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Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar (Read 691 times)

Offline lettersquash

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Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar
« on: December 22, 2020, 11:20:16 AM »
I got used to musical notation being "insane" a long time ago, but this just about takes the biscuit. I'm learning Chopin's Prelude in E-minor, Op.28 No.4. The two sets of gradually descending chords - one at the beginning and another, slightly different, in the middle - are tricky enough to get into my head as it is. One or two notes in the triad change each time, and it's remembering/reading which. The (necessary) repetition of accidentals at the beginning of bars doesn't help, because it's easy to misinterpret those as where the chord changes, when in fact it's another note of the triad. But to make matters worse, at one point, two of the dots descend on the stave together, but only one note changes. The other goes from an Ab to a G# (the same note). Why? Is there some logic to it, and wouldn't it be better whatever the logic to keep the same notation? (See attached, half way through the last bar.)
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Piano Street's Digital Sheet Music Library

Chopin: Prelude, opus 28 no 4
piano sheet music of Prelude


Offline perfect_pitch

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Re: Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar
«Reply #1 on: December 22, 2020, 01:58:50 PM »
wouldn't it be better whatever the logic to keep the same notation?

Nope... Not if Chopin intended a F half diminshed 7th chord to fall to a E dominant 7th chord.

This is EXACTLY what he wanted, and thus why it is written. 

Offline lettersquash

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Re: Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar
«Reply #2 on: December 22, 2020, 04:50:31 PM »
Thanks perfect_pitch. It might just be my ignorance of the theory, but sometimes I think the theory really gets in the way. I wonder, for instance, whether Chopin - or any particular composer - might not intuit and discover by accident all manner of chord sequences (I do) and only later (or never, in my case) recognise some standard theoretical structures that apply.

Of course, you're right in the sense that Chopin could write his music precisely as he wished. This instance is just a minor inconvenience and a learning opportunity for me, as a relative novice to music-as-discipline (I've written lots of complex stuff by ear), and I guess it's more a general gripe I have about musical notation. I often wonder, if it wasn't for its natural inertia, whether the notation wouldn't have been modernised by now to something more rational.

The change I mentioned here, if it were in a more complex, faster piece, might cause an error by even a skilled sight reader, who presumably won't read music by thinking in terms of an F half diminshed 7th falling to an E dominant 7th to know where to put their fingers.

Since music theory is an analytic subject, there should be no reason it cannot analyse the same notes written differently and describe them. What would it be if the Ab remained? Would it still be an E dominant 7th? I'm genuinely curious. Would it feature on the music-theory landscape, or just be "wrong"?
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.

Offline debussychopin

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Re: Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar
«Reply #3 on: January 04, 2021, 06:56:49 PM »
Thanks perfect_pitch. It might just be my ignorance of the theory, but sometimes I think the theory really gets in the way. I wonder, for instance, whether Chopin - or any particular composer - might not intuit and discover by accident all manner of chord sequences (I do) and only later (or never, in my case) recognise some standard theoretical structures that apply.

Of course, you're right in the sense that Chopin could write his music precisely as he wished. This instance is just a minor inconvenience and a learning opportunity for me, as a relative novice to music-as-discipline (I've written lots of complex stuff by ear), and I guess it's more a general gripe I have about musical notation. I often wonder, if it wasn't for its natural inertia, whether the notation wouldn't have been modernised by now to something more rational.

The change I mentioned here, if it were in a more complex, faster piece, might cause an error by even a skilled sight reader, who presumably won't read music by thinking in terms of an F half diminshed 7th falling to an E dominant 7th to know where to put their fingers.

Since music theory is an analytic subject, there should be no reason it cannot analyse the same notes written differently and describe them. What would it be if the Ab remained? Would it still be an E dominant 7th? I'm genuinely curious. Would it feature on the music-theory landscape, or just be "wrong"?
The music notation to accomodate for key signature changes within a score is fine , in my opinion, there is nothing to change to assist anyone , it works best that way, and if it may be confusing , a little training will allow for anyone to have facility in those key changes when reading it. Really, honestly, I dont see any problems or issues with it. Especially those adept at reading music, I dont think it will cause them to error per se for that, as they are familiar with all circumstances within music, and they come across key signature changes all the time. And if they do error, well, no music reader is perfect,  and it is not because of key change notation ambiguity.

Key changes are to express the composer's intention on his musical ideas even when the same physical note on the instrument is being depressed. Lot of times, teachers will ask for the student to change dynamic slightly , or , breathe /pause slightly before the key change, as it makes the expression of that particular music idea better portrayed, in some instances.

