Writing Music Questions for Music Players

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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:02 pm

The Gold Gringo wrote: Hans von Bülow called this work a "law unto itself," and the composer of this work claimed that he put the piece together from a couple of entr'actes. The recapitulation of the first movement begins with this work's only marking of 3 p's. In the opening of this work, the violins play only in descending thirds and ascending sixths, though the woodwinds imitate those figures as chords, while the piccolo and triangle only play in the allegro giocoso third movement. The aforementioned chains of falling thirds allude to the composer's song "O Death," while the fourth movement of this work is a set of thirty-two variations on the cantata Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich, originally thought to be composed by J.S. Bach. For ten points identify this work by the composer of the Academic Festival Overture which followed three others of the same genre.

ANSWER: Brahms' Fourth Symphony in E minor
This is a good example of the kind of question I think we should have more of. The violin playing only in descending thirds and ascending sixths is a unique clue and famous aspect of the piece for those who study music. The last movement of the piece being a set of thirty-two variations on a Bach theme is famous enough that someone who has only basic familiarity with the piece could still get. And the last sentence, which gives you the composer if you know what's already canon, is fraudable enough that it shouldn't go dead. Would there really be that much objection to some more questions like these appearing in packets?
The Gold Gringo wrote: 6. The low strings open the second movement of this work with a macabre variation on the first movement's second theme, while the repeated A in the violins and high woodwinds at the end of this work is a quotation from the composer's song 'Rebirth.' Its first movement opens with the cellos and violins leaping up and down minor sixths, and closes with a chromatic scale on the celesta, while the final movement was described as a 'parody of shrillness' in its composer's autobiography Testimony. Written out of the composer's desire to return to heroic classicism after the poor reception of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, for 10 points, identify this Shostakovich symphony sometimes called a "response to justified criticism."
ANSWER: Symphony No. 5 in D minor [accept A Soviet Artist's Response to Justified Criticism before that is read, but also accept 'practical' or similar words in place of 'justified.']

If it went dead, it's probably because it just isn't as canonical as, say, Leningrad. True, it has a subtitle, but I can see a lot of people missing the exact wording.
While I'm still surprised that this went dead ("response to justified criticism" is a phrase I've seen on the boards in what I presume was reference to this; it's been in bonuses so the first step towards working it into canon were there; it's Shostakovich's most famous work), I do have to say that the early clues for this tossup are indeed very hard.
The Gold Gringo wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: I'm afraid that I'm one of those people who tends to line up for Rachmaninov concerts (as I do love his music) and hide from Schoenberg ones. But are you suggesting that Rachmaninov should have a smaller place in the canon, because his popularity has obfuscated his lack of historical significance, or rather that you think Schoenberg is getting too small a place in the canon because he's not popular with the concert-going public?
No, they're both well-represented as they should be. This is just an example that a teacher once told me. All I'm saying is that criteria for judging an answer's difficulty will not always correlate with each other.
Okay, thanks. This makes more sense now.
The Gold Gringo wrote: I'm going to have to side with Andrew here. You can't "fix" the canon instantly, and all player's should have the opportunity to answer questions (at least by the end) if they're willing to put in the study time, regardless of their background or chosen field of study.
I very much agree with your last sentence. The point of debate for me is what kind of answers people should be studying for. I think they should reflect the pieces that people care about in the real world much more than the current canon seems to and I am advocating width expansion on that grounds. I think the idea that I want more answers to tossups that require technical knowledge of music or that I want a wholesale reappraisal of the entire canon (as some posts have suggested) is a misrepresentation of my views, as I think reading what I wrote would support. I'm also worried that people seem to think I want to include more obscure works, when in fact what I want is the exact opposite. I think excluding a whole bunch of very famous pieces of classical music on the grounds that they don't have some kind of memorable nickname is absurd. It has been suggested that this might lead to tossup corpses strewing the ground, but this is only true if either A. a piece is chosen which isn't actually that famous/popular or B. there's a general unfamiliarity within even the music players in quizbowl with some of the most famous/popular pieces of classical music. The former could be avoided with some research, I would think, and the latter would be a troubling problem worth addressing.

I'm too inexperienced to offer good suggestions on exactly what means should be used or how quickly the canon should change, and since Yale doesn't have house-written tournaments, my contribution to a canon-shift would likely be very small no matter what that shift is. I have no argument with people who want to take it slowly. But I still think there should be some expansion in the direction I've indicated, even if done in the smallest of baby steps.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sima Guang Hater » Tue Jul 28, 2009 7:45 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm too inexperienced to offer good suggestions on exactly what means should be used or how quickly the canon should change, and since Yale doesn't have house-written tournaments, my contribution to a canon-shift would likely be very small no matter what that shift is.
John, you're someone who would benefit from helping others edit their tournaments, not to mention the tournaments would be that much better off for it, because your knowledge base in your area is quite strong. Furthermore, there's no reason you can't nudge your teammates to help you write a tournament.

Sorry for the interruption, carry on.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by cvdwightw » Tue Jul 28, 2009 9:05 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm also worried that people seem to think I want to include more obscure works, when in fact what I want is the exact opposite. I think excluding a whole bunch of very famous pieces of classical music on the grounds that they don't have some kind of memorable nickname is absurd. It has been suggested that this might lead to tossup corpses strewing the ground, but this is only true if either A. a piece is chosen which isn't actually that famous/popular or B. there's a general unfamiliarity within even the music players in quizbowl with some of the most famous/popular pieces of classical music. The former could be avoided with some research, I would think, and the latter would be a troubling problem worth addressing.
To echo the stuff in the science thread, this is part of the general exhortation, "Don't write on things because they have memorable names. Write on things because they're important." I'm perfectly willing to believe that random nicknamed piece of music X is unimportant in the larger scale of things, but we need to nip those questions in the bud now before they get absorbed by the canon. The thing with the canon is that a group of like-minded prolific writers can really influence the direction of the canon, regardless of whether that influence is beneficial or damaging. Once things get into the canon, they never really get out - the community as a whole needs to make a conscious or unconscious decision to stop writing questions on that thing, and inevitably you'll have people who don't have an expert's grasp of the subject using old packets as a gauge of what's important and askable, which means that bad canon expansion ideas can often linger in the system for years.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Jul 28, 2009 10:58 pm

The Quest for the Historical Mukherjesus wrote:
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'm too inexperienced to offer good suggestions on exactly what means should be used or how quickly the canon should change, and since Yale doesn't have house-written tournaments, my contribution to a canon-shift would likely be very small no matter what that shift is.
John, you're someone who would benefit from helping others edit their tournaments, not to mention the tournaments would be that much better off for it, because your knowledge base in your area is quite strong. Furthermore, there's no reason you can't nudge your teammates to help you write a tournament.

