Rhythm, Dynamics, Melody, Harmony and Texture Essay

Pages: 19 (5737 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 0  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Music

¶ … rhythm, dynamics, melody, harmony and texture, and timbre into a composition to add interest and character. Remember to discuss what each of these elements does.

There are many elements to music, and composers of music must necessarily familiarize themselves with those elements in order to craft rich works full of interest and character. The driving force behind any composition is, of course, its pulse -- or rhythm. Rhythm is "the earliest and most basic of the building materials or elements of music," according to Jean Ferris (p. 11) and is the arrangement of time in music. Just like poets will use beats, or rhythmic patterns of speech, to write poetry, musicians use musical beats, rests, meter and tempo to infuse their works with life.

Melody, however, is one of the most important elements of music. In more medieval music, like chant, or in baroque music, like Bach's, melody is the prime element. Melody is generally crafted according to scales and is issued in phrases as part of a larger compositional structure. The melody is what pop tunes today use to make a song "catchy." But melody may be further examined by analyzing dynamics, timbre and texture and the way in which harmony establishes relationship between pitches.

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Dynamics in music typically refer to expression, like soft or loud or fast: when one sees in Italian fortissimo he is seeing something about the music's dynamics. Dynamics give music its style and function. Timbre, on the other hand, provides the color of the music -- the voice, for example, of the instruments used, whether vocal, brass, or percussion. Texture refers to the piece's overall sound and how its different parts relate, whether it is a work of monophony (one melody) or polyphony (many melodies) for example. Harmony is used in music to establish relationship between varying tones. Chords create structures for multiple pitches to work together and create harmony.

TOPIC: Essay on Rhythm, Dynamics, Melody, Harmony and Texture, and Assignment

2) Use the instruments illustrated on page 37 to discuss the concept of tone and timbre. Include definitions of each term and how they relate to the instruments sound making capabilities. (Textbook p. 5,33,37)

The tone and timbre of music refer to pitch and voice. Each pitch gives music a specific tone, while each instrument gives music a specific timbre or voice. As Jean Ferris states, "A tone is a specific pitch, produced by sound waves with a constant rate of vibration" (p. 5). Western music names these tones with the letters, a, B, C, D, E, F, and G -- and anyone familiar with a piano will know how to produce each tone by striking a single key. Timbre, on the other hand, "is the quality of sound characteristic of a particular voice, instrument, or ensemble" (Ferris, p. 33). For example, brass instruments have a timbre that is distinct from, say, the timbre of a singer. Both may be in the same key or pitch -- but the sound characteristic is completely different and unique. Observe how a Brahms symphony sounds when played by an entire orchestra as opposed to when it is played on a single piano.

The material of the instrument has a great effect on the timbre: for example, the flute is a long, thin, wind instrument that produces a light, airy sound. The piccolo is similar to the flute, only shorter in length and therefore its range is not as great. Compare these instruments with the saxophone and you find a tremendous difference: the saxophone requires a reed and is capable of providing deeper and heartier sounds and is used in jazz music. The oboe likewise produces sounds that are unique, just as the clarinet does, along with the English horn and the bassoon. The clarinet is larger than a flute and is blown into like a saxophone; therefore, its sounds are fuller and deeper -- like the oboe and English horn. The bassoon is deepest of all -- and has a timbre like a bass instrument.

3) Name and define three rhythmic elements that composers could use in their compositions. Show how each would affect the overall sound of the composition. (Textbook p.11-13,15)

Three rhythmic elements that composers use in their compositions are tempo, which is the "rate of speed at which a musical piece is performed," the accent, which is a "strong sound…achieved by stress, duration or position of a tone," and the rest, which is a "sign that indicates silence, or the cessation of musical sound" (Ferris, p. 15). All three of these elements are important in creating rhythm.

Tempo, first of all, sets the pacing of the music. It is what allows an audience to clap along to a song in rhythm with the musicians on stage; it is the key to knowing which parts of the music should be played fast and which parts slow. Tempo can range from largo (slow or "broad") to allegro (fast) or con brio ("with spirit"). Usually such Italian terms are used to identify the tempo. The faster a tempo, the more lively and exciting a song usually is. Compositions with slow tempos tend to be reflective, contemplative, sad, or thoughtful. The pacing of a song has a great effect on its sound.

The accent, however, can draw the listener's attention at once to an important expression or phrase in a composition. It breaks from the monotony of the regular beat and asserts a note or tone through juxtaposition of sounds, sometimes jarringly and sometimes boldly and heroically.

The rest, on the other hand, allows the beat or rhythm of the composition to continue, but the listener only hears silence. The rest can be used to great effect in the composition: like the accent, it draws the listener to attention but by way of silence rather than by way of sound. It allows pauses in sound without causing the tempo to halt, thus keeping the pace.

4) Using the listening examples #43, Kebjar: Hudjan Mas (Golden Rain), on page 283, and Listening Example #64, Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin, on page 373, compare the following (in your own words, please): A. Rhythm; B. Timbre; C. Melody; D. Mood (how it makes you feel). You must name the piece. (Textbook p. 283,373)

The Hudjan Mas (Golden Rain) is very different from Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag, which is a piano swing tune and would have been popular in theaters during the time of silent films. It has an upbeat rhythm, a positive and enjoyable timbre from the piano, a delightful and happy melody and a mood that makes one feel like dancing. The Golden Rain on the other hand is none of these things.

The Golden Rain is almost tribal sounding in its composition, combining the sounds of a hammering and relentless percussion with the relentless hammering of the metallophones and gongs. It rushes onward, then halts. It moves up and down the scales, running through the notes alternately with the drumbeats, sometimes giving way to the timbre of the drums and sometimes emphasizing the melodious bell-like sounds. Its mood makes me feel like I am around a campfire in the jungle surrounding by dancing natives in grass skirts celebrating some victory at night. Their instruments are not very advanced, but they have a lot of energy and this energy is translated into the composition, which has a rapid tempo (one might say it is con brio) and an unflinching rhythm that is sometimes broken only to be picked back up again the next instant.

Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag is something else altogether. It emphasizes melody and harmony even though it also utilizes rhythm. But while Golden Rain seems to emphasize rhythm mostly, the Maple Leaf Rag utilizes specific chords and tones to make the composition catchy. The Rag is something that will stick in your mind for days, while Golden Rain will only leave the memory of thunderous music full of sound and fury

5) How do you think the process of learning the basic musical elements and performance practices will help you advance your appreciation of the art of music? Be sure to include specific examples.

Realizing that there is a technique to music that can be learned and utilized helps me appreciate the craftsmanship that goes into a composition. It is like looking at a painting by Van Gogh. It looks simple enough, what with its bright colors and fast, short strokes -- but there is a degree of inspiration coupled with practiced technique that makes something like "Starry Night" completely original. The same is true with music. Music relies on several different elements to create a listening experience that can affect the emotions in all sorts of different ways. While simply enjoying the music for this reason alone is sufficient, understanding how the composer uses the elements to create an effect provides the listener with a deeper and richer experience, which he can then use to widen his understanding of himself and nature.

For example, the effect of timbre in a composition is very… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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