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Elements of music

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  • 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.
  • Transcript

    • 1. Elements of Music
    • 2. Let's start with an acronym:SHMRF (pronounced like Sh-murf) 
      SoundHarmonyMelodyRhythmForm
    • 3. 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
    • 4. Monophonic or monophony - one unaccompanied melody
      Texture
    • 5. Homophonic or homophony - melody and harmony
      Texture
    • 6. Polyphonic or polyphony– two or more melodies together
      texture
    • 7. Timbre
      Describes how something sounds:
      Bright
      Tinny
      Reedy
      Dark
      Brassy
      Or the way a particular instrument sounds (even two of the same instruments)
    • 8. Instruments of the Orchestra
      Strings
      violin
      viola
      cello
      bass
      Woodwinds
      flute
      oboe
      clarinet
      bassoon
      Brass
      trumpet
      trombone
      tuba
      Percussion
    • 9. Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra
      Example of different orchestral Groups
    • 10. Dynamics
      The volume of music is usually described with the Italian terms:
      Forte = loud
      Piano = quiet
    • 11. Harmony
      Scale – horizontal ordering of pitches
      Chord – vertical arrangement of pitches
    • 12. 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
    • 13. 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)
    • 14. 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.
    • 15. Melody
      Range
      Shape
      Motion
      Conjunct
      Disjunct
      “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
      Narrow Range – 4 notes!
      Mostly conjunct – 1 skip
    • 16. 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 |
    • 17. 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
    • 18. 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.
    • 19. Your turn
      Go to the discussion forum called “Elements of Music” and describe what you hear in the music excerpts given there.