Sorry for the interruption, carry on.
Thank you for the compliment, Eric, though I think my music knowledge has not been that thoroughly tested yet. Especially since I haven't played against most of the best music players, and even the ones I have, like Aaron, I've only played against once.

Yale is not going to do a house-written college tournament, at least not this year. We have enough trouble with our one house-written high school tournament. There is talk that we might revive the packet submission Bulldogs Over Broadway for this year, because we are very short on funds and need to do some more hosting. But even if we did, there's no guarantee that I'll be the one editing Art/Music. I very well might have to edit Lit instead, as I did for our high school tournament. We'll see.

I'd be happy to write music for a tournament to get some more experience and since that's a much more manageable category than Lit to handle. Editing, I'm less sure of not only due to lack of experience, but also because I know very little about atonal and minimalist music (though I'm reading up a bit). But even then, would a tournament really take someone like me as an editor for just music? Do you have dedicated editors for such small categories? I could do other categories too I suppose like lit and visual art at the ACF Fall / ACF Winter levels, though less well than the veterans I'm sure, but once we get into Nationals and beyond, I'm rather out of my depth. But yeah, if Yale decides not to come to THUNDER or some other tournament you're editing, I'd be happy to assist with music in whatever way you might want.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:21 am

I'd like to contest the notion that to be a "music player" necessarily implies "being interested in hearing more questions based on technical descriptions of musical scores." I consider myself a music player (both in terms of being extremely interested in classical music, and pretty good at answering questions about it), and I actively dislike most questions which rely heavily on music theory or on technical clues of the kind discussed in this thread. I don't think most music questions should rely on clues like "the third movement of this piece opens with the [x] playing [y]," any more than I think most literature questions should rely on clues like "the third stanza of this poem opens with a trochaic substitution in the first foot."

If you want to argue "more, or even most, music questions SHOULD involve extended technical descriptions of musical scores," fine. But it's disingenuous to frame that argument as if it's clearly the case that music "experts" deserve to hear that kind of question, and everyone else should just suck it up and study if they want to "legitimately" answer music questions.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by at your pleasure » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:33 am

I don't think most music questions should rely on clues like "the third movement of this piece opens with the [x] playing [y]," any more than I think most literature questions should rely on clues like "the third stanza of this poem opens with a trochaic substitution in the first foot."
While I understand the principle you advocate, the analogy is somewhat strained. A nontechnical description of poetry is fairly easy to write and read. On the other hand, a nontechnical description of (non-programmatic) music is difficult to impossible unless you want to force readers to hum through clues like "This piece's second movement contains a motif that goes dadadadeeda" or some similar nonsense.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:36 am

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I'd be happy to write music for a tournament to get some more experience and since that's a much more manageable category than Lit to handle. Editing, I'm less sure of not only due to lack of experience, but also because I know very little about atonal and minimalist music (though I'm reading up a bit). But even then, would a tournament really take someone like me as an editor for just music? Do you have dedicated editors for such small categories?
Having one person edit one subject is not unheard of. With your knowledge base, I'm sure you'd make a fine music editor.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:39 am

I'm not sure I follow you, Andrew. I think the technical clues do reward those most knowledgeable about the pieces if chosen correctly, which is the goal. I do agree that someone who listens to a lot of music and has probably read some biographies of composers and whatnot should deserve earlier buzzes, which I suspect already happens with technically dominated questions, although if you disagree, I'd like to hear why.
Something I aactually have thought about that may be a bad idea, and will probably sound like one at first, is to have more clues in music that might seem like they lead to lateral thinking - by this I mean things like "the first of its three movements has..." or "Hilary Hahn recorded it with The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields." I even though these clues by themselves may be non-unique on their own, they can actually help music players zone in on what's being asked about in a way that rewards them much better than other subjects with lateral thinking, and are extremely short so they could go inbetween more concrete things. The three movements thing would help people zone in on what kind of work it might be, at least before 1900 (it would eliminate symphonies and basically key you in to sonatas, concertos, or something that's not in a usual form), and the recording artist clues would at least clue people who listen to music regularly what instruments are involved. I don't feel like all the players who basically know nothing about music would be at all advantaged by these clues, but people who do would be aided.It might be an interesting thing to try out, although if it backfires, I'd certainly approve getting rid of writing that way. The problem with other kinds of clues is that either they will just be biographical trivia or will be generally unbuzzable things like who a piece was dedicated to and who first performed it, since not many pieces are well known for those things even now.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Jul 29, 2009 12:46 am

Birdofredum Sawin wrote:I'd like to contest the notion that to be a "music player" necessarily implies "being interested in hearing more questions based on technical descriptions of musical scores." I consider myself a music player (both in terms of being extremely interested in classical music, and pretty good at answering questions about it), and I actively dislike most questions which rely heavily on music theory or on technical clues of the kind discussed in this thread. I don't think most music questions should rely on clues like "the third movement of this piece opens with the [x] playing [y]," any more than I think most literature questions should rely on clues like "the third stanza of this poem opens with a trochaic substitution in the first foot."

If you want to argue "more, or even most, music questions SHOULD involve extended technical descriptions of musical scores," fine. But it's disingenuous to frame that argument as if it's clearly the case that music "experts" deserve to hear that kind of question, and everyone else should just suck it up and study if they want to "legitimately" answer music questions.
I presume that this is directed towards me, though I can't be sure. If it is, I'm sorry that you got the impression that I made any of the arguments listed above, because I didn't; I think it's an unfair characterization of what I've said, and I'm not sure quite which post of mine might have given these impressions. I'd like to hear more technical descriptions of scores in lead-ins because I think it helps to allow people who understand the piece on a technical level to get the tossup earlier than those who don't, which I think is a principle we apply in other subjects. I also think that when properly written, technical clues are more uniquely identifying and less vague. I have not suggested that we should write tossups that cannot be gotten without theoretical knowledge. And this is all a secondary point anyway to what I've said about canon expansion. Maybe because I said that I think these things would benefit people who study music seriously, you got the impression that I was trying to speak for all the music "experts", but I certainly wasn't and I think I've stressed how much these are just my opinions.

Also, your trochaic substitution analogy doesn't work for me. That's technical analysis on a very micro level, the equivalent of doing a bar-by-bar dissection of harmony, which is nothing like what I've suggested. The third movement of a symphony is a very major chunk worth at least some kind of description, and something like saying that the trio section is fugal, which was my example, is something I think serious music students are likely to have noticed about a piece as a major feature and something that really would help them narrow the possibilities.

If this was not directed at me, I guess, just ignore this post.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by grapesmoker » Wed Jul 29, 2009 2:41 pm

I think a lot of non-musicians paying attention to this thread, such as myself, would appreciate some guidance as to how we can make our music questions good, whether that comes from Andrew or Charlie or anyone else. Right now I just outsource these questions to Aaron, but someday I may have to write a few here or there and I'd like to be able to do it right. So if you guys have some good suggestions for question construction for non-experts, please share.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Jul 29, 2009 3:25 pm

grapesmoker wrote:I think a lot of non-musicians paying attention to this thread, such as myself, would appreciate some guidance as to how we can make our music questions good, whether that comes from Andrew or Charlie or anyone else. Right now I just outsource these questions to Aaron, but someday I may have to write a few here or there and I'd like to be able to do it right. So if you guys have some good suggestions for question construction for non-experts, please share.
IMO:

Well, first and foremost if you can find liner notes or program notes for a composition, those things are your friends. Yes, a lot of the material is biography and anecdote, but don't let outdated fears of OMG BIOGRAPHY BOWL stop you: generally this material is going to be stuff that fans of the piece will know, and here's where I put my historicist cap on and say that yes, not only is stuff like Glazunov's drunken premiere of Rach I memorable and buzzable, but it's also genuinely important.

Next: theory clues are good, if you have the training, and yes, those of us with training appreciate them. But often I find descriptions of melodies and instrumentations to be impossible to translate from words to music, and often (especially in Classical and Romantic music) they're just flat-out non-unique. There are a couple of old chestnuts or modern masterworks that can sustain high levels of "pure music" clues (the Pathetique Symphony springs to mind), but tread carefully; in my experience, buzzes on these clues are very rare; much rarer in fact than most "music players" would like to admit. For example: I know Shosty 5 donw cold; I could probably hum the entire first movement- but even so, those early clues from the TU quoted above aren't too useful when read at game speed, and I likely wouldn't be buzzing until the "parody of shrillness" quote. This is always going to be the hardest part of writing music questions, and if you don't know how to read music or have taken any theory, I might honestly recommend you pull what you can from liner notes and Oxford Music and hope there's a music editor that can begin to tell the difference between useful clue and non-unique verbiage.

Next: answer lines from music theory! Forms, chords, scales, stuff like that: Asking about rondo form by giving its definition is going to do a much better job of rewarding theory knowledge than asking about J. Random Concerto whose final movement is in rondo form (hint: most of them are). This sort of stuff will get low conversion numbers for the time being, so start off by putting it in the hard part of a bonus.

Finally: Don't be afraid of performers, conductors, orchestras. It's admittedly going to be significantly harder to cobble together a "canon" of these folks than it is for works or theory (where the curriculum is very standardized, at least for tonal harmony, medieval church modes/species counterpoint, and a couple basics of serialism), which does pose problems. If you ask six different quizbowlers who conducts their recording of Beethoven's 9th, you'll probably get seven different answers. But there are a few superstars that ever music fan is going to know, and the others can pepper the hard bonus parts and early-middle clues.

That's all I've got for now, hopefully it's not too off base.

ed: words
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by setht » Wed Jul 29, 2009 4:48 pm

Verhoeven's Giant Tree Rat wrote:If you ask six different quizbowlers who conducts their recording of Beethoven's 9th, you'll probably get seven different answers.
One in six quizbowlers has multiple personality disorder.

More seriously, what do the classical music junkies out there think of tossups on instruments? It makes sense to me that there are some questions on individual works from the piano and violin repertoires. Conversely, I suspect that writing a tossup on "the trombone" with clues from various works, performers, etc. is going to work much better than trying to write a tossup on the Rimsky-Korsakov trombone concerto or any of these guys. Is there any objection to including occasional jazz clues in such questions?

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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:06 pm

setht wrote:More seriously, what do the classical music junkies out there think of tossups on instruments?
I think they're fun and a good alternate to the "this type of composition" common link.
setht wrote:Is there any objection to including occasional jazz clues in such questions?
I'll probably sit there staring blankly and dribbling a bit until they're over, but sure, why not. Jazz (or jazz-influenced classical) is an important part of the repertoire for many instruments.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:09 pm

setht wrote:One in six quizbowlers has multiple personality disorder.
Or, perhaps, one in six quizbowlers has multiple versions of the same work.
setht wrote:Is there any objection to including occasional jazz clues in such questions?
Personally, I'd actively welcome such questions. Note that they'd also fit quite well in the "other music" slot.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by cvdwightw » Wed Jul 29, 2009 5:29 pm

I think we've pretty well established that certain clues are flat-out useless, and many clues end up being unintentionally nonunique due to descriptions of large chunks of the piece (e.g. instrumentation, techniques) that end up applying to multiple works. I'd like to propose two related questions related to clues in music questions (one of which I posed further upthread and never got any sort of answer to):

1. To what extent do music players (and I suppose good players who are not music specialists) view note-related clues as "good clues"? Specifically, describing well-known melodies or chords using the notes in those melodies without any other (contextual or otherwise) clues. As examples of this I'll give the "Pictures at an Exhibition" tossup from Gaddis II, the "G sharp - C sharp motif" clue in my (upthread) Rachmaninoff question, and the notes in the Tristan chord from this year's Cardinal Classic.

2. To what extent do music players (and I suppose good players who are not music specialists) view rhythm-related clues (and, I suppose, similarly-styled intensity clues or other kinds lifted directly from a score or audio clip) as "good clues"? Specifically, describing well-known melodies or motifs using objective (eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-quarter, eighth-eighth-quarter, eighth-eighth-quarter) or subjective (short-short-short-long) descriptions of their rhythms? The canonical example of this kind of clue is "dum-dum-dum-DUM" for Beethoven's 5th.

I see the following potential advantages to these kinds of clues:
1. Anyone with a score and a basic understanding of how to read music should be able to transcribe from the score to the question. It does not require extended technical understanding of the piece and/or its performance. For many players with only this basic knowledge, it is probably far easier to write "the ascending line G B D G B D G B D" than "an arpeggiated G major chord." Thus, this reduces the possibility that a poor technical writer can screw up the description of the piece, or not include the clue because he doesn't know how to describe it - assuming the music editor is familiar with the piece, and it's a reasonably famous part of the piece, it should not take long for the editor to figure out what exactly is being described and to check if there is a better way of phrasing that clue.
2. Providing a description of a melody advantages both those who have played the piece (for obvious reasons) and those who have listened to the piece (and have enough of a basic idea of music theory to understand what's happening). If I tell you that the main theme begins with the ascending line B C# D E F# D F#, I would guess that, if note-related clues are indeed useful, most people who have heard that piece and have some knowledge of intervals would be able to identify the piece.
3. Note-related or rhythm-related descriptions of melodies are often unique to their pieces and would often prevent people with knowledge from negging with something stupid based on a non-unique clue.
4. There are probably a number of players that know exactly what a piece sounds like and can't process the technical clues at game speed. It's possible that this kind of clue will more easily jog the memory of those players.
5. There is no reason that the notes in a famous melodic line (or to a lesser extent, the rhythm) cannot be learned by non-"music players" the same way that the definition of famous laws from physics are learned by non-"science players." In categories that often require a more advanced technical vocabulary, there is a difference between knowing what something is and what something means. People who know the latter are often the "specialists" in the area, but quizbowl strives to reward the former, and if non-scientists can make good science buzzes with no knowledge of why whatever they're buzzing on is significant, there's no reason we can't do the same thing in music. Thus we are simultaneously advantaging music players and providing clues that can easily be absorbed into the canon.

I see the following potential disadvantages to these kinds of clues:
1. Sometimes it's just hard to phrase the clue properly. How many notes do you give? How do you tell if that C is the C below the previous note or the C above it?
2. Rarely, you will have a melodic description that actually is non-unique. Here are two examples:
2A. These are the first seven notes of a well-known song: G A G E C A G.
2B. These are the first thirteen notes of a well-known song: quarter-quarter-quarter-quarter-quarter-quarter-half, quarter-quarter-half, quarter-quarter-half.
3. These kinds of clues have the potential to become overused. Specifically, if a particular melody or motif is not well-known, then the description of it (regardless of what kind of description) is not going to help many people. I can see this being the musical equivalent of "hey there's a bunch of stuff named after this scientist" question writing fallacies in science, as people find this potentially great clue and have no idea whether or not it's actually significant enough for people to buzz from.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Wed Jul 29, 2009 6:34 pm

cvdwightw wrote:stuff
This probably sounds really nitpicky, but I would've liked to see the bit about the Tristan chord not just rattle off notes, but actually talk a little about what the Tristan chord is- namely, a half-diminished seventh chord (in inversion), which then gets used in all sorts of funky and ambiguous ways. That way, you're talking about the function of the notes, not just the notes themselves. If Tristan and Isolde was transposed up a half step, and the notes were G flat, C, E, A, little would change save the strain on the singers.

Personally, I like rhythm-related clues much more than assemblages of notes, which IMO are just as hard if not harder to process at game speed then technical jargon. I'll again refer to the Beethoven 7th tossup from Buzzerfest as a question that managed to get things right (specifically, in its description of the Andante second movement).
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jul 29, 2009 7:06 pm

I will disagree with pretty much every other music player I've talked to about this and advocate for inclusion of notes in important melodies in their questions. I already do that (albeit, mostly at the high school level in my HSAPQ sets for really famous fragments). Also, when everybody else complained about the Pictures at an Exhibition tossup having unbuzzable note clues, I was actually able to confidently buzz because of the first few notes being given. So there are players out there who can be helped by these things. The big problem with it of course is that if non-music players start writing these clues, it may be hard for them to pick difficulty appropriate melodies, so this would need to be a controlled activity.
Seth, I also strongly agree with you about instrument tossups, and I think there's already been a movement towards it at lower levels. The other common link that I really like but that seem to annoy everyone else who isn't a musician is a common link tossup on a note.
Here's one example from ACF Winter by Brown:
C.P.E. Bach wrote his 'Hamburg' Symphony for strings in this note's major key, and another symphony in this major key is sometimes nicknamed The Philosophical. That symphony is Bruckner's sixth, and Saent Saens' first cello concerto is in this note's minor key, as is Paganini's 24th caprice and Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on that theme. Playing this note's major scale starting on E would be identical to a Mixolydian mode, and when the Aeolian mode is played on the white keys of the piano, it is identical to this note's natural minor key. Beethoven's "Fur Elise" is in this minor key, as are both Schumann's and Grieg's piano concerti. Mozart's clarinet concerto is in its major key, and the dominant of this note is E. For ten points, name this note whose minor key has no sharps or flats, is the note played by the oboe for an orchestra to tune to, and which is found a whole step below B.
ANSWER: A
The argument I always hear against these is that it basically causes non-musicians to zone out until the last sentence. However, this seems to defy logic unless you simply don't know anything about music, because if you include famous pieces that are always listed with their key, such as Paganini's 24th caprice, non-musicians who just listen to it in their free time should be able to buzz much more than a tossup that describes all the theoretical stuff going on in a symphony. Also, by the end a casual former music student should easily buzz (if you're in an amateur school orchestra, they always tune to that note, and lots of young piano players play Fur Elise) and pretty much anyone can make the logical guess off the last clue. But these buzzable for non-expert clues are balanced nicely by things like the mixolydian mode, and the dominants. I really want to hear why these questions are so bad for non-musicians, because they really can incorporate all kinds of useful things for that crowd.
I agree that things like Glazunov's conducting Rachmaninoff's first symphony drunk is extremely important, and I actually don't have a problem with those kinds of biographical clues. My concern is that lots of the biographical clues that are relevant to composer's works are often basically things that have a broad reaching effect on their music (such as Mozart's childhood or Beethoven's deafness). There are not a whole lot of completely specific clues that also have an important role in music history, the way that Glazunov clue is.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:56 pm

I think Chris White's guide for Jerry on ways to write good tossups on pieces absolutely hit the nail on the head.

