While rubbing his forehead, contemplating solutions for the mess-of-a-student-work I had handed him, my composition teacher helpfully explained:

“Visual artists have a great advantage over us. They can see the whole canvas before they start. As they work, they know exactly where the latest stroke falls in the overall composition.”

His point was one typically made to young composers; get a plan.

Since then, I’ve also thought about what this might mean for the listeners. Sitting there, listening to our work for the first time, how is the audience to measure the weight of a specific event they have just heard. Were that event in the middle of the piece it might mean something different than if it had occurred in the first tenth of the piece. In older music, there are auditory signals such as pedal tones in Bach or Beethoven. In a chamber work, pedals often signal the end of a movement. What devices to we use?

This got me to thinking about the scroll bars for iTunes, YouTube, Quicktime, and other ways we most typically listen to recordings these days. The scroll bar lets me know where we are in the track, greatly influencing how I perceive an event I’ve just heard. In fact, I now find the lack of scroll bars at live concerts makes me a bit anxious (just a bit however, I still enjoy live music much more than recorded).

This raises some questions:

1. Have scroll bars affected your perception of musical form? How?

2. Is that change in how we perceive music a negative? A positive? Just different?

3. If there is a new-found dependence of scroll bars, should live presenters address this need?

2 Responses to “Scroll Bars”
  1. Christina Stiefel says:

    I’m not sure about scroll bars at performances. I’m not very dependant on them. But I very much like the idea that (static) visual arts have such an advantage.  The whole thought’s just out there all at once. 
    Then again, maybe that’s part of the beauty of music. It’s more in control. Unlike a painting or sculpture, etc, music says what it has to say, ends, and does the walking away.   

  2. bryan page says:

    i tend to be very antsy, especially at my desk, which is where i mostly encounter the scroll bars…i had never thought about them until now, but i suppose that when i listen (and now watch) a recording, i am very conscious of them…if i start a recording and see the scroll bar move slowly, i know that i am in for a long sit…however, while in a live setting, all i am looking at are the performers (save for the times when there is an audiofile & video), which gives me no indication of how long the piece is…this is so much more of a condusive way to listen for me, not worrying about how much longer a piece will be…in some situations, the more you know, the more you worry, and i worry about enough stuff…also, i hate the morphing blue stuff that windows media player shows when you play something on it…

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