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What Does Music Look Like?

Note: This is a paper I submitted as part of an assignment for my GS 222: Creativity and Logic class. This paper is a reflection on the season opener of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic last weekend.


For Immediate Release
Contact: Daniel Barnes
GS 222: Creativity and Logic
September 17, 2017


The Bows to the Brass: What Does Music Look Like?

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO—A woman in a vibrant red dress sits hunched over at a nine-foot long Steinway & Sons piano. A man behind her moves his arms and figure with energetic zest. About sixty individuals sit in chairs facing the frantic man with uniformly shaped pieces of wood and metal.

This weekend, the Colorado Springs Philharmonic, an organization which has been providing music to the Colorado Springs area since 1927, premiered their ninetieth season with a bombastic Glinka Overture, a gorgeous rendition of Chopin’s second piano concerto, and a thought-provoking performance of Shostakovich’s fifth symphony, all wrapped up together in a master works concert.

Classical music resonates with each person differently. Some people can be enraptured by the notes flowing off the page in gorgeous harmony and flow. Others have difficulty enjoying the experience, coming to a comfortable slumber until the orchestra finally comes to rest. The musicians on stage demonstrate the way music resonates with them through movement. Likely unintentionally, the musicians on stage rock back and forth expressively in a way that’s not intuitive—it doesn’t help them with the technical use of their instruments, and it doesn’t seem to serve any purpose.

Except, that’s not true. Movement can be a fundamental part of music performance—whether through habit or through necessity, the kinesthetic “movement” element of music performance is central to performance.

A common technique in teaching—regardless of discipline—is leveraging the link between visual cues and the discipline being taught. In particular, in music, movement is heavily interlaced with the necessity to move. An example of this is the use of movement in teaching music, called “Dalcroze Eurhythmics.” Movement can be used in a variety of different levels of musicianship, from demonstrating differences in pitch for beginners, to demonstrating the flow and peak of a musical line for an advanced player.

Even on a professional level, movement plays a role in the musicians’ performance. The performers in the Colorado Springs Philharmonic sway back and forth in a manner which communicates the character of the music being played. Between the more laid-back Chopin concerto and the high-energy movements in the Shostakovich symphony, a wide slew of differences can be observed in performer movement, accurately reflecting the character of the music.

In fact, the conductor takes on a large role in demonstrating the character of a piece of music. Smaller or larger movements indicate not only semantic elements of the performing, such as volume (dynamics) or speed (tempo), but also communicate the character that should be matched among all members of the orchestra, in order to generate a uniform performance for a willing audience. Conductors innovate in their music in order to find the best way to convey this information across different characters, and that contributes to make a successful conductor.

Movement plays a vital role in music performance throughout all age ranges, gives people a vehicle to express themselves beyond the sounds they create, and fills out the experience of watching a Philharmonic orchestra. ◼


By Daniel, on September 22, 2017, 4:06 pm