Monthly Archives: February 2015

The three levels of approach of music composition

To contribute so that people make more music. That is the goal of ARPEGE in term of cultural contribution. I deeply believe in the aesthetic power of music and what it can bring. To create is to live. To compose is to express oneself. Each one should be able to do it in one way or another.

Let us continue our discussion about composition. We had seen that music creation could be broken up into three phases, which one could also regard as abilities to acquire to express oneself creatively in music:

  1. The methodical location of sound effects
  2. The possibility of selectively reproducing them according to what you want to express
  3. The coherent construction of musical work

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One can also consider the time dimension, the duration of the musical impression. One will find in particular in the articles of Michel
Philippot on composition, three levels of approach and appreciation of music, which I would express as:

  1. The sound effect for itself (instantaneous effect)
  2. The melody, the rhythm, the chords forming a structured musical sentence (sound effect covering up to several tens of seconds)
  3. The structured development of a complete musical work (sound effect covering a full piece of music)

With regard to the first point, by using a synthetizer, you can spend some very pleasant moments discovering the various sounds. These sounds can generate by themselves pleasant and aesthetic musical impressions. A chord of strings with a good reverberation. Some notes of such or such instrument. Some sound effects of a synthetic type. All that can contribute to express simple but effective impressions. You can also combine several sounds and the possibilities multiply, the atmospheres are built and grown rich. However, we are yet only at the first stage: considering the sound effects for themselves, apart from a more elaborate structure.

You can make a systematic exercise out of it. Discover the various sounds of your synthetizer or sound card. With a musical keyboard, have fun selecting each sound, then listen to them in the lower, middle and higher ranges of the keyboard. Locate the effects they can create, the atmospheres they release, the thought they generate. Try to play several notes one after the other, slowly or quickly. Try to play several notes of the keyboard at the same time. If you do not know about chords, test and try. See while groping whether by playing two close notes, far notes, intermediate notes, you can get a sound effect you like. write it down. Again search, combine, play, test… Do it again the next day, two days later… the repetitive side will lead you to discover elements which you did not hear the first time.

Do not neglect this simple exercise. By practising it regularly, it will help you to approach the next phase, because the various musical effects will be added to your musical “memory” and this as much as you practise it. Don’t forget that this musical “memory” will be the data base in which your inspiration will try to find elements to express your music. Fill in your data base!

An important point is to be noted as of this moment. To get an interesting and enriching effect, you need a sufficient and well balanced volume level. And this independently to the quality of the synthetizer or sound card you have. You must be able to feel the low notes make you vibrate, the sound must really go through your room. This is related to the distribution of sounds in your surrounding space. Your balance should of course be found, the level which is appropriate to you. But with little experiment, you will note that a minimal volume is required, without which the created effect is lost. The nuance is of the same level as the difference there is to listen to an orchestra during a concert or to listen to it as a background music while waiting at the post office… If post offices were equipped with a good sound system with a sufficient volume, it could become a pleasure waiting at the post office!

If you only have a simple sound card, see that you to get a cable to connect it to your hi-fi system with a sufficient volume. The generated effect will be definitely more expressive than with a 10 centimeters table loudspeaker. You will gain in motivation and musical pleasure. Of course, if you have the possibility, a good quality sound card, or even a good synthetizer will motivate you even more by considerably increasing sound quality. It is a question of balance and means.

By working this exercise regularly, without forcing yourself, at one moment or another, by search and groping, you will find some notes forming a melody, something which you like and which you would like to be able to reproduce, memorize and develop. It will be the beginning of the next phase: building a structured cell, i.e. a time sequence of several notes and sound effects. The use of a musical software will be highly advised at this step. You will be able to record this small melody on a staff, then while listening to it, you will be able to continue the preceding exercise by changing instrument and by seeking which other sound effect could reinforce or supplement the first.

Once the main melody is established and reinforced by some other instruments (start with 1 or 2), you can then develop this element. Developing is simply taking again the same element by modifying it in various ways, by adding new effects to it, while keeping a sufficient similarity so that the link remains present with the original element. These modifications can be of various natures: change of rhythm, the pitches of the notes, transformation of the melody by various formulas, time inversion, rhythmic division, change of chords, sonorities, sound effects which accompany it… Complementary themes can also be added, developed, as long as a link of some nature can connect the whole as being part of the same coordinated structure.

