Contemporary Music

Updated: Aug 24, 2019

All of us have a "dissonance threshold" when it comes to musical sounds. For example, some people (most adults) may hear the harmonic interval of a Perfect-4th (the notes C to F played at the same time on the piano) as more or less consonant (pleasing to the ear) while other people (few adults, many children) will hear it as dissonant (not-pleasing to the ear). My point is: to some extent, dissonance is a subjective experience. Therefore, one can increase their "dissonance threshold" by being exposed to more dissonant music. (Most "New" Music easily falls into this category.)

Personally, as a piano teacher, I want my students to grow to --if not love (like I do) --appreciate the dissonant sounds of New Music. The way I see it, this can only be a good thing! 

Thus, we might expose our students to these "dissonances" early. The question then becomes.... how? The RCM Celebration Series "Preparatory" literature is a great source of New Music for solo repertoire at the primary levels. But how about with some fun duets, too?

If appropriate for the piece, I will often try to incorporate "new" sounds into my  primary duets. My duet "Traffic Jam" (Primary B) is a short (17 bars) piece in impressionistic style using harmonic seconds, ninths, and polychords. A traffic jam is a dissonant sound-image that young students quickly accept and enjoy. As a teacher, you might even insert a short (8 bar) free-for-all improvisation in the middle of it! Give them a chance to bang around and make some serious noise! As the composer, I'd love that!

There is an audio track of "Traffic Jam" on the bottom of my Home Page.

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