Monday, November 24, 2008

Beresford Greene Speaks (Tenth Fit)....

Don't speak to me with your mouth!

This is what I am suffering from as a result of losing my next two (draft) BLOGs including this one. Where did they go then? I have deliberately over-written them FOR NO REASON AT ALL. They are gone forever, - cannot be recovered! My pride is hurt too, which since I am a man, is all that really matters to me. Bare in mind I didn't have to tell you that, or that my cat calls me "Daddy."
Nevermind, I will just have to find some alternative narrative for you. All those beautiful words ... gone! I am recovering my swear word from Colin. It begins with a B and has two "L's" in it.

After that can it surprise you to learn that I have been listening to Women's Hour" on the radio. I didn't mean to do it. I was captivated by their discussion on how women use their voices. The discussion was prompted by the recent death of Peruvian singer Yma Sumac who had a range of 5 octaves.The girls accused themselves of settling for 3 or 4 notes in ordinary speech, and of being equally lazy in matters of singing. You'd do better, especially when you sing, to relax your shoulders, and extend the upper chest. {That is either or both}. Do you see where I might be positioned? {Re-written phrase}.
Girls, you should imagine that your vocal chords are low down in your stomach. Don't get stuck up in a high register like Sarah Palin, because you lose respect & authority if you do that. To speak or sing with passion & authority you must increase your range, if possible beyond the range of a Mezzo-soprano. Did you know that most voices lose the attention of their listeners after just 90 secs? Just practice, not training, is required. Making up "funny" voices, & reading to children is all recommended. {I can help with the children but not the reading part!}.Try to avoid that awful screeching sound that I find so frightening! Varied speaking leads to a better singing ability. All on Woman's Hour.

A recent series of conversations has had me thinking. It concerns the timing of a song or piece of music. The pulse. With just a few exceptions this is the "beat" that is regularly spaced and causes us to expect events to occur at certain points in time. In order to be "moved" by music to say, get up & dance, it helps to have a predictable beat. When we speak about a great "groove" we mean that quality that moves the song forward. Like a book that you can't put down. A sonic world that we don't want to leave. Neither is this written on paper. This refers to a performance, or maybe a particular performer. It can come & go from day to day even with the same group of musicians. There can be disagreement about whether something has a good groove or not. One element that stands out is the use by the drummer of their Hi-hat cymbal. Here it is that every beat has its own individual accent, taps & rests.
Most musicians would agree that the groove works best when it is not strictly metronomic, that is, not machine like. The gold standard of groove is usually a drummer who changes the tempo very slightly according to the aesthetic & emotional nuances of the music. We might say that the rhythm "breathes." Therefore there is no overall change of pace or tempo. In fact, it is rather like speaking, real conversation. It needs to swell & contract, to express anger, forgiveness, courtship, urgency, even sincerity. That'll be quite enough of that!

Have you seen those new fangled electronic gadgets that are clipped to the guitar/mandolin headstock? I suppose that no-one would argue that the strings of any instrument should be is some form of recognisable pitch. Yet some of you will have noticed my general reluctance to tune up. That wouldn't be the case if I was more certain of getting my fingers to the correct frets. Unless you can do that what matter is it if the string itself is a little sharp or flat. In fact, if you think it through, it has a chance then to be an advantage. Anyway I have invented a more practical version of that sort of tuning aid. It fits on the headstock just as they do. It is mounted on a swivel, glows in a strange radio-active way, and can be switched On & Off. It is cheap too. It's a torch! Ken says that I should just issue ear plugs.

Keeping to musical things, I feel compelled to add this element of our craft right here. There seems to be a degree of misunderstanding or even disagreement about the use of this word "HARMONY" in the musical context. First of all it is fair to say that it is when two or more instruments are playing in time together. This would be equally true of human voices. Perhaps we are saying two or more notes sounding at the same time. {Polyphony}. Not necessarily then, more than one instrument. The piano is polyphonic. So too is the guitar, the mandolin, even the violin can sound two notes - can't it? The trumpet can't. Neither can a clarinet. Can a human voice? Interesting question since there are, I think, two vocal chords.
Now we come to the really difficult part. Is the harmony sweet? Some harmonies are tied together in exact time. Others are not - as in a Trad jazz band for example, - where there is counterpoint or descant. In Western music, harmonies in time but at a different pitch might be regarded as "sweet" if they are separated by major THIRD intervals in the scale. These are the same notes of which a major chord is constructed. Someone is bound to argue that two musicians, singing or playing in different sound booths, but linked somehow to an auditorium, will be making harmony. Except by default I don't think so! We need a few words & a few rules in order to assess it. In my next BLOG I plan to make a start on all this. If I were you, I'd leave the country!

Still I say "Do not speak to me with your mouth!"



Kenneth Hobbs said...

I think that, as he puts it in the paragraph headed 'Apoplexy', Berry is indeed "Bare in mind".

Also, he frequently attributes quotes to me which I have not uttered. Beware the laws of Libel, Mr Green (with or without the 'e', whichever it is - the Bailiff will still find you!)

St. Anley said...

Is that euphemism for male gonads, beginning with a 'B' and containing 2 'L's, really a swear word?

Anyway, Berry, I learnt it from YOU. Just review your 'sent items' box!