Lunch & Learn: Music Theory 101

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Music Theory 101 By: Richard James
Lunch & Learn 10/5/17

In this week’s Lunch & Learn, Richard proved that his talents extend well beyond the culinary field and his skills at New Direction IRA. He introduced us to music theory, which allows harmony-inclined individuals to read and understand a piece of music without having to hear it.

The first evidence of organized music was discovered in modern-day Syria at around 1200 B.C. Many years later, “composers” would raise their hands and gesture toward particular sections of their fingers to direct a singer or group of singers to execute particular notes. Repetitive chanting was also a means of memorization before serving ceremonial and linguistic purposes for a variety of cultures. Upon the development of written media, music became a sort of universal language similar to mathematics. Our written and spoken languages may differ, but a piece of music can be read and performed in the exact same manner throughout much of the world.

Every musical note can be expressed symbolically as a whole, half, quarter, eighth, or sixteenth note. These notes are assembled on the five rows that form the staff, on which the lines and spaces each represent an “A” note through a “G” note. The staff is further broken into measures. At the beginning of every piece of music, two numbers representing the time signature specify the beats per measure and the length of each beat, respectively. Additional symbols for treble or bass, flat or sharp notes (tones that exist “between” the primary A-G notes), approximate volume, and crescendos (gradual loudening) or decrescendos (gradual softening) may also appear on the staff.

As someone with no musical background, writing a blog about music in the English language proved rather challenging (hopefully that wasn’t too obvious!). It’s therefore quite fortunate that the visionaries of yesteryear developed a common script for musical numbers to give singers and performers the opportunity to share their craft from anywhere around the globe.

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