We are used to relate, even confuse volume with intensity. When we are listening to an audio device, such as a stereo, TV or MP3, if we rise up the volume, we also notice a rise in intensity.
As you can see, raising the volume is not the same as raising the intensity and we feel it differently.
As we saw in the first Unit, we know that is not entirely true. The intensity is the maximum distance a sound source can propagate. Although it usually is the same in most of the situations, a huge amount of sound (volume) does not always means that a sound can reach further.
The dynamics are the musical application of this physical phenomenon of hearing. With the dynamics we get to a better understanding of melody, as it is being highlighted above the acompaniment and gives a dramatic stage to musical works that can approach our emotions with more strength.
Volume is the amount of sound of an audio signal and Intensity is the distance of propagation of a sound. They are linked because, although not it does not happens always, the higher the volume, the greater the intensity.
We can obtain depth and layers of sound with the relative intensities of the instruments we hear in a song. The instrument that carry the main melody shall not be shadowed by the accompaniment because of their volume. In that case, we got two layers of different sound, a prominent layer with the main melody (closer to us) and another in the background. Even in the same instrument (polyphonic or not) we can make some notes stand out as melody and the rest as the second voice, the bass line, the harmonic accompaniment, etc.
Dynamics add depth and drama to Music. Just as a leading voice stands out when the accompaniment is being played with less intensity, we can use dynamics to highlight different moments of that Music. It increases or decreases the volume and allow us to pay attention to the new melodic phrase having been highlighted by its intensity.
The Music of Jim Steinman uses dynamics to increase the drama.
The Drama that incorporates the dynamics is used to create contrast between tension and relaxation; between strong and weak. It allows dramatize a musical work with the intensity of the Theatrical Plays.
Andrew Lloyd Webber's famous theatrical version of Leroux's Phantom of the Opera.
And don't miss this one.
Variations through Dynamics: just by changing the relative intensity of one melody (layer) and playing it with more or less intensity we can create a variation of the Music loudness using dynamics.
Fragment from the film 'Immortal Beloved'
A repeating pattern can be used to create variety if we play it changing the Dynamics. A melody played a second time, but with a variation in intensity, is not the same as before, at least in one aspect.
Variations through dynamics in a repetitive pattern.
With the Dynamics markings in a score we introduce the emotional connotation, the character (as nature) of the Music performance. They are 'indications of Power' as Gardner Read called them since they are not as acurate (scientifically) as the amplitude of tonal vibrations rather than the 'loudness or softness' of the intensity.
The terms that the composers use are Italian expressions that uses two characteristics: forte (loud) and piano (soft). The average level uses the word 'mezzo' (midway): mezzo-forte (mf) and mezzo-piano (mp). Then we use the f and adds as much as we need to reach the maximum level or the p, adding as much as we need to reach the minimum level.
Another option is to change through time the intensity by gradually increasing the intensity (crescendo) or the opposite (diminuendo or even decrescendo).
One last consideration concerning Dynamics is the Accents. With an Accent we can stress one note over the other ones by changing the pressure attack.
Sometimes the Accents are like percussion elements introduced in the melody, increasing the first note loudness in a melody, for example, but sometimes it even changes the lenght of that note by adding a little silence that makes it shorter.
The last option we have is what is called 'sforzando' and in which case we press the note, holding it and making it stronger.
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