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One could in some way compare this method to a writer. Before writing a book, he must initially know enough words and their exact and various significances. He must be able to build complete sentences and to connect them. Then, with practice he can build a whole story. He keeps an overall picture, a common link which enables him to design each chapter and in each one of those he can align the sentences so that the chapter expresses what it must express to contribute to the full work. It is with this global idea of his book that he can then align word after word to build his work.

Arpege currently develops software modules making it possible to apply this working method. They will be integrated in the future versions of Pizzicato (see http://www.arpegemusic.com).

Dominique Vandenneucker

Designer of Pizzicato.

Music software and social skills – higher education, social space, health

 

When it comes about talking around music software in relation with social skills, it is time to talk about education but also health and ability or disability. Indeed, the development of social skills supposes a good health (physical and mental) and the capacity to master emotions in presence of other people.

Searching for studies related to music software and social skills, I found 3 main types of documents:

  • Papers talking about developping social skills in music higher education
  • Articles related to music in social space
  • Researchs related to the advantages of producing and using music and computer music in the framework of autism

I just extract some interesting informations in all of that, hoping that they are useful for professional musicians and amateur musicians involved in social life.

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Higher education

Higher education is like every training place dedicated to solo learning: listening to a teacher includes silence and writing, exams suppose silence and memorization,…

That is why students appreciate participative music creation events in the framework of educational activities. They let them test their musical abilities as well as their creativity in the framework of a group. Also they can become friends with (other) like-minded people, enhance their social skills and reinforce self-esteem and satisfaction.

In such experiences, students listening and sight-reading skills as well as their ability to convey

emotions through music are enhanced. Studies show that playing in groups help them to develop both their solo and ensemble playing skills. Listening to other people permits to develop a better inner listening ability.

Social space

When the study of music has not a diploma and a career as main goal:

  • personal motivations are self-expression, recreation, self-improvement, and use of leisure time
  • musical motivations are love of music, performing for oneself and others, learning more about music
  • social motivations are meeting new people and to belong to a new group which is not the main stream of revenue (such a group can be linked to a form of spiritual life)

Generaly these situations concern adults. The benefits to these ones of engagement in music making numerous. Choirs and ensembles generate positive emotional, social, physical, and creative outcomes. Music making can also help adults move toward socio-political transformation and contributes to perceived good health, quality of life, and mental well-being.

Health

In matter of relationships between music and health, I found references to autism – and also dyslexia.

The main problem of the autist person is the lack of ability to develop social skills. So, given that a person’s self-esteem and self-image are developed through interactions with others, the autist person has to search for personal ways and codes to establish communications with people (looking at colors and all sorts of signs which somewhere have as function, in the mind of the autist person, to authorize the communication between the autist person and any other person).

As graphic arts, music may help health specialists to establish interactions and contribute substantially to the creation of some self-image by an autist person. In the United-States, some years ago, a 52 weeks active music therapy offered one 60 minutes session per week to young adults with severe autism. The target was to get them more ‘present’ than ‘absent’ during the musical activities and good results were obtained. So it seems that music can be of aid in improving autistic symptoms as well as helping autist persons to acquire some musical skills.

It says a lot about the power of music! Now, I will myself be careful and will certainly not write that technology could bring something in these situations which require a lot of humanity, visual contacts betwen persons and gestures.

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And I did not find any study related to links between physical diseases and music. It probably means that musical therapy has more to do with psychological and mental health or learning skills than physical diseases. However maybe it does not mean that music cannot help in cases of leukemia, cancer and all serious disorders more related to body. Even if music can «only» bring some joy, is not joy a very important thing? I surely missed some important documents and maybe I will search later again…

The role of software

In the framework of higher music education and adult music practice, a music software is a tool which can support students and teachers, chorists and choir directors. Indeed, students who want to pursue a career in music can use it to teach younger students and choir directors to help adult chorists to acquire some useful knowledge for the choir.

So, if you are a student/teacher, choir director/chorist, for example, you can get such a tool for free. Indeed at Arpege Music we offer our music notation ‘Pizzicato Light’ for free in download via a system of coupons (whatever is the number needed). Everyone can register freely at : http://www.arpegemusic.com/music-education-software.htm#B4

Musically,

Francoise Delsaux

Arpege Music

Online marketing

Music composition, rules and inspiration

Approaching music composition is a goal that lots of musicians or non musicians would like to realize. Is there a systematic method which, if followed to the letter, would make it possible for a person to compose?

Musical inspiration is not really explained by theory. It is simply the creation or combination of sounds in an original way, with a specific goal or simply for fun. If the result is appreciated by others, those can always try to explain why it sounds well, why it is well built, etc. But this “afterwards” explanation can be misleading, because one could conclude from it that the musical work could have been deduced from the theoretical explanation, whereas it is the reverse that occurred.

