Thursday, April 22, 2010

Quick thoughts

I've been swamped with a variety of work that has kept me from the blog, and am still swamped so consider this a quick drive-by.

1) Some students excel at melodic dictations, but are horrible at identifying musical forms. Others have the opposite problem. What cognitive strengths/deficits differentiate these two skills?

2) How can the written word "sound" sincere or insincere? I've read things that I just know I don't trust, but can't point to a particular aspect of the writing that would clue me in. Likewise with reading things that seem very sincere, but again I can't tell why I trust that author.


Anonymous said...

On point 2, I would argue that it depends on your relationship or perceived relationship with the person, author, or writer. Digging further, your openness to knowing that person more or knowing more about that person would affect your trust or ability to "believe" what is written.

Also, I think how much the writer reflects your personal style, view; opinion has something to do with it.

Finally, things in the past serve as a portal to the future. How believable or trustworthy was the previous work?

Fascinating question.

Elaine Fine said...

If it is a student's sincerity you question, your response to his or her work will always be colored by what you know about the student from other work or from class participation (or lack thereof). Instinct is a powerful force. Women have been taught to embrace it, and men have been taught to be skeptical of it. I don't believe that insincerity has any true representative identifiable forms (there are just so many ways that a person can be insincere in writing) beyond the obvious "each and every one of you" stuff.

The second question doesn't puzzle me in the least. Melodic dictation involves measuring small units of time: quarter notes, half notes, eighth notes, sixteenth notes, and their dotted and triplet varieties. The person taking dictation needs to concentrate on a space in time that takes, perhaps, four or five seconds. Once the beats in the measure are used up, the person taking the dictation starts afresh rhythmically. Melodies for dictation rarely exceed an octave, and almost always have a tonal reference point. Students work, for the most part, interval by interval, relying on fixed points that they can keep in their head over the two- or three-minute they are trying to notate.

Listening to form involves greater amounts of time, and it involves material that is variable. Students have to keep track of the identity and function of a theme, and need to keep track of repetition schemes that happen over time. That amount of time can be anywhere from three minutes to twenty!

Because every piece is different, there are no "tricks" to recognizing form. Novice listeners can usually notice a development section, when you point one out, and they can usually psych out an introduction and a coda, but what happens between the beginning and the end takes focused concentration over time.

Connie said...

Just "stumbled" upon your blog and thought I'd comment on #2...A good friend of mine (a singer as well) once told me: "When you hear (or read) truth it resonates with you -- literally. On a subatomic level the vibrations resonate with you -- you're literally on the same wavelength as them!" Hope that helps! It's *truth* which has served ME well.