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Tag 'GS 222: Creativity and Logic':

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.

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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

Creativity and Logic: Block 1

I just finished my first block of class at Colorado College! While FYE classes last for two blocks, the end of this block marks a cadence in my class where we take a short break and get a few days off to relax. I'm fortunately spending the weekend visiting Denver and seeing my friend Hunter, going to her tango class and trombone choir at DU (and hopefully getting a chance to visit my brother at CU Boulder).

This class was so expertly designed, I feel like there's so much that happens behind the scenes in order to keep us questioning what will happen next-- every day was a new development and a new keener sense of awareness of the world around us.

I'd like to talk about the project we did during our second weekend during this block.

The people in our class were split up into groups of three or four (and were arranged by how "different" our thinking styles are, according to a screening we did at the beginning of the block. We learned a lot about how people tend to work with people most similar to them, which is most comfortable but least productive. Working with people who think differently than you gives you a much broader scope of ideas to work off of.)

Anyway, the project was this: WITHOUT using research, we had to answer a series of questions in a quiz game.

Simple as that. But allow me to elaborate more.

Research is looking up information of any kind. This includes:

  • Internet resources (not including texting/e-mailing people with personal connections)
  • Printed Resources
  • Recordings
  • Directories (for example, a phone resource)

The quiz questions were not related to class, but rather, random, very specific trivia. Examples are:

  • When does the first train leave from New Haven to New York on Monday morning?
  • Translate this: Jaldī se ṭhīk ho jāo
  • On what day of the week was John Maynard Keynes born?
  • Identify the origin of the object pictured here:

Our first question: how could we possibly figure these things out?

It became apparent that the only way to follow the rules was to leverage personal connections in order to find the answers to these questions. Basically, we had to find someone who had taken that bus, or spoke that language, or knew a lot about John Maynard Keynes, or had read that book.

We were to submit any answers and documentation of finding answers on Canvas in a group, which was named "6-degrees team C". This was clearly a reference to the "6 degrees of separation" theory, which indicates that every person in the world is connected to every other person by six or less common connections.

Back to the task-- we got to work on figuring out these questions and spread out in different directions based on who we knew.

I'll share a couple personal favorite stories:

  1. To find the time when the train leaves from New Haven to New York, I contacted my dad, who grew up in downtown New York. He told me to ask my mom, because she had family in New Haven. Sure enough, she did-- she got me in touch with her cousin, Howard, who got me in touch with his brother, Allan, who lives in New Haven. Allan walked over to his neighbor's house, and asked, and his neighbor called a friend who gave us the correct answer.
  2. To find what that text translated to, I basically walked around the dining hall staging it as a "trivia game". I asked several groups of people if they knew what the text meant, and I luckily ran into one person who told me it meant "Get well soon!" in Hindi.
  3. To find when John Maynard Keynes was born, I contacted a friend named Joel, who graduated from Basalt two years before I did. He goes to UNC now, and I asked him if he had any friends studying economics. He fortunately did, and he asked his friend who knew his birthdate. I plugged the birthdate into a custom python program which gave me the day of the week.

Now, something that was very interesting to me was the level of investment from random people in trying to solve these problems. People actively wanted to see through to the end of this seemingly meaningless task.

Whenever I asked someone to help me, I would always have to explain the rules-- I need to know the answer, but you can't look it up and neither can I. This immediately sparked some sort of interest and investment, where people felt challenged by the rules and wanted to challenge the rules back. People would ask about loopholes-- "can I look up the answer and then tell you?" (no). And people always wanted to see the questions through to the end.

When I asked my mom's cousin Allan if he knew the answer, he didn't off the top of his head-- and that could have been the end of my path. However, he took the initiative, without my knowledge, to walk over to his neighbor's house and seek out the answer himself. This was endlessly fascinating to me-- that he would take enough interest in my homework to take it on as his own assignment.

Everyone from close people who I contacted (like my parents) to random people (like students in the dining hall) all seemed to be brought together by this strange task, and I feel as though it built some sense of temporary community through solving this task.

It was a lot of fun and I really appreciated all the help I got-- but I feel like this could be indicative of something deeper, something that explains why we want to help people and when. This could be an interesting thing to study in the future, but I feel like I've gotten a cool glimpse into something that I hadn't thought of before.

What a cool assignment.

By Daniel, on September 21, 2017, 11:17 am