Friday 21 November 2014

A Musical Month

Whenever I sit down to write these Musical Notes, I think to myself, what on earth am I going to write about this time? A minute later and I've realised how much there is to say about what's been going on in my local, Newent, musical life and it becomes more a case of how to cut this information down to manageable proportions. It's been said before - there is something in Newent's air that makes it a focal point for music making.

Last night I took part in the Newent Community School concert in Gloucester Cathedral with hundreds of people, children and adults either performing or listening in the audience. Listening and performing are dependent on musical education, whether a formal process, or simply 'self-taught' and the successful results of all those ingredients were there in full view. It's the fact of relationships, of a coming-together, between the many facets of making music that brings it all to life.

This month I was introduced to a project applying itself to relationships in music making that could well have a significant influence on local music and beyond. 'Soundscape', the brain child of David Sass, has the aim, like our orchestra, of promoting music, encouraging musical participation, education and relationships between musicians and the public. Unlike the orchestra, it is coming from the direction of rock and popular culture rather than classical. This I like. There is much potential for mutual support and some interesting projects that could involve our players. Time will tell, but watch this space.

Our Music Appreciation Group (NOMAG) meets again shortly and, thinking above about popular culture, there is something that bothers several of its members that I hope to help with. This is the relationship of digital technology and listening to classical music. For anyone not at home with a tablet, laptop or smartphone, the words 'streaming', 'podcast' and 'download' can be pretty alien creatures. Streaming, for example, and 'the cloud' have confusing visual associations with rivers and the sky that are quite alarming. Come along to the next meeting for a simple clarification if you will.

Oh, yes, and just in case you were wondering about the picture at the beginning of this newsletter, it's a bit of that alarming but in this case beautiful technology: 'cymatics' is the art of making music visible; the picture is a typical cymatic image made from acoustic vibrations and is remarkably similar to the image of the 'mandala', a pictorial representation of psychological wholeness and healing. Mandalas were created in the religious art of many different cultures as inspiring objects for meditation. Happy musical meditating!

Thursday 25 September 2014

Ends and Beginnings

Picture I completed the Offa's Dyke Path and what a great experience that was. The last section was through the beautiful and spectacular Clwydian mountains, atmospherically misty then bright sunshine for the conclusion in Prestatyn. Travelling light and without a companion to chat to, I ended up talking to myself and making a short audio diary for the last two stretches: What Will Music Be? and The Spirit of Music. These are edited and on the appropriate Ramblings website pages for you to listen to.

A delight at the end of the walk was to find a silver sculpture gleaming against the sea and sky. Called 'Ends and Beginnings', it represents the rising sun in the east for dyke walkers just setting off, or the setting sun in the west for finishers such as myself.

The first draft of the first ten chapters  is written and web-published. The next few weeks will be necessary to complete the final five of Ramblings About Music. After that - any interested publishers out there?

Monday 16 June 2014

What's Occurring?

I've just posted a couple of CD reviews on the Reviews Page. These are of symphonies, one by Erno Dohnanyi, the 'last of the great romantic symphonists' and Ernest Bloch, whose music I now rate highly having heard and loved his E Flat major Symphony. Check them out.

    On a personal note, I've been enjoying learning about the benefits of music making for the elderly and particularly for those with dementia and other associated conditions. Our knowledge about the effect that music has on the brain by providing positive stimulation is increasing, particularly in the realm of recall and memory.  More than this, its effect on the whole integrity of brain function and self-awareness is remarkable and significant. I've been witnessing the results in a small way and want to pursue this path further with my own music making.

    I've also been preoccupied with my musical 'Ramblings' along Offa's Dyke. When I set off at the beginning of this project, I really wondered what on earth I was doing!  Now, having completed three of the fifteen walks, I know. The pleasure and stimulation that they have brought was quite unpredicted. To chat about music at some length while rambling through some of our most beautiful countryside is a combination that works superbly.

    On the most recent, the subject was 'harmony'. The walk was along a ridge running the length of the Black Mountains from Pandy to Hay-on-Wye. All the way we were accompanied by skylarks singing at full voice. I don't just mean the odd one or two here and there, but dozens of them all the way along an eleven-mile stretch. Sometimes we could hear three or four at a time, but always as we left the territory of one, another would take over and pour its glorious song down over our heads. If that wasn't a remarkable lesson in the art and practice of harmony and melody, I don't know what is.

Pics of the walks which will continue over the summer, info. about them and the musical topics are at 'Ramblings About Music'.

Monday 20 January 2014

The Spirit of Music - A Day Course

Understanding the theory of music and how it has developed historically deepens a player's and a listener's appreciation. To this end I'm planning a day workshop when you can enjoy exploring some musical topics that will provide the tools to go further along your chosen musical path.

What I'm concocting is a day exploring music theory, which means explaining music's modes, keys and key changes, intervals, harmony and dissonance as well as the way the music is put together - its "form".

However, I don't want this to be an academic text-book type experience so I'll be putting all these elements into a context of the history of music from classical Greece and Pythagoras up to contemporary times and its music. The history of western music moves through particular phases, moving from music of single line melody to complex polyphony, made possible when music notation was developed and music could be written down.

Thursday 9 January 2014

Rambling Timelines

While gathering background for Ramblings About Music, I've begun to develop a couple of timelines to put everything in a context. One is from Pythagoras to the beginning of the 20th C, the other is from 1900 until today. If you would like to become an editor and add content of your own, contact me.  Each of the timeline's entries can include pictures and sound clips so should become quite a useful educational tool. Here is the first line (which can be viewed in 3D) which as you will see already contains some interesting material: