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Topic: OT? Dynamics

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  1. #1

    OT? Dynamics

    Following the feedback on these forums, I'm interested in working on this question of dynamics when I do my next project.

    But just out of interest, I'm wondering if the preference for expressiveness is culturally conditioned? For example I believe that early organs didn't even have a swell pedal. Also I've heard monks doing Gregorian chant and I don't remember them incorporating hairpins.
    Vista / Sonar Home Studio 6 / GPO 2d edition / Melodyne Uno 1.8

  2. #2
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    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Nor did Bach use dynamic marks. (But performers always put them into his music regardless!) From the classical period onwards, as you are aware, dynamic shading became an essential tool of the composer to make clear the musical intention. I agree dynamic marks are often overused and fussy, and in some scores seem quite arbitrary. When this seems so, I invariably ignore them and make dynamic decisions on the sense of the piece as a whole. After all, scripts rarely tell the actors when to raise their voice. The line should make it obvious.

  3. #3

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by diligamus
    Also I've heard monks doing Gregorian chant and I don't remember them incorporating hairpins.
    Of cours not..... !!!!

    Raymond

  4. #4

  5. #5

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by diligamus
    Also I've heard monks doing Gregorian chant and I don't remember them incorporating hairpins.
    I'd be interested to hear you sing anything without incorporating some sort of dynamic changes. Record your voice and look at the waveform. Is it constant or does the amplitude vary?
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  6. #6

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Really interesting topic for a thread, diligamus!

    And you've already gotten some very good contributions in response.

    Being very oriented in the performing arts, and theatre in particular, when I think about it, I can easily and quickly reply that what I'm interested in hearing in the way of dynamics in music is a sense of drama. That doesn't mean everything needs to be "dramatic" in the most common sense, which is dramatic as in "serious"--but "dramatic" in its broadest sense- always shifting moods, surprises, walking and running as opposed to standing still.

    And because of my background in theatre, I wanted to respond to this from dermod:

    "...After all, scripts rarely tell the actors when to raise their voice. The line should make it obvious..."

    I like having play scripts being used as an analogy. Something interesting to notice is that prior to around 1960, scripts for plays tended to have much more stage direction in them than they do now. From 1900 until then, playwrights became very involved in giving paranthetical directions intended to help guide the actor in his performance. "He snarls" "a whisper" "angrily shouting" etc--Sometimes very colorful descriptions of how the playwright feels a line should be said.

    That's much less common now. Modern scripts tend to be very bare. Even descriptions of settings and stage movement tend to be either absent or barely sketched in--And that's because of the growing respect for the collaborators in a stage production--the designers, directors, and actors.

    Most to the point--The way a line is written actually Doesn't make it obvious of how it "should" be spoken. And that's because there is no one "correct" way for any line to be said. A line which is intended clearly to be said in anger, for instance, could be screamed, whispered, said with no apparent emotion, it could be sarcastic, bitter, humorous--any of those approaches could possibly be used and still be true to the line's intention of being "angry."

    To limit the range of interprretation by insisting it should be yelled, is to completley ignore the input of the actor and the director--And it incorrectly thinks that the job of acting is merely to parrot back specific directions of how things "should" be said. That's working in a totally external way, and no good acting has ever been achieved that way. The actor has to totally and honestly connect with what the character goes through, and the way in which lines are said come out naturally when he's giving an honest performance. The actor wouldn't be able to break it down into technical terms, "Oh, I pause here, then glare, then yell a bit--and then..." etc--To become that technically aware of how he's giving the honest performance instantly renders the performance no longer organic and honest, and as a consequence, no longer believable or effective.

    Playwrights grew to understand that it's completely out of their realm and impossible for them to know how a particular actor is going to make their dialogue work--hence, no longer there's no longer the need or desire to reduce things to the absurdly superficial directions that used to be in scripts.

    And that's probably where the analogy doesn't quite hold up--because a composer Does need to include a good idea of how he intends the music to be played and heard. Without some well thought out directions in the score, each performance of his music is bound to be wildly different. The musician in the orchestra Does have an obligation to follow the dynamic markings in the music he's given - under the interpretative baton of the conductor.

    BUt then we have this--years ago I saw Leonard Bernstein conducting at The Hollywood Bowl. The friend I was with was especially interested in hearing one of the pieces which featured the clarinet--it's been so long, I can't recall what the piece was. But my friend had played that piece and knew it thoroughly. As the performance began, my friend's jaw just dropped---"What's the matter?" I whispered---He said that Bernstein was ignoring the directions in the score and had completely reinterpreted the piece. The tempo was faster to an extreme, and everything about the piece sounded completely different. - And--my friend said he'd never heard it played better. It was thrilling.

    SO--as with everything, it's impossible to give a definitive answer of how things "should" be. I agree with everyone that the composer needs to fill his score with everything he can think of to express how he intends the music to be played--but how can one argue with a Bernstein reinterpreting the music, and yet to the complete satisfaction of those who know the music? Interesting!

    And to wrap up it on the Dynamics topic--"...I'm wondering if the preference for expressiveness is culturally conditioned?..." I think maybe it is! And here in America, we like things dramatic and vivid--And it's not a bad thing to play to your audience!

    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  7. #7

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Really interesting topic for a thread, diligamus!

    And you've already gotten some very good contributions in response.

