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A Journey into Sound Part VIII - Dynamics (with videos)

by rg Sat May 10th, 2008 at 05:29:19 AM EST

Whoo! Saturday bump up! - In Wales


If you were to write a piece of music, you could use some dynamic marks to inform any future performers (including yourself) of how it was you imagined--or intended those notes played.  

Dynamics (music)

Relative loudness

Teacher. "And what does ff mean?"
Pupil (after mature deliberation). "Fump-Fump." Cartoon from Punch magazine October 6, 1920

The two basic dynamic indications in music are:

  • p or piano, meaning "soft" and
  • f or forte, meaning "loud" or "strong".

More subtle degrees of loudness or softness are indicated by:

  • mp, standing for mezzo-piano, and meaning "medium-quiet" or "moderately-quiet" and
  • mf, standing for mezzo-forte, and meaning "medium-loud" or "moderately-loud".

Beyond f and p, there are also

  • ff, standing for "fortissimo", and meaning "very loud" and
  • pp, standing for "pianissimo", and meaning "very quiet".

To indicate even more extreme degrees of intensity, more ps or fs are added as required. fff and ppp are found in sheet music quite frequently. No standard names for fff and ppp exist, but musicians have invented a variety of neologisms for these designations, including fortissimissimo pianissimissimo, forte fortissimo piano pianissimo, and more simply triple forte triple piano or molto fortissimo molto pianissimo (although in Italian the last expression is not correct). ppp has also been designated "pianissimo possibile".

A few pieces contain dynamic designations with more than three fs (sometimes called "fortondoando") or ps. The Norman Dello Joio Suite for Piano ends with a crescendo to a ffff, and Tchaikovsky indicated a bassoon solo pppppp in his Pathétique symphony and ffff in passages of his 1812 Overture and the 2nd movement of his 5th symphony. ffff is also found in a prelude by Rachmaninof, op.3-2. Shostakovich even went as loud as fffff in his fourth symphony. Gustav Mahler, in the second movement of his Seventh Symphony, gives the violins a marking of fffff, along with a footnote directing 'pluck so hard that the strings hit the wood.' On another extreme, Carl Nielsen, in the second movement of his Symphony No. 5, marked a passage for woodwinds a decrescendo to ppppp. Another more extreme dynamic is in György Ligeti's Devil's Staircase Etude, which has at one point a ffffff and progresses to a fffffff.


And then there are the single note accents

and the crecendoes.

Getting louder

loud then soft:

Then there are the written instructions:

Strong and loud are balanced with soft and quiet.

Debussy Prelude Book 1 No.7 (3:06)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNcvnOwxFrA

---------------------------

Loud Music

Mozart - Requiem - Dies irae (1:57)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M_YSEbAWA0Y

Motorhead - Ace of Spades (2:50)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saSWh6PXoug

---------------

Soft Music

Leo Brouwer "Hika" (7:01)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bl05pZK2-3I

MEDITATION 3 Pour 4 flûte et biwa (2:34)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xAbLYB9ImBw

---------------

Loud and Soft

All music is to some degree loud and soft.  They are relative terms.  If everything is LOUD ALL THE TIME then our ears grow dull, our nerve endings curl up and ignore the racket.  Soft becomes so tiny we no longer hear it...  Soft is relative to loud, the size of a wave is relative to the other waves around it, though it can also be measured if we have a scale.

Decibel - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The decibel is commonly used in acoustics to quantify sound levels relative to some 0 dB reference. The reference level is typically set at the threshold of perception of an average human and there are common comparisons used to illustrate different levels of sound pressure.

A reason for using the decibel is that the ear is capable of detecting a very large range of sound pressures. The ratio of the sound pressure that causes permanent damage from short exposure to the limit that (undamaged) ears can hear is above a million. Because the power in a sound wave is proportional to the square of the pressure, the ratio of the maximum power to the minimum power is above one (short scale) trillion. To deal with such a range, logarithmic units are useful: the log of a trillion is 12, so this ratio represents a difference of 120 dB. Since the human ear is not equally sensitive to all the frequencies of sound within the entire spectrum, noise levels at maximum human sensitivity -- for example, the higher harmonics of middle A (between 2 and 4 kHz) -- are factored more heavily into sound descriptions using a process called frequency weighting.

