Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

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Understanding musical scores

1.1.4 The ear-eye connection

You may not have had any experience in reading music and may never have seen an orchestral score. In the following video, which is extracted from a television series that challenged celebrities to try and conduct an orchestra, you will see Goldie, who does not read music, encounter an orchestral score. After you have watched it, think about what processes Goldie went through to understand how the score worked.

Download this video clip.Video player: ou_futurelearn_musical_score_vid_1052.mp4
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I can't read music. I'd love to be able to do it. If I'm building a track, first of all, I'll go through my library of sound. And then what I'll do, I'll just go through the track. I'll start here, I'll begin here. This is going to be my drop into this section here. Then our vocals might spin off here, descend into like a filtered, ghosted echo reverb here. I literally just build it like a drawing.
Goldie, who can't read music, is trying to work out how to navigate his score.
(SINGING) Dun, dun, dun, dun, ba, ba, ba. When you make a record, I'll usually have a 64 bar intro, and then I'll have 32 bars. It'll be the hi-hat. And as soon as the hi-hat's in for 32 bars, the beats have got to come in after 16, got to, standard. I think the breakthrough was actually being able to read the music on the page. Not note for note but just read the music, and know where I was at with it, and trying to break it down, in terms of it's a tune. I only register sound. I can't count for nilly, and I can't read it. So all I've got to do is remember, that this is like playing a tune, and letting the tune play until the drop, and then bringing the hi-hat. It literally is like that.
Even if you didn't read music you can see, it looks different.
It looks different.
Right. Always on a score. Wind instruments are at the top. They're the woodwind. They're the flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons. Middle is your horns and your trumpets.
But so this is where the strings come in here?
No, look. Right from the beginning, the strings are playing low. That's where you get the cellos. That's why I told you to look right. But then, when I told you to look left a little bit, that's where the top strings come in. We discovered that he could actually follow the patterns in the music. I think that it'll become a map for his memory.
Is it like this? One, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one, two, three, four, one!
(SINGING) Bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum, bum--
So it's 16 bars.
End transcript
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On reflecting about the video of Goldie, we hope you noticed the importance of how the visual element, the dots and lines of the score, is a representation of sound. Connecting what you see with what you hear is fundamental to understanding scores, and especially orchestral scores. Goldie achieved this connection of eye and ear by using what was familiar to him – drum ‘n’ bass sounds and rhythms – and equating them to the blocks of orchestral sound in Grieg’s piece In the Hall of the Mountain King.

We hope that you will find ways of making these connections too as you work through this course, so keep thinking about the ear-eye connections – what you hear and what you see as a representation of that sound.

You’ll be looking more closely at how conductors use scores in Week 4.


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