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Weedon’s Wanderings: 11th July 2019

Snare drum

FASCINATING RHYTHM!

We’re probably all familiar with the sight of dozens of feet tapping in time to a march or dance number at a concert. But is rhythm the fundamental aspect of music? Music could be said to consist of pitch (how high or low a note sounds), beat (the steady pulse that ticks away in the background, like a metronome), rhythm (the varying pattern of a tune which we can copy by clapping it), harmony (the combination of notes sounded together with pleasing - or less pleasing - results) and timbre (recognisable differences in sound such as volume, different instruments, acoustics etc). Which one is the foremost?

It’s worth considering this: if I play you a tune with all the rhythm removed - in other words, all the pitches there but otherwise a long string of regular notes - you are unlikely to recognise it. But if I tap the rhythm of a well-known tune without any pitch you are more likely to get it. You can check that by clicking here.

We can discount the other elements - beat, harmony and timbre - as the key to recognising a piece. A metronome beat sounds like a metronome ticking, nothing more and nothing less. And a sequence of chords without a tune is unlikely to be instantly recognisable. And hearing an oboe or a french horn, a loud, quiet or echoing sound is unlikely to spark recognition either. 

So the fascinating conclusion is that rhythm is the fundamental aspect of music, a fact rather backed up by these videos of a cockatoo and a baby feeling the groove! This is pure instinct at work. And instinct is implanted at birth. Which makes us then wonder: where does the universal love of music stem from? Nothing this complex could just arrive from nowhere...

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Weedon’s Wanderings: 28th June 2019

Bee

COME FLY WITH ME...

There’s been quite a buzz in the air today, with insects in profusion in our summer garden. It occurred to me how many pieces of music have been inspired by such winged creatures - from Butterflies in the Rain (here on piano roll) to The Grasshopper’s Dance (played by the lovely Ensemble Tiffany).

For musicians aiming to impress with their virtuosity, Rimsky Korsakof’s ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’ can be hard to beat. I’ve found three extraordinary examples of this particular work. The first is pianist Sunny Li performing it on two grand pianos simultaneously.

In July 2011, Canadian violinist Eric Speed (and I’m not making his name up) set a new world record when he played the same piece in 53 seconds.  But his record fell again to speed violinist Ben Lee, in April 2014. Watch Lee here, and you may puzzle (as I did) that his violin has not 4 but 5 strings.

If you prefer your bumble bees in the bass, then you’ll enjoy the astonishing Carol Williams putting her best feet forward, playing the piece on organ pedals! And note where she’s playing it too (see my blog of 11th June 2019).

Phew! Time for a change of species, I think. Vaughan Williams produces an excellent zzzZZZzzz sound in his Wasps Overture, beautifully realised by Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra. 

But my personal favourite, and a piece I’ve adored since I was knee-high to a Gad-fly (cue Nicola Benedetto playing Shostakovich) is Strauss’s Dragonfly, here captured beautifully by K&K Philharmoniker and Ballet.  

Time for me to buzz off now. How time flies!

Photo: Wikipedia

 

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Weedon’s Wanderings: 15th June 2019

Noel Coward

KEEP CALM AND COWARDY?

We’ve just taken a midsummer walk wrapped in scarves and raincoats, squelching through mud as the brief spell of sun disappears, before heading home to listen to the news. Those we met on our outing sighed and frowned and generally added to the feeling of damp despondency. And me? I started singing a song which always cheers me up. It’s by the incomparable Noel Coward and it could have been written yesterday. So pour yourself a warming cup, snuggle in your armchair and have a listen here. There you are - it was all just as bad in 1952 :-).

Can’t hear the lyrics? Find them here.

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