Ep. 140 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. It is a pleasure to have local guests with me today, joining me from right here in the Twin Cities. Rob Gronemann is a music instructor at Normandale Community College. He’s a pianist, composer and a self proclaimed terrible singer. Rob is constantly seeking ways to diversify music education for students, especially with listening. He thrives on setting up challenges for students to solve and enjoys the improvisation required to work in the moment. Rob has developed a curriculum based on his studies and observations showing that people of all abilities and interests can experience music through hearing melody, rhythm, harmony and form. Rob has said that people are often unaware that music training happens, whether you like it or not. We are surrounded by music and sound and perception of vibration. Love that and we have a bonus addition here to. I wasn’t sure if Aaron would be able to join us as well. He is. Yay. We have jazz faculty member Aaron Moe from Normandale with us as well today. Welcome to Enhance Life with Music, Rob and Aaron.

Rob Gronemann: [00:01:21] Thanks. Happy to be here.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:22] Well, our topic today is one that was recommended to me a while ago by a former guest. Guest turned from Marlene Pauley, shout out to her and that is the topic of how intervals are all around us. They form common sounds that we hear every day. And again, whether we consider ourselves musicians or not, we are surrounded by intervals. And as Marlene and I were talking about examples of this, I thought, This is such a great topic. I love it. But neither one of us really had an idea of a guess to speak about the topic, and that was probably two years ago. So fast forward a couple of years, I was visiting with the faculty at Normandale, Rob and Aaron as part of my job at Schmidt Music and in our conversation we just started sort of geeking out over music theory stuff as musicians sometimes do. And we got into this topic of intervals being everywhere in our daily lives, and I was like, Oh my goodness, you guys are perfect to talk about this topic I’ve been wanting to feature. So here we are. I’m excited about kind of that serendipitous way that this this episode came to be. So the interval, the humble interval is a basic building block of music. It’s kind of like the Lego brick of music. It’s a foundational component of music theory and ear training, and it’s simple, simplest form. I’ve always described intervals to my piano students as the distance between two nodes. But for purposes of our conversation today, can you to flush out the concept of what an interval is just a little bit more for listeners who aren’t already familiar with that concept?

Rob Gronemann: [00:02:59] Well, sure, an interval is exactly what you said. It’s really a difference between two tones. If you have only one tone, for example, this one. If you repeat that tone. You still have an interval. It’s called a unison. If you have a tone, for instance, this one and you invite this one to the party. You have a different kind of interval. So we understand intervals as being narrow or being wide and there are other considerations as well, consonance and dissonance. And then as you said, we can use intervals to build more complex relationships within music. Intervals are extremely important when reading music, when hearing music. But the most important thing is that we are surrounded by intervals. They’re all around us and we are constantly brushed by sounds every day in our lives. Human beings, as you said, Mindy, we perceive this whether we like it or not. If we hear sound, we perceive intervals.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:04] Great way of describing that. I kind of think of the Sound of Music movie two and that song Dough. Yeah, that’s a dear you know, most people are familiar with that and it’s a great way to explain what Soul says is that concept of soul. But if you think about one of those degrees of the song like Dough Ray Me, if you play or sing any one of those different syllables and pitches, you’re forming an interval. And like you said, Rob, it could be the very repeated pitch that forms a unison or it could be different pitches that form different intervals. Well, an understanding of intervals is critical in reading music and understanding music theory, which is kind of like the infrastructure of music, the underpinnings of music, and is also really helpful in memorizing music. I definitely notice a huge improvement in myself and in my students ability to memorize music. When we do your training and recognition by ear of intervals, is there anything else that you want to say about the importance of interval knowledge and ear recognition of intervals?

Rob Gronemann: [00:05:09] Well, what you’re talking about, especially with memorizing music, is inviting another layer of learning to the platform of learning. If you were to give a student 12 random pitches and you ask them to repeat it, they would have a tough time because there’s a disassociation with the 12 random pitches. But when the pitches are arranged, as you said, according to a Dora Me scale, which is an excellent example, by the way, that’s a very clever song. They have an easier time making an association because there’s something to grasp, and that is a fundamental component of music learning, digging deeper, finding associations between pitches and those associations are intervals. Think about this. Yeah, go ahead, Aaron.

