Originally posted by musiccr8r:
I am working on a set of pieces for younger students. I am curious if I am totally off-base, esp. with the "cricket's argument". I personally am fond of some dissonance but have I overstepped the bounds of what a young player would tolerate? I really think I would have enjoyed this in my youth, but maybe I'm totally wrong. Those of you teaching beginners, any comments? The moonlight one is just there for contrast, no need to comment unless you really want to. Thanks in advance! (PS the crickets are played with the seconds in the LH and single notes above in the right, so it isn't hard to play at all, though it does have many accidentals) www.box.net/shared/7lv518j0ag
Let's me just say that I think your "cricket's argument" is not overstepping the boundaries.
I'm fond of an argument that claims that music stops beings interesting, stimulating and followed (at least by the population) when there's no concrete motivations behind the music making. This is a very elegant and fine argument. Everything we do and learn must be supported by motivation, by a need. Overstepping the boundaries is when experimentation, weirdness, sudden changes of direction are there for the sake of it not for a concrete motivation.
I'm a supporter of allowing children to curse.
When I was in middle school we had to read a novel with a paragraph full of very strong cursing. It was explained to us that the author had no other mean to express the frustration of the character. Such cursing can't be "harmful" to a child because it is in context, it is a human expression and has a motivation. On the other hand when cursing is treated like a taboo it becomes something prohibited hence cool, something to use for the fun of it and to abuse as soon as society think we're old enough.
Now consider an highly-intellectual (for the sake of it) experimental harsh dissonant concrete piece of music called "the beautiful dream of Lulu". The negative reaction to such piece, even in a child, would not be the sound itself but the clear lack of motivation behind it, the lack of a context. Strange music for the sake of strange music.
Imagine instead a piece called "volcano" and a first melodic part then a sudden harsh, clustering, atonal flow of notes. I think whatever child would be able to relate to such piece and even enjoy it. The sound is functional, there's a motivation for all that dramatic and scary sounds.
Lately I (like others) have often claimed that the essence of music is repetition and sounds hierarchy. Have you ever noticed that when you fall asleep while listening to classical music, there's a moment between the conscious and the unconscious, where the music seems to speak, seems to really use a verbal language rather than notes ?. This happens because even if music is not a formal language made of words, it is based on the structure of language. This structure predicts for example that in a book about food you will encounter more often the word "salt" than the word "abacus".
When composers started to write in atonal idioms they seeked to destroy music which gravitates toward a certain tonic center, and to create music that didn't have stable points of gravitations (like the word "salt" in the food book) This was completely useless. They soon realized that the ear finds a pitch center anyway. This is similar to what happened when they started building towns without a central square to avoid people aggregation. What happened is that even towns made only of long narrow streets, developed spontaneously a particular place for aggregations and social cohesion, in order words a particular street became the surrogate of a square. This says a lot about our need for anchored points of references, for a center from which everything need to grativate. Our planet doesn't float freely on the cosmos but gravitates in a galaxy with a vital "tonal center": the sun.
When serialism was developed it was the solution to the problem of our ear turning atonality into tonality, dissonances into consonances. It forced the ear away from such need of a center and hierarchy by creating a strict limiting order that would prevent it. This is for example why I think the non serial Pierrot Lunaire by Schomberg is so full of life, of magic and fantasy. It is atonal, dissonant, almost disorentating but is still free, it doesn't avoid repetitions and allow the ear to find its own anchor. His Fantasia for Violino and Piano, on the other hand, is a serial work and in my opinion lacks all the immagination and creativity of Pierrot. It's dry, bland, sterile, unengaging.
It has been noticed that when atonality makes use of universal music characteristics like repetition and hierarchy of sounds, it becomes more musical for the ear and the mind. By repeating an atonal melodies more times and allowing it to return, to form refrains, to develop in more traditional ways, it doesn't produce the nasty vertigo panick effect most atonal music produces in many listeners.
The real problem of dissonant atonalism or serialism is not the "harsh sound" by the lack of hierarchical features of music. We don't perceive the dissonance as unpleasant because of the dissonance itself, but because of the structure, of its never gravitating toward certain sounds.
Notice how the repetition, in your piece, of the first incipit, all through the piece, turns those group of notes "consonant" after some time and no longer "dissonant" as in the beginning. Had you never repeated those notes again or never gravitated towards a pitch center, they would have remained dissonant and unpleasant to the ear.
My long-winded discourse is getting somewhere, don't worry. I have elaborated on 4 arguments:
1) music making needs motivations
2) children need to put things into context
3) musical means must be coherent with the context
4) whatever stylistic choice is accepted (even by non educated ears) as long as it makes sense within a coherent artistic decision and doesn't just occurr for the "sake of it".
All these arguments can be summarized in one word: necessity. Music fulfills a personal and social necessity of creative human expression. Language do the same. Everything we do is governed by necessity. The pleasure of cooking for our friends is the need to feed them. We would get no pleasure from cooking if we then throw the finished dishes in the dust bin. The pleasure of learning is governed by necessity. We can't get pleasure from learning if we are asked to learn irrelevant (for us) concepts out of context. Concepts need to fullfill the role of "formal solutions" to problems we have already encountered and die to solve.
So wether harsh dissonant music would be welcomed by students, of whatever age, but with a special attention for the younger ones; doen't depend on sound itself but on "artistic necessity".
Your crickets are having an argument.
It is cricket language, harsh and strident, like the sound they produce in nature. Yet there's a coherency in their dialoguing. There are repetitions and pitch centers. It is a real conversation, made of recurring words and not just meaningless pseudointellectual noise.
This is a very good way to emply more dissonant styles in writing music and I think you students will appreciate it.