Studying music

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Studying music

Postby ashwin99 » Wed Nov 16, 2016 6:41 pm

How do you go about studying music? Are there any particular websites with good information about music/composers/opera/etc.?
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Re: Studying music

Postby Your Feline Genome » Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:59 am

Studying music for quizbowl is pretty comparable to literature, I'd say. For fake knowledge, learning lit is a matter of knowing authors, titles of works, the composition of those works, and the stories of those works, and learning music is knowing composers, the names of pieces, important stuff about their composition, and the stories of those works. For example, Garspard de la Nuit is by Ravel, it has three movements (Ondine, Le Gibet, Scarbo), and each is based on a poem by Aloysius Bertrand from his collection that shares the same name. Ondine is about a water nymph, Le Gibet is about a desert where someone has been hanged, and Scarbo is about a goblin flying around. It's also helpful to know famous stories about how these pieces were written or about their performance history - Scarbo was intended by Ravel to be harder than Islamey by Balakirev, Rite of Spring had a famous riot ensue at its premiere in Paris, etc. Most of this can be learned through Wikipedia articles, and heard about through quinterest or reading packets.

For some heavier material, I have found that watching videos about musical pieces has been pretty fun. Michael Tilson Thomas, director of the San Francisco Symphony, hosts (or hosted? does this show still run?) a show with the SFS called Keeping Score. I think you can find old episodes on Youtube. Looking up program notes for pieces from their performances by big orchestras might be worth your while, too.

It's a huge advantage if you play an instrument and play in an ensemble where you might encounter this music in real-life setting, but if you don't, even going to concerts and watching performances can help you gain some deeper knowledge. If you have a grasp of music theory, listening to pieces might help you get some score clues.

Honestly, the stories that you hear about and read on wikipedia and in program notes make for good clues, and thus, good buzzes. The first line of the MYSTERIUM tossup on Nijinsky mentioned something that I heard while watching BBC movie "Riot at the Rite", a dramatic retelling of the Rite of Spring premiere. I had also watched a video of the recreated production by the Joffrey Ballet, and I remembered seeing the adolescent girls put their hands up to their cheeks, and when it came to that part of the ballet in the movie, someone said something along the lines of "get them a dentist!" Both of those things - the poses, and the quote - were in the firstline of the tossup. Knowing those kinds of funny stories will get you some good buzzes.
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Re: Studying music

Postby vinteuil » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:53 am

Your Feline Genome wrote:For some heavier material, I have found that watching videos about musical pieces has been pretty fun. Michael Tilson Thomas, director of the San Francisco Symphony, hosts (or hosted? does this show still run?) a show with the SFS called Keeping Score. I think you can find old episodes on Youtube. Looking up program notes for pieces from their performances by big orchestras might be worth your while, too.
...
Honestly, the stories that you hear about and read on wikipedia and in program notes make for good clues, and thus, good buzzes. The first line of the MYSTERIUM tossup on Nijinsky mentioned something that I heard while watching BBC movie "Riot at the Rite", a dramatic retelling of the Rite of Spring premiere. I had also watched a video of the recreated production by the Joffrey Ballet, and I remembered seeing the adolescent girls put their hands up to their cheeks, and when it came to that part of the ballet in the movie, someone said something along the lines of "get them a dentist!" Both of those things - the poses, and the quote - were in the firstline of the tossup. Knowing those kinds of funny stories will get you some good buzzes.

Can confirm that I decided to include that clue after I remembered seeing it in both the MTT Keeping Score episode on the Rite and in Riot at the Rite.

As usual, if you want a fairly clue-dense, fairly entertainingly-written book on all this stuff, I'll recommend music critic Harold Schonberg's Lives of the Great Composers.
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Re: Studying music

Postby ashwin99 » Sat Nov 19, 2016 6:43 pm

Thanks for all the suggestions! I've begun reading Lives of the Great Composers and it seems pretty interesting and useful so far.

What about the tossups on musical works in which it describes notes or scales -- the actual technical details of the composition? In your opinion, is the best way to learn these actually listening to these pieces or reading about them on websites / through books?
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Re: Studying music

Postby Periplus of the Erythraean Sea » Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:32 am

ashwin99 wrote:Thanks for all the suggestions! I've begun reading Lives of the Great Composers and it seems pretty interesting and useful so far.

What about the tossups on musical works in which it describes notes or scales -- the actual technical details of the composition? In your opinion, is the best way to learn these actually listening to these pieces or reading about them on websites / through books?


Listening to the piece isn't useful unless you have a pretty good command of musical terminology, what various instruments sound like, etc. I recommend reading about the pieces, even if you want to listen to them as well (highly encouraged!)
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Re: Studying music

Postby stitz » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:09 pm

While I would by no means say I'm a great music player, I have found going to the "movements" section of the wikipedia page on any piece usually has good information. Even from someone like me who has 0 music theory knowledge--just memorizing wikipedia's description of each movement (time signature, tempo, etc) is super helpful and those descriptions are often used as early clues.
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Re: Studying music

Postby Couch's Kingbird » Fri Nov 25, 2016 1:06 am

ashwin99 wrote:Thanks for all the suggestions! I've begun reading Lives of the Great Composers and it seems pretty interesting and useful so far.

What about the tossups on musical works in which it describes notes or scales -- the actual technical details of the composition? In your opinion, is the best way to learn these actually listening to these pieces or reading about them on websites / through books?


What about listening to the piece as you read about the theory on Wikipedia/concert notes/etc.? I find that sometimes hearing what's being described helps me remember what's going on better, rather than just reading a summary of it, which can be confusing/hard to remember. (It is music, after all.)
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Re: Studying music

Postby scholarhillery » Wed Mar 22, 2017 9:38 am

I don't know if this completely pertinent to quiz bowl, but I really enjoyed watching Bernstein's Norton Lectures, "The Unanswered Question." For someone who does not know much music theory, they could be quite informative.
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