We’re in What Century? Articulation Talk

I want to share this research that I’ve been preparing for the music appreciation course with you. It is fascinating to see how we can change the whole sound of a piece by dynamic and articulation nuances, changing the character of the music so that it sounds like its fro a different century. I love how Leonard Berstein is able to describe this so beautifully! I’ve included our terms about dynamics, etc. for a deeper understanding of what he’s describing.

Class No. 4: The Composer’s Paintbox 4: Dynamics, Articulation, and Character

During the Baroque era and especially in the Classical era, composers became more and more specific in their directions to musicians in terms of expressiveness. Dynamic and articulation markings were given more gradations and many more clues for interpretation were given to performers. But much is still left up to the good taste, research, and experience of the musician. One must know not only the meaning of individual articulation, dynamic, and character markings, but also know stylistic nuances and historical performance practices in order to give a more in depth presentation of the music the composer was communicating.

Some dynamic markings:

*pp: pianissimo: very quiet
*p: piano: quiet
*mp: mezzo piano: medium quiet
*mf: mezzo forte: medium loud
*f: forte: loud
*ff: fortissimo: very loud
*crescendo: growing louder
*diminuendo: growing quieter

Some terms relating to character, often found at the beginning of pieces and movements:

*Largo: very slow
*Adagio: slow
*Andante: walking tempo
*Allegro: lively, happy
*Presto: fast

Some terms about articulation:

*accent: a loud attack of the note
*staccato: short
*spiccato: short, off the string notes for string players
*slur: two notes that are connected
*tie: a unison that is connected to make one long note
*mezza di voce: a note that swells in the middle, used a lot in
Baroque music as an ornament
*trill: alternating main note and upper note ornament

With clarity and frankness, Leonard Bernstein discusses the appropriate use of dynamics, articulation, and character in orchestral interpretations of different composers’ works, a discussion of performance practice.

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts, The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 1 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts, The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 2 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 3 of 4)

Leonard Bernstein: Young People’s Concerts The Sound of an Orchestra (Part 4 of 4)


Announcement: Concert Night Benefiting Women in Need

Rose Life LogoYou are invited to attend our first event of the Rose Life Benefit Concert Series which will be held

on September 28, 2013 at 7:00

at Sierra Vista Community Church,1589 W 9th St # A  Upland, CA 91786.

This is a formal evening out complete with refreshments, gallery display, and classical music featuring the music of Massenet, Järnefeldt, Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. 

Dr. Danielle Rosaria Cummins, violin

Nicodemus Marucut, piano

This event event benefits Assure Pregnancy Center in Montclair CA which offers free ultrasounds, prenatal care, and counseling as well as the Bridges to Parenting program which mentors new moms and dads.

To purchase tickets for this event, please call Sierra Vista Community Church at (909) 946 – 7822.

The Music of Nature

All music comes from nature. We are part of nature, so what we do creatively is part of this reality. We express our soul and interact with the world, using materials we find in the world to work with and bringing certain elements together to make music.

We use music to involve the imagination and the spirit as well as the means to communicate certain messages. It is a tool that can be employed in an infinite variety of ways.

Sound as communication happens in the animal world all the time. Among other uses, male birds use is to communicate to females. Here is a video discussing the sounds of birds of paradise.

The French composer Oliver Messiaen (1908 – 1992) specifically used motifs from nature to compose his music. Among many other sources of inspiration, he is well-known for incorporating bird calls into his music.

People use music to communicate deep emotions or to commemorate or celebrate important events in their lives and in the life of their community. We use it to communicate observations, to interact with our environment, and even to experience our identity. It is very natural for composers to write about love, one of the most beautiful expressions of the soul.

Love Duet by Giacomo Puccini (1858 – 1924), Italian

Madama Butterfly (1995) Directed by Frédéric Mitterrand. Ying Huang – Cio-Cio-San (Mme Butterfly) Richard Troxell .. B. F. PINKERTON, (Lieutenant, U.S.N) Directed by Frédéric Mitterrand 1995.

Music Appreciation Course

This fall I’ll be teaching music appreciation for Chaffey College, so I’ve created a page for that purpose. I’ll be using it to collect videos and photographs to help students become familiar with artistic styles and to use as a springboard for more explorations 🙂 It’s the “Music Appreciation” page here: http://daniellecumminsviolinist.com/music-appreciation/