I need to create a listening chart covering several elements of music for the song "Sound of Music" by Rodgers and Hammerstein. How would I do this?

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A listening chart is a regular chart that has been adapted to row and column labels specifying music selection types, titles, artists, and music elements. For "The Sound of Music," your chart will reflect a single selection and a number of music elements.

A chart is defined as the presentation of information displayed in boxes arranged in vertical columns and horizontal rows. You can choose between putting the selections in the vertical column, with the elements in the horizontal row, or the reverse, the elements in the vertical column and the selections in the horizontal row. With a single selection, the song will title the entire chart and you can choose between labeling the elements horizontally (across the top) or vertically (down the side). For a single selection, listing elements vertically (down the left-hand column) might prove more functional. The difference between the two methods is a visual one, with both resulting in the meeting, inside the chart boxes, of your analysis of the music elements in your music selection(s).

Let's talk a little about some of the music elements that are interesting in "The Sound of Music." I'm supposing you are interested in the vocal version of "The Sound of Music," so one of the elements to analyze is lyrics and language as described by Maida Owens of the Louisiana Voices Folklife Project (Louisiana Division of the Arts, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism). First, lyrics tell the stories of cultures and of individuals within cultures. In "The Sound of Music," the lyrics link us with Maria's experience within her culture, helping to define her (and to set up two plot-driving internal conflicts: her love of nature's freedom and her love of song). Second, language can govern rhythm in music because languages have their own inherent rhythms in speech patterns. You may have heard it said in English poetry class that English speech fits the iambic rhythm (ba DA ba DA, con-CEDE, we COME, you GO) and that the iambic rhythm affects the meter of poetry and lyrics (prose is affected by language as cadence).

A link between lyrics and dynamics can be made so that ideas expressed in language are dramatized by musical dynamics. Dynamics forcefully drive intensity and loudness in music and song. Dynamics may change abruptly or with crescendo and range from very soft, at pianissimo, to very loud, at fortissimo. Intensity shifts with expressiveness and can range anywhere from abbandono (with abandon) to grazioso (gracefully). There are a number of good examples of how dynamics dramatize the meaning in lyrics in "The Sound of Music." One of these is the link between the dolce (sweet, delicate) piano (soft) dynamic during the lyrics "sigh like a chime that flies from a church on a breeze." The link dramatizes the metaphor expressed in the lyrics by a novitiate comparing her heart's lovely sigh (sighs express beauteous feeling as often as sorrowful feeling) to a church bell chime being dispersed on a breeze. For another example, examine the contrasting dynamic tied to "laugh like a brook."

Timbre and texture further support the lyrics and provide the instrumentation qualities in the music. Referring to the above example, the texture reduces from a thick (full orchestra) texture--with many instrument layers, including strings--during the introductory measures of "The Sound of Music" ("The hills are alive") to a light texture--with fewer instrument layers--during the meditative "my heart wants to..." passages. The timbre in the "my heart" passages enhances the conjunction of lyrics, dynamics and texture with a bright and brassy timber featuring trumpet, French horn and flute.

Drawing on this very brief--not exhaustive--discussion, for your listening chart (supposing you choose to list music elements down the left-hand column and write your analysis across the horizontal rows), you would list in the boxes down the column Lyrics & Language, Dynamics, Timbre, Texture (in whatever order you find appropriate; some instructors specify some music elements, some specify others). You would then make your comments regarding your analysis of each (plus other elements you determine through your own listening) from left to right in the corresponding row. As an example, the listing for Timbre might say: "mellow (because of the strings) ranging to flute-y, bright, brassy."


Louisiana's Musical Landscape Musical Elements Chart

San Mateo Community College Elements of Music

Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority, AU, Elements of Music Active Listening Chart

Maida Owens of the Louisiana Voices Folklife Project (Louisiana Division of the Arts, Department of Culture, Recreation & Tourism)

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