Aaron Moe: [00:06:00] I was going to say it’s not necessary to understand intervals, to understand music or appreciate music.

Rob Gronemann: [00:06:07] That’s a good point.

Aaron Moe: [00:06:08] But to to go a level further it’s more understanding intervals can help to understand your reaction to music, why you may appreciate some sounds and why you don’t appreciate other sounds. And I think Rob’s example of this random association of if you took 12 random pitches and put them in order as you moved from pitch to pitch, playing for any a group of ten people, they would probably all have different reactions at different points. Moving from tone one to tone two might be a pleasant sound, but going from tone two to tone three could be an unpleasant sound. Or that consonance and dissonance understanding intervals helps to understand how we perceive and react to certain things. And when you come to things like train horns or a crossing bell, like an alarm, something that’s warning you, they’re designed intentionally to catch you in a way that makes you your ears perk up so that you don’t miss that versus lulling you to sleep.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:02] Yeah, I’m going to play just a few examples of some of those intervals that do appear in our everyday lives. Just so listeners have a little bit more of an idea of what we’re talking about.

Rob Gronemann: [00:07:18] Major Third Wow, I’m so stealing that one.

Mindy Peterson: [00:07:25] And then oh, by. So yeah, those are a few sounds that we encounter on a daily basis or on a regular basis. Some examples of those. One of them was the turn signal, and that was one that some of these examples Marlene and I had talked about. And then the turn signal. It was after that conversation I was just in the car and put my turn signal on and all of a sudden I was like, Oh my goodness, that’s forming an interval. So you kind of start geeking out on some of this after a while when you start thinking about about it. But you’re an editor. Rob, were there any other common intervals that come to your mind that we hear in the course of an every like a normal day of life, any other common intervals that come to your mind?

Aaron Moe: [00:08:20] Yeah, I think this is a great I love that it opens with the doorbell because. That’s right. So it’s that major third which elicits sort of a happy, pleasant, very welcoming is a very welcoming sound. Right. And it contrasts to me so easily. And I love that you had the kid in there because the one interval that I remember learning when I was learning intervals in school right away was the minor third. And it was because it was the nana nana boo boo that I heard so often out of every kid’s mouth on the playground in elementary school. And that’s a minor third. And the difference in the effect of a major sound versus a mocking might, the intended this thing intended to mock somebody being a minor interval. It changes the tone of the and by tone I mean like the the color, right.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:11] Yeah.

Aaron Moe: [00:09:11] Just the context that.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:12] I have.

Rob Gronemann: [00:09:13] Intention. Yeah.

Mindy Peterson: [00:09:14] Yeah. And I’ll just point out real quick to you mentioned the major third, minor third things like that. Intervals are composed of a number like third, fourth and a quality or mode like major minor, augmented, diminished.

Rob Gronemann: [00:09:30] Yeah, that’s a that’s a whole topic I might add to that. There’s just something I wanted to say about ascending and descending. So it’s extremely important when hearing intervals to recognize whether or not the interval is ascending. Or descending. With intervals are ascending, we go from a lower pitch to a higher pitch. Descending goes in the opposite direction. What I find terribly interesting is that do you guys remember telephones when the phone would ring and it was on the wall?

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:05] Is that. Yeah.

Rob Gronemann: [00:10:07] Oh, yeah.

Aaron Moe: [00:10:07] And you, you put your finger in the thing and you dial.

Rob Gronemann: [00:10:10] Yeah. That rotary.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:11] Dial. You’re going back even further now.

