Jeaton1 wrote:In my experience the useless clues for music tossups tend to be the ones that start out with things like "This work employs three b-flat chords in the 8th measure followed by a harmonic minor 6th blah blah blah...". These are the things that depend on hearing specific notes and unless they are extremely famous (something like Beethoven's 5th), they don't even help people who are trained in music unless you have perfect pitch or have extremely rigorously studied that piece -- no one will buzz. It'd be analogous to writing a painting tossup and giving a clue about "In this work, the artist employed Crayola Razzmattazz colored tempura in the upper left hand corner...".
Giving music clues about how the piece actually sounds rhythmically, melodically or instrumentally is a much more helpful clue -- so I would say that clues on unique time signatures, melodies from a purely qualitative viewpoint (i.e. no chords), and what instruments use are perfectly fine 'early clues' for music pieces as they would indeed allow people who have at least heard/played/studied the piece without pinpointing out specific notes. Using the art analogy again, describing how the music sounds is akin to describing portions of a painting without delving into historical and personal contexts.
I disagree with a lot of what is being said here; though, one should keep in mind that of all the people on the circuit with perfect pitch, I'm probably the least likely to get a music tossup.
People have pointed out that music is like science - there's a jargon that one needs to learn to get the questions early, but it's not necessary to know/understand that jargon to get the question later. A single chord by itself means absolutely nothing, this is true; however, giving the chord structure of a work, or a famous part of the work (e.g., I don't know, the transition from a tonic of B minor to D major in the first phrase, and from D major to F sharp major in the second phrase, of Ride of the Valkyries
) isn't completely useless. I'm guessing you still need some musical ability to figure out where the chords are in relationship to each other, but it's not like you can't figure out up a third/up a third even if you can't tell B from F. There is some information being contained in those clues, maybe it doesn't help a lot of people, but that's why it's the leadin.
There really aren't a lot of "unique time signatures" - off the top of my head I can think of the 5/4 waltz in Symphonie Pathetique
and the ridiculous five-different-time-signatures-in-eight-measures or similar mess in Rite of Spring
, and that's it (someone like Chris White or Eric Kwartler could probably add about 10-12 more to this list, but the canon of "unique time signatures" clues is even more constricted than that of "askable math calculation concepts"). Instrumentation really isn't too unique; I can't think of any "unique" instrumentation other than the cannons in 1812 Overture, anvils in the Anvil Chorus, and some relatively contemporary composers who use all sorts of weird instrumentation. Directions directly in the score might be okay too - I know I've used the fortississimo passage in Dream of Gerontius
as a clue, and it looks like it works in Andrew's Gymnopedies
question (although the wording is a bit confusing, are the quarter notes crescendoing from pianissimo to piano and decrescendoing back, or doing something else?).
I'm not sure what exactly you want with "qualitative" melodic clues - is that like "the second, fourth and sixth notes of its first phrase are the exact same as the first, third, and fifth notes, respectively; the melody goes up a perfect fifth from the second to third note and up a major second from the fourth to fifth note" (you have my permission to use this exact clue in the worst question ever written on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star") - or is that like "Critic John Blow described the melody of this symphony's second movement as being played by elephants with colds" - or is that like "the flutes quote the opening passage of the second movement, originally played in the horns and bassoons, while accompanying a cello ostinato near the end of the third movement" - or is that something completely different than anything I've proposed?
Like, here's an 8+ line tossup that I would consider as containing every type of "useful" musical non-history clue:
This work begins with a call-and-response between the French horns and the tubas, followed by a thirty-two-bar phrase in the upper strings that ends with the transposition of the tonic from F minor to C major. In this work’s second movement, a Largo in D flat minor, the clarinet and oboe introduce a countermelody that is used as the theme of its scherzo. Sixteenth note runs in the trumpet and flute overlay dotted whole notes in the low strings and male voices in the opening of this symphony’s final movement, “BEEEEEEEEEES,” which switches between 11/4 and 7/4 time signatures before settling into the traditional 4/4. Another notable choral part in that final movement takes its text from the 2008 Chicago Open, and the end of its first movement contains a shofar part. For 10 points, give the popular nickname of this symphony, the first by a composer who also wrote the song cycle Tossups on Pieces of Fake Music
Symphony (accept Nonexistent
Symphony; prompt on anything mentioning Dwight Wynne, since I guess he’s the person that came up with all these crazy ideas)
You can imagine how many music tossups can actually be written like this.
I guess my point is that music questions are really hard to write without getting transparent/easy too quickly or including those kind of clues that you claim are "useless" (I suppose one could write a "music history" music question completely devoid of musical content, but we'd probably have the music players up in arms if that happened for a whole tournament).