-------------

Anything that is very loud is also very intense, blocking all other signals; and this intensity can be created with waves of different sizes, so there's the high pitched whine of feedback and the gut-shaking roar of a jet engine.

Jet engine test (1:48)

Note how the sound changes at 1:23

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3b5fWlYJK4

And it stops.  Ahhhh!

---------------------------

Silence

Absolute silence is possible, but we can never experience it.  In a completely silent room designed in such a way that the walls eat every sound, there's no bounce back, no reverb; you will hear the strange effect of 'no external noise', and then you will hear a hissing and a pumping.  The hissing is your nervous system, and the pumping is your heart.

--------------------------

Sforzando

Italian-- 'ando' - ing - forcing - with effort

Excellent sforzandi in the next piece.  Watch in particular for movements of the musicians as they emphasise certain key notes, sforzando, over and over, as we move from p to fff, round and round--fantastic piece!

Edward Grieg - In the Hall of the Mountain King (2:28)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fzyi3C4gNnE

------------------------

4'33

What I'd like is for as many of you as possible to listen to 4'33 all the way through.  It's famous, it's a conversational point--is it music?  It's as much music and the opposite of music as that jet engine.

Here's the thing, though: I found my first time through humorous, engaging, exuberant--it's in the giving in to the idea--you don't have to listen to it; it's just another piece of music.  

Like these:

Aretha Franklin I Say a Little Prayer (3:23)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FsP74Mr4WPE

Sxip Shirey playing bowls with red marbles (5:59)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6FsT_lnVppw

Szymanowski - "Stabat mater" (6:12)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KrOUTp8UUo

The Doors - Break on Through (2:33)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HXPUXc46nWI

--------------------------

If you've been following through, listening, then pause a moment...

...

listen...

That's the sound of the orchestra warming up.  In 4'33 no notes will be played.  An orchestra will appear.  A conductor will move his baton after observing his stopwatch.  Silence.  Except--comlete silence doesn't exist, only relative silence, so: you watch the video; you can close your eyes or look around--an audience would have to watch the conductor to see exactly when each movement started (cough breaks occur between movements; if you cough during a movement it will be part of the performance)...you might hear your computer humming, or cars in the street outside.  The tick of a clock or the noise of people in the room--each performance is different and your experience of it will be unique--in the exact sounds you notice--because what you don't notice you don't hear.

Unlike the audience at Woodstock, where the piece was premiered in 1952, you're not about to be caught unawares--your ears are primed for the concert.  There's an introduction, the piece starts at 01:00.

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hUJagb7hL0E

-----------------

And now, loud soft and everything in between:

Beethoven Symphony No. 5 (6:06)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N6K_IuBsRM4

!

And finally

Robert Johnson "CROSS ROAD BLUES" (2:31)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQHYcYq3zPM

Duke Ellington Orchestra and dancers - Going Up (3:42)

Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZYT5edrf28

----------------------

Okay, I hope you enjoyed the music!  Please add your own versions of loud, soft, softloud loudsoftloudsoftstrongquietloudloudsoft.  Instructions on how to post a video are here.

Display:
Here's a piece that takes me back (waaaay back)--plenty of dynamics here (4:32).



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Tue May 6th, 2008 at 08:03:52 PM EST


Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 02:02:55 AM EST
The dynamic range of a piece (how big the change from the softest to the loudest part) varies greatly by genre.

Those pieces with the biggest range seem to be mostly in the western classical orchestral tradition. In a quite concert hall the base noise level might be 60 db and the peaks of the performance might be 110 db for brief moments. So the range of the piece might be 40 db (the orchestra has to play louder than the ambient sound to be heard at all). Recently some pieces have gotten so loud that EU officials have stepped in since they are in violation of hearing protection regulations.

