Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Learning | Fun with Musical Directions

"Smorzando," I read, on an old photo of some sheet music. I was exploring The Commons, a part of the website that is dedicated to sharing the world's public photo archives. Smorzando is the musical direction for dying away; it comes directly from the Italian word for extinguish. 

I know many of you out there have studied music at some point in your lives. You have probably noticed that the musical directions all seem to come from Italian words like piano and allegro. Why is that?

I know a family that is blessed with an abundance of musical talent: the Batchelders. They're the ones to ask.  So I started with my best friend, who is the violinist/mother of this amazing family. She said that musical directions can come from any language. But since modern musical notation was invented in Tuscany during the Renaissance, Italian words became the conventional language for musical terms.

Image from page 44 of "Die weisse Dame = La dame blanche : komische Oper" (1900) Boieldieu, A. (Adrien), 1775-1834 Scribe, Eugène, 1791-1861 Kogel, Gustav F.   Leipzig : C.F. Peters

No known copyright restrictions.

What was my other question to her?  Can you think of any musical directions that sound funny?  As it turns out, she could, and so could Don, her husband/trumpet player/professor. He was kind enough to snap a photo of sheet music displaying the word squillante for me, and allow me to share it here in this post. Squillante means ringing, tickling, or piercing.

Click on the image, to view the words more clearly.

"Squillante" photo courtesy of Don Batchelder.

"This photo is taken 'in the box,' a plywood construction that holds a 10-piece offstage brass 'Banda,' or stage band. 
We provide musical reinforcement for the onstage chorus and soloists during the Triumphal Scene in Act II of Aida. 
There are also 6 costumed trumpets onstage, who play the famous Triumphal March."
--Don Batchelder

Here's a list of books on music terminology in the Stockton/San Joaquin County Public Library System.

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