Music Expression In The Ensemble Rehearsal
by Roland Yeung
This abstract is for the 2017 Public Seminar presented by The Grainger Wind Symphony in partnership with The Australian Band and Orchestra Directors Association Victoria Branch to be held on Wednesday 28 June.
Music means much more beyond the notes on the page. The notes are symbols of the way notes are to be produced – the pitch, dynamic, articulation, duration and changes in them as the work progresses. The Elements of Music are a natural starting point as they are a focal point of analysis and writing about music from primary levels right through to the VCE Music Study. However, some students do not start with the Elements of Music as they respond to music heard. Certainly those students who have studied an instrument in a traditional classical program for more than 4 years will. Most, I have found, respond with subjective and personal responses.
Also the composer of the work has their own intentions, feelings, message and purpose. As we get to know the works of a composer, we as listener are able to find greater depth and can empathise with the expressions. Whether ours is the same is not the concern, but whether or not something can be found!
Behind the music notation there is meaning in the music. As the wealth of compositions have grown through the ages, we as listeners attach meaning to musical patterns, sequences, phrasing, keys, chord progressions, melodies, riffs and rhythms. In contemporary popular music music with rough, grinding textures speak strongly to the listeners who enjoy that genre. An we individually live our life, our experiences get tagged with a particular song or instrumental piece that may have no relation to the intention of the performer or creator. This is personal attributed meaning. The Elements of Music used in different combinations allows the academic study of style and patterns in music that may relate to some of societies attributed meanings.
From the conductor’s point of view, how can these facets of the music experience be brought into the ensemble rehearsal? Beyond the Elements of Music what structures can the conductor call on from the education curriculum where students learn about expressions. Is there vocabulary beyond the personal and individual expressions that can describe the spectrum of expressions that arise in interpreting music in performance. Are there taxonomies and charts that helps display the breadth of terms and ensure consistency in how we use them? I have found in my personal research that much useful work comes from poetry, teaching of language in primary school and the work of music therapists.
Does the conductor understand and feel these expressions? Does the conductor have a framework and vocabulary to convey them to other people. Does the conductor have a vocabulary of gestures that can communicate a range of these expressions?
Has the conductor a range of gestures, within the conventions of conducting, that can illustrate these expressions? The conventions of conducting include control of the Elements of Music and changes in them and use of conventions such as the conducting patterns. Studies in non-verbal communication are getting more numerous. In my research I find good resources from drama and dance.
What can the conductor bring to the ensemble rehearsal?
The seminar will be presented on Wednesday 28 June 2017 5.00pm for 5.30pm start to 6.30pm at Blackburn High School Music Centre. Enter off Williams Road car park and enter the two grey double doors facing the road.
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