Music’s Intellect: Math

Math, science, history, reading, language. Five skills learned in school that researchers and musicians argue are tied to music, especially to those who learn music. A previous post, “The importance of music in schools,” quickly goes into these aspects and how they can benefit those five areas of learning. However, this post, as well as future posts titled “Music’s Intellect” will dive into how I think each of these skills learned, ties into music and goes beyond. So, how does music tie into math?

Rhythm is the division of short and long sounds or silences. Much like fractions, you have a whole and can break it down into smaller or “shorter” sizes that can still equal the whole. Like a dollar, a whole note (a type of rhythm) is equal to four quarter notes. They equal the same length, but one is one long sound and the other is four shorter sounds. Those that are familiar with music can think of a variety of rhythm combinations that create unique songs.

Another mathematical aspect in music is Tempo (the measurement of time). Some songs are fast and some are slow, all of which is measured by beats per minute. You could have 60 beats per minute, just like 60 seconds, or 120 beats per minute which is much faster.

So math is the technicality of how music is measured. However, it also can create expression as well. One song, played at two different speeds can change the whole feeling of the music. Also, slowing down the speed in certain sections of a lyrical song can tug at your heartstrings, but doing the same thing in a song that is supposed to sound like a racing train, ends up loosing its feeling. Rhythm usually does not change, because the combination of short and long sounds/silences make a song unique to other songs, but the interpretation of the tempo or speed can make a piece of music unique to the performer.

All in all, music is an intellectual pleasure that ties math into technicality and expression. If you enjoyed this post, be sure to give a like and leave your thoughts or ideas of future content in the comments section below.

Why Isn’t Band Highly Regarded

It has been a sort of pet peeve to see orchestras highly regarded around the world, while concert band is ignored. Is it because of it’s history, diversity, or some unknown reason? Looking at the U.S. alone, many major cities have orchestras that are paid professionally (New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Boston, etc.). However, when trying to think of concert bands who are paid, the only thought that comes to mind are military bands. Why is this? There is plenty of band repertoire that is not march or military oriented. Let’s explore some opinions as to why band is essentially swept under the rug.

As far as I understand, concert band, the way we know it, is a relatively new concept. Orchestras have been around for at least four hundred years. Band on the other hand may have only been around for a little over one hundred years. Orchestras have been around much longer and have seen many evolutions to its composition of instruments, band not so much. The first 20th-century band piece was Gustav Holst’s First Suite for Band. Maybe this is where concert band gets its march reputation.

Band may also be viewed as amateur. After all, it was not long after band music started emerging that it would be introduced into public schools. In the U.S. bands are usually the music program funded first, likely because of its diversity to play not only concert music, but also marching bands. I think it is because marching bands are viewed as being very “American,” but also because they are also often associated with sports, which are highly funded here in the states. Also, many professional orchestras today have band instruments included, so maybe concert bands are viewed as the leftover players who did not make the cut, and are therefore amateurs. This really irritates me though, as there are far more string players per orchestra than winds. There could be fifty violins and three flutes or two clarinets. I understand that there is a balance to orchestra sound, but it is unfair to disregard everyone else and assume they’re amateurs.

Finally, maybe its the diversity of band instruments as well. They have been used in folk music, jazz bands, rock bands, and pretty much any kind of music you can think of. Maybe concert band is to close to symphony orchestra to some listeners and their use in other genres is different. Maybe their diversity in these many genres is why they are regarded as amateur. It is difficult to say.

So concert band may not be as regarded because of its history, its education purposes, its diversity, or maybe it just has not got its footing yet in the professional world. After all, there are professional concert bands out there. Maybe, we just need to wait and see.

If you liked this post, be sure to give a like and share with others. If you have your own theories, leave your thoughts in the comments. Thank you.

Why You Should Admire Composers

If you listen to any pop or other popular music in this day and age, you might admire the singer who writes their own lyrics, but the creativity usually stops there. I admire the people who create a memorable tune or even put a creative spin on an old one. I admire the composers and arrangers.

I have arranged a couple of pieces of music, and it sometimes feels very daunting. However, just like any skill, it takes many hours of practice to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about that skill. At least with arranging, the tune is already there, with composing, you have to try to create something original, fresh, unique. So, to do my best to break it down, here are three reasons why composers should be admired.

1. Familiarity
Nearly every developed skill has theories or a set of rules to follow. It is no different with writing music. There are many rules that have withheld the test of time and are used in popular music today. An example of this, is many popular songs using the same chord progression as Pachebel’s Canon in D, which was written over three-hundred years ago. One reason for this, is most humans are hard-wired to play it safe, or be surrounded by the “familiar.” That’s why a song you may have not liked at first, grows on you after hearing it a hundred times on the radio.

2. Uniqueness
When following the rules that breed familiarity, it becomes more and more difficult to come up with something that sounds new, yet aesthetically pleasing. That’s one reason I admire composers, not only do they know their theory, but can still create something new using that theory. On the other hand, I also have admiration for the innovators. These are iconic composers, such as Cage, Stravinsky, and Beethoven who broke much of the rules of music theory during their time. These composers’ music may have been accepted or ridiculed then, but they created iconic pieces that are still performed and listened to today.

3. Subtle Engagement Strategies
A final acclaim, is the subtle changes made during a piece. In a pop song, this could be a singer singing solo and then the bass dropping in. But, it could also be a change of instruments, an increase of speed like William’s Jaws theme, or dynamics like in Haydn’s Surprise Symphony, or adding decorative notes to a theme like Mozart’s 12 Variations of “Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman,” (aka. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star). All these techniques and more, keeps the music from going stagnate and in turn, keeps the audience engaged.

All in all, great composers are talented writers of music. They are much like great authors, but conveying a story of emotions, feelings, and more without the need of words. They write unique, innovative works that breed familiarity to the listening ear; and engage us through subtle, yet dynamic changes, that can tug at your emotions. Therefore, composers are much to be admired.

 

Top 5 Favorite Versions of the U.S. National Anthem

The Star-Spangled Banner is an anthem that encompasses hope, pride, love, and devotion given to the land that fought for freedom. The country known as The United States of America. While it is truly difficult to pick my favorite versions of this national anthem, in honor of those who fought for mine and others freedom, here are my current top arrangements of the U.S. National anthem:

5. Arrangement by Jack Stamp
This band arrangement seems to capture the inspiration that Francis Scott Key saw when he witnessed the sun rise and the U.S. flag waved at the top of the fort during the U.S. victory. It starts soft with the hollow sound of clarinets and slowly builds to a triumphant chorus of the whole band.

4. Epic Star-Spangled Banner
Yes, that is the title of this YouTube video. It was hard to decide whether to even have this in my top 5 list because of the sound effects and wierd videography at times. But putting that aside, I believe this is a great arrangement that starts with the innocent voice of a young girl, which builds into an orchestra and choir that captures the struggles and perseverance people went through for our country. Finally, it climaxes to a triumphant point by using the full diversity of the orchestra, choir, and pipe organ.

3. CWU Marching Band
While I might be partial to this arrangement because it is the same college band I participated in, I never played this Lewis Norfleet arrangement. It is a prideful rendition with powerful brass chords, awesome passing of melody with quick added flutters, and ridiculously high screaming trumpets. It brings tears to my eyes how beautifully bold and powerful this arrangement is.

2. 500 high school students sing the national anthem in a hotel
When I first saw this video I nearly started crying. This hauntingly beautiful performance almost made me start crying. With this powerhouse of a group singing beautifully and on key, in a venue with a lot of reverberation, it almost sounds sacred. To me, this performance captures the feeling of rememberance. Rememberance of those who fought for us, those who will, and the rememberance that we all should come together and treat each other as free people.

Honorable Mention: Malea Emma
It was hard not to include this talented 7-year old in the top five list. The reason I didn’t include her was because some of the growling she did took away from her performance; also that technique, as well as the vibrato she uses at such an early age will probably ruin her vocal chords at an earlier point in her life compared to others (I’m not a vocal expert though). However, Malea Emma has a truly amazing voice, Very powerful for such a young age; and talk about that range: do we have another Mariah Carey in our midst? What is also amazing, is the fact that she sang in pitch, accapella the entire time.

1. Whitney Houston
Many would claim Whitney Houston as one of the greatest singers of all time. Another tear jerking performance, her 1991 Super Bowl performance does a great job of encompassing Whitney’s beautifully powerful and gentle voice with the wonderful Florida Symphony. You also can’t help but feel the spirit of America, it’s land, and it’s people poring out of this soulful performance.

If you are interested in listening to any of these performances, you may find them on YouTube. Please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section.

How to Have An Entertaining Performance: Beyond the Music

Have you ever noticed the difference between a compelling performance and an inhibited one? Putting on a performance can be exciting and very intimidating, but these three subtle things should help make a captivating performance:

1. Presentation

How you present yourself is more than how you dress, it is how you walk, talk, stand, bow, even hold your instrument. There is another word for this, confidence. Your presence begins from the moment you walk on stage; if you shuffle on stage with your head down, maybe arms crossed, and no eye contact with the audience, you show that your either not confident in your playing ability or what you are wearing or you don’t want to be here performing for the people that came to watch you. When you walk on stage with a strong stride, your head held up, feet planted on the ground you show that your confident and excited for your performance, and when you glance at the audience, that makes them feel included in the excitement. Keep your feet planted while performing, but allow your body to move with the music. It looks unnatural when you’re stiff as a statue, and putting all your weight on one foot could imply unsteadiness. Finally, make a nice bow with your face and torso parallel to the floor, then exit the same way you came in. The thing to remember is that “the whole performance is an act, and when you act confident, the audience feels confident in your ability.”

2. Engagement

Engaging in the music, ensemble members, and the audience makes a performance that much more entertaining. It can be as simple as eye contact. Now, some people get extremely nervous when they see the faces of audience members, but if you come out on stage and just look in the audiences direction (let’s say the back wall), it makes them feel included in this event. Also, taking a little time before the last piece to tell the audience how much you appreciate them being there gives them a positive experience for taking the time to see you perform. Also, when you move your body to the music you’re playing, you show that you are engaged with the music you are playing. Finally, when you engage with your accompanist or other ensemble members through eye contact, it not only shows that you’re engaged with the music, but making sure your on the same page and acknowledging their participation in the performance.

3. Have fun!

It is perfectly normal to be at least a little nervous for a performance. Just make sure that you are having fun. Some of my best performances were when I got so into the music and playing with my friends and colleagues, that it almost seemed like the audience was not even there. I’m not saying that you should ignore the audience, but when you are having fun, it eliminates some of your anxiety and manifests a happy, engaging, and entertaining performance that captivates everyone in the room. You worked hard, so have fun with it!

So just remember to present yourself confidently the whole time you are on stage, engage with the music and everyone in the hall, and have fun with the music you worked so hard on. This will spawn an entertaining performance.

This is what I have observed, feel free to leave your comments below.

What I Think of Michelle Khare’s Song

Lately I’ve gotten into watching Michelle Khare and the challenges she takes on and uploads onto her YouTube channel. On there I recently watched “I Trained Like A Pop Star For 60 Days,” and found it rather inspiring. This is because of her background, her commitment and relationship with the song, and stepping out of her comfort zone.

Michelle’s music background, as far as I know, has been singing in school musicals. She was not musically trained, nor written any music before doing this video. I am a rule follower, and as a classically trained musician, I get caught up in all the rules and steps to follow, that I get to nervous to compose anything of my own. The closest I’ve come to music writing, is making arrangements of other works or writing cadenzas for a concerto or two. For someone who has as little background as Michelle, it shows me, “hey, maybe I can do it too.”

Khare took time to write out a song that would directly relate to a time in her life when she was put down by others. It paints a vivid picture of the scene, but is also vague with how if someone tells her that she can’t do “it,” whatever “it” is, that she takes those words of judgement and negativity as motivation to do better, and be the winner. This is not only relatable to her, but to anyone who has struggled through something and was not supported by others. It makes the song itself, moving.

One thing that Michelle seems to consistently do that inspires me is stepping out of her comfort zone. Breaking out of my comfortable space is something that I have struggled with my entire life. Khare does it frequently, which results in much knowledge and growth. This is truly inspiring to someone who loves learning and growing as a unique individual, especially on a topic that resonates, such as creating your own song.

Michelle’s perseverance throughout the challenge was truly inspiring and motivating. It has inspired me to take the next step in my life and career. You can find her video on her channel and find her song here.

The Importance of Music in Schools

There have been many times when music has been treated as an entertainment class and not an academic. I think it might be because music is one of the earliest forms of learning (think ancient times). Now, as a musician and educator, it might seem biased for me to rant and rave about the importance of music in schools, but I intend on using examples of proven research and experiences to demonstrate music’s importance in schools.

Music helps improve performance of other academics. Music has been long associated with mathematics. By learning beat, rhythm, and scales, children are essentially learning how to divide, create fractions, and recognize patterns. I also believe that reading music ties in with reading; when I went into sixth grade, I was at a fourth-grade reading level. This was also my second year of learning flute in band, which started expanding on my musical knowledge. I truly believe that being in band helped increase my reading level to a mid-sixth grade level by the end of the school year. Reciting and reading music also utilizes the memory part of the brain, recollecting short term memory that eventually leads to long term memory. There is also physical memory when learning to play an instrument, as well as basic physics of sound.

Non-music teachers or parents may view the class as a way to entertain the students, this might be because of the social aspects. When you perform music for others, it might bring them joy which brings them closer to you, which might also help with making new friends. If you play with a group of musicians, you share a sense of fellowship. Band was a prime example of this; I had many friends of different ages that I could connect with. Music is a universal language; it helps us connect with people from other cultures when we listen to and appreciate music from that culture, even if we don’t understand what is being said.

Music teaches life skills as well. Music not only develops social skills, but also reasoning, self-improvement, emotional development, intellect, creative, discipline, confidence, and teamwork skills. For example, working to create good music rather than mediocre, through consistent practicing, perseverance through struggling parts, recording and listening to improvements, and adding emotion. When you perform, and people praise you for your improvement, skills, and efforts, it instills confidence. When you work with an ensemble, like band, orchestra, or choir, that instills teamwork.

The research is there. Not only is music an entertaining outlet, but it has countless benefits that anyone who has taken several years of music courses would recognize. So, I hope you can appreciate just how wonderful learning music is, and recognize what benefits it could bring, especially to our schools.

Being a Musician vs Being an INFJ

While there is no question that I love making music, it’s a part of who I am, I find that some aspects of music making conflict with my personality. See, I am what is known as an “INFJ,” which apparently is the rarest personality in the world. An “INFJ,” or “introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging” personality is one of sixteen personalities identified by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. I have taken the Myers-Briggs test many times, from multiple sources since middle school and always ended with the same results; it’s a very fascinating topic. Now as an INFJ musician, here are some personality traits that conflict or conform with being a musician:

1. Introversion
Many people are aware of what makes an extrovert or introvert. With being introverted, after a day of interacting with people at work, all I want to do is go home to my own, quiet space. And don’t get me started on networking; it’s a total nightmare. Although, it is much easier to network with friends, especially because networking is really working on relationships. This is also why playing my flute or writing is a much easier than talking to someone I do not really know.

2. Helping Others
INFJ’s tend to want to help others that they encounter, experiencing a lot of different emotions while trying to help others be happy. With music being a powerful tool for dealing with or expressing emotions, playing for others is one way I feel that I can help them, and bring joy to them. Teaching music also builds life skills that can help personally and professionally, such as dealing with emotions or teamwork and planning.

3. Not an Open Book
This ties into the Intuitive-Feeling part of my personality. I really dislike being open about myself and keep my thoughts and emotions to myself because I care about what others think and want to be accepted, therefore, I open with people I trust. Consequently, I find it difficult to talk to people I haven’t built trust with yet. Even blogging, like right now, makes me feel vulnerable. But, playing music allows me to express emotions that I have experienced in an abstract way.

4. Nonconformist
I tend to look at the deeper meaning behind just about everything, even music. Which is why I don’t pay attention most of the popular pop tunes and such you hear today. I just feel that most don’t go in depth.

5. Feeling Guilty
I tend to set really high expectations for myself. On top of that, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. So, if I do not post content on my blog, I will feel guilty because I said in an earlier post that I would post each week. I also currently feel guilty because I have not really been sharing my music, you know bringing joy or helping others. However, my perfectionism gets in the way, because I feel that nothing I am working on is performance ready. Conflicting, right?

All in all, I am happy with who I am, even when my brain is full of turmoil. It just sometimes conflicts with the job it takes to be a professional musician. If you are more curious about the INFJ personality, Tempt’s “Things Only A True INFJ Would Understand,” makes some great points. If you are curious about your own personality, take the free Myers-Briggs test at 16personalities. These two sites in no way sponsored this post.

3 Reasons Why I Started this Blog

I put up my website about five years ago to show the world that I was taking my professional music career seriously. I started this blog with the idea that it would be more than what I was currently doing with my music performing career, which is what I saw on most musician websites. However, I have hit a few learning curbs along the way, including not posting consistently, or breaking up content. Hopefully, I have learned from my mistakes and people will enjoy reading and watching my content as much or more than I like sharing it. My previous article, “Getting a Face Lift,” stated projects that I’m planning on working on, including what kinds of blogs you might start seeing. But, I didn’t say why I’m writing them. So, here are three reasons why I’m starting this blog:

  1. Expressing myself through music

Aside from promoting myself as a musician, I have long been passionate with making music because I find it a much easier way of expressing myself and my feelings than talking. Writing is also an easier way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. I’m hoping, that through YouTube videos and blogging, I can express myself and my passion of music.

  1. Sharing knowledge and a Passion for Learning

I may have struggled in school, but I have always had a passion, or a sense of eagerness to learn. Posting articles about composers, ensembles, time periods, as well as informational content, from music enthusiasts to new coming professionals, is my way of sharing knowledge in hopes to spark a curiosity to learn something new.

  1. Connecting our love of music

Why write about other musicians when I should promote myself? Music is as variable and diverse as every individual in the world, yet it can unify us across the world, now more than ever before. So, why not share things about other musicians, their music, and their way of expressing themselves.

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