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What Can Music Tell You?

By Stephanie Ciccarelli

October 23, 2013

Comments (1)

Male hand holding a piece of medieval/baroque music. Latin text penned beautifully in calligraphy.When a voice actor auditions for a role, useful information is presented alongside the copy that outlines artistic and technical requirements over and above what's meant to be read aloud.

Like a musical score, the voice-over script contains more than just choice words to be spoken. It's a roadmap infused with direction that goes well beyond the printed page.

Find out what an acting script can tell you by visiting its cousin, the musical score, in today's VOX Daily.

Hitting The Books

Last month, I attended a couple Homecoming celebrations at my alma mater, Western University. A graduate of the Don Wright Faculty of Music, the two events I went to were Behind the Music and the official groundbreaking ceremony for the new music building.

At Behind the Music, those assembled, my mom (a Psychology grad) and I included, were treated to performances by a student string quartet, an overview of the Music Library at Western, its holdings, a brilliant lecture discussing the music in the new Whitby Collection and an introduction to the Drs. Whitby commemorating their recent contribution.

Many in the room were encouraged to learn that our music library is one of the strongest collections in North America that inspires students, scholars, musicians and music historians around the world. For instance, London, Ontario is one of the top places in the world where one might study composer Gustav Mahler. Our very own Mahler-Rosé Collection is located in the Gustav Mahler-Alfred Rosé Rare Book Room in the Music Library at Western.

What Can Music Tell Us?

The Whitby Collection comprises of antiquarian music, the majority of which are 1760-1850, including canonical as well as contemporary composers.

The string quartet played three pieces from the Whitby Collection prior to the lecture given by Dr. Richard Semmens, those being "The Seven Last Words of Christ" by Joseph Haydn, "The Bronze Horse" by Daniel Auber based upon a poem by Pushkin and music from "Cosi Fan Tutte" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. As an aside, there were more string quartets dedicated to Haydn than he himself wrote.

Dr. James Whitby and his wife Dr. Margaret Whitby have been collecting fine musical scores for years. Dr. James Whitby had been part of a string quartet himself for decades and admits that he found it hard to part with some of his favourite works (acknowledging that a few have stayed home!). Note that the Drs. Whitby are pictured below, Left to Right Dr. James Whitby, Dr. Margaret Whitby, Dr. Richard Semmens, and Dean Betty Anne Younker.

Don Wright Faculty of Music student string quartet

The title of Dr. Semmens' lecture was "What Can Music Tell Us." Instinctively, I scooped up a pen and paper and began to write, not wanting to miss a syllable. Dr. Semmens was one of my music history professors, specializing in music and dance from the Baroque period. He has also served as the Chief Public Orator at Western University convocations for the last eight years.

Dr. Semmens painted a wonderful picture, one that I can only describe feebly here, of how musical scores communicate to those who sing or play from them. Markings relating to tempo, dynamics, style, and so on play a significant role in how musicians interpret the notes on a stave. Some scores were configured in complex, architectural ways while other scores were beautifully arranged with images playing a primary role and its music and text almost an afterthought.

A Few Takeaways of Mine Are:

  • Not all notations in music are as obvious or as useful as others. In scores, you may come across notational oddities, instances where you need to draw upon something other than the music itself. The same can be said for scripts so far as inferring who your audience is and how to approach a read. Punctuation marks, though not necessarily explicit in their direction, can be helpful in making choices with where to breathe, pause, inflect and so on.
  • To know what to do with some notation, you need to read the preface, or in the case of a voice-over script, I drew a parallel to artistic direction, backstory and considerations of a script's target audience.
  • Music notations can tell us things, some of it not so musical and some of it very musical. The same can be said for a voice-over script in terms of acting.

What Do You Look For in a Script?

Think of a script or composition as content creation and the performance itself as content recreation. A script can tell you how to sound, to whom you're speaking, how to deliver the lines and much more. All you need to do is interpret what's there and bring it to life!

When you look at a script, what do you watch for and how does it help you interpret the copy you're reading?

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Best wishes,
Stephanie

©iStockphoto.com/art-4-art


Comments


    Excellent, Stephanie!

    So good of you to cite the many values of classical music and how these wonderful values work for the voice actor.

    Thanks for calling our attention to what the classical music score tells us. It does work for us. It's timeless.

    Regards,
    John Sipple

    Posted by:
    • John Sipple
    • October 31, 2013 12:21 PM

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