Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Does it Go Up or Does it Go Down?

We risk thinking that every rising series of tones in music notation indicates rising tone motion.  This is an oversimplification in need of some clarification.

The best image would be that of a turn: start on a given tone, go up one, back to the starting tone; go down one, back to the starting tone.  Where have you gone?  Nowhere, really.  On no matter what instrument -- even the piano on which three different keys would be required to produce the indicated turn -- the quality of the motion is entirely altered if the intention is to produce the varied tones without going anywhere.

Another hard-to-read indication is what looks like a leap up, say from A to E.  Is it really a leap, or could it be, in the manner of a yodel, a light touching of an overtone of the lower note.  Again, the execution is totally altered by this concept of two completely different physical properties of the tones; I think of them as solid and vapor.

Otherwise music is a continual anchorless sequence of down-and-up-and-down-and-up:  like auditory ping pong.