Rob Gronemann: [00:10:13] All right. Yeah. Vintage. So I distinctly recall you’d pick up the handset as the phone rings. You have no idea who this person is because there’s no caller ID, right? Right. And what do you say? You say hello and your voice ascends in pitch because you’re asking a question. So human beings use intervals in communication. And some cultures the way that you change the interval between two syllables of a word changes the entire meaning of the word. And I find that absolutely fascinating. What’s even more interesting is that the moment that person speaks, if it’s your mother, you know exactly who it is. And their pattern of syllables and the pattern of intervals that they have will actually reveal something about the mood they’re in and how much trouble you’re in.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:11] Yeah, well, that’s funny that you bring that up, because I know when Marlene and I were talking about this, one example she gave is, Hey, if you’re calling your kid in, at the end of the day, it’s like Johnny, you know, it kind of form is like everybody just sort of goes to that interval. And I thought, Man, whenever I’m trying to get my son’s attention when he’s in the next room, I just did this last night when I was preparing for our conversation because I was like, You know what? Whenever I call him, it’s the same interval that I’m using. And so I tried. I was like, Eric, he kind of was like, What? I’m like, What interval was that?

Rob Gronemann: [00:11:47] He’s like.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:48] What are you doing? You know? But I was like, I just was recognizing that I always use that same interval when I’m calling for him to get his attention.

Aaron Moe: [00:11:58] Well, when you when you call that Johnny. Right, that’s that, that’s that minor third man and Anna Boo. Yeah, right. It’s the one. It’s it catches attention. Right.

Mindy Peterson: [00:12:06] It’s sure. In that minor.

Rob Gronemann: [00:12:08] Shake them awake.

Mindy Peterson: [00:12:09] Yeah. And that minor is communicating non completion. The mom is requesting something. Yeah. It’s like respond to me, come home.

Rob Gronemann: [00:12:20] Well it’s also a descending interval so we start with a higher pitch and then move to a lower pitch because that’s a more commanding kind of sound if we if we think about that. If I stop there. It is absolutely unsatisfying because you’ve heard a collection of pitches that are all intervals apart, descending what is called a scale, a major scale in this case. But the association between them. Requires an answer. And that is because as we descend through the scale, we arrive at specific pitches that have these interval associations that require a completion. Otherwise we go, wait, it’s not over yet. And that is an incredibly powerful element of music composition. If we take another example, for example, happy birthday. We all know what goes on. Are we done yet? No. And each time we get another instance of Happy Birthday, is it going up or is it going down, guys?

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:45] Higher.

Aaron Moe: [00:13:45] Yeah, it’s getting wider, right?

Rob Gronemann: [00:13:47] It’s getting wider. And then what happens next? Everything falls apart.

Mindy Peterson: [00:13:53] Too big, too big of trouble.

Rob Gronemann: [00:13:56] You know, if there’s another another tune where we have this experience, where the interval is, you don’t want to play The Star-Spangled Banner. Oh, my God. So everybody thinks they can do this at a football game with a microphone? Yeah, it goes south when we when we hit it, it’s the great moment. And you know what? That’s by design. When they put The Star-Spangled Banner, the lyric of the poem to Anacreon in heaven, it was designed to be kind of a beer drinking song because like Happy Birthday. The best part about for He’s a Jolly Good Fellow, Star-Spangled Banner and Happy Birthday is that there’s going to be that one moment where the whole community singing goes south. And that’s that’s the fun part about it, right?

Mindy Peterson: [00:14:44] Especially if you started to high on Star-Spangled Banner, like you got to start low on that or you do, everyone’s screwed.

Rob Gronemann: [00:14:51] Yeah. I mean, I can only sing it in the key of B-flat.

Aaron Moe: [00:14:57] I mean, on a side note, like we have one of the notoriously most difficult national anthems to sing.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:01] Oh, totally.

Aaron Moe: [00:15:02] Like, it’s so insane, right?

Rob Gronemann: [00:15:05] Yeah. And why they picked that one? Well, because it’s fun to sing, that’s why. Right. And the the thing is, is that the, the tune ends with a question. Yeah, but the pitches are descending. Yeah, the intervals are descending. Yeah.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:20] I have a whole episode on The Star-Spangled Banner, which I’ll link to in the show notes.

