Page 38 - Voice for Life Yellow Workbook
P. 38

                                 Understanding the music we sing
Write your notes on a separate piece of paper. They should be in your own words: try not to paraphrase or copy from other sources. If you want to use a quotation from a composer or writer to illustrate a certain point, keep it short. Identify it as a quotation by putting it in quotation marks, and refer to the author’s name.
 Topics for consideration when writing your notes
Use the answers on the worksheet on the previous page as the basic material for your programme notes. Use the questions below to give you ideas of how to expand these answers into full, informative text. You won’t want to answer all of them for every piece, but aim to produce a programme note that tells the reader about the music in an interesting and relevant way.
Discuss the themes of the text and what it communicates. What does the text describe or communicate? Does it put across a particular mood? How is this achieved?
Describe how the composer has set the words to music. Is the setting syllabic (one syllable for each note) or melismatic (one syllable over many notes)? Are any of the words repeated? Does the music highlight a particular part of the text? Does the use of the music change the mood or affect the meaning of the text in any way?
Discuss the composer’s use of different colours and textures. Do many voices and instruments sing and play at once, or not? Is there particular use of contrast or dynamics? Special instrumental or vocal effects? Unusual harmonies? How do these reflect the text or affect the mood of the piece?
Think about the composer’s life. Do any historical, political or personal events in the composer’s life have connections with their work? Does the piece you are studying reflect this? Perhaps it reflects a particular event (e.g. the death of a family member, the crowning of a new monarch).
Think about the musical period in which the composer lived. Discuss the characteristics of music at that time. Name other pieces in the same style or genre (type of piece). Compare and contrast them with the piece you are studying. Is your piece typical of music of its period? In what way? Is there anything about your piece that is new and innovative? Did your composer influence other composers? How? Or was your composer influenced by another composer while writing this piece?
Discuss how the piece might have been performed when it was written and compare this with your performance. Are you performing the piece the way it would have been heard when it was written? Or was it written for a different combination of voices or instruments from the one you are using? Were there any special performing conventions (ways of playing or singing, for example) that would have affected the piece when it was written? If so, are you including – or excluding – any of these in your performance?
Writing programme notes
The main purpose of programme notes is to help the audience to understand and appreciate the music. Make your notes as interesting as possible, clear, concise and readable. Focus on the piece itself: if you include any biographical or historical information, it must be linked directly to the music.
    38 Module C: Repertoire

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