1. jsallen10
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    jsallen10 New Member

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    How to describe a musical performance?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by jsallen10, Nov 30, 2009.

    I'm trying to describe a musical performance for a short story. How would I translate the time signature, rhythm, pitch, etc in my writing? What alternatives do I have to write about in addition to the technical aspects of the music? Any input will be greatly appreciated. Thanks!
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    The emotional aspects? How it makes the listeners feel?
     
  3. ManhattanMss
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    ManhattanMss Contributing Member

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    By "short story," I'm assuming you're speaking of a piece of fiction. If so, what is it about the performance that's relevant to the storyline or to the character it's significant to for some reason? That alone will dictate what aspects of the performance need detailing in some way. If you're at a loss for what words to use to describe it, check out some music websites, or books about music theory and such, or talk to a musician and write down the words that describe what you need in order to write the details your story requires. If your character has the same trouble describing it that you have, then maybe you can allow your character to experience it in her own unique way (which helps build her character, too). On the other hand, if she's more of an expert than you are, then you'll probably need to consult an expert yourself, since your fictional character depends on you to gift her with whatever authority or expertise she posesses. I don't think there's any really good way to decide first how to describe something this general and then just plunk the description down into the story. Something in the story must be there to absorb it in a meaningful way, which will also dictate how it gets written. I think if you look at whatever that something is, it'll give you a clue what particular aspect is missing the right language, and you'll just have to go out and hunt for it (but at least you'll be looking for something specific enough to recognize when you run across it).;)
     
  4. Dante Dases
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    Dante Dases Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'd simply describe the music. Don't worry about making the prose fit the music, worry more about the emotional value of the music and its nature. Try to listen to the music in your head, or alternatively find a similar piece of music and practice by writing about that, about the swell of an orchestra or the jangling riffs of an indie band.

    At least, that's how I'd do it.
     
  5. madhoca
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    madhoca Contributing Member Contributor

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    Read a novel called 'Grace Notes' by Bernard MacLaverty. It's about a composer and it has the most incredible written descriptions of music I've ever read.
     
  6. hszmv
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    This is kinda weird one for me, because in my head, I set a sequence to a particular song that fits the mood. For instance, I tend to use Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo 12/24 as a fight sequence. Why?

    The duality of the meledies ("Carol of the Bells" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman") always suggest the epic struggle between two equally powerfu yet emotionally diverse forces charging against a city in fresh fallen snow. The villain seems to always be the Carol of the Bells. She/He maintains a certain level of calm during the whole event. Sure, he has his passionate moments, but keeps his head while all hell breaks loose. The villain is God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman. Big, powerful, and unrelenting, yet civil and polite. He uses his status as gentleman to try and appear as the high ground, but the hero's resovle forces him to make his threats bigger and badder then his last pass, nearly drowning out the hero in his own fury. But in the end, when he has said everything, it's the hero who is still, calmly standing there. Despite everything, the hero manages to mute the bluster and has yet to raise himself. If anything, he's actually grown softer in his tone, as if more wiser by the lesson taught.

    So... I guess relate music to what you understand and how you see it.
     
  7. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    It depends how good a writer you are, as if you have the capability then it is possible to write something which has the same rhythm as the music itself, , I don’t mean the lyrics or something that rhymes, but the actual rhythm of the sentence structure how it actually sounds when spoken (and thus read) to how the music sounds. (this also depends on eth music itself, as I would imagine this would be hard to do with something like rap music)
     
  8. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    I would focuse on how it affects the POV character.

    Not just emotional but how it affects her body.
     
  9. jsallen10
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    jsallen10 New Member

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    thank you all for the replies. they have been extremely helpful! more input is still very welcome
     
  10. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Try to imagine the music... you may want to use a literary device like metaphor or simile... I don't know the first thing about music, but I can describe how it makes me feel... did it soothe your character, making him feel like he was floating on marshmallow clouds? Was it discordant, loudly pounding, like knives stabbing her eardrums?

    There are only about an infinite number of words to describe an infinite number of experiences with music, and an infinite number of similes and metaphors to describe music, not to mention good old adjectives and adverbs... and a whole lot of them, probably pretty close to what you had in mind.

    Technical aspects of the music? There's a technical aspect?
    Bah. Save that for writing a music instruction manual.

    (PS. I used a literary device called "exaggeration" above. The ways to describe music aren't really infinite. There are actually, exactly, 57,874,392 ways to describe music. No more, no less. If you don't believe me, just ask, I'll write up the list and post it when I'm done, in about 293 years.)

    'Course, you could just say, "The band was playing old rock music. They had just wrapped up their rendition of the Rolling Stones hit, 'I Can't Get No Satisfaction,' and were leading into their take on the Kinks song 'You Really Got Me.'" Just don't quote any lyrics. Titles are okay.

    Unless, of course, they're doing classical. Or country. Or opera. Or something more contemporary. Or something else altogether.

    Is the music important to your story somehow?
     

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