Visual Cues

In the most recent class we followed up with some rhythm drills to practice patterns heard in some of the listening examples. This class focuses on listening but one of the most important strategies for conveying elements of a style or piece of music is through experiential learning. And so there was a lot of slow repetition of patterns and also experimenting with how to group the patterns into regular beats. Specifically we worked with this bell rhythm of Agbekor music (in Ghana):

X - x - xx - x - x - xX - x - xx - x - x - x ...

That graphic representation offers two cycles of the pattern which repeats as a constant underlying structure for the ensemble. I also used Western notation in the class with eighth notes and rests to convey the same pattern but without time signature.  It's not that notation is necessary or even desirable to learn this and other patterns, but it allowed me to discuss what might challenge students' perceptions when we listen to this kind of beat cycle. 

Even without notation visual cues are very important for listening and learning music. If one is familiar with a particular scale or instrument then listening to a melody may be enough to grasp it and reproduce it. But if the style, rhythm, or instrument is completely unfamiliar, then watching a player's movements as one listens significantly enhances perception of the music. 

Visual cues will be an ongoing subject for upcoming classes. In the meantime one example that we watched as a stand-alone introduction to a new instrument is this performance on the Javanese gender by Barry Drummond available at Instruments of the World

Look for more gamelan music in upcoming posts!

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