I am a little more suspicious of Dwight's and Charlie's push for more note-transcription clues. I think that transcribing melodic passages has great potential for abuse. Dwight, you say that anyone who can read music can transcribe a passage, even if they don't know the musical terminology necessary to describe the passage (your GBD vs. G major arpeggio example). But I worry that the people who don't know the terminology are probably people who don't know enough about music to pick a passage that is significant/famous for transcription, rather than just a random passage that is unhelpful. If they understand enough to know why the melody they're picking is important/famous, surely they know enough to describe what's unique about it? Also if non-music players are already beginning to complain on this thread about the possibility of needing to memorize the numbers of symphonies, I can't see that they'd be excited to memorize strings of pitch names for identification purposes as you suggest. Anyway it turns the clues into a sort of name-that-tune melodic-dictation hybrid, which I'm not sure is great, and also might end up rewarding people who have perfect pitch and know classical tunes more than people who really know classical pieces in depth.

I have no problem with more common link tossups where the answer is a pitch/key, if they're as good as the example you provide, Charlie. The writer clearly knew which pieces are famously linked to the key of "A" and the order to put them in pyramidally, and basic theory clues that could be used, and a very accessible giveaway for the end. Common links that do all that are great, ones that turn into what sound like google lists of pieces in a certain key are not, especially one I heard where the theory part was misleading/questionable.

On a similar subject, people have mentioned giving clues that mention recordings of the work. I think this is risky for a start, because it requires that the writer actually know in the recording history of the piece well enough to choose a legitimately famous/important recording rather than just the one that happens to be in their iTunes. But I found what I think is a best case scenario from the 2007 Chicago Open:
Notable recordings in which an optional baritone replaces the mezzo soprano soloist in this work are Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s performances with Paul Kletzki and Leonard Bernstein. Including such movements as “The Drunkard in Springtime” and “Loneliness in Autumn,” its composer described it to Bruno Walter in 1908 as his most personal work yet. Written after the composer was diagnosed with a heart ailment and his eldest daughter died, its six sections are set to seven poems from The Chinese Flute, a collection of Chinese lyrics translated into German by Hans Bethge. FTP, name this song cycle for tenor and mezzo soprano that was originally intended to be the 9th symphony of Gustav Mahler.
Answer: Das Lied von der Erde or The Song of the Earth
I think this is a best case scenario because it picks recordings that are important, and for musically significant reasons (the use of a different type of singer). The problem with this is that if I'd played the 2007 Chicago Open, I would have gotten this tossup before the first sentence ended, even though I know fairly little about the musical content of Das Lied Von Der Erde, because I own the Kletzki recording. So here we have one problem: somebody nabbing a tossup out of the sheer luck of owning the recording the writer chose. The other problem is that even if I didn't own the Kletzki recording, I might still know about it and buzz off of it, because I'm a interpretation fanatic, who buys multiple recordings of pieces and knows the recording history of lots of major works of classical music. I think musical interpretation is a serious, academic subject and would be happy to see questions on performers and conductors in quiz bowl, but as individual tossups or bonuses to themselves. As clues to tossups about pieces, they would allow me and people like me to steal tossups from people who know a piece better than I do, and therefore deserve to get the tossup before I do.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:03 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I am a little more suspicious of Dwight's and Charlie's push for more note-transcription clues. I think that transcribing melodic passages has great potential for abuse. Dwight, you say that anyone who can read music can transcribe a passage, even if they don't know the musical terminology necessary to describe the passage (your GBD vs. G major arpeggio example). But I worry that the people who don't know the terminology are probably people who don't know enough about music to pick a passage that is significant/famous for transcription, rather than just a random passage that is unhelpful. If they understand enough to know why the melody they're picking is important/famous, surely they know enough to describe what's unique about it?
I think the strongest possible argument is merely this one: there's a reason that conversationally people who know things about music refer to G major arpeggios rather than the sequence of notes GBD: it's easier to translate into something meaningful. I contend that it's also easier to process at game speed, particularly when it's thirty notes rather than three. A little pre-processing, so to speak, makes a really important thirty-note passage comestible. (And chances are no one would argue in favor of quoting a thirty-note passage, but you see what I'm getting at.)
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Wed Jul 29, 2009 10:55 pm

Crazy Andy Watkins wrote: easier to process at game speed
This is my main problem with listing notes either by pitch or by rhythmic value. For most people, even those who read music fluently, parsing a list of notes will take time during which other clues are flying by.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by cornfused » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:52 pm

Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) wrote:I will disagree with pretty much every other music player I've talked to about this and advocate for inclusion of notes in important melodies in their questions.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote:...Dwight's and Charlie's push for more note-transcription clues.
That is exactly what I advocated in the very first response in this thread, more than fifty posts ago. Did we just talk ourselves in a circle?
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:55 pm

Uh, not really. You never said anything about listing notes in a melody, all you talked about was using intervals, which is rather different.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by cornfused » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:57 pm

It's the exact same idea. You describe what's going on at a higher level of specificity than "horn solo" or "trombone swell."
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Wed Jul 29, 2009 11:59 pm

I don't think anyone disagreed with your position about describing intervals though, but there is actually disagreement on whether it is worthwhile to explicitly name the notes in a melody, hence this discussion.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by cornfused » Thu Jul 30, 2009 12:02 am

Well, rather than arguing this point any more, I'll just say that I'm definitely in favor of naming the specific notes as well. Even at game speed, it's easy just to write down the letters as they're read, audiate, and either buzz or not.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:28 am

I think this thread needs a little bit of a reality check. I'm troubled when I see people advocating transcribing full passages or themes. There comes a point when people are trying to push quizbowl music questions to be too "real." I've only seen one person ever answer a music tossup on a pure musical clue in my entire career and these buzzes are much rarer than music players are willing to admit. In my experience people buzz on program music clues (i.e. this theme represents this thing) or on the names of various themes. Personally I consider myself a music player because I often listen to classical music and opera, I go to concerts, and I'm very involved in the classical music scene at my college. Now I don't have the depth of academic and technical knowledge other music players possess, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I dislike questions using too many instrumental clues. The key to writing good music tossups is integrating musical/instrumental clues with programmatic clues. I dislike the recent trend to rely heavily on instrumental clues that are rarely buzzed on. I think this movement to transcribe themes is the pinnacle of this trend towards realness, and I would cite many of the music questions at Gaddis II to exemplify how trying to be too "real" hurts tossups and makes them less enjoyable to play on.

Frankly, quizbowl will never be a perfect reflection of real world importance and accordingly some things (such as Brahms violin concerto) don't make for good tossups because almost no one will buzz on them until the end, which makes for a frustrating playing experience. If you want to write on those types of answers than I would advocate making them bonus parts. It is critical to write tossups on subjects that have a range of good, buzzable clues for them and won't devolve into buzzer races at the end for 90% of rooms. For this reason I won't write any tossups on musical notes for any tournaments I'm involved in because I am unconvinced there are actual middle clues that non-music players will buzz on. It is important to balance music tossups so they reward music players with some clues based on instrumental knowledge, but it is just as important (if not more important) to have many non-technical clues that may be less "real."
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:36 am

I fail to see a single problem with an early clue that lists the notes in a famous melody in a piece. It can in fact reward players (and in my playing career already has once, so it's false to say it helps nobody). If you look at that musical note tossup, the Paganini clue is in fact a middle clue non-musicians can buzz on. It's basically the single most recorded work of Paganini's, and Rachmaninoff wrote that whole Rhapsody based off of it. If you aren't buzzing there and have heard of it, then it is your fault for not checking the track list, because it's almost always listed as Caprice #24 in A minor. There is nothing wrong with needing to know what key some works were written in, especially the ones that are listed with a key on all their recordings. I even know of non-music players who were buzzing on that exact clue during ACF Winter. So I'm sorry Ted, but if you think there are literally no middle clues non-music people can buzz on, then the tossup I've already listed disagrees with you.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Mike Bentley » Thu Jul 30, 2009 8:59 am

Magister Ludi wrote:I think this thread needs a little bit of a reality check. I'm troubled when I see people advocating transcribing full passages or themes. There comes a point when people are trying to push quizbowl music questions to be too "real." I've only seen one person ever answer a music tossup on a pure musical clue in my entire career and these buzzes are much rarer than music players are willing to admit. In my experience people buzz on program music clues (i.e. this theme represents this thing) or on the names of various themes. Personally I consider myself a music player because I often listen to classical music and opera, I go to concerts, and I'm very involved in the classical music scene at my college. Now I don't have the depth of academic and technical knowledge other music players possess, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I dislike questions using too many instrumental clues. The key to writing good music tossups is integrating musical/instrumental clues with programmatic clues. I dislike the recent trend to rely heavily on instrumental clues that are rarely buzzed on. I think this movement to transcribe themes is the pinnacle of this trend towards realness, and I would cite many of the music questions at Gaddis II to exemplify how trying to be too "real" hurts tossups and makes them less enjoyable to play on.

Frankly, quizbowl will never be a perfect reflection of real world importance and accordingly some things (such as Brahms violin concerto) don't make for good tossups because almost no one will buzz on them until the end, which makes for a frustrating playing experience. If you want to write on those types of answers than I would advocate making them bonus parts. It is critical to write tossups on subjects that have a range of good, buzzable clues for them and won't devolve into buzzer races at the end for 90% of rooms. For this reason I won't write any tossups on musical notes for any tournaments I'm involved in because I am unconvinced there are actual middle clues that non-music players will buzz on. It is important to balance music tossups so they reward music players with some clues based on instrumental knowledge, but it is just as important (if not more important) to have many non-technical clues that may be less "real."
I pretty much agree with this post in its entirety. Let's be real here--these type of clues have the potential to be buzzed on by maybe 6 people in quizbowl. Even then, I've never peresonally seen it done. I contend that these type of clues just don't make very good or interesting quizbowl.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Lagotto Romagnolo » Thu Jul 30, 2009 9:59 am

Bentley Like Beckham wrote: Magister Ludi wrote:I think this thread needs a little bit of a reality check. I'm troubled when I see people advocating transcribing full passages or themes. There comes a point when people are trying to push quizbowl music questions to be too "real." I've only seen one person ever answer a music tossup on a pure musical clue in my entire career and these buzzes are much rarer than music players are willing to admit. In my experience people buzz on program music clues (i.e. this theme represents this thing) or on the names of various themes. Personally I consider myself a music player because I often listen to classical music and opera, I go to concerts, and I'm very involved in the classical music scene at my college. Now I don't have the depth of academic and technical knowledge other music players possess, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I dislike questions using too many instrumental clues. The key to writing good music tossups is integrating musical/instrumental clues with programmatic clues. I dislike the recent trend to rely heavily on instrumental clues that are rarely buzzed on. I think this movement to transcribe themes is the pinnacle of this trend towards realness, and I would cite many of the music questions at Gaddis II to exemplify how trying to be too "real" hurts tossups and makes them less enjoyable to play on.

Frankly, quizbowl will never be a perfect reflection of real world importance and accordingly some things (such as Brahms violin concerto) don't make for good tossups because almost no one will buzz on them until the end, which makes for a frustrating playing experience. If you want to write on those types of answers than I would advocate making them bonus parts. It is critical to write tossups on subjects that have a range of good, buzzable clues for them and won't devolve into buzzer races at the end for 90% of rooms. For this reason I won't write any tossups on musical notes for any tournaments I'm involved in because I am unconvinced there are actual middle clues that non-music players will buzz on. It is important to balance music tossups so they reward music players with some clues based on instrumental knowledge, but it is just as important (if not more important) to have many non-technical clues that may be less "real."



I pretty much agree with this post in its entirety. Let's be real here--these type of clues have the potential to be buzzed on by maybe 6 people in quizbowl. Even then, I've never peresonally seen it done. I contend that these type of clues just don't make very good or interesting quizbowl.
I couldn't have said it better myself.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Theory Of The Leisure Flask » Thu Jul 30, 2009 10:06 am

Bentley Like Beckham wrote:
Magister Ludi wrote:I think this thread needs a little bit of a reality check. I'm troubled when I see people advocating transcribing full passages or themes. There comes a point when people are trying to push quizbowl music questions to be too "real." I've only seen one person ever answer a music tossup on a pure musical clue in my entire career and these buzzes are much rarer than music players are willing to admit. In my experience people buzz on program music clues (i.e. this theme represents this thing) or on the names of various themes. Personally I consider myself a music player because I often listen to classical music and opera, I go to concerts, and I'm very involved in the classical music scene at my college. Now I don't have the depth of academic and technical knowledge other music players possess, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I dislike questions using too many instrumental clues. The key to writing good music tossups is integrating musical/instrumental clues with programmatic clues. I dislike the recent trend to rely heavily on instrumental clues that are rarely buzzed on. I think this movement to transcribe themes is the pinnacle of this trend towards realness, and I would cite many of the music questions at Gaddis II to exemplify how trying to be too "real" hurts tossups and makes them less enjoyable to play on.