Rock concerts have a much smaller dynamic range, perhaps between 10-20 db. Recorded music and broadcast music is artificially compressed so that it never gets as soft as the original. This is done so that the music can "punch through" the surrounding noise especially on radio where the loud stations tend to attract more listeners and for those driving in autos.

When full range CD's were first released people complained because if they made them loud enough to hear the quiet parts then they were too loud at the climaxes. Some players and receivers now have options to compress the sound for late night listening.

The rise of continually loud pop music and the use of headphones for listening has led to widespread hearing loss especially among young people. This is now a major public health issue, but doesn't get much attention. Warnings on headphones and MP3 players don't change behavior.

Trying to find a quite place in the modern world is difficult and I think many people are unable to cope with this situation, they just need to be surrounded by sound and activity. Perhaps the rise of email, IM and texting indicates that people are afraid to even be alone with their thoughts...

[As I'm writing this the gardening crew up the street is using a variety of gas powered lawn equipment and shattering the quiet of the morning. The situation had gotten so bad that my village put a ban in against gas blowers from November to April. Rakes are a thing of the past.]

Policies not Politics
---- Daily Landscape

by rdf (robert.feinman@gmail.com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 08:38:18 AM EST
Yea. As a public transport rider, I find walkmans, DiscMans, Mpeg-players, iPods & co a crime against humanity. Car radios too, especially when playing techno for the whole block while the teens are still dressing up and chatting before the Friday night rush to the disco. Then again, cars themselves are loud, and in Central Europe, there are ever fewer outdoor places where one can escape their noise.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 10:36:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Damn kids.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 10:39:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel I am turning into a grumpy old man...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 10:46:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Then again, cars themselves are loud

yes!  though I suppose horses were loud prior to cars, and people in aggregate are loud regardless--

Still, cars (and buses) are a constant background hum--the sound of modern life in the West, I suppose.  So people get away from it all in the country, in quiet spots.  I found a great quote about this, relating to 4'33:

The origin of the concept of 4'33", i.e., a silent frame filled with non-intentional environmental sounds, is debatable. But when Cage was a Fellow at Wesleyan's Center of Advanced Studies (1960-61), he was asked to compile a list of books having the greatest influence on his thought. One of these was Luigi Russolo's , the Italian Futurist, The Art of Noises (1916). Cage referred to The Art of Noises in his 1948 lecture at Vassar. In this book there is a chapter that presages 4'33", i.e.,"The Noises of Nature and Life". Russolo begins by poetically describing many of the sounds of nature. Then comes a remarkable statement:

And here it can be demonstrated that the much poeticized silences with which the country restores nerves shaken by city life are made up of an infinity of noises, and that these noises have their own timbres, their own rhythms, and a scale that is very delicately enharmonic in its pitches. It has been neither said nor proven that these noises are not a very important part (or in many cases the most important part) of the emotions that accompany the beauty of certain panoramas, the smile of certain countrysides!

But let us leave nature and the country (which would be a tomb without noises) and enter a noisy modern city. Here, with machines, life has created the most immense, the most varied sources of noise. But if the noises of the country are few, small, and pleasing, then those of the city ... Oh! To have to listen to noises from dawn to dusk, eternal noise!

http://solomonsmusic.net/4min33se.htm



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 10:49:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know if you've ever been in an anechoic chamber, but utter silence reveals itself to be a lack of reflections. An echoic silence is filled with sound, but not with noise.

Not only that but your neural networks are chattering away all the time even where there is no stimulus. It's what neurons do when they're at home. So when 'nothing' is happening, the low-level neural chatter comes into consciousness. ie the Noise becomes Signal.

One can study this effect by lying in a bath of body temperature water in a totally black bathroom when noone else is in the house. It is not the isolation tank of Dr John Lilley or Michael Jacksob, but it will be effectively spooky.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 11:38:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
sat leaning against a table one night , to the light of a single overhead bulb, all the doors were locked as it was a really rough estate, everyone was out, when all of a sudden, everything went black ,and someone tapped me on the shoulder. I screamed, dropped the book and flicked the light switch, nothing happened, panic ensued, till i managed to turn the kitchen light on. It turned out that the lightbulb hadn't been put in properly, and its bayonet fitting had disengaged, and it had fallen directly onto my shoulder.

