The Properties of Sound

I conducted a workshop called Same – Same – Differnet, workhop for flutists in May 2020 and during that process I was posting some thoughts on the event’s page on Facebook that would come handy during the workshop. As this is something any musician can use in their practice, regardless if they are performers, composers, educators, and no matter of what type of music they are dealing with, I thought of sharing them here well. I am guilty that there is not much profound information here but I think looking into the Elements of Sound is an area we overlook and it is good to be reminded about it every now and then. There will be a few blog posts coming, one for each element so keep an eye for the next one.

Pitch | Loudness | Timbre | Duration |  Envelope: attack, sustain, release | Location

For the Elements of music click here

We know the properties of sound. How can we use this knowledge in our playing if all of these properties are usually predetermined from the composer? Or are they? If I change phrasing do I change the whole piece? And, am I allowed to do this? In what context? How much is too much?

Interesting questions! Thanks for asking!!! 😅 We will discuss later what happens with other pieces written in other eras or by living composers. Let’s take this small piece for now. 

The score of Fantasy Impromptu-ish is pretty heavy. Notes everywhere and a couple of stylistic decorations, the score is almost complete. It could be, but it also could be a bit more. You see, there are some dynamic markings that can be interpreted in many ways. What is piano? If we try playing very softly then we might produce an air sound. Then we discover that we can play an air sound in a few dynamics. A note can have air and a pitch or go back and forth between air and pitch or… and still sound piano, quietly, reserved, gentle, held back.

Why don’t you take 2-4 bars of your favourite piece, or Fantasie Impormptu-ish and try to manipulate only one sound property using the entire phrase. The first property of the list is PITCH so let’s go with that. What can we do?

We can play that phrase using only

  • harmonics
  • multiphonics
  • microtones
  • change of registers
  • sing
  • something else…

Give it a go and let me know what happened.

All thoughts and ideas writen here are through my own experience and observation.

© Rania Chrysostomou, 2020

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