Frankly, quizbowl will never be a perfect reflection of real world importance and accordingly some things (such as Brahms violin concerto) don't make for good tossups because almost no one will buzz on them until the end, which makes for a frustrating playing experience. If you want to write on those types of answers than I would advocate making them bonus parts. It is critical to write tossups on subjects that have a range of good, buzzable clues for them and won't devolve into buzzer races at the end for 90% of rooms. For this reason I won't write any tossups on musical notes for any tournaments I'm involved in because I am unconvinced there are actual middle clues that non-music players will buzz on. It is important to balance music tossups so they reward music players with some clues based on instrumental knowledge, but it is just as important (if not more important) to have many non-technical clues that may be less "real."
I pretty much agree with this post in its entirety. Let's be real here--these type of clues have the potential to be buzzed on by maybe 6 people in quizbowl. Even then, I've never peresonally seen it done. I contend that these type of clues just don't make very good or interesting quizbowl.
The problem (if you agree it's a problem) of middle clues that are hard enough to be leadins without harming how the tossup plays, and leadins which are functionally impossible to everyone save the question writer, is something that is far from unique to music questions.

ed: clarification and grammar
Last edited by Theory Of The Leisure Flask on Thu Jul 30, 2009 2:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Magister Ludi » Thu Jul 30, 2009 1:59 pm

Harper v. Canada (Attorney General) wrote:I fail to see a single problem with an early clue that lists the notes in a famous melody in a piece. It can in fact reward players (and in my playing career already has once, so it's false to say it helps nobody). If you look at that musical note tossup, the Paganini clue is in fact a middle clue non-musicians can buzz on. It's basically the single most recorded work of Paganini's, and Rachmaninoff wrote that whole Rhapsody based off of it. If you aren't buzzing there and have heard of it, then it is your fault for not checking the track list, because it's almost always listed as Caprice #24 in A minor. There is nothing wrong with needing to know what key some works were written in, especially the ones that are listed with a key on all their recordings. I even know of non-music players who were buzzing on that exact clue during ACF Winter. So I'm sorry Ted, but if you think there are literally no middle clues non-music people can buzz on, then the tossup I've already listed disagrees with you.
I never said there were no middle clues for tossups on notes. If you look at my actual words you will see that I argued there was a lack of a good range of middle clues. You cited the fact that there were a few non-music players who buzzed on the Paganini clue to support the existence of great middle clues for tossups on notes, but this fact does not mean the tossup was successful and possessed a great range of buzzable clues. First of all I think a large proportion of the field should be buzzing on the later middle clues of an ACF Winter tossup. If only a handful of non-music player can buzz on the Paganini clue then I think it goes to prove my point that these kinds of music tossups in fact dont provide a great range of middle clues and cater too much to music specialists. Secondly, you can't convince me that this tossup wouldn't be better served as a solid tossup on Rachmaninoff would have a large portion of the field buzzing on the middle clues. But for this tossup it seems like only a few non-music players might buzz before FTP leaving the rest of the field to frustratingly wait until the end. Once again I would like to reassert my claim that these kinds fo questions should be used as bonus parts rather than tossup answers and music people should look to how these tossups usually play out as the best indicator to how to write good questions, rather than just citing the one time they buzzed on a transcribed theme.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Louis XIV and Twenty Million Henchmen » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:41 pm

cvdwightw wrote:1. To what extent do music players (and I suppose good players who are not music specialists) view note-related clues as "good clues"? Specifically, describing well-known melodies or chords using the notes in those melodies without any other (contextual or otherwise) clues. As examples of this I'll give the "Pictures at an Exhibition" tossup from Gaddis II, the "G sharp - C sharp motif" clue in my (upthread) Rachmaninoff question, and the notes in the Tristan chord from this year's Cardinal Classic.
I'm not a good player or anything (it's just that music is the category I'm the least terrible at :smile: ), but I think that clues about specific pitches would be a good way to get oriented. Although listing off the notes of a melody seems like it would break the flow of a tossup. Key signatures, definitely – for instance, it could make an "English horn solo in the second movement" clue uniquely identifying.
2. To what extent do music players (and I suppose good players who are not music specialists) view rhythm-related clues (and, I suppose, similarly-styled intensity clues or other kinds lifted directly from a score or audio clip) as "good clues"? Specifically, describing well-known melodies or motifs using objective (eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-quarter, eighth-eighth-quarter, eighth-eighth-quarter) or subjective (short-short-short-long) descriptions of their rhythms? The canonical example of this kind of clue is "dum-dum-dum-DUM" for Beethoven's 5th.
The objective way seems like it would be more helpful, since it would evoke specific notation; but some rhythms (especially the kind of notable rhythms we'd want to be describing in questions) are sort of hard to describe concisely.

I don't think dynamics clues would be as helpful as pitch or rhythm. Like the aforementioned woodwind chord in Kullervo – apparently it's marked fff, but (at least on the recording I have) its most salient feature is that it's softer than what comes next. And I don't think there are as many cases where a specific dynamic marking is really important, except for those pieces that famously have fffff or ppppp markings.

I agree that instrument questions are good, and versatile in terms of tossupability since you can make the giveaway as easy or as hard as you want (in contrast, I can't think of many good final clues for those important but unnamed works, at least without resorting to stuff like "name this symphony by a Finnish composer that he wrote before his second one"). And for canon expansion – maybe it would be easier to write about Tchaikovsky 5 or Brahms 1, say, once it had come up in French horn questions or something.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Thu Jul 30, 2009 4:57 pm

Magister Ludi wrote:I think this thread needs a little bit of a reality check. I'm troubled when I see people advocating transcribing full passages or themes. There comes a point when people are trying to push quizbowl music questions to be too "real." I've only seen one person ever answer a music tossup on a pure musical clue in my entire career and these buzzes are much rarer than music players are willing to admit. In my experience people buzz on program music clues (i.e. this theme represents this thing) or on the names of various themes. Personally I consider myself a music player because I often listen to classical music and opera, I go to concerts, and I'm very involved in the classical music scene at my college. Now I don't have the depth of academic and technical knowledge other music players possess, but I don't think I'm alone when I say that I dislike questions using too many instrumental clues. The key to writing good music tossups is integrating musical/instrumental clues with programmatic clues. I dislike the recent trend to rely heavily on instrumental clues that are rarely buzzed on. I think this movement to transcribe themes is the pinnacle of this trend towards realness, and I would cite many of the music questions at Gaddis II to exemplify how trying to be too "real" hurts tossups and makes them less enjoyable to play on.