Always check you've put your light bulbs in properly or it will come back to haunt you

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 11:57:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not me. I can still remember when kids carried loud ghetto blasters with them. Not as many as use ipods and the like these days, but they were a lot noisier. I prefer the current system.
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 03:15:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I too remember those, but for me, no improvement, because

  1. ghetto blasters, pocket radios and other headphone-less noisemakers weren't (and aren't) allowed on public transport here;
  2. in practice, culturally (as well as in volume), ghetto blasters have been succeeded by car radios equipped with mega-bass, played at full volume with pulled-down windows; to get girls' attention on a bored evening (cruisin') or just on daily commute/errands;
  3. the many iPod-ers can ensure saturation coverage in closed spaces;
  4. with ghetto blasters, you at least heard the music, not just the monotonous rhythm.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 07:47:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Muse is a band that likes to switch from soft to loud and back. Here is Bliss (06:01):



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 10:44:37 AM EST
Not rock.

In Dead Can Dance: Sanvean, Lisa Gerrard manipulates the volume of her voice to get a quite strong emotional effect (at least on me :-)). Here it is in two versions:

Studio-recorded version with original video:

A concert version (sung even more hauntingly, but sound is sadly not perfect at some points) with an intro interview with Gerrard (actual song starts at 00:50), watch her facial expressions:

(rg had songs he played 36 times in one run; I have both the studio and a concert version of this as mp3, I must have reached similar levels when I listened to both looped.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 08:11:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She has an amazing range!  I hadn't heard her before you posted those first clips in earlier diaries, such a great voice.  I mentioned it to a friend, "Hey!  I heard Dead Can Dance, the singer--"  "Lisa Gerrard, yes.  Excellent voice."

I wanted to place the following piece in the consonance/dissonance diary, but I couldn't find the right place.  I think you'll like it--it's Purcell, who, the more I hear, the more I like.  (3:18)

The reason I post it here is that the tone (somewhat!) reminds me of the Lisa Gerrard piece, also in the 'soprano' tone--where the voice is deep, but there's an overtone or a sense of how high the voice can go--and there are passages when it rises high--the dynamics of the human voice.



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 04:26:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Purcell - there is the strange but frequent claim that Sir Elgar was the one and only true great composer of English classical music (counting Händel into German), definitely forgetting about Purcell.

I hadn't heard her before you posted those first clips in earlier diaries, such a great voice.  I mentioned it to a friend, "Hey!  I heard Dead Can Dance, the singer--"  "Lisa Gerrard, yes.  Excellent voice."

I must admit to a feeling that with your knowledge of music, I'd be hard-pressed to find anything new you'd see as classy, original and that won't remind you of precedents (which I may not know about)... So I was both surprised and pleased I could give you Dead Can Dance :-) But, staying on the theme, here is what Lisa talks about in that interview:

Glossolalia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Glossolalia (from Greek glossa γλῶσσα "tongue, language" and λαλεῖν "to talk") is the vocalizing of fluent speech-like but unintelligible utterances, often as part of religious practice. Its use (including use in this article) sometimes also embraces Xenoglossy - speaking in a natural language that was previously unknown to and that is not understood by the speaker.

