Timothy's Blog

Timothy's blog on dulcimers, music, nature and life!

EXCELSIOR! Ideas concerning the concept of “Up” in music arranging

EXCELSIOR!  Ideas concerning the concept of “Up” in music arranging

“Excelsior” is a Latin word meaning “ever upward.” Aspiration is an important part of every aspect of our lives!  We need a sense of hope for better things, more noble things, more joy and adventure and ultimate fulfillment.  Certainly our music arranging can reflect this.  I have compiled ideas here that I employ to give a sense of “excelsior” in my arranging and playing music, and I often experience a new elation as I perform, no matter what the form of the music is.  Some of this concept is already built into the source melody or chords --- perhaps that’s why I choose to use them in the first place --- but I can consciously incorporate many other techniques as well to flesh out the progressive joy or drama.  I do hope that you too can find your own elation through using some of these!

(A couple of references in the text are for players of hammered dulcimer --- but all of these thoughts can be used by any musicians.)

1) Modifying a melody with notes above:

  • My biggest personal emphasis:  Vary the melody by incorporating higher notes between the melody notes
  • Multiple notes repeated
    • Dronelike
    • Rhythmically (like the use of the fifth string in old-time banjo, perhaps)
  • Melody below the accompaniment part instead of above it (melody on the bass bridge, with zig-zag arpeggios after each melody note for chord and rhythm)
  •  “Fill” motifs incorporating higher notes --- when the melody is not as active (especially at ends of phrases)
  • Long, high notes (like descant, perhaps) instead of melody per se --- as in string pads, etc., or glistening accents above the melody while another player has the melody
  • The highest note of a melody:  Where is it in this particular piece?  How shall it be handled in relation to the rest of the melody?

2) The highest point in volume or tempo as a point of emotional focus; including swells and rubato in the course of a phrase as well --- a distinct way of making the music more colorful!

3) The meaning of development toward a climax:  Keep in mind the “overall arch of the piece” throughout, with a conscious goal of developing toward a most-intense or most-excited or most-complex or most-focused moment or section near the end.  This may actually be a “plateau” of slow, quiet, serene beauty that opens out from a “climb.”  (I love the way this last is so effectively done by Alasdair Fraser in his Scottish fiddle arranging and George Szell in his realization of symphonies!)

4) The highest developmental point in a piece:  Consider the place where there is the most action or the most complex chord texture, or even the most counterpoint of parts (melody/improvised answering part, or multiple melodies, or suspensions or overlapping chords, etc.).

5) The highest point in an improvisation:  Plan to play an improvised part in such a way that it has a sense of development and a logic that leads toward an especially intriguing moment before ending.

6) Modulation (changing overall pitch location):

  • Higher octave in same key
  • From major key to minor key (e.g., G to Em or D to Dm)
  • Higher key:  Effective value of each different interval
  • ---2nd and 4th:  Intervals commonly used for a sense of “lift” (e.g., from C to D or D to G)
  • ---3rd:  Dramatic, startling shift (e.g., from F to A [major 3rd] or D to F [minor 3rd]
  • ---5th:  An effect quite similar to a 4th (e.g., from lower octave C to higher octave G)

7) The highest point in a longer set of pieces:

  • Concert set:  Plan it for its narrative flow, with tension and release, with engaging beginning and eventual rise to climactic point before the end.
  • CD song list:  Plan in the same way as for a concert set.
  • Suite:  You may want to have a series of pieces follow a theme, either in telling a story (e.g., a historical event or a trip) or in focusing on ideas (e.g., plants and animals of Virginia) or in musical connections (e.g., melody elements that share the same note combinations, maybe).

Any or all of these techniques can make your music --- and by extension, you --- come more alive!

A lot of helpful ideas for playing PENNYWHISTLE
We hear music differently! Some observations

Related Posts

Comments

 
No comments made yet. Be the first to submit a comment

Please Note: This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

Browser settings can be adjusted to control cookies. Failure to make adjustments constitutes your agreement to their usage. Learn more

I understand

Information about Cookies

A cookie is a small piece of data (usually a text file) that a website asks your browser to store on your computer or mobile device. It enables the website to remember your actions and preferences (such as login, language, font size and other display preferences) over a period of time, so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you come back to the site or browse from one page to another. Most browsers support cookies, but users can set their browsers to decline them and can delete them whenever they like. Cookies can be used to collect and store user data while connected to provide you with requested services. More information about cookies can be found at http://www.aboutcookies.org.

In addition to cookies that remember your preferences mentioned above, cookies are used for the purpose of purchasing items off this website, and for login and user profile details should you provide them by creating an account or signing up for the blog posts or newsletter.

Third party cookies are also used on this site. Specifically, Google Analytics is used on this site -- a popular web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. Google Analytics uses cookies to help us analyze how users use this site. It counts the number of visitors and tells us things about their behavior overall – such as the typical length of stay on the site or the average number of pages a user views.

The information generated by the cookie about your use of our website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States. Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of our website, compiling reports on website activity and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage.

Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google undertakes not to associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

If you have Adobe Flash installed on your computer (most computers do) and utilize audio or video players, Google Analytics will try to store some additional data on your computer. This data is known as a Local Shared Object or Flash cookie. This helps us to analyze the popularity of our media files.

Finally, this website makes use of Google Maps. Google Maps is used to provide locations for Timothy Seaman's performances. In clicking on a performance location, you can allow or deny Google Maps knowledge of your location for purposes of getting directions from your location to the event site.

You can control and/or delete cookies as you wish – for details, see aboutcookies.org. You can delete all cookies that are already on your computer and you can set most browsers to prevent them from being placed. If you do this, however, you may have to manually adjust some preferences every time you visit a site and some services and functionalities may not work.

Your failure to control and/or delete cookies for this site constitutes your acceptance of cookies as outlined above.