If it was only related to logic (whereas it is related to esthetics above all), it would be all right to assemble all musical theory rules and integrate them in a software. The computer would then be able to have inspiration. Unfortunately, its “inspiration” will be limited to copy, modify or combine the inspiration of those who, by their esthetic sense, succeeded to really create and whose works allowed to deduce rules of musical theory.

Therefore, do not fall into the trap: inspiration is above theoretical rules. In other words, if you like some measures of your musical composition, keep them even if these measures do not satisfy any theoretical rule at all. The process of music evolution is thus the following: inspiration makes it possible to create musical works. When these works are appreciated, people deduce from it some theoretical rules or musical construction systems. Then these systems and rules are studied by others. Where the latter fail, it is when they think that they will have the inspiration only by studying these systems of logic. They forget to place their share of esthetics in it, the essential source of musical inspiration and sound effects.

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Do not fall either into the opposite trap of rejecting all rules. Rules can guide you, especially when you lack experimentation in composition.

One could look at music as a succession of distinct, small or great sound effects, assembled to form a more global sound effect: a musical work. For example, the passage from a G7 chord to a C chord: it is a sound effect in the field of combination of several sounds. It produces a sound effect that the ear generally appreciates and it produces a specific atmosphere. Similarly, each sequence of two chords is a sound effect. The use of such or such rhythm is a sound effect. Combining two instruments creates a sound effect. Each one of these small effects can combine to create a larger sound effect, which is then characterized by a specific personality.

A melody is only a set of notes in a specific rhythm sequence, each one being a specific sound effect. The combination forms a melody, recognized among all others.

Thus music is a construction of sound effects sufficiently personalized so that a piece is unique and distinct from the others, while communicating what its composer wished to communicate.

The spirit of composition is thus to create sound effects to express something. Any method which produces that is a valid method. If a musician plays by ear and if, by research and work, he methodically manages to isolate the various sound effects of his instrument and if he can then selectively produce them in a sensible way according to what he wants to express, then one can say he composes music.

Let us break this into three phases:

  1. The methodical location of sound effects
  2. The possibility of selectively reproducing them according to what you want to express
  3. The coherent construction of musical work

The sound effects can be located in various ways. Listening to lots of music with an attentive ear will help you. But to do only that is likely to make phase 2 very difficult, even impossible, because you still cannot connect the sound effect to what you need to do to produce it. The practice of an instrument will be complementary, because it lets you associate the desired sound effect to the technique to produce it. Listening and playing will give you basis for inspiration, but you also need some ability to synthesize and listen so as to mentally classify and integrate the various effects your instrument can produce.

Phase 2 is more active. It implies that you have something to express, to write into music. You can start from almost anything (an emotion, a landscape, an idea, an atmosphere…). Then the trick is to find, in the sound effects you assimilated, the right combination that expresses your message and which is specific to you. It is your capacity of choice and creativity.

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Phase 3 requires more experiment and comes gradually. It concerns the ability to develop a coherent work, where every element goes well together. It is the link that will bind the ingredients. One needs a link between the various passages of your work. This link can be rhythmic, melodic or be based on combinations of sound effects. Start with relatively short pieces before writing a whole symphony.

These three phases are interdependent. Only the practice of composition will help you to refine these three phases.

The purpose of any musical rule should be to help the composer to combine sound effects while helping him to free his musical imagination and stimulate his inspiration. Three types of rules could be met, corresponding to the above described phases. And the software tool can be very helpful in this direction. The current version of Pizzicato music software (see http://www.arpegemusic.com) already offers various tools. The next versions will continue in this direction, the goal being to help you to compose.

Dominique Vandenneucker

Designer of Pizzicato.

Music software ‘User Experience’ (UX) – Definition and example (the case of Pizzicato music composition and notation software)

User experience in the field of music software

The words ‘user experience’ refer to musical, social, psychological and cultural processes. These ones are the main aspects of the user experience.

The user of a product is here to experience it, it is his/her wish and he/she knows it. In the case of music software, it simple means that people learn music because there is value in the process (like source of revenue, prestige, well-being, etc).

They use a software because the software offers automated tools which help them in matter of music knowledge acquisition and practice. It is as simple as that.

UX is related to psychological processes. In the case of music software, it is because new media technologies have created new territories, spaces and affects (emotion, relationships, and so on).