So, let say, you have the one single note written out several times repeatedly Ab, then it goes to G# repeatedly.... if you put that single note on the score as just strictly Ab all the way, without any other musical markings or instructions, the pianist will perhaps just play it straight through the same way, and if, there was a vocal soloist accompanying , it will not help the pianist in any way in knowing where she may be changing key , and so forth , you know what i mean?
If you instead, have the note written out Ab in a series then change to G# thereafter, without any other phrasing marks or musical instructions, you will know to artistically or musically alter how you approach that new set of G# , even though it is a same phsyical key. Also, if you are accompanying the soloist vocalist, you will also know that that is where the singer is changing keys or changing emotions ....and you alter slightly (or just mental note) to accomodate the drama with your play ...even though it is just one same note.

Basically the key signature changes within a set key signature allows for the composer to in more detail and less ambiguity hash out his or her ideas on paper for those reading it.
A painter will still brushstroke just plain water through a canvas to depict something even though it would have still worked with the painter leaving the canvas alone if let say, was trying to interpret a sky or water section of the painting. It is more an artistic tool to create more clarity of purpose at a given moment.
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Offline lettersquash

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Re: Nutty Notes - Chopin Prelude in Em - Ab to G# in same bar
«Reply #4 on: January 05, 2021, 08:12:08 PM »
Thanks, debussychopin. I cannot agree with your view about the choice of notation (sharp or flat) suggesting an expression choice by a player in its own right, which you seem to be saying (though you begin with the point that it is fine due to a change of key). A player approaching a series of notes written one way, followed by the same note with a different name, with no other notes or instruction (just like some daft exercise), should have no reason whatever to change the way those notes are played, as far as I can see. The whole point of the thought experiment is that you've removed all indication of what the music is "doing" theoretically, what kind of cadence might be implied, just making an isolated tone repeatedly.

I can accept the logic that the progression of a piece might indicate a choice of flat over sharp or vice versa according to traditional musical theory, but I remain sceptical about the ultimate value of this. It is perhaps simply a matter of personal preference, or one method may be ideal in one situation and suit one person's needs, while not being ideal for another.

Musical notation as it has evolved, in my view, is unnecessarily difficult and thus excludes a large number of people who might learn to read a simpler, more logical notation. For example, due to the quirks of history and how different voices were written, the treble and bass clefs raise the obvious difficulty for anyone trying to learn to read that the notes are all out of sync - the middle line of the treble cleff is B, but D on the bass. To anyone approaching the task of designing musical notation without the inertia of history would see this immediately as a serious design flaw and shift one up or down to match the other (or start from another principle altogether).

Going back to the point about sharps or flats, it is perfectly possible to write piano music using "piano-roll" notation of one kind or another, using the position of the note on a staff that represents the piano keys, without any need for sharps or flats (or choices between them on theoretical grounds) - indeed, there are several versions of this, like Klavarskribo. There would be no change whatever to the theory of the music that could be analysed or applied, simply the terms used to describe it would be different (as far as I can tell - perhaps I'm wrong). Chopin's Prelude in E Minor would sound (and, I'd argue, actually be) the same written in another script that tells you where to place your fingers and using what quality of expression.

It would be the same piece if everyone switched overnight to ignoring key signatures and putting every sharp and flat as an accidental, or using a triangular head for sharp notes and square ones for flats. Music is sound. Notation attempts to represent it. That is my view. And I think we're so used to mixing the two up we forget what the dots and squiggles are. Similarly with language. The person living next door is the same person whether we call them "neighbour" or "neighbor", and both of these are probably better than the Egyptian hieroglyph, though that means the same. Why, because English is (marginally, LOL) easier to learn than hieroglyphics.

Whether there are good reasons to develop other musical notation systems is another question. It might have uses as an intermediary in learning traditional musical script. Or it may be that the digital information age sparks an overhaul of the standard system altogether, as people discover a much better way to write music that allows them to learn to read and write it much quicker. Or maybe I'm just entirely wrong. What I do know is that I play by ear, and I feel completely daunted by the prospect of learning music theory in order to understand such questions as how to notate a note, as a sharp or flat, on some theoretical grounds. So it seems a rather exclusive club that demands things should be the way they are, when those ways are patently silly and complicated.
Schwencke dumped in the middle of Bach's Prelude, and Gounod tried to polish it.