up a performer’s career. He was rather keen on the compositional approach and the creative side of music studying. But with time he felt he was missing out on something important. He wanted to feel the magic that is born when a composer shares his music with the listener, performing it on the stage.
  • Luciano Berio, the brightest representative of the Italian school of composition of the 20th century, was one of his teachers. He conducted the premieres of some of Einaudi’s orchestral works.
  • Einaudi began his creative career as composer of advanced contemporary music with complex structure and avant-garde sounds that were understandable only to a small circle of professionals. But just like a sculptor chips away unnecessary parts, Einaudi, too, with time developed a new language that became clear to listeners worldwide and brought him international recognition. It took Einaudi 10 years to find his unique style.
  • The first solo piano album “Le Onde” released in 1996 immediately got onto UK charts.
  • According to the composer, he’d rather be called minimalist than anything else, as minimalism is characterized by elegance and openness.
  • The major part of composer’s income is covered by his grandfathers’s vineyard in Piedmont.
  • In 2007, Einaudi took part in the recording of the 1st single in the 40th album of Adriano Celentano “Dormi amore, la situazione non è buona”.
  • One of the important sides of Einaudi’s compositional work is film music. Among his compositions are soundtracks to “Black Swan”, “Doctor Zhivago”, “Stargate Universe”.
  • In 2005, the renowned musician became member of “The Order of Merit of the Italian Republic” that is awarded for “merits acquired by the nation” in the fields of literature, art, economy, charity and humanitarian activities.

The MusicaNeo catalogue stores over 70 music scores of Ludovico Einaudi’s compositions, including the popular piano pieces “Fly”, “Una Mattina”, “I Giorni”..

04 Mar 2014

The Digital sheet music edition “Maestro-in-the-Making” is published!

The Digital sheet music edition “Maestro-in-the-Making” is published!We are happy to announce that the result of our music project “Maestro-in-the-Making” is ready to see the world! Due to the joint efforts of MusicaNeo musicians’ community the digital sheet music edition is now published and available for free download at the project’s official page.

The team of MusicaNeo is expressing their gratitude to everyone who supported the project in one way or another. We encourage all further distribution of the booklet so that teachers and students of as many music establishments as possible find out about this unique sheet music collection by modern composers for beginning musicians.

MusicaNeo is preparing more interesting projects to support and develop art and music education in the world. Become part of that mission, stay in touch!

16 Jan 2014

How to Write Music When Inspiration is Gone

How to Write Music When Inspiration is GoneThe good thing about inspiration is its spontaneity – it may come down at you at the most unexpected moment letting creativity boost and pour out some chef-d'oeuvres. But at the same time spontaneity is its bad feature too – it may leave just as suddenly as it had visited you. That’s okay if writing music is one of your minor hobbies and those splashes of creative energy are just a means of getting you distracted for a while. But if music plays a more substantial role in your life and even comprises a part of your life-earning sources, it would not be superfluous to learn to manage the ways you are inspired for work. Hopefully, some of the inspiration channels described below will be the right for you to find the Muse when she’s so needed.

It is not always necessary to go too far in search of things to inspire you. As Frederick Delius used to say, “Music is an outburst of the soul”. It is first of our vision of the world so why not delve in your own life experiences. We all store moments that affected us greatly at some point – memories of interesting people, exciting trips, controversial disputes, random meetings and what not – that’s a perfect ground for cultivating your enthusiasm for music writing. You could express musically your opinion towards these personal experiences. Or use them for defining the direction for further work. Or simply recall the emotions that used to be stirred when living these moments and get them afloat.

Music is an outburst of the soulAnother great composer, Igor Stravinsky, was convincing us that “Lesser artists borrow, greater artists steal”. Let’s make use of it too and try to turn our mind at other music works. Go back to your favorite compositions, albums, bands, musicians and name what you love about them most and what it is about their music that gives you an example to follow. It doesn’t mean you should steal others’ ideas or style, but people whose creative work we respect make our inner selves aspire to create something no less wonderful and worthwhile.

No matter where you live, we are all bound up with Mother Nature and it can help us regain strengths and provide an additional charge. Especially if you are ‘a child of concrete jungles’, try to take a longer walk in the park or better get out of town to enjoy a wilder spot. You don’t need to be a romantic nature to find sheer pleasure in sunsets, for example – there are no equal sundowns anywhere in the world so your experience is sure to be unique every time. Even better if there is a contact zoo nearby – communication with animals can be a very sincere and invigorating experience. No zoo, no parks, no wild nature? No problem. There are lot of amazing HQ photographs that can be inspiring as well. Surf the net for outstanding nature photographers, or visit some world panorama sites or have a look at the online webcams to watch, say, an eagle’s nest in the real time. Anything may work! romantic nature

The biggest masterpieces are usually reflected in more than one form of art. Thus, where there is an awesome book, there are movies based on it, where there are great paintings, there are beautiful poems dedicated to them and so on. Why not use other form of art, let’s say poetry, as a source of your inspiration too? Reading the lines of an impressive poem you can have your inner voice prompt you some ideas of wrapping the verses in a music cover. Same about any other work of art that has influence on you. All you need is to concentrate on your associations and impressions triggered by it.

It goes without saying that inspiration is a very individual thing and there is no universal recipe for causing it. But even if you are not feeling inspired at the moment do not leave your work for later – rather keep trying to find your own secret means of getting encouraged and the Muse will no doubt will be back. Good luck!

 
   
 
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