Arturo Riera

Arturo Riera

It is known that music has the power to send different messages and express many human emotions but it’s uncommon to really go deep into which emotions, how and why these emotions are carried by the sounds of music, in this case it’s interesting to think about one of the strongest feelings of people, hope.

The Line

If we think of music as a line, there are various tipes of lines, if you think of a straight line, it’s a music with very few or slight crescendos, and it tends to keep the same pace, this usually conveys more sadness, melancholy or it can be a minimalistic approach. However if you think of a line that goes up and down throughout the coposition, it means there are moments in which sounds express strong emotions, there is the climb where you feel tension, there is a release at the top and then it relaxes. Usually hope can be found on it’s way up of this line.

This climb can be anxious, exciting or just a fast explosion to get to a higher state. If a song is to convey hope, the climb has to show it’s going to a good place, to an explosion of sounds that will move your body and soul, but how is this achieved?

The Climb (Towards a feeling of hope)

For example in classical music there is “The Marriage of Figaro” from Mozart which is one his most loved and known compositions. This piece of music starts on a climb and then shines a little, it keeps climbing, it explodes and then relaxes, just to continue climbing, there is no negative tension, the only tension is waiting for that great thing that is about to happen.

The Rock band Queen was able to do this climb in an incredible way, with songs such as “Somebody to love”. This song is on an endless climb the same way as “The Marriage of Figaro”.

The rock band Muse is also able to make compositions that allow this feeling to naturally appear in the person who listens.

“Here I go again” is another great example, which follows the line of ballads that work between melancholy and hope, but the climb is still present.

The reason why there are many examples in rock about hopeful music is because rock has very intense highs, and this is not something you can find for example in jazz or hip hop.

Science of Hope

Despite music having such a strong impact on people, music doesn’t affect everyone the same way, in other words, if a person who is not hopeful at all in life, he or she may not receive the same impact of music than a slightly hopeful person.

Within the field of positive psychology, hope has been shown to be related to individuals’ ways of coping with success and failure. The present study examined the effect of music and dispositional hope on state hope, after experiencing failure. Sixty participants filled out a dispositional hope questionnaire, and completed a computer task for which they received false failure feedback. Thirty participants listened to positive music following the task, while 30 participants did not receive the music stimulus.

The effect of positive music and dispositional hope on state hope and affect.
Naomi Ziv, Anat Ben Chaim, Oren Itamar

But science isn’t everything, even more so in art.

A Sense of Breakthrough

There is a sense of action and passion in these compositions that convey hope, it’s as if it inspired the will to act despite the odds, and this is a very powerful feeling since many things in life are about failing and trying again, or how they say, falling and getting back up. This is very true and hopeful music helps with this “getting up” part in a way that it’s hard to explain, but it just gets under your skin.

Hope

Of course hope, in this case, came from a hopeful musician, but not everyone is hopeful all the time, that’s why art it’s so important for people, it leaves a trace, it allows for that hope to be timeless and in some cases touch many people, so even if people are not hopeful all the time, we know that there is music out there that exist as proof that there is hope.

      

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In music there is a lot of structure and melodies, all of these fall into place thanks to the tempo set for the piece.This not only gives order and structure to the overall sound, it also sets the tone for what is trying to be expressed, for example, sadness is usually slow, happiness is fast, and angry is somwhere in between.

There are different categories of tempo, however these are mostly used in classical music.

  • Larghissimo—very, very slow (20 BPM and below)
  • Grave—slow and solemn (20–40 BPM)
  • Lento—slowly (40–60 BPM)
  • Largo—the most common “slow” tempo (40–60 BPM)
  • Larghetto—broad, and quite slow (60–66 BPM)
  • Adagio—another popular slow tempo, which means “at ease” (66–76 BPM)
  • Adagietto—rather slow (70–80 BPM)
  • Andante moderato—a bit slower than andante
  • Andante—a popular tempo which means “at a walking pace” (76–108 BPM)
  • Andantino—slightly faster than andante
  • Moderato—moderately (108–120 BPM)
  • Allegretto—moderately fast (but less so than allegro)
  • Allegro moderato—moderately quick (112–124 BPM)
  • Allegro—the most frequently used tempo marking (120–168 BPM, which includes the “heartbeat tempo” sweet spot)
  • Vivace—lively and fast (typically around 168-176 BPM)
  • Vivacissimo—very fast and lively, even faster than vivace
  • Allegrissimo—very fast
  • Presto—the most popular way to write “very fast” and a common tempo in fast movements of symphonies (ranges from 168–200 BPM)
  • Prestissimo—extremely fast (more than 200 BPM)

However now, there is a more casual way to refer to tempo, for example in jazz they use terms such as such as “fast,” “slow,” “lazily,” “relaxed,” and “moderate”. In electronic music they use BPM which stands for beats per minute, and it actually reflects more of a traditional way of calculating tempo. In electronic music this is very important since its sub genres are determined by its bpm.

Anything that ranges from 60 to 90 bpm can be considered dub, from 60 to 100 bpm it can be hip hop, 115 to 130, house, 120 to 140 techno/trance, 135 ti 145 bpm is dubstep and 160 to 180 drum and bass. Of course as any other art, this can be mixed and slightly changed, but if there is need for a chart, this is the one.

Tempo and Vibrations

Tempo is also a very impactful aspect of live performances, in the sense that it’s easy to notice a change in the audience as it can be felt not only through hearing but the vibrations in the chest. This gives some sort of impulse to follow the mood of the music, that’s why we are used to seeing crowds slowly move from left to right during a slow paced song and jump during a very fast song.

Of course this does not happen very often in classical music as there is a different behaviour in these performances as spectator. In other genres such as rock, hip hop and electronic music, the crowd is a part of the show, and just like the other band mates, the crowd, knowingly and unknowingly follows the rhythm of the drums and the bass.

The Big Mistake

tempo

One of the worst mistakes in music is to let go of the ties that binds the melodies with the tempo.Losing the rhythm makes avery sound come as a dissorder to the person who listens to the music. That’s why metronomes are such important tools, as every musician, beginner and experienced must keep this order, It’s actually even better to just miss a note or play the wrong one, but the rhythm means order, and order in music is the part that makes the translation from composer to listener, even more than melodies.

As music history shows us, there has been a lot of experimentation with uncommon melodies and harmonies, even playing with sounds that appear to be out of tune, but the rhythm is never lost, because if that part is ok everything else will follow.

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Who says that lows are not important or not heard? In music you have three frequencies that have to be balanced in order to be able to hear a composition the best way possible, there are highs, mids and lows, or treble, mids and bass. In order to achieve this balance every instrument has to play it’s part. In music where there are electronic devices or volume, this has to be a priority, in other genres the force applied determines the volume, and others the quantity will determine the volume.

In other words every instrument has a job and each instrument is essential once every job is assigned. However you may have heard that sometimes a person would say “The bass is not that important, it’s just there” but no matter how simple the bass may be in some ocasions, it’s always essential. Of course you have Jazz and Funk which gives the sound of the bass lots of freedom and space to do flashy things, but it’s not always like this.

The Bass is Rhythm and Harmony

Bass

Bass in most musical compositions lay the bases of two essential parts of music, rhythm and harmony. In other words, the bass it’s in the middle of the percussion and melodic instruments in terms of its role in the musical piece.

A lot of the music out there is very well received because of its rhythm, and this is not achieved by percussion alone, mostly because percussion tends to be high frequency sounds, but with the help of a well composed bass, it doesn’t only completes the rhythm, but also works as a bridge from the percussion to other instruments.

In terms of harmonies, the interesting thing is that sometimes people are not even sure of the part the bass is playing in a specific song, but you are hearing a beautiful harmony, and your ear tricks you into believing that strings or air instruments are responsibles, when in fact the bass is allwing these harmonies to happen with its low frequency notes.

The bass plays a powerful role in how we hear harmonies. When we hear several notes played at the same time, we hear them all relative to the lowest sounding pitch — the bass note.

Studybass.com

The Science Behind It

According to the PNAS there is a scientific reason as to why the bass is so important in music, and they conducted a studied which verifies the following:

Previous work using electroencephalography (EEG) demonstrated that the auditory cortex encodes pitch more robustly in the higher of two simultaneous tones or melodies, and modeling work indicated that this high-voice superiority for pitch originates in the sensory periphery. Here, we investigated the neural basis of carrying rhythmic timing information in lower-pitched voices. We presented simultaneous high-pitched and low-pitched tones in an isochronous stream and occasionally presented either the higher or the lower tone 50 ms earlier than expected, while leaving the other tone at the expected time. EEG recordings revealed that mismatch negativity responses were larger for timing deviants of the lower tones, indicating better timing encoding for lower-pitched compared with higher-pitch tones at the level of auditory cortex. A behavioral motor task revealed that tapping synchronization was more influenced by the lower-pitched stream. Results from a biologically plausible model of the auditory periphery suggest that nonlinear cochlear dynamics contribute to the observed effect. The low-voice superiority effect for encoding timing explains the widespread musical practice of carrying rhythm in bass-ranged instruments and complements previously established high-voice superiority effects for pitch and melody.

Michael J. Hove, Céline Marie, Ian C. Bruce, and Laurel J. Traino

In other words, our brain’s capability to make sense of music and finding order is a lot easier thanks to the bass and the lower tones, this also aligns with the role of the bass in music.

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