I wonder what associations glossolalia throws up in you.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 06:12:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The first immediate association is religous--speaking in tongues, there was a growth of this back...when?  I can't remember, but it was supposed to be a communication from the Holy Spirit--it was big in Canada I read (or maybe I got that all wrong.)  But thinking...what music would I associate most with this, first there'd be the Cocteau Twins--

(The intro guitar line is one of those that I used to love to play on the guitar, it's a classic rock riff, a Keith Richard's riff but plucked out--I read once that Liz Fraser used to write out all the words she sang--so she had a specific lyric, but the words weren't from any known language)

Carolyn's fingers - Cocteau twins (3:04)

...but what came first to my mind, the person I immediately thought of when bouncing away from the religious thought was....Fela Kuti.  He didn't make words up, indeed he used english in a specific way which I like, repeating phrases, but that idea of--yes, it's that he inserted non-sense phrases "a waka waka waka"--or maybe they made sense, there's that mix of language as communication via picture-connotations (tree, house) and....abstracts--

But, I checked the lyrics and I'm not sure--I think he's using local language words, mixing them with an english variant...anyways, I posted this piece before but it's worth another go round.

Fela Kuti Lyrics

ZOMBIE


Zombie-o, zombie** *(police/army-unthinking followers)
[CHORUS] ZOMBIE-O, ZOMBIE (2X)

Zombie no go go, unless you tell am to go
[CHORUS] ZOMBIE *(after each line)
Zombie no go stop, unless you tell am to stop
Zombie no go turn, unless you tell am to turn
Zombie no go think, unless you tell am to think

Zombie-o, zombie
[CHORUS] ZOMBIE-O, ZOMBIE (2X) (repeat last 2 stanzas)

Tell am to go straight-- Joro, Jara, Joro
No break, no job, no sense-- Joro, Jara, Joro
Tell am to go kill-- Joro, Jara, Joro
No break, no job, no sense-- Joro, Jara, Joro
Tell am to go quench-- Joro, Jara, Joro
No break, no job, no sense-- Joro, Jara, Joro

Go and kill
[CHORUS] JORO, JARA, JORO (after each line)
Go and die
Go and quench
* **(destroy)
Put am for reverse
Go and kill
Go and die
Go and quench *(3x)


Joro, Jara, Joro- O Zombie way na one way (3x)
Joro, Jara, Joro- Ooooh

The singing doesn't start until five minutes in, btw!  (length of track, 10:01)

And one more piece came to mind--Vocalise by Rachmaninov.  There are different versions, the ones for voice don't have words, just a voice.

RACHMANINOFF: Vocalise, Op. 34, No. 14 (7:39)



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:04:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This comment is a mini Journey Into Sound! :-) About Liz Fraser, dead right:

Cocteau Twins - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Although the entire band was praised for their performances, Fraser received the most attention. At times barely decipherable, Fraser seemed to veer into glossolalia and mouth music.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:42:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's Wednesday again already?!!  I still have the last 2 to catch up with. Who would have thought there was so much to discuss...!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Wed May 7th, 2008 at 11:08:59 AM EST

Just something to break up the seriousness ;-)

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 06:44:48 PM EST
Hey!  When he gets lost in the score--that's me!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:11:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
btw, has youtube changed from showing how much has been played to how much remains to be played, or has it always done that I didn't notice?  (I think not, or I wouldn't have seen the 00:02 with the bug.)

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:13:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you can change what it displays by clicking in the window where it displays the figures

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:15:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
had the same effect on me the first time I found that. A small eureka moment.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:20:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe his invisible drumkit will fit a diary in the future

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think here is a great place for it--it's full of dynamics!  I hadn't seen it before--'sgreat!



Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:17:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the gong and the cat at the end always makes me chuckle

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu May 8th, 2008 at 07:20:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I forgot to thank for Szymanowski's "Stabat mater" - didn't know, it, like it very much.

Here is another Slavic nationalist classical music piece - Smetana's Vltava/Moldau. This is about the second-biggest Czech river which flows across Prague, following it from its spring to its end - hence, using the fully dynamic range. It is a childhood favourite.

Part 1 of video (07:07):

Part 2 (04:26):



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 07:38:40 AM EST
Each one of the series is great... and I love the youtubeing!!!

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 11:11:27 AM EST
my thoughts on last night

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDPPvsErNQY

"Looking for my Lo and Behold" The Band

by the misunderestimated on Sat May 10th, 2008 at 04:12:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Sun May 11th, 2008 at 05:22:19 AM EST


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