It is impossible to encapsulate everything you could possibly learn about music in a short lesson. So, I'll give you a short overview of what are the most important things to understand in order to discuss the role of music in film.These are the important elements of music. Now let's break down what each word actually means.
Unlike texture in art or physical objects, this doesn't mean how something "feels" or in this case "sounds" (bright, dark, rough, smooth, etc.), instead texture means how melodies work together. Western-European History gave us three different textures: monophonic or monophony, homophonic or homophony, and polyphonic or polyphony.
Now this IS the word we use to describe how something sounds.
As your text states, harmony occurs when two simultaneous pitches are sounded at the same time. But harmony also governs the way that pitches work together. In Western music, harmony has lead to the creation of scales and chords.
Elements of Music
Let's start with an acronym:SHMRF (pronounced like Sh-murf) SoundHarmonyMelodyRhythmForm
Sound Sound can be described as three elements: TEXTURE timbreDynamics Texture = the combination of melodies Timbre = the sound of an instrument or voice Dynamics = the volume of music
Monophonic or monophony - one unaccompanied melody Texture
Homophonic or homophony - melody and harmony Texture
Polyphonic or polyphony– two or more melodies together texture
Timbre Describes how something sounds: Bright Tinny Reedy Dark Brassy Or the way a particular instrument sounds (even two of the same instruments)
Instruments of the Orchestra Strings violin viola cello bass Woodwinds flute oboe clarinet bassoon Brass trumpet trombone tuba Percussion
Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra Example of different orchestral Groups
Dynamics The volume of music is usually described with the Italian terms: Forte = loud Piano = quiet
Harmony Scale – horizontal ordering of pitches Chord – vertical arrangement of pitches
Harmony - Major Moods: happy, heroic, joyous, etc. (For more read this lesson on Major Keys and Scales) The Sea Hawk (1940) Note change in music at 0:56 to Major when we see the ship
Harmony - Minor Moods: sad, melancholic, introspective, etc. (For more read this lesson on Minor Keys and Scales) Bambi (1942): Bambi’s mom dies (watch from 0:40-3:02 – at 3:03 there is an abrupt segue to major)
Harmony – Dissonance Dissonance harmonic clash of sounds outside of Major and Minor keys Planet of the Apes (1968) The score for this movie is dissonant all the way through.
Melody Range Shape Motion Conjunct Disjunct “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Narrow Range – 4 notes! Mostly conjunct – 1 skip
Rhythm Tempo Fast Medium Slow Meter Organized pulses or beats – usually 2 or 4, sometimes 3, 6, 9 or 12 1 2 | 1 2 | 1 2 | S w S w S w 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | 1 2 3 | S w w S w w S w w “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Medium tempo Groups of 4 pulses (some may also hear 2 pulses) Mary had a little lamb, 1 2 3 4 | or 1 2 | 1 2 Little lamb, little lamb. 1 2 3 4 |
Form Form is fairly fluid in film, but try to listen for: Repetition Exact – no changes Variation – slight changes Contrast “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Mary had a little lamb, Little lamb, little lamb. Mary had a little lamb, Its fleece was white as snow. Exact repetition of 2 lines: words and music
Form Motive – smallest memorable musical unit Phrase – destinct melodic unit defined by cadence Open – sounds incomplete Closed - melody ends here “Mary Had a Little Lamb” Phrase 1 – open cadence: Mary had a little lamb, Little lamb, little lamb. Phrase 2 – closed cadence: Mary had a little lamb, Its fleece was white as snow.
Your turn Go to the discussion forum called “Elements of Music” and describe what you hear in the music excerpts given there.