Saturday, June 10, 2017

The Practice--Deep Listening Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun

Photo by Patricia Herlevi, All Rights Reserved
When I was 18 years old, I returned to my parent's house for college spring break and I shuffled through my mother's classical records. I found a recording of Claude Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of the Faun. The title intrigued me so I listened to the composition. I immediately fell into a trance.

Musical trances weren't new to me at that time as I had fallen under musical trances as a child numerous times. But I found myself swooning to Claude Debussy's impressionistic music. I followed the different instruments as they rose and descended then hid behind other instruments such as harps, French horns, oboes, and flutes.

Then, years later, I felt a craving for French Impressionist music. I bought recordings of Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. And again, I swooned when I heard Debussy's prelude. I spent a summer exploring French Impressionist recordings in my music lab that I created in my Seattle apartment. These songs launched my concept of keeping a musical diary and tracking emotional, mental, and physical responses that I experienced when exposed to certain types of music.

So, now, I'm passing on this concept to you. Get out your music diary and track your responses to Claude Debussy's controversial composition. I'm including a YouTube video of the piece. While this video has imagery, I ask you to close your eyes and listen to the rise and fall of the instruments. Then later, you can watch the video and listen to the music.

Answer the following questions in your music diary:

  • What instruments appear in the orchestra?
  • Which instruments are prominent or tend to take the lead?
  • Do you hear more upward or downward scales or are they equal?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move up the scale?
  • What is your mood when the instruments move down the scale?
  • Do you feel resolution at the end of each phrase or anticipation?
  • Do you feel relaxed listening to the piece or slightly anxious?
  • How does the tempo affect you?
  • How does the timbre of the instruments color your emotions and physical sensations?
  • Do you feel that the piece resolves itself at the end or does it leave you hanging?
Next, I want you to research the composer, the historic period in which Debussy composed the prelude. And how this piece of music fits in with the context of classical music. Was this softer piece of music considered radical and a game-changer? (This is for extra credit).

Please leave comments below for your experiences. Thank you for sharing your personal journey with music. If you haven't already please follow this blog. And subscribe to the YouTube channel Whole Music Experience. You can also support this work by making a donation to my Go Fund Me campaign.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Practice--Rhythmic Entrainment (Realigning the Cells in Your Body)

Try this experiment. Next time you hear music coming from a passing car while you're out walking, pay attention to your body's reaction. Pay attention to how your body rearranges itself to match the rhythm and tempo of the song coming from the passing car.

I've noticed this with myself. I'm walking on a city street at my own pace and cadence. Then a car passes by with rap music pouring out of the speakers. I notice that my step picks up, my heart races, and I end up walking to the rap rhythms against my will. Alternately, if I'm walking into a shop and a Bach prelude pours from a speaker, I pay attention to my body's rhythms as they slow down and my mind travels from worries of the day to contemplation. Or I stop thinking obsessive thoughts and I remember music history lessons about the Baroque Era--Bach's music.

Right now, I'm listening to Marvin Gaye's greatest hits on YouTube as I type this post. I'm feeling my heart swelling with compassion as I listen to "What's Going On?" I feel my feet tapping to the slow groove of this song and I catch myself singing along during the chorus. Not only that, my mind travels back to the first time I heard this song during my childhood. And then my mind travels to a memory of my good friend telling me about her fondness for Marvin Gaye. Then, I also think about a local musician who once toured with Marvin and sings those old soul tunes--leaving his audience feeling uplifted.

So, what is an anatomy of a song for you? If you hear a familiar song playing in the background of a shop or on Pandora or YouTube, what goes through your mind? What emotions does the song stir beside nostalgia? Do you have good or negative memories attached to the song? Perhaps, a song reminds you of a break up with a lover. Well, that's good music therapy. Sit with that song and allow yourself to feel those emotions so you can release them once and for all. You'll know when you have healed yourself because you'll have no emotional charge when you hear the song in the future.

Other things to focus upon when listening to a song includes the moods conveyed by the chord progression, instrumentation, tempo, timbre, and emotional palette. These are all the things a music reviewer considers when listening to recordings as well. Experiment with different genres of music and different tempos. Listen to instruments you normally don't listen to. If you mainly listen to electronic music then listen to bird songs or acoustic instruments. And if you normally listen to exotic acoustic instruments from around the world listen to new age music played on a synthesizer or sound healing bowls.

Then remember to note your responses in your music diary. You're keeping a music diary, right?

I'm going to get you started. Here is a tango by the great bandoneon player and composer Astor Piazzolla.

Now, here's a Marvin Gaye classic.

And finally, we're going to listen to a Bach prelude from the Goldberg Variations.

Let me know how this experiment works out for you by leaving comments. I love getting comments. And consider donating to my Go Fund Me campaign to produce podcasts for the Whole Music Experience channel on YouTube.  Thank you. And if you haven't already, subscribe to the YouTube channel and this blog.