Finally user experience includes cultural processes. In a high-quality music software, it appears when you open a program and discover 20 sheet music models which can help you to learn 20 music styles (it is the case in Pizzicato music composition and notation software – that you can discover at http://www.arpegemusic.com).

Pizzicato music composition and notation software user experience

What could I write about our clients UX that they did not say? I let them speak about their passion for Pizzicato music composition and notation software. After that, I will give you URLs

I just reproduce 5 testimonials found between countless positive ones amongst our 13 000+ unique users:

Philip Thomas (East Dummerston, VT, United States) – Lead music engraver Oxford University Press, New York Office, 1999-2005. Currently working as a freelance engraver for the finest classical music publishers in the U.S. and Europe

“I have used the Pizzicato program for a number of years now for its extensive composition environment which I find to be incredibly fast and intuitive to work in. My flute quartet “The Wissahickon at Dusk,” which recently premiered on Maine Public Radio in the U.S., was created using Pizzicato. I enthusiastically and whole-heartedly recommend this brilliant program.

Anyone looking for affordable music notation software will find that Pizzicato has powerful and comprehensive features. But what really sets Pizzicato apart is its vast array of compostion tools which are simple to use yet profound in scope and depth. Dominique Vandenneucker has designed a brilliant program which is sure to grow in stature and popularity as more users around the world spread the word about this remarkable software.”

Blair Ashby (Denver, Colorado, United States) – Music producer and sound engineer   

“I like that Pizzicato is so different from a midi sequencer that it makes me think different about music and my compositions.  Thank you, I think Pizzicato will help me get to the next level.  I finished composing three different CDs in December and realized I was bored with my musical style so I started looking for a program which would make me think different.  I am glad I purchased yours. On Friday last week a small record label asked me for three songs and I am going to try to do the foundation work in Pizzicato.”

Zlatoje Pajcic (Hamburg, Germany) – Music composer and publisher

Pizzicato is the most modern software for: scorewriting, composing, music editing, music processing, experimenting, chord recognition, generating the score based on chord recognition and using the custom libraries, easy combining of several scores to play together on the same chord progression, very big scores with unlimited number of staves, playing ornaments and grace note, graphical editors, work with many documents at the same time, very good manual, very accurate MIDI, up to sixteen MIDI in/outs supported and much more… »

Laurent Haye (Brussels, The Heart of Europe), Coordinator at the Royal Conservatory of Music

“I use Pizzicato every day. It is an excellent tool for all musicians from the amateur to the professional. It is mainly in the domains of sheet music publishing and creation of music files that I know this program, but I am always surprised by the power of the other tools offered to the user. Honestly I just could not do without it. And thank you to Dominique who always listens to his “Pizzicatists” so that the software is developed on the basis of the requests and interests of everyone.”

Mona Lei (Switzerland, Geneva) – Composer, certified music teacher (music theory, harmony, counterpoint, etc.) educated at the Music Conservatory of Bucarest.

“While searching for a music notation software to transcribe the manuscript of one of my classical compositions, I was informed about the existence of the website http://www.arpegemusic.com, by a friend working in computers. For my first experimentations with Pizzicato I realized that it had a lot of qualities: fast access to music writing technique, practical aspect of this technique, easy to use and in the same time a real possibility to exploit musical richness.

Really, what I immediately appreciated (compared to other softwares I used before) was the natural of Pizzicato. It was like using a paper music sheet, a pencil and an eraser. The big advantage is that the further I advance in my creation, the further I can modify the structure of my work, adding or erasing measures, staves, pages, instruments, etc. I have total freedom and I feel grateful to Pizzicato for that.

Now I work without keyboard, because I compose by playing piano. Then, I transcribe and listen to the result on the computer with Pizzicato. Using this technique I recently wrote the cantate “To Jean-Sébastien” (18 minutes), a work which was interpreted in Zürich under the aegis of UNICEF by the Zürich Great Orchestra. »

Do you want to make your own opinion ? Because all our customers have their own specific course, research, wants. I would not like to reduce Pizzicato music composition and notation software as some elitist tool reserved for academics, professionals and early musicians.

I read so many mails which come from so many different personalities and situations. Their relationships with music are for many of them as their relationships with clothes, food, air, heart: in one word, essential and unique.

To test Pizzicato, the fastest way is to download the free demonstration version at http://www.arpegemusic.com/demo1.htm On our website http://www.arpegemusic.com, you will also find the complete user guides for our 13 products, more than hundred newsletters around music composition (theory/computing), dozens of tutorials, all for free.

Musically,

Francoise Delsaux

Arpege Music

Online Marketing

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