An often overlooked area of music general knowledge is the meaning of the piece’s title. I believe it is the single most important thing one must learn relating to any performance piece. Aside from all the other obvious important points of course, such as; the name of the composer (and country of birth), the style, the key, time signature and so on. Above all else; one should know the meaning of the title BEFORE commencing to learn the piece. If we do not know what the piece is about, how can we possibly play the music in the proper spirit and convey the correct mood to the listener?
I recently listened to one of our grade 2 guitar students performing a traditional Japanese piece: “Sakura” (arr. by Michelle Nelson for ANZCA) the performance had an organic and a very free feeling, it was so clear the student was fully aware of the true meaning in the music, one would not play a piece about a cherry blossom with a march feel.
I have found that many students often do not know the meaning of the common dances from yesteryear. Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Gigue, Minuet, Bourree and Gavotte etc these often make up suites, particularly popular during the Baroque period (1685-1750). It also never ceases to amaze me how many students will spend a great deal of time learning to play a waltz without knowing it is a dance, surely it must affect our performance if we know the piece is meant to accompany a dance. To perform a piece without knowing the background and meaning is to disrespect the music. Always respect the music!
Other commonly misunderstood titles include: Etude, prelude, sonata and so on. What are some others that you have encountered?
“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet" William Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet)