Today we have an answer to a viewer question about how to practice Chopin’s Ocean Etude. Chopin wrote two books of etudes, brilliant works. Incidentally, there are two types of etudes in this world, those that are strictly exercises, and those that explore technical problems in great pieces of music. And the Chopin etudes are certainly in the latter … Continue reading How to approach the Ocean Etude Op. 25 No. 12 by Chopin→
To summarize our first video, I explained that music being played everywhere you go actually harms music appreciation more than it enhances it. Music is an art form that is meant to be listened to and treasured, not something that should be relegated to the background. In this entry I want to address some other issues with background music I’ve noticed and how it continues to degrade the artform form we all love.
The other day I was stuck on the phone listening to “hold music” which consisted of the same thirty second loop playing over and over. The quality of the music was terrible over the phone. The song itself was just repetitive noise and for some reason the music is about ten times louder than the voice of the caller. Who can possibly appreciate this?
If you were to go back to the Baroque era, you’d find that most musical instruments of the time were very quiet. The clavichord is an instrument that is so quiet that you can barely even hear it from across a small room! The harpsichord – which was the most robust keyboard instrument of the time, was also not nearly as loud as the modern piano. These instruments were meant to be enjoyed in close and intimate settings with quiet audiences.
As time went on, louder instruments developed and eventually electronic amplification came about and instruments could fill entire stadiums with sound! The original amplification methods were crude and distorted. But as technology has advanced, the sound quality has gotten better and better. But how engineers have dealt with amplification are troubling.
How many times have you gone to a club to listen to a group only to find that the amplification was so loud that the music was no longer enjoyable? You might even have to stick ear plugs in your ears in order to tolerate the sound at a level that doesn’t harm your hearing. Even in movie theaters the sound can be pumped up so high that it’s beyond a level of comfort. I often wonder if this could possibly be enjoyable for anyone.
When technology was more limited, louder was better. With technology today the range of volume is nearly unlimited and sound engineers now are faced with having to control the level of volume with their ears and not the indicators on their technology. Unfortunately, there are engineers who do sound more by eye (looking at gauges) than by ear!
Equalization curves allow you to make something loud but still enjoyable and not damaging to the ears. By emphasizing certain frequencies and de-emphasizing others you can achieve a pleasing level of sound even with very high volume. Some forward thinking restaurants will actually turn down the vocal spectrum of their audio which enables music to play in the background while facilitating conversation at the table.
We live in an age where the art of music goes far beyond the creation of the music itself. How music is played or presented has become an art form itself. Sound engineers are part of the musical performance and in many instances are integral to the experience.
I’m not sure how as individuals we can convey the idea that something doesn’t have to be deafeningly loud to be enjoyable. Some acoustic instruments require amplification in order to be heard. But often times it’s amplified beyond a comfortable level.
This is a very important topic to me and I would love to hear from all of you. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729
This is a response to our first video about Music Pollution which got a great response from all of you! To summarize our first video, I explained that music being played everywhere you go actually harms music appreciation more than it enhances it. Music is an art form that is meant to be listened to and treasured, not … Continue reading What is Music Pollution? Part 2→
Anyone who is familiar with historical keyboards is aware that at one point the black and white keys were reversed from what we have today. What many people don’t know (including myself until recently) is the reason why they were changed. On earlier instruments like harpsichords and fortepianos, the naturals are represented by black keys (often times rosewood … Continue reading Why Were the White Keys and Black Keys on the Piano Reversed?→
This is a topic that is very important to anyone wanting to develop a refined technique on the piano. It is very important to practice the piano without using the pedal – the pedal should be something that enhances your music and not simply a crutch for making mediocre playing sound better. Pedals on the piano are actually … Continue reading The Importance of Playing Piano without the Pedal→
While you might not be familiar with the term glissando, you have no doubt heard it countless times before. It’s when the player slides their hands across the keys – it’s heard all the time in blues and rock. Believe it or not, it’s not as easy to pull off as it might look. You can actually injure yourself … Continue reading How to Play Glissando on the Piano→
So what separates impressionist music from the other eras? If you’ve ever seen any of the impressionist artwork – such as Monet – you immediately notice the creative use of colors, dots, blurs and other techniques that form these dream like images that often have a sense of motion to them. This amazing effect is recreated in the music of the era as well.
A lot of the great Impressionist composers (Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Messiaen, etc.) were from France – which is really the epicenter of Impressionism. There is a real beauty and complexity to the music of this era that almost conjures up images in the mind with its textures.
In the video provided with this article I perform some of the different movements in the Children’s Corner Suite of Debussy. It’s remarkable to hear the complexity and depth of sound in each movement – the variety of compositional techniques is awe inspiring. Each of the movements evokes completely different images and thoughts in the listener. But how is this possible? It’s the writing.
If you look at the scores of Impressionist piano music you will notice that some of them even have three different staves to fit all the notes in! Hands are divided in creative ways, the middle pedal is used extensively to hold notes you can’t hold with just two hands. There is a great level of complexity and depth to this music that goes beyond Romantic era music. Impressionist music also has different tonalities and modes. It’s not just major and minor – there are whole tone scales that cover different clusters of sounds as well as a great variety of modes. All of these amazing sounds which color the music are attributes of Impressionist music.
Thanks so much for joining me on this four part series of the Periods of Classical Music. I’m Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729
Welcome to the final part in our four part series – the eras of Classical music. First we covered the Baroque Era with its beautiful counterpoint and ornamentation. Then we moved on to the Classical Era with its wonderful structure. Last time we covered the Romantic Era and its freedom of expression and larger orchestration. So what separates … Continue reading The Periods of Classical Music Part 4: Impressionist→