On the Art of Music Making

Posted on 23rd February, 2015

   The art of music making is a talent that should not be taken for granted. Just as an artist uses paint to portray his or her interpretation of a scene, musicians utilise notes to create a sensory atmosphere. The same colours are used by different artists yet each painting gives a different insight into the subject irrespective of the content, be it a mural, graffiti, portrait or landscape. Those basic or base colours are primary elements of the artist's pallet and enable a range of shades and different colours to be created by careful mixing.


   Singing voices are generally likewise placed in basic ranges:- soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Different 'shades' or range of notes create crossovers between these ranges e.g. Mezzo soprano, contralto and baritone. These generally have a broader range of notes.


   Just as an artist mixes colours to create a painting so a musical director seeks to blend voices together to create a sound that reflects what they feel is appropriate for the song. 


   Each artist will interpret a scene in their own way, using different colours & brush strokes that makes the painting unique. Some will copy others' work while some will paint in a contemporary style. The appreciation of that work will depend upon the taste of those who view it. Someone who has commissioned a portrait will not appreciate a seascape, irrespective of the quality of the painting. To equate that in a musical sense a MD must choose music that is appropriate to the audience whilst understanding that the listeners will have differing 'tastes' & preferences of genres and style. To sing classical music at a rock concert and vice versa would not be appreciated by the audiences.


   An artist will chose different mediums for his/her work e.g. Oils, water colours, pastels and also select a compound on which to paint (e.g. canvas, card, glass, paper). These compounds provide differing textures, some are smooth, some course and not all are suited for all paint mediums.


   While it is the MDs task to blend the different musical parts in a harmonious fashion they must also consider the type or genre of song that is suitable for the voice(s) singing it i.e. a folk singer would not normally tackle an operatic aria nor a choir boy sing rock music.


   A further aspect of consideration then is the tonal quality of individual voices. When an artist mixes paint they seek consistency, lightening or darkening the colour to give different shades but keeping the colour true.  This maintenance of consistency is equally important in the tone of voices which presents a significant challenge to the MD. Prominent individual voices within a choir can be as obtrusive as a colour in the wrong place within a painting. Some adjustments can be obtained through volume control or positioning but the optimum solution is vocal technique to achieve tonal quality throughout the vocal range. A true test of a choir's vocal balance is to hear each part clearly but sounding as one chord. Singing in unison can often be easier to control but not give the 'depth of colour' to a piece that full harmony affords.


   An artist requires the paints to do what they demand, likewise Conductors need to be in control of their choirs or orchestras and that can only be achieved if they are following the 'brush strokes' of the baton.  Musicians practice on their own, getting to know the music and notes, rehearsing timings, learning words so that when they come together as an orchestra or choir they can be taught to blend.


written by MD William Thomas originally as a report for the 2015 AGM held in January

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Comments (1)

Very colourful it just helps me to appreciate what a difficult job William has,thank you for all that you do for the choir and for encouraging us as individuals.