Ch. 9 – Getting Inside the Composer’s Head (Breaking the Linear View of Stucture and Interpretation)

A piano composition has the components intended by the original composer but there are times when the composer’s intentions are not understood. Some of the more subtle aspects need to be understood in a historical context as well as with a knowledge of the composers actual life biography.

But what makes a composer tick. One vital tool available to most composers is an awareness of theme and variations. If a composer knows that his vocabulary is limited to 12 notes using what is called the diatonic system, designed around a handful of chords in a limited number of tonal centers or keys, as some might say, then his imagination needs to draw on a richness of creation that he has either heard, played or digested in some way. One resource will inevitably be improvisation.  This is where we can use chord awareness and accompaniment styles to discover the possible directions that a composer considers when filling in the details to accompany a melody.

In almost all music we, as European influenced listeners, view linear from left to right with a steady pace. Left to right means two things. We read music and books from left to right and down the page and flip pages from front to back. The same with music… almost. The piano’s layout is low frequency to high frequency. You play left to right which translates in the music from bottom to top of each staff. So the nature of a music score adds a new graphic layout unlike reading just words.

So the composer has traditionally laid out his music within the confines of the rules for musical notation. The feel and emotion can only be approximated in notation. Some hints are usually inserted that help with interpreting the music. Some loud and soft symbols that borrow from the Italian words are “piano” is  , “pianissimo” is  ppp , “forte” is  , “fortissimo” is  fff .