13 October 2009


this morning i was browsing classical music on youtube, and by happy fortune came across a presentation i'd never seen before. in an orchestra, individual musicians play from their instrument's score (like a blueprint or set of instructions on which notes to play when, how loud and for how long). the orchestra's conductor directs from a master or full score, a complex assembly of all the individual instruments' parts. as you learn to read musical notation, it becomes as second nature as reading written language in a book, so much so that eventually you will be able to sight-read, i.e. glance at a score and know immediately what the notes, chords and intervals will sound like.

what i discovered is a variation on a conductor's master score. it is a video presentation, an intricate, dynamic musical animation of the delightful second movement of beethoven's symphony no. 2, the allegretto. what you will see is not notes, but rather a set of lines scrolling across the screen (not unlike a heart monitor), color-coded to each instrument in the orchestra -- in this case flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, french horns (my instrument!!), trumpets, tympani and strings. each instrument's line ascends or descends with pitch, just like a the notes printed on a musical score do, and each line disappears when there is a rest (silence) for that instrument. the very cool thing is that you don't have to know a thing about musical notation to quickly learn how to read what is being played, and in fact to predict what is coming next. the presentation is straightforward and intuitive, and a lot of fun. you can close your eyes and sink into the music (i recomment this), or you can turn down the volume and imagine what is being played, then turn it up to see if your instinct is accurate. most instructive is to have both on, and simply enjoy.

try it -- you'll be amazed at how quickly your understanding of the interplay of voices is enhanced. the music comes alive to both your ears and your eyes. you'll be dazzled by the musical genius that created this tapestry of interweaving voices. beethoven was one of a small number of transformational giants in music history. he is one of the reasons that classical music has survived over the course of centuries, while less sophisticated forms appear and disappear like wraiths in the mist.

so -- sound turned up? at long last, here is the visual and audio performance of the exquisite second movement of his symphony no. 2, a piece i've listened to for decades, and of which i never tire.

No comments:

Post a Comment