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Thread: For those of you who can hear scores in their head...

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    Default For those of you who can hear scores in their head...

    Are you able to enjoy reading sheet music as if you were listening to it? If you were stuck on the subway for a few hours could you entertain yourself by pulling out the score for a symphony and reading through it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    Are you able to enjoy reading sheet music as if you were listening to it? If you were stuck on the subway for a few hours could you entertain yourself by pulling out the score for a symphony and reading through it?
    It depends on how complicated the music is and how well I know it. Generally I use the score for study. To really enjoy the music it has to be realized in sound.

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    Junior Member Oscar South's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roger Knox View Post
    It depends on how complicated the music is and how well I know it. Generally I use the score for study. To really enjoy the music it has to be realized in sound.
    Similar for me. I can get the essence of the flow/form/melodic contour which can be strengthened into a more specific impression with a little examination of rhythmic and harmonic relationships. The real emotive impact comes from the instrumental (or vocal) performance. If I've listened to a piece and it has impacted me strongly then I can recreate the feelings from the performance through the score, but the initial impression of the performance is important.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    I can mentally get a general, approximate timbral impression of a score if I have no distractions and its not too complicated. Other than that, for notes, I can hear vertically and linearly reasonably well.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Sep-26-2020 at 13:54.

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    Member En Passant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    Are you able to enjoy reading sheet music as if you were listening to it? If you were stuck on the subway for a few hours could you entertain yourself by pulling out the score for a symphony and reading through it?
    Am I able to hear the score while reading yes.

    Is it as good as listening to a recording sometimes (depends on the environment)

    I can just think of a piece of music and I hear it as if it was being played back to me. It can cause problems I seldom don’t have music going in my head it can get tiresome.

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    Junior Member Oscar South's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by En Passant View Post
    Am I able to hear the score while reading yes.

    Is it as good as listening to a recording sometimes (depends on the environment)

    I can just think of a piece of music and I hear it as if it was being played back to me. It can cause problems I seldom don’t have music going in my head it can get tiresome.
    Interesting! Can you elaborate or provide more detail?

    For myself, I can certainly enjoy music in my 'inner ear' with the same intensity/realism as listening to the audio (and in fact I've often lived lengthy 'alternate takes' of improvisatory performances while my mind fills in the parts of the accompanists). It's a very powerful sensation.

    For me though, it's primarily a function of memory/imagination and the score is most poignant when functioning as a memory-aid. Beforehand, it's more of an intellectual experience, where I perceive the piece on an intellectual level in 'the mind', without the guttural/emotive experience of 'the body' (using metaphor here so interpret as you will) -- I need to hear the music to take that raw and powerful physical impression (but I can re-create it in-memory).

    Perhaps a function of my musical education, which was VERY aural training biased. I learned my score reading separately to my experience as a performer through my experimentation with harmony on an intellectual level (a welcome break from the non-top aural transcriptions for assessed performances!).
    Last edited by Oscar South; Sep-26-2020 at 18:41.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    I can read music at a rudimentary level and can "hear" a melody I read. I certainly can't read a score and hear the music. I can read a score of a piece of music I am very familiar with and "hear" it but that is mostly just being reminded of music I remember.

    To "hear" a score seems like an astonishing skill, especially since it is necessary to mentally transpose the various wind parts that are noted with respect to the fundamental note of the instrument, rather than true pitch. I would imagine that prolific conductors or composers might develop that skill.

    I wonder if there are those who profess to have this skill, but not really. How many times did I read of Bruckner's scores rejected by conductors who claimed they perceived a lack of quality. Did they really "hear" it?
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    To "hear" a score seems like an astonishing skill, especially since it is necessary to mentally transpose the various wind parts that are noted with respect to the fundamental note of the instrument, rather than true pitch. I would imagine that prolific conductors or composers might develop that skill.
    Audiation, hearing music in one's head ("radio head"), is a skill possessed by many musicians. Hearing a score in one's head is certainly possible for people with absolute pitch or good relative pitch. Hearing an orchestra score with transposing parts is possible if you've had some music theory and, especially, if you have trained specifically on score-reading at the piano, developing facility with the recognition and playing of music in the alto, tenor and other clefs or for the transposing instruments. The clarinet in B-flat "sounds a major second lower than written" -- with practice that move becomes automatic, in combination with rapid recognition of chords and chord progressions for works with a harmonic basis. From there, as with sight-reading on the piano, prodigious feats are possible for some who have both the innate aptitude and extensive experience. Conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch was said to be an outstanding score-reader.
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Sep-26-2020 at 19:20.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    To "hear" a score seems like an astonishing skill, especially since it is necessary to mentally transpose the various wind parts that are noted with respect to the fundamental note of the instrument, rather than true pitch. I would imagine that prolific conductors or composers might develop that skill.
    This is something that baffles me as well. Can people really transpose on the spot like that?

    Edit: Roger Knox answered my question.
    Last edited by level82rat; Sep-26-2020 at 19:38.

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    Junior Member Oscar South's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baron Scarpia View Post
    How many times did I read of Bruckner's scores rejected by conductors who claimed they perceived a lack of quality. Did they really "hear" it?
    This is a very interesting observation which observes that we can't really create much new in our minds beyond combinations, permutations and variations of what we've previously experienced.

    I know personally that the scores that excite me the most are the ones that I CAN'T accurately auralise on first impression.

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    Senior Member Baron Scarpia's Avatar
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    I suspect that's the gist of it; with enough skill, training and experience it is possible to "auralise" a score that is built from the musical vocabulary that is familiar. Something innovative or unfamiliar will not convince except in a good performance. I would imaging that experienced conductors that were presented with one of Debussy's mature orchestral scores might think, "this is the work of a rank amateur that doesn't know how to prepare or resolve a dissonance, and hasn't a clue about how harmony works."
    There are two kinds of music, good music and the other kind. - Duke Ellington.

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by level82rat View Post
    Are you able to enjoy reading sheet music as if you were listening to it? If you were stuck on the subway for a few hours could you entertain yourself by pulling out the score for a symphony and reading through it?
    That's it exactly. When you're literate in a language you cannot not read it when you see it. But in a foreign language using a different alphabet or symbols - it's meaningless. That's how I am with music - when I see I cannot stop from "hearing" it internally. On long flights I used to take pocket scores with me and read them just like someone else would read book. With less familiar scores it takes more work. This isn't something everyone can do, or do well. It does take practice, experience and some work.

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    Quote Originally Posted by En Passant View Post
    I can just think of a piece of music and I hear it as if it was being played back to me. It can cause problems I seldom don’t have music going in my head it can get tiresome.
    Another problem is that some musicians and others may be jealous of those who can audiate and/or have absolute pitch. It seems like an unfair advantage in some situations. On the other hand, the process you describe certainly can cause distractibility. For example hearing some music in your head while walking across the street can deflect your attention from traffic.

    Wonder if anyone's written something like "Helping your Teen Survive 'Radio Head?'"
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Oct-12-2020 at 14:24.

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    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    I knew a girl art my Alma mater who had perfect pitch. She was in my aural group and had a terrible time trying to get to grips with reading transposed scores. In fact, she just gave up in the end and concentrated on her instrument. The class didn't require her to read scores as it primarily an aural class.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Oct-12-2020 at 14:32.

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