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Making Musical Decisions
 The composer must decide what he or she wants to say
and the best musical means to express it. Among the
most fundamental decisions are those concerning
musical elements like form, melody, timbre, and
 Composers often begin writing by choosing a work’s
form. Form gives shape and direction but it does not
control the feeling or message the musical work
 Melodies may vary in length and style. Some music is
based on a minor scale.
 Minor scale is a sequence of eight pitches built on the
pattern of one whole step, one half step, two whole
steps, one half step, and two whole steps.
 Composers achieve variety by changing familiar
melodies from major to minor. Composer Gustav
Mahler used this technique in his Symphony No. 1 in D
 A symphony is an extended work for orchestra with
several contrasting movements.
 Mahler became known for his expressive melodies.
Duke Ellington was celebrated for the same
innovations in the field of jazz. *Listen for octave
displacement in “I Got It Bad…”
 Tibetan Dance – by Bright Sheng, blends Chinese
traditional sounds with American music
 Pipa – traditional Chinese lute
 Felt time – an aspect of music that
controls the listener’s sense of how
much time has passed
Arranger – a musician who reworks existing
musical material
Arranging for instrumental groups include
changing a melodic/lyrical line to a
particular instrument.
Transcriptions are arrangements of music
transferred from one medium to another
(ex: from vocal with lyrics to piano or
another instrument)
 Composers, arrangers, and performers have always
delighted in extending a musical idea through subtle
or obvious changes. When they do this within a single
 Theme and variations is a musical form in which a
melodic idea is stated then varied in a succession of
 Melodies can be ornamented, tempos altered,
harmonies changed, texture transformed, rhythms
revamped. Some composers will play their themes
backwards or upside-down.
 Harmony is vertical blocks of different tones that
simultaneously. Chords are built by adding a third or
fifth above any tone.
 John Lewis – “One Diamond” – starts
with Bach then transforms to jazz
 Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” was
influenced by Sergei Rachmaninoff’s
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
 Conductor – the director of an
orchestra, choir, or other performing
 1. select the music
 2. rehearse the musicians
 3. maintain the beat
 4. make decisions re: tempo, dynamics,
and phrasing
 5. give visual cues
 Rubato – the free treatment of tempo
within a musical phrase
 Marin Alsop – “Barrier Breaker Award”
for women in conducting