I'm with you in general opposition to transcribed themes and I'm with you in opposition to tossups that consist solely of technical clues. But I'm almost in equal opposition to tossups that lack any technical clues, as they can be gotten by people with no musical knowledge too early in the question. A mix, as you say, is ideal.
Magister Ludi wrote: Frankly, quizbowl will never be a perfect reflection of real world importance and accordingly some things (such as Brahms violin concerto) don't make for good tossups because almost no one will buzz on them until the end, which makes for a frustrating playing experience. If you want to write on those types of answers than I would advocate making them bonus parts.
I agree with you that the real canon of classical music and quiz bowl canon can never converge completely, because there are pieces that can never make great tossups, but I'm not convinced that the majority of major works neglected by the canon really fall into that category. Brahms' violin concerto perhaps does lack enough distinctive programmatic or technical features to make it buzzable before the end, but Brahms' symphonies (except for the Third) aren't lacking those kinds of features. The half dozen or so really famous Beethoven sonatas we don't ask about aren't lacking those. Etc. They're ignored for presumably other reasons.
Magister Ludi wrote: It is critical to write tossups on subjects that have a range of good, buzzable clues for them and won't devolve into buzzer races at the end for 90% of rooms. For this reason I won't write any tossups on musical notes for any tournaments I'm involved in because I am unconvinced there are actual middle clues that non-music players will buzz on.
The question I have to ask here is: should non-music people really be getting music tossups before the last two or so lines? I was under the impression that the lead-ins are supposed to be nabbed by people with deep knowledge of the subject, middle clues by people who still know the topic but have less knowledge, and giveaways by people who have only superficial or very little knowledge about the subject. Because in our quiz bowl club we only have about one or two players each for some of the 1/1 subjects like music, anthropology, myth, or geography, we often end up taking teams to tournaments that won't have someone for one or more of those subjects. And when a tossup on those subjects pop up, the team often has to wait till near the end, when the capital of the polity or famous anecdote from Ovid or whatever appears, to buzz. Is that frustrating? Yes, at times very. But it would be odd for me to claim this is a fault of the question-writing rather than a fault of our team for not bringing someone with academic knowledge of a subject we knew would appear in every round. I guess I'm saying that if a tossup is ungettable until the giveaway even for music people or if it's going dead for the non-music people, I agree that we have a problem, but if a team needs to wait till the end tossup till they can get it at last, because they don't have a music person, that seems about right or at least seems to be the standard for other subjects too.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Cheynem » Thu Jul 30, 2009 5:06 pm

Disclaimer: I am not a music person.

I see your point of view, John, but I do not believe questions should be written in such a specialized way that only people who have studied that discipline should be getting the questions before the final line or so (in any field, not just music). To me, while perhaps an ideal rewarding of knowledge, ultimately results in a series of speedchecks if one does not possess truly deep knowledge. I agree with you that someone with deep knowledge should be getting the tossup first, but I don't think that necessarily means that only those people should be allowed to buzz until the last two lines or so.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Birdofredum Sawin » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:08 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote: But I'm almost in equal opposition to tossups that lack any technical clues, as they can be gotten by people with no musical knowledge too early in the question.
ThisIsMyUsername wrote: The question I have to ask here is: should non-music people really be getting music tossups before the last two or so lines? I was under the impression that the lead-ins are supposed to be nabbed by people with deep knowledge of the subject, middle clues by people who still know the topic but have less knowledge, and giveaways by people who have only superficial or very little knowledge about the subject.
This is exactly the assumption which I find problematic -- namely, the assumption that "having musical knowledge" is equivalent to "knowing about technical features of a work's score." That's just one kind of "legitimate" musical knowledge, and it is far from obvious that all, or most, or even "more than a few" music questions in a given tournament should depend on having that kind of knowledge. (As opposed to clues about, e.g., performers, or music history, or "program music"-type features of a given piece.)

Also, the theoretical question here (i.e., which kinds of "knowledge about music" does, and should, quizbowl deem "legitimate") is independent of the practical question here (i.e., "can anybody write these questions well, and does anybody ever really answer them?"). As I entirely agree with Ted's extremely skeptical view of the latter question, I won't say anything more on that subject here.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by grapesmoker » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:13 pm

Yeah, some of us just cannot write those technical clues properly. Like me, for example. I'd like to post a few tossups that I've written in this thread at some point for criticism, but if you're demanding technical clues, then those are even less accessible to me than science is to non-scientists. At least with science, we can all read, even if we don't all solve differential equations; most of us don't have the ear or the knowledge to properly describe a piece of music.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by theMoMA » Thu Jul 30, 2009 6:18 pm

I'm uncomfortable anytime we start saying that people who study things a certain way should be getting tossups over people who study things a different way.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sir Thopas » Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:33 pm

theMoMA wrote:I'm uncomfortable anytime we start saying that people who study things a certain way should be getting tossups over people who study things a different way.
Until you can figure out how to reward players who merely listen to a piece, the solutions are somewhat unsatisfactory. Note: this is probably impossible.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by theMoMA » Thu Jul 30, 2009 7:45 pm

Well, what I'm saying is that clues should always be arranged by when you think people are most likely to buzz, regardless of why they're buzzing.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Mechanical Beasts » Thu Jul 30, 2009 11:30 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:The question I have to ask here is: should non-music people really be getting music tossups before the last two or so lines? I was under the impression that the lead-ins are supposed to be nabbed by people with deep knowledge of the subject, middle clues by people who still know the topic but have less knowledge, and giveaways by people who have only superficial or very little knowledge about the subject.
Short form: yes, they should. The first n-2 lines of an n line tossup should (at the bare minimum) not be so technically dense and inaccessible that non-music people will not buzz there. Maybe those lines should contain lots of technical clues such that non-music people who remember those technical clues can buzz there if they are very good and want to get music questions, but I think that even that is too strong. I certainly believe that it is good for a portion of a question to privilege specialist knowledge especially, but really, specialist knowledge is privileged merely because you're going to know more things about Shosty 5 than I do, and that will even be true if over half a tossup consists of clues that don't make my head spin.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by BuzzerZen » Sat Aug 01, 2009 12:44 pm

Sir Thopas wrote:
theMoMA wrote:I'm uncomfortable anytime we start saying that people who study things a certain way should be getting tossups over people who study things a different way.
Until you can figure out how to reward players who merely listen to a piece, the solutions are