    Being very oriented in the performing arts, and theatre in particular, when I think about it, I can easily and quickly reply that what I'm interested in hearing in the way of dynamics in music is a sense of drama. That doesn't mean everything needs to be "dramatic" in the most common sense, which is dramatic as in "serious"--but "dramatic" in its broadest sense- always shifting moods, surprises, walking and running as opposed to standing still.

    And because of my background in theatre, I wanted to respond to this from dermod:

    "...After all, scripts rarely tell the actors when to raise their voice. The line should make it obvious..."

    I like having play scripts being used as an analogy. Something interesting to notice is that prior to around 1960, scripts for plays tended to have much more stage direction in them than they do now. From 1900 until then, playwrights became very involved in giving parenthetical directions intended to help guide the actor in his performance. "He snarls" "a whisper" "angrily shouting" etc--Sometimes very colorful descriptions of how the playwright feels a line should be said.

    That's much less common now. Modern scripts tend to be very bare. Even descriptions of settings and stage movement tend to be either absent or barely sketched in--And that's because of the growing respect for the collaborators in a stage production--the designers, directors, and actors.

    Most to the point--The way a line is written actually Doesn't make it obvious of how it "should" be spoken. And that's because there is no one "correct" way for any line to be said. A line which is intended clearly to be said in anger, for instance, could be screamed, whispered, said with no apparent emotion, it could be sarcastic, bitter, humorous--any of those approaches could possibly be used and still be true to the line's intention of being "angry."

    To limit the range of interpretation by insisting it should be yelled, is to completely ignore the input of the actor and the director--And it incorrectly thinks that the job of acting is merely to parrot back specific directions of how things "should" be said. That's working in a totally external way, and no good acting has ever been achieved that way. The actor has to totally and honestly connect with what the character goes through, and the way in which lines are said come out naturally when he's giving an honest performance. The actor wouldn't be able to break it down into technical terms, "Oh, I pause here, then glare, then yell a bit--and then..." etc--To become that technically aware of how he's giving the honest performance instantly renders the performance no longer organic and honest, and as a consequence, no longer believable or effective.

    Playwrights grew to understand that it's completely out of their realm and impossible for them to know how a particular actor is going to make their dialogue work--hence, no longer there's no longer the need or desire to reduce things to the absurdly superficial directions that used to be in scripts.

    And that's probably where the analogy doesn't quite hold up--because a composer Does need to include a good idea of how he intends the music to be played and heard. Without some well thought out directions in the score, each performance of his music is bound to be wildly different. The musician in the orchestra Does have an obligation to follow the dynamic markings in the music he's given - under the interpretative baton of the conductor.

    BUt then we have this--years ago I saw Leonard Bernstein conducting at The Hollywood Bowl. The friend I was with was especially interested in hearing one of the pieces which featured the clarinet--it's been so long, I can't recall what the piece was. But my friend had played that piece and knew it thoroughly. As the performance began, my friend's jaw just dropped---"What's the matter?" I whispered---He said that Bernstein was ignoring the directions in the score and had completely reinterpreted the piece. The tempo was faster to an extreme, and everything about the piece sounded completely different. - And--my friend said he'd never heard it played better. It was thrilling.

    SO--as with everything, it's impossible to give a definitive answer of how things "should" be. I agree with everyone that the composer needs to fill his score with everything he can think of to express how he intends the music to be played--but how can one argue with a Bernstein reinterpreting the music, and yet to the complete satisfaction of those who know the music? Interesting!

    And to wrap up it on the Dynamics topic--"...I'm wondering if the preference for expressiveness is culturally conditioned?..." I think maybe it is! And here in America, we like things dramatic and vivid--And it's not a bad thing to play to your audience!

    Randy B.
    (rbowser)

  8. #8

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Of course, dynamics are influenced by the culture, as well as rythm, harmony and scales. Anyway many of the dymanic changes can be acomplished by textures or instrumentation. Organs without expression pedals had diferent sounds that could be combined, the same with harpsichords, etc...

  9. #9

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser-
    here in America, we like things dramatic and vivid--And it's not a bad thing to play to your audience!
    Oh for sure this is something I'm going to pay attention to in my next project. I was just curious about the fact that several of us newbies were having to learn about this. That in itself made me think that dynamics was something learned rather than something intrinsic to the nature of music in general. Also, over the weekend I was reading the 1903 motu proprio that complained about theatricality entering the world of sacred music, and that made me think that different amounts of expressiveness might be appropriate in different contexts. Yet even this idea itself might be considered cultural rather than absolute.

    This sure is an interesting world made available to us by the affordability of GPO -- every office worker a composer!
    Vista / Sonar Home Studio 6 / GPO 2d edition / Melodyne Uno 1.8

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Salisbury, UK
    Posts
    312

    Re: OT? Dynamics

    I support randy's interesting remarks. A good director or performer starts by asking himself how is he/she going to make this thing 'work'. If it doesn't work, it's a dead fish on a slab. Maybe perfect in detail, but dead. Score marks cannot make the fine decisions that are necessary. On the play analogy, interestingly, there are very few directions in Shakespeare beyond 'alarum', 'exeunt' and 'dies'. But my goodness, do actors playing Hamlet squeeze juice out that. Performance is a very individual thing and therein lies its joy. No two are the same. Leonard Bernstein has been mentioned, so without appearing to brag, I can slip in the fact I met him briefly in the 1970s when he came to London to appear in a TV arts programme. He was a big man in every respect. It is hard to imagine him on the podium, and a 1st clarinet player saying at rehearsal, but this ain't what it says in the score, maestro.

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