Aural Awareness: Principles and Practice

Aural Awareness: Principles and Practice

Aural Awareness: Principles and Practice

Aural Awareness: Principles and Practice

Synopsis

Traditional aural training is heavily biased towards the perception and identification of pitch and rhythm. But George Pratt argues in this book that in these days of CDs and cassette recorders much of this area of the subject can best be worked on alone. He demonstrates how, by tailoring tasks to individual needs, every student can make some encouraging progess in these aspects of music. But this also makes time available for developing the perception of other musical elements just as significant yet often neglected because of their more abstract and qualitative nature--elements such as timbre, texture and density; compass, range, and tessitura; dynamics and articulation; ordering music in structures and placing it in space. The chapters on these areas break new ground. They demonstrate how these `elements', once perceived and analysed, are incorporated into the skills which musicians need--to notate sound quality accurately, to read or `image' the implications of notation beyond though including pitch and rhythm; to play and sing by ear; to improvise and to memorize, not only 'right notes' but the subtle qualities and nuances which bind them into coherent music. This book was first published by Open University Press, and at that stage was primarily addressed to groups of music students and their teachers, in universities, colleges, conservatoires, and sixth forms. But, by a happy accident of timing, George Pratt was then invited to be a member of the National Curriculum Music Working Group, and many of the ideas here, in particular the identification and codification of musical 'elements', were fed into their thinking. The present book has been substantially revised to take account of what are now the statutory requirements of the National Curriculum in Music. Much of the material in it is either already accessible for pupils in the earlier years at school or is easily adapted by imaginative teachers. In addition, every section leads towards open-ended `do-it-yourself' exercises and experiments which can be used by individuals. This follows the pattern established in Professor Pratt's The Dynamics of Harmony: Principles and Practice (OUP, 1996), and is designed to encourage open-ended exploration generated by musicians's individual needs and enthusiasms. This freedom to adapt exercises includes using them in any musical context. Timbre is as important to a rock group as to a classical orchestra playing on period instruments; performing by ear and from memory are as essential for handing down the un-notated music of some non-Western traditions as for a concert soloist; everyone who owns a CD can enhance their enjoyment of it by recognising the artistry and technical skills which have created it. So the book encourages self-reliance and the confidence to begin to discover for oneself music of any age, of any culture.

Excerpt

An alarmingly large proportion of musicians, questioned about their own experiences of aural training, admit that they disliked it, thought they were bad at it, and have found it largely irrelevant to their subsequent engagement in music. Something is clearly wrong. Aural perception is self-evidently indispensable in musical activity, in creating through composing, re-creating in performance, responding as a critical listener. Either many musicians should have taken up other careers, as brain-surgeons, say, or bookmakers, or else the content and methods of aural training and testing are inappropriate to their presumed purpose of developing musical perceptions.

The claim of this book is that the training is at fault rather than the musicians who undergo it. In particular its contents, the skills which are meant to be taught, are heavily influenced by whether or not they can be assessed. This is in part the result of the conflict between an educational system which demands identifiable measures of achievement and the study of an art which is often very subjective and defies precise measurement. For example, if someone plays you a 'D' on the piano and you write it down accurately by relative or perfect pitch, you can be awarded a mark for it. But no one can award you marks for perceiving the balance and tone-quality of that same 'D' at the opening of Beethoven Second Symphony.

So, to meet the demand for assessment, much aural training is . . .

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