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#940694 - 06/27/08 09:36 AM Re: Question
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 14326
Loc: Canada
I can see the difficulties in this - exhaustion doesn't sound good. Hang in there and keep us posted.

It might have been a different "fille" - it was late and I was tired - but I remember listening for "impressionism", hearing it, thinking "This could be played like a romantic and lyrical song, almost as though the romance was missing, yaddayadda..." and then his rendition made sense.

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#940695 - 06/27/08 10:04 AM Re: Question
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
Oh KS.
if in your explorations, you find out about these non-western scales, would you please let me know..

#940696 - 06/27/08 10:17 AM Re: Question
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 14326
Loc: Canada
I had a Saint Saens last year which "sounded funny" in places - or rather I was inclined to play something different than written until I learned of this. Two things: just being aware of it helps you make sense of what you're playing. Different scale arrangements (modes?) create moods, colours, shades - the crude example of this is major and minor.

The only way to get a handle on it is by playing, observing, maybe analyzing parts of your music - the act of practicing & developing the music with understanding. There is no shortcut and it can't be transfered. Are you taking theory? Have you gone past the usual majors and minors?

#940697 - 06/27/08 05:54 PM Re: Question
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
Theory is not exactly my forte but of course I learnt about the majors and minors. But I think he meant scales that are totally different, like for example in Arabisch music where the steps are less than a semi-tone? (I hope I am not saying something totally stupid here).
Any references from the teachers here as to Debussy's use of unusual scales?

#940698 - 06/27/08 06:19 PM Re: Question
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 14326
Loc: Canada
Ok, here goes. The major and minor scales are actually two "modes" which each create a distinctive mood - major tending toward happy & sunny, minor being sad and blue. The intervals of tones and semitones are arranged in a consistent order for a major scale, and for a melodic or harmonic minor scale. In a melody without accompaniment that gives a mood. With harmony the moods are even stronger. There is your first "tone colour" if you will.

There are a lot of other scale types. Each has the order of tones and semitones arranged in a certain way. That gives "colour" or "mood", and lends itself to particular harmonies. Some, such as the whole tone scale, are modern inventions.

- blues scale
- whole tone: 7 notes, all a whole tone apart. Example: C D E F# G# A# C. (B would be B# but that is C enharmonically.) If you play this you will hear the mood or colour of this strange scale.
- octatonic: WT ST WT ST repeatedly (WT = whole tone, ST = semitone), or ST WT ST WT

Then you have all the "church modes" which preceded the modern scale. Each mode has a different arrangement of tones and semitones creating a different colour or mood. You can discover the arrangement easily as well as hearing their mood by playing ** white keys only ** as follows:

Ionian - C to C (modern major scale)
Dorian - D to D
Phrygian - E to E
Lydian - F to F
Mixolydian - G to G
Aeolian - A to A (modern natural minor)
Locrian - B to B (rarely if ever used)

Some or all of these would have been Debussy's pallette. At least if you find these scales being referred to you'll have an idea what they're about. The best is to play them to get a feel of what they're about.

The music you were thinking of is typical of India and China and I don't know where else. They use microtones which are tiny intervals less than a semitone in size. But they would not be meant here. For one thing, as a tuned instrument, the piano cannot play microtones (unless it's badly out of tune ;\) )

#940699 - 06/27/08 06:20 PM Re: Question
SantaFe_Player Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/31/08
Posts: 610
Loc: New Mexico
Hi, Elise

The scales used in the Arabic (and I think Indian) music are actually much finer than our own twelve-toned scale. They actually divide into quarter tones and finer. To our western-trained ears, it almost sounds like they are just off-pitch, but the wonderful, wandering melodies they achieve are really wonderful to listen to. Of course we cannot play these scales on a piano, which is hardwired to the 12-tone chromatic paradigm.

There are indeed different scales used even in the music we are more familiar with. I don't recall their names offhand, but it's a question of the whole-half relationships and their order. For instance if you played all white notes but started on D - that's one. Playing all black keys would be the Pentatonic Scale, which we tend to think of as being Oriental. Wind chimes are often tuned to this scale. I'm at work and therefore am surrounded by geophysical theory books rather than music theory books - but if you did a Google search on musical scales or musical modes, you'd probably get some good information on this question. Alas, I have not had the priviledge to play any Debussy yet, but I know he does invoke some creative scalar and harmonic relationships.

As for getting the impressionistic musicality / feel, I would suggest (in all your "spare time" - ha!) you try to listen to a lot of Debussy. This of course goes for other composers as well, whomever you have been assigned. Debussy, being impressionistic, was often trying to actually evoke a specific image to come to your mind with his compositions. In some ways this can make it easier - if you can dig up just what it is that 'most' folks imagine in the music, you can use these images to try and shape your own interpretation. Alternatively, you could just try to get your mitts on several different recordings of the same piece, listen to them all and try to decide which appeals the most to you. This will inspire you to treat the piece in a certain way artistically. (I did this with great success with my own teacher, whose recording was the one I chose to be a bigger influence on me. When I brought the piece to the lesson the next week and played it for him, he said "Oh, very nice, I really like the way you're approaching this part and that part!" ;\) )
Heels down, and tickle the bit.

#940700 - 06/27/08 06:44 PM Re: Question
Elise_B Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 81
Loc: nyc
Thanks for your responses. I obviously need to read up more about this some day.I want to mention that the use of non western scales as it was being discussed does not necessarily refer to D's piano music- if taht makes any more sense ? either that or I completely misunderstood. ..My attention span expires every now and then.. definitely by minute 50 of the lesson.. we were on 75 I think during that discussion..

#940701 - 06/27/08 06:59 PM Re: Question
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 14326
Loc: Canada
Elise, you'll probably get most of your answers by googling Debussy + Impressionism. I think the scales are discussed. These are NOT non-Western scales - they are extremely Western scales for the most part.

Here's a start:
"Debussy's String Quartet in G minor .... In this work he utilized the Phrygian mode as well as less standard scales, such as the whole-tone , which creates a sense of floating, ethereal harmony." [Wikepedia]
5 minutes of playing through some of these scales might give you a feeling for scale types and mood.

Wikepedia The rest is yours. ;\)

#940702 - 06/28/08 12:15 PM Re: Question
Betty Patnude Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/07
Posts: 4896
Loc: Puyallup, Washington
Does anyone think you can play well and absorb the lesson while walking a tightrope?

In another thread the word belittlement came up.

Teaching and providing a list of the Debussy resources he wants you to read, see, or hear, would be helpful to his students.

Since he's not providing it, perhaps you should make that list for yourself like a term paper outline - and over time (not at once) you would pursue information of things Debussy.

Your list will get longer as you learn more and more. It is not something to do overnight - it is a long term, in depth study.

Best wishes, again and again.


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