Rob Gronemann: [00:15:25] Oh, that’s.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:26] Great. Yeah, we could definitely have another one about it talking about some of these intervals. Well, Rob, when we were having this conversation at Normandale about intervals, you told me that the train whistle is intentionally chosen, the sound of it, for its effect of getting people’s attention. And it’s an augmented force. Can you tell us a little bit about that? Because I thought that was really fascinating.

Rob Gronemann: [00:15:50] Well, absolutely. Aaron brought this up a few moments ago, and it actually begs the question of what is harmony when we have an interval, whereas we have two pitches sounding simultaneously, for instance, that’s another kind of interval. It’s called a harmonic interval. Why is it called a harmonic interval? Because the two notes are sounding in harmony and harmonies have, as you, as Mindy said, different qualities. So that example is called a perfect fifth. But if I start to combine intervals, for instance. I get other kinds of structures in music that we call harmonies in the train. The train whistle actually consists of.

Mindy Peterson: [00:16:44] Sounds like a sequence.

Rob Gronemann: [00:16:45] It does? Yeah. Yes.

Aaron Moe: [00:16:47] That’s the danger chord that you also hear in all those silent movies. Any time something bad is about to happen, you hear that? You hear that same chord.

Rob Gronemann: [00:16:55] That’s the chord. So yeah, when we start to stack intervals up, we have these other structures in music called harmonies. And this comes circles back to what Mindy said about the Lego blocks. These intervals, when we start to stack them up and put them in an environment together, they form these harmonies. And the train whistle by design is supposed to sound absolutely horrifying because what are you supposed to be? You just got to get off the tracks.

Aaron Moe: [00:17:24] You should run away from the sound.

Rob Gronemann: [00:17:26] You know, and the person that’s blowing the horn, you know, they’re having a lot of fun because that’s got to be great to produce something of such intensity. But it’s also terrifying and it does mean it means something. Police sirens are the same way. It’s a matter of fact. You mentioned the augmented forth that is.

Aaron Moe: [00:17:51] Has another name, right? That the tritone.

Rob Gronemann: [00:17:54] The tritone. Yes.

Aaron Moe: [00:17:55] People may know that name.

Rob Gronemann: [00:17:57] Yeah, tritone. It’s has a lot of folklore surrounding it. Yes. But in Germany and Spain that is the interval that they use for the police siren.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:08] Yeah, well one thing, one thing I love about this discussion and a lot of discussions in these episodes, but for sure this one is it really lends itself well to steam or STEM projects or discussions. I mean, you start talking about acoustical principles and aural perception and frequencies and just different ways of perceiving sound. And it’s just ripe for pulling in science and math and engineAarong and all those different concepts and tying them together with a music application.

Rob Gronemann: [00:18:41] That’s a fantastic point. Yeah, I think we all know the trumpet looks like trumpets have these valves. And so the concept to work a trumpet and learn the trumpets, you only have three buttons, but you have this whole wide variety of intervals that you can play. But the instrument that fascinates me the most is the bugle. There are no buttons on the bugle, and all of the intervals that the buccal can play are determined by the skill of the way the bugle player changes what is called the usher. That’s the shape of the mouth and the pressure of the pitch. Can we just listen to a clip?

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:22] Yeah.

