Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

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
Skip transcript

Transcript

GOLDIE
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.
NARRATOR
Goldie, who can't read music, is trying to work out how to navigate his score.
GOLDIE
(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.
IVOR SETTERFIELD
Even if you didn't read music you can see, it looks different.
GOLDIE
It looks different.
IVOR SETTERFIELD
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.
GOLDIE
But so this is where the strings come in here?
IVOR SETTERFIELD
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.
GOLDIE
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--
IVOR SETTERFIELD
Yes.
GOLDIE
So it's 16 bars.
[LAUGHING] [ORCHESTRA PLAYING] [CHEERING]
End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

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.

OUFL_20

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus