In conceptual description or analysis of music there are many elements. The first three being those which are taught most often: 'Rhythm', 'Melody', and 'Harmony'. These come into play in the elements of 'Composition', the score that presents or defines the piece of music, and 'Arrangement', the combination of instruments which are used play the composition. These five primary elements ('Rhythm', 'Melody', 'Harmony', 'Composition', and 'Arrangement') are definable and can be captured symbolically in notation.
Then there is 'Dynamics', the rise and fall or the emphasis which presents itself to the listener. Dynamics manifests through volume, 'Composition', and which instruments are emphasized in the 'Arrangement'.
In conjunction with 'Dynamics', is 'Swing', which is the slight variation in timing and duration of notes (and silence) which slightly alters the composition. A Waltz has a 3/4 rhythm, but when played well has a swing which carries people along. Many forms of Jazz employ regular and consistent 'Swing'. Most musicians will play some compositions with 'Swing'.
There is also 'Pitch'. 'Pitch' is often geared toward being equal (relative to 'Temperament', such as the equal-tempered western scale), however slight variations and bends in 'Pitch' add a very rich quality to a piece of music. Then one can also explore Just Intonation which identifies and makes use of perfect and natural harmonic ratios.
Another factor is 'Tone', the expression of overtones and harmonics which can make the same note have a different depth of sound. It is tone which differentiates between individual instruments and some instruments can express a wide variety of tone based on playing technique.
Indeed, these four secondary elements ('Dynamics', 'Swing', 'Pitch', and 'Tone') differentiate music played by people from that programmed to be played by a computer. The minute variations in these secondary elements are difficult to notate symbolically and the control of them defines great musicians. These secondary elements are the determining factor in the quality of a specific performance.
These secondary elements ('Dynamics', 'Swing', 'Pitch', and 'Tone') give rise to 'Feel'. 'Feel' is more complex than the combination of the primary and secondary elements and contains a reflection of the musician's personality and inner predilection. 'Feel' is something attained by a musician which incorporates a consistent and personal use of the other elements to express a quality that is unique to them. Many professional musicians have 'Feel', something recognized in their music as being uniquely them.
Finally there is 'Style', which is a 'Feel' which is so extraordinarily unique and creative that it is sublime and brilliant. Many musicians combine elements of other musician's 'Feel' to express a variant of those 'Feels' as their personal 'Feel'. True 'Style' changes the musical and spiritual collective consciousness of humanity. 'Style' defines a whole new genre or lineage. In some instances a group of musicians or several groups of musicians ride the wave of change to express 'Style' to the collective consciousness.
The core of playing music is the intent, the mood, and the energy of the person playing the music. Technical expertise allows the player to express their inner being, yet is not of itself able to create true 'Style' in the music. True 'Style' can only come from inner development of the musician's spirit and the opening and sharing of the musician's heart.
Copyright 2012-10-14 Ron Bracale
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