Rob Gronemann: [00:19:51] We all know that as Taps. That’s the somber melody that is performed specifically at military funerals, also as a way to start the day. The bugle has no buttons on it, and all those pitches that are generated to play the melody are possible, as I said, by the skill of a player and the way they change the orientation of their lips on the mouthpiece. That’s called the ambassador. But what’s more important, and you mentioned STEM or steam projects, this is a fantastic examination. How is it possible that you can play those pitches? And it has to do with the construction of the instrument and the physics of how sound is produced within the instrument itself. Can we talk a little bit about consonance and dissonance? As as Mindy said, we have these different intervals that are called major and minor. What she’s talking about is quality. And one other quality that we can discuss is consonance and dissonance. Dissonance foghorn or train horn versus consonance. Lovely. We use the term consonance dissonance within the context of interval discussion. Is that interval consonant? Does it sound like the two pitches are in agreement or is it dissonant? When we hear two notes in a harmony? Remember, that means that the two notes are sounding simultaneously as an interval. If we hear dissonance, oftentimes that could be off putting. And when we hear consonance, it’s a far more pleasing experience. But what’s interesting is that dissonance surrounds us just like intervals do. If I took the sum total of those intervals, it sounds absolutely terrible. But when we hear those intervals as a pattern associated with the rhythm, we go, Oh, the entertainer, of course. This is one of the greatest rags written by Scott Joplin. Well, that’s debatable, but anyhow, consonance and dissonance. So those of you who are listening when you go out into the world and you begin to hear sounds and become more familiar and aware of intervals that are all around us, you know, you can measure them. Does it sound pleasing? Does it not? Is that a good sound to me? Yeah.

Aaron Moe: [00:22:29] Is it is it at rest or is it seem to be fighting with itself?

Rob Gronemann: [00:22:33] Yeah. Is it doesn’t want to move because composers have to have dissonance. We have to have distance. If we only have consonants, that’d be like having vanilla pudding every day for lunch. And I don’t want to go through life just eating vanilla pudding or putting it all.

Mindy Peterson: [00:22:48] Some of that tension right there.

Rob Gronemann: [00:22:50] Yeah, yeah. Tension and release. We got to have some got to have some tension and release and the rag. Having that wider interval in there makes the more dissonant intervals somehow palatable and kind of catchy.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:08] Sir well, I know that we could talk all day about this, and there are so many other things on my list as I knew there would be that we didn’t get to. But before I have you give us your preferred resources for ear training and auditory perception and things like that. Can one of you just really briefly tell us what you alluded to about the controversy surrounding the tritone? Can you just just really quickly explain a little bit of that?

Rob Gronemann: [00:23:37] Okay. Well, I could demystify this. There’s a lot of a lot of music theory students out there that talk about how the tritone was banned by the Catholic Church and so forth in the Renaissance period, I.

Aaron Moe: [00:23:49] Believe it was commonly referred to as the devil’s.

Rob Gronemann: [00:23:51] Interval. Yes, but affectionately so oddly enough.

Mindy Peterson: [00:23:56] And actually, before you say anything more about it, can you play one for us?

Rob Gronemann: [00:24:01] Oh, I already did.

Mindy Peterson: [00:24:02] We can hear you with the double stroke.

Rob Gronemann: [00:24:05] Yeah. And actually, if you complete the thought, you get more. I told you I was terrible singer. But you also get The Simpsons. So it’s a fascinating interval. But the reason why the reason why I was so controversial is because these composers were writing liturgical music. And by that I mean music for the church, which is meant to be contemplative and dissonance between intervals was very prescribed in the way that it was handled. The tritone was not an interval that was recognized as being appropriate with a certain number of exceptions. Of course, there’s always exceptions, right? But yeah, so there were corrections and they would correct the tritone by using music of the fictitious music. These are things that we now call Sharps and flats. What they were trying to do is create music that was beautiful, contemplative, resonant and meant for the purpose of worship. And so that tritone, which of course in the classical period was desired in the romantic period it was used constantly. And in the modern era it’s exploited. So, you know, this is an interval that got bashed around a lot once it was unleashed.

Aaron Moe: [00:25:26] I think it makes sense if you consider it in the church. The foundation of music in the church is chant like that’s where it has begun and come out of enchant is based heavily on those perfect fourths and perfect fifths, which are all consonant harmonies. So that had to have that tritone interval, right would be a really jarring experience for the the listener or the worshipper, right? You’d kind of shake you out of your trance or your your contemplative moment.

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:50] Oh, fascinating. Well, this has been so much fun, even more fun than I anticipated.

Aaron Moe: [00:25:57] I mean, what’s not to love about intervals?

Mindy Peterson: [00:25:59] All right. All right. Can you guys tell us what some of your your go to resources are for listeners who want to do a little bit more digging into this topic or do some your training, are there websites or apps, things like that that you can recommend for listeners who want to learn more or just improve their auditory perception?

