Partial understanding

Spectral analysis: no, not something from a Ghostbusters’ film, but a computer gizmo used by composers from the late(ish) twentieth century onwards. Every pitch we hear normally comes with its own entourage of other ghostly sounds variously called partials, overtones or harmonics. It’s mainly the predominance of a particular gang of these (let’s stick with) partials […]

Phonies

Euphony, cacophony, monophony, homophony, polyphony, heterophony — musical sound has many guises. But let’s start with the basic building block: noise. Mostly it’s nasty: A sound of any kind, esp. a loud, harsh, or unpleasant one. (Oxford English Dictionary) Though it has had its good side, too: It ceas’d: yet still the sails made on A […]

A bad knight

When, early in 1847, the Schumanns returned home to Dresden from a concert tour, Robert found himself all fired up with the idea of writing an opera. He chose (surprise! surprise!) a romantic tale of crusades, knights and damsels in distress (with a bit of magic thrown in for good measure). The story centres on […]