NewsBlog Editorâ€™s Note: This post is the first of a series written by CMIE Research Fellow Anthony Green, as part of the documentation for Green’s CMIE Research Internship. See other posts in this series here
Recently, I have been assigned to be apart of the research process observing the ear-training component of New England Conservatory. As one small cog in a machine of parts, my responsibility is to observe Professor Scrippâ€™s Solfege for Singers class, which meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 5 to 6. Time is noted here because vocal chord quality is affected by many things, including time of day.
Just a bit of background about myself, I am a 2nd year Masters student, studying Composition. I also have a 5-student piano studio, and I am a vocal coach to a local singer (who is not a student), an accompanist, and a music history and theory tutor. More about me can be found on my website: www.agreencomposer.com.
My first week of this class actually started during the second week of the school year. The students and Professor Scripp were still getting acquainted with one another, and new introductions of not only me but also another MIE intern were made. This initial class began with a recap of what was discussed in the previous week, which was a general introduction into solfege.
The students along with teacher determined that solfege is the use of syllables assigned to pitches to facilitate the ease of sight-reading, especially when singing. It can be used for different goals, such as re-enforcing oneâ€™s relative pitch, improving sight-reading, re-representing and re-articulating familiar songs, proving the accuracy of pitches during sight-singing, and more. Students solfeged â€œLondon Bridges,â€ and professor Scripp encouraged the students to learn from the moments of â€œpause.â€ He also established the rule that it is most important in this class, when solfeging, to get the syllable correct.
Conducting was examined as a way to verify rhythm. Students observed what information is portrayed through conducting and how, how subdivision can solidify information in a conducting pattern, and how subdivision can aid and correct rhythm. Two main questions were reflected upon:
1) What is rhythm?
â€œVariation of beats within a given time.â€
â€œBeats arranged in a pattern.â€
â€œPlacement of a note in a given time, meaning duration.â€
â€œProportion, ratio, grouping.â€
â€œPatterns governed by periodicity.â€
2) Why do we conduct?
â€œTo verify where a beat should lie.â€
Professor Scripp introduced the class to contextual conducting, which is a method in which the conductor chooses hand gestures and specific subdivisions that best represent the music. Such conducting can be used not only when sight-singing, but also in warm-ups and perhaps themes.
The breadth of information in each class is extensive, but is usually in the form of discussion rather than lecture. The students show quite a bit of enthusiasm for participation, and the atmosphere is such that mistakes are welcome and fear or embarrassment is rather low. Another wonderful aspect of this class is the varying backgrounds that the students have in music. The class is approaching a point where it can be a forum for each of the students to draw on each otherâ€™s various histories and experiences.