Rob Gronemann: [00:26:17] Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. The first thing I want to say is that musicians are prolific Internet users and everybody you know, most musicians that are out there that are doing some teaching like to create websites. And so doing a simple Google search, what is an interval, you’ll get more hits than you can imagine. All kinds of YouTube people trying to explain this stuff in the manner that we’ve been working at this afternoon, but specifically to do training either using your phone or a laptop or a tablet. Teoria dot com that’s te0ria dot com is a fantastic resource and it has your training resources. You can do all kinds of interval recognition in various ways. The other one is music theory dot net. That is a collegiate level website that some colleges actually use as kind of the platform for teaching music theory.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:20] Yeah. And I’ll just mention real quick two that music theory dot net, all of that information is free on that website. They also do have an app called Tenuto. I don’t know if you ever use them. Yes, you have to. I want to say it’s like 499. But if it’s more convenient to have something on an iPad or a phone or some kind of a tablet or device like that that you have right on your piano for whatever reason or that you want to use when you’re traveling in the car and you don’t have access to your laptop. It’s kind of handy to have that.

Rob Gronemann: [00:27:49] And it’s fun to just jump in there and explore. With music theory dot net, you can set the parameters. It’s like a game almost you. Set a timer. It’ll give you a pair of pitches, and then you have to select which interval it is. And quite honestly, with just a little bit of practice, I think anybody after teaching your training for all these years, I think anybody can learn to recognise intervals because human beings recognize sound. You know, there’s even a study out there that suggests that studying ear training actually helps to promote good brain health. Yeah, you don’t even need to know what interval you’re singing to begin to develop a repertoire of sound associations that we call intervals. And believe me, if you do this, you’ll start to realise that these things are all around us. And if I can say, they bind the musical galaxy together.

Mindy Peterson: [00:28:46] Oh, love that. What a great way to tie that together. I love it.

Aaron Moe: [00:28:50] I think it’s just important to remember that intervals are familiar to everybody. This is just all we’re doing is putting names to those sounds that you already know.

Mindy Peterson: [00:29:01] So love it. Well, as you know, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. And I know Rob is going to run with this one. Rob, do you have a song or story you can share with us today as we close?

Rob Gronemann: [00:29:19] Yeah, I’d like to bring into the conversation Eternal Father, which is the Navy hymn. My grandmother had a request for her remembrance, and that is to have the 1968 Navy Wives Choir sing Eternal Father at her remembrance. Now, this is impossible for obvious reasons. All right. This is just a couple of years ago. It’s right now 2022. And and so I told my sister that, you know, what would be best here is if I played eternal father on the piano and everybody just kind of sang along. Maybe we have a canter, like most hymns we do. Nope. She insisted that we have the Navy Wives Choir of 1968 singing this thing, and so I was able to find a recording of it. And so I ripped the recording, created a piano introduction, and I told her, this is going to be a terrible idea. Well, why is it going to be a terrible idea? Because recorded music should never be sung to. It should be live music. And so it was a disaster. And the result the result was the epilogue of the midshipman course that I wrote we did at Normandy a few years ago, and I wrote it to sound like complete chaos, because that’s what I heard when this roomful of people attempted to sing along with a recording. And so I told my.

Mindy Peterson: [00:30:44] Sister that you’re referring to this, a song that you wrote after the fact, and it was inspired by this chaos that you heard.

Rob Gronemann: [00:30:50] Oh, yeah, absolutely. It honestly, it took me 15 minutes to write it. I mean it as soon as it was over, I wrote it because I wanted to. Yeah. So I don’t know. I think life music is to be encouraged and live performance is to be encouraged. And I think of recorded music generally as kind of being like canned food. It needs to be used responsibly, but I don’t want to go through life only eating canned food. Those are my remarks.

Mindy Peterson: [00:31:21] Cheers. Cheers to live performances. Absolutely.

Transcribed by Sonix.ai