Take it from the top

Voice Card  -  Volume 4  -  Holly Card Number 13  -  Wed, Jan 11, 1989 9:22 PM

This is a response to John's card asking about symphonies.

{See Vol 4 Holly 2}


Yea, yea, I picked up your hint from the last volume and I've been thinking about symphonies for you.

Where do I begin?

Music based on an aural tradition is usually HORIZONTALLY oriented. Music based on a written tradition is VERTICALLY oriented. In otherwords a melody (horizontal) is easier to remember than chords (vertical). This vertical orientation is why you are right that symphonies and mazes have similarities.

What do you mean by 'symphony'? I am assuming you mean symphonic form and not symphony as a generic term for all music played by a symphony orchestra. In addition to theory you would also enjoy learning about form.

Symphonies usually consist of four movements. The first and fourth movements are in SONATA-ALLEGRO FORM. Sonata-allegro form has three parts:

1) The exposition introduces the themes. Usually it opens with two themes which are of differing moods (contemplative/lively, etc.). A theme is a melody. The exposition also establishes the tonic key (I'll get to the definition).

2) The development is where the composer plays with the themes. He/she varies them by changing keys a lot and by changing rhythms and orchestration and whatever else they can think of.

3) The recapitulation re-establishes the tonic key and replays the themes and is very similar to the exposition.

OK - theory.

Every note in a scale has a function unique to that scale. Every note in a scale is a member of many chords within the scale and functions differently within each chord and still maintains its function within the scale.

Many scales share common notes and chords BUT their scale functions are not shared in common.


MODULATION: The act of moving from one key to another. The purpose is to add interest and "color" to a piece.

It is done by such methods as:

The Crash Bang Method: This is moving from one key to another with no consideration for the listener and when heard leaves one with a feeling similar to a bad elevator ride.

Common Chord or Note Method (I believe this is where the maze comes in): A common chord or note is used as a pivot chord to move from one key into another key. You can do this quite quickly.

Even though you don't know music theory your ears do know something. Even though the composer modulates you don't really feel the music is finished until it gets back to the tonic key or home.

The maze begins fairly easily and straightforward. Then moves onto paths that seem familiar but aren't exactly as you remember them and there are so many alternate paths to take some of which work and some don't. Finally when you are very confused and just about to give us you stumble across a path that reminds you of the beginning and you find yourself at the end of the maze which is also the beginning.

John, I will continue this discussion in essay form in a later volume. How did you do the carols? Is there a way I can make examples for you both visual and audio?