Jan. 21st, 2012

eponymous_rose: (Look it is a gyroscope!)
I'm a scientist, and I've done posts like this about science that interests me, but I'm also a classically trained pianist, and I think that one of the absolute greatest things anyone has ever taught me was how to listen to classical music - and I don't mean sit in concert halls and nod sagely and go "hmm, yes, quite nice", I mean really listen. So I'd like to pass that on to you, if you're curious or bored or getting a vague sense that this is something wonderful and huge that you now have a perfect excuse to experience.

Here's the thing - the vast majority of songs you hear on the radio are going to follow a certain formula. You've got your verses ("In the town where I was born/Lived a man who sailed to sea"), your chorus ("We all live in a yellow submarine") that's the always-stuck-in-your-head bit that pops up between verses, and somewhere around the middle you'll get a bridge with different instrumentation, often in a different key (this particular example has an instrumental bridge). This is, happily, a little point of commonality with the often-arcane world of classical music. In particular, I'm going to chat a bit (using an example!) about a certain form of music, a formula like the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-verse-chorus form you get so often in popular music.

This formula's called sonata-allegro form, and it was incredibly popular in the late 18th and early 19th century. Folks like Mozart loved this sucker, and a whole lot of pieces from that period have sonata-allegro form written all over them.

If you can get the hang of sonata-allegro form, you've got a pretty great start when it comes to understanding the structure behind this kind of music (and you've got a better chance at staying awake in a concert hall). So if you've got the time, sit back, relax, turn up your speakers, and let me try to talk you into really listening to this particular piece of music.

Onwards! This post is aimed at folks with little or no experience with music, although experts and enthusiasts are welcome to come in and point out all the ways in which I'm completely wrong about all this. )


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