Sunday, 29 September 2019

What is a phrase in music, an often controversial topic in our performance group

During Compania Cielito performance group rehearsals we often came into dispute about phrasing of the music and exactly what this is. After a number of heated group discussions i felt it important to research and get to the bottom of why this question kept arising and why everyone felt so strongly about it. The article below by Bradford says it all in my opinion and expresses what i myself feel when hearing the music i dance.






Phrasing in music – what is a musical phrase?
By Bradford on July 3, 2012 in Lessons and Tips, Music Theory Lessons


Phrase group of three four bar phrases in Mozart's Piano Sonata in F, K. 332


Phrase group of three four bar phrases in Mozart’s Piano Sonata in F, K. 332





Let’s start with a definition from the Oxford’s Music Dictionary:


phrase. Short section of music of a musical composition into which the music, whether vocal
or instrumental, seems naturally to fall. Sometimes this is 4 measures, but shorter and longer
phrases occur. It is an inexact term: sometimes a phrase may be contained within one breath,
and sometimes sub-divisions may be marked. In notation, phrase-marks are the slurs placed
over or under the notes as a hint of their proper puntutation in performance. The art of phrasing
by a performer is often instinctive and is one of the features by which a supreme artist may be
distinguished from one of lesser inspiration, whether singer or instrumentalist.


I like the following from the above definition:


* “the music seems naturally to fall” – music and the human body are very connected. Vocal music
follows many physiological requirements such as phrase length not exceeding what the lungs can
handle.
   
 * “it is an inexact term” – music can be abstract and there is often more than one correct answer to
a phasing question. You might get different teachers telling you to phrase differently. Just remember,
you are dealing with the expression of ideas. Ideas change and are interpreted in different ways.
    
* “is often instinctive” – Listen to lots of music in the genre or era you are studying. Also, go to
concerts and see how the pros pull off phrasing. You need to absorb the lessons of performance.
Studying theory, history, and musicianship in a class or with a teacher can certainly help. Regardless,
you need to gain enough experience so you can understand as well as feel the phrasing.