Friday, March 25, 2011: Spring, Part 5

Celebrate Spring! Part 5

The Little Things that Matter

Q: What can I do if I’m bored in a concert, or if the music seems uninteresting?

A: Try to stop fidgeting, and listen to more than just the melody, or main tune. There are lots of ways to listen, and lots of little but important things to listen for. Here are just a few examples:

* Dynamics — notice how loudly or softly each instrument plays, and when; and how the volume changes when groups of instruments join in or are silent. Keep an eye on the conductor for cues.

* Rhythm –
is the music to a standard “1, 2, 3, 4″ beat? or a waltz (“1, 2, 3″)? or does it change in mid-stream? It might also have an odd number of beats, such as 5 or 7, to keep things really lively. Do your feet start tapping along? Do you want to dance? Look around: Are others in the audience nodding in time to the music? That’s rhythm.

* Accents –
music with the same beat throughout, especially in a long piece, can get boring. So watch for accents: stressing one note more strongly or loudly; holding a note unexpectedly long, or playing it very high or low; or adding notes in unexpected, “off beat” places, called syncopation. Then stay alert. When you notice the part being repeated, see if it’s played exactly the same way the second time around.

* Speed – listen to different recordings, on CD, YouTube, etc., of the same piece, or to a piece played once on a piano and sung once by a choir. How does the difference in speed affect the mood, impression, or feeling?

* Theme – the main idea or main “tune” is repeated in a section, movement, or entire composition, in many pieces. See if you can identify it, and whether and how it changes with each repetition. Can you leave the concert and still hum the main tune? Had you hear it before — where? Try to connect it to the information in your paper program. Keeping track of themes, compositions, and composers can help organize your knowledge and feelings about classical music, so that you can discuss it, and enjoy it, even more.   oo

This is the last article in our Spring solstice series on listening to classical music.

If you’ve missed any of the previous ones, scroll down — you still have a few days to catch them before they disappear! As always, our intent is to educate, entertain, and enlighten people of all backgrounds, nationalities, and experience levels in Czech classical music, opera, and ballet. Please feel free to add your comments in the box below.

Photo Credits: Miroslav Setnička

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