The Pieces of Music When listening to music there are four main elements that the listener should become familiar with. These elements are rhythm, melody, harmony, and tone color. These factors along with the creation of structure and musical texture make up the music that we listen to on a day to day basis. Without these musical features music would not be as complex and dynamic as it has grown to be. Depending on how they are arranged and utilized determines what we take away for music after we have listened to it. What we bring to the music is a significant factor as well.
Considering all of these components, how we listen to music and how we should listen to music are distinctively different. Historians believe that when music was first created thousands of years ago, it was merely a simple beat (Copland 1957). This element of music soon evolved into what we all recognize now as rhythm. It wasn’t until about 1150 C. E. that musical rhythm was formally written down. Even the systems that we have adopted today aren’t flawless, yet they do fulfill the need of the performer and the composer. The elementary “measured music” soon evolved to become “measured metrical units” (Copland 1957).
Although, when looking back to early rhythms, they might seem too elementary to call the mind behind them genius, yet its influence should not be underestimated. Some examples of modern day time signatures would be such units as 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4. If you were to vocalize the rhythm of 2/4 time it could be illustrated as, ONE-two, ONEtwo, with the accent on the first beat. 3/4 time would be illustrated as ONE-two-three, ONE-two-three, again with the accent on the first beat. Experimentations with rhythms are always around us. Musicians are constantly trying to discover a new groove to play to.
Listeners on the other hand feel more omfortable with the rhythms that they are familiar with. Rhythm is said to be connected mostly with physical emotion, while melody connects with mental emotion. Second in importance to rhythm is melody. All melodies are written within the confinements of a scale system of one form or another. These scales are based on for main “systems” of scale building. These are, Oriental, Greek, Ecclesiastical and Modern. There are many different formations of scales but they are all based on the concept of an initial tone (tonic) and its octave. The arrangement of seven tones in between the octave is called a diatonic formation.
Naming all the tones in an octave span would be a chromatic formation. Melodies are derived from variations of these scales. The melodies have strategically placed high and low tones that attempt to connect with the readers emotions. A majority of melodies often lead to some sort of an emotional climax at the end. Melodies are often assisted by harmonies. Harmony, being considered the most sophisticated of rhythm and melody was established in the ninth century. Unlike the natural forthcoming of rhythm and melodies harmony was an amazing intellectual conception of man.
The earliest form of harmony was called “organum” in which we would harmonize the same melody in intervals of sixths or thirds above or below the melody. Soon harmony evolved to two separate melodies being played simultaneously in opposite directions. This was called “descant”. The next development was “Faux-bourdon” or “false-bass”. Instead of say with the crude sounds of fourth and fifth intervals faux-bourdon introduced the forbidden tones of the third and sixths (Leonard 2010). This later changed the course of harmonic use introducing basic chords known as triads.
The combination of harmony and melodies created the color of the music. Tone color or timbre represents the overall “theme” of the piece of music. The tone of music is the quality of the sound produces by a certain means or instrument (Leonard 2010). This is not saying that each musical instrument has its own tone color. Rather a tone color is like an emotion, many different people can express the same emotion as was as many different instruments can express the same tone color in a piece of music. The choice of tone color was not a one of importance back in the early days of musical composition.
Today, it is of utmost importance among composers, as they strive to express their theme or emotion in more detail. The listener can easily understand these details when musical texture is implemented. The three types of musical texture are monophonic, homophonic, and polyphonic. Monophonic is simply a subtle melody line with no harmonic accompaniments aside from rhythmic percussion. Homophonic is a slight variation of monophonic and is of great significance due to its abundance in all music. It contains a melodic line accompanied by a chordal harmony. This was first used in Italian operas.
The final form of musical texture is a polyphonic texture. This requires effort by the listener due to the fact that multiple melodies are being played to form harmonies. By using this form of musical texture a composer is offered a wider variety of emotional expression. Musical structure is most likely the most difficult of all musical elements to decipher. It is definition is self-explanatory, being the organization of the artists or composers materials and musical components. Although ever piece of music is unique they all can be traced back to some sort of historical musical form.
Since the organization of music is on its own very difficult, most composers find that using these forms as a sort of “musical stepladder” to help begin them on their musical writing voyage. There are many structural principles and distinctions that must be taken into consideration when a composer outs pen to paper. These factors are necessary to create musical coherence in the piece. All of the components of music discussed so far can be utilized as a building block for one another. They don’t necessarily require a particular order, yet melodies are used as a basis for forming harmonies and rhythms can be a basis for melodies.
While all of the components are being created the composer is thinking of texture and structure. Once completed you have the artists’ interpretation of his or her emotions. The listener should bring to the music his/her own experiences and emotions as well as an open mind and a general background of music itself. After hearing a piece of music the listener should take away from the music whatever emotions or thoughts the piece brought to them and possibly a better understanding of what the artist or they feel.
In Coplan’s book “What to Listen for in Music” there is a chapter entitled “from composer to interpreter to listener”. The main purpose of this chapter is to identify the roles that are essential to the creation of music and the impact that they have( Copland 1957). The composer is the mastermind of his own music and in his music offers himself to the listeners. The music contains nothing but the feelings, emotions, and experiences of a person. This person uses art to express these feeling to others. In turn he requires an interpreter. This person is needed to carry out the wishes of the composer in the musical sense.
Technology has grown to proportions in which there is practically no feat that the composer can ask of the interpreter that he cannot provide. The variation of interpreters in turn equals a variation in conveying the composers “message”. Each music piece can be interpreted differently and hence forth the composers work will vary. In Conclusion, Music has evolved throughout the centuries from a simple beat to a beautiful complex novelty that many take for granted. In life we use it for enjoyment through dance, singing or just pure enjoyment in being memorized by the intricate patterns.
It is used as means of communications. Certain pieces help us feel the emotion the composer or performer was feeling at the time of the pieces’ creation. However, the music is not made just solely for our pleasure yet, the listener is what all of the music is directed towards. To be an active listener is to be a productive one. Intelligence and a love for what the artists are creating makes the music live stronger. The reactions of listeners will be the judgment of the future of music. For, the listener influences the artists that will be creating the music to come.