Technical jargon

Post twenty-six in our (re)learning to teach music series. This is the first of two posts this week responding to the tasks in chapter four in Learning to Teach Music in the Secondary School. This is week six of the collaborative blogging. 

Listen to one of the pieces of music below. You can listen to as little or as much as you like for the response below.

Without the use of technical language can you respond to the following prompts:

What is the music like? What happens in the music? How does the music sound?

Liz Gleed @MrsGleedMusic

I listened to Luciano Berio’s “Sequenza VIII”, for violin solo played by Hana Kotková. I found it incredibly difficult to not be pulled into technical language and analysis for this. To restrain myself and prevent over thinking and the temptation to articulate my words more carefully I listened to the track just twice during which I scribbled gut reaction terms and comments onto a piece of paper by hand. I have written them up as follows: Scary, the same thing repeated over and over, scratchy, clashing, loud, like something is about to happen. Suddenly it changes again. It sounds angry. Like someone is running fast and slow. Horror film. Like someone is screaming. It slows down, but doesn’t stop. Repeating notes again. A bit in the middle like bird song. Crazy. Goes from calm to angry. Screeching, Starts and stops. Goes from one note to lots of notes. Messy. Feels like it is shaking. Long. As an interesting aside my daughter (3 years old) interrupted my task and, on asking her what she thought of the music she quickly responded with ‘noisy, like a fire engine’!

Vaughan Fleischfresser @VFleischfresser

For today’s blog I have chosen the first listening option and have written about the first five minutes specifically.

What is the music like? The music is like someone who has to go somewhere but doesn’t want to go. It is conflicted. The person knows they need to go; however, they know that it won’t be a pleasant experience when they finally reach their destination. Despite this, they go all the same. This piece is the story of their journey.

What happens in the music? The music ebbs and flows between contentment and conflict. It ebbs and flows between calm and concern. It ebbs and flows between slow and fast. It ebbs and flows between long and short. It ebbs and flows between smooth and sharp. Just like any journey, there are smooth sections and bumpy sections along the way.

How does the music sound? The music sounds anxious. The music sounds unsettled. The music has something to say but can’t quite get the words out. The music sounds like a twisted and taunted internal monologue. The music is in a hurry while having all the time in the world. The music sounds repetitive, yet ever-changing. The music sounds conflicted, just like the journey I imagine it to portray.

David House @House_dg

Frank Turner track: What is the music like? The music is like a repeated buzzing and is very loud What happens in the music? There is the feeling of a story being told, at times the emotions run high and there is a feeling of anger or resentment. Yet the faces of the audience illustrated engagement, trust and belief in what was being sung to them. In fact they were joining in enthusiastically. How does the music sound? The music sounds urgent and important to all who were taking part. It has a monotonous feel, perhaps the story being told is one which needs repeating in order to get the point across. There was not much variety or nuance to the message.

Ewan McIntosh @ETMcINTOSH

I picked track 2 which was the wonderful Annie Lennox singing the song that will for ever be associated with Billie Holiday and the black protest movement ‘Strange Fruit’.

The music sounds very sad and Lennox sings it with quite a low voice for a female. The song tune repeats over and over with different lyrics but with the same refrain about the ‘strange fruit handling from the poplar tree’ This gives it a mournful quality Lennox is accompanied by some strings and a piano who play at the start before she sings.

The accompaniment is quite simple and makes the song quite haunting. The song keeps climaxing with more instruments added in a Lennox’s singing getting louder before it all falls away to just the voice and the piano. This tightens the sense of sadness in the song. At the end, the song gets slower and finishes with Lennox singing on her own.

Steven Berryman @steven_berryman

I listened to Frank Turner. I love how there is instantaneous recognition in the audience that this song is well known; they know this well, and they knew it from hearing barely any music. This feels like a story that builds in intensity with the regular beat (is that technical?) and I love the change to when it’s just piano and voice. It feels like the change of instrument and what they’re playing connects to the words the singer is singing.  The audience can’t help but join in, clapping along, singing. The guitar sound we hear at the beginning is he signal that tells the well-informed listener that this is ‘I am disappeared’; when the drums join in it sets the energy and tone for the journey ahead. The piano punctuations help to give temporary relief from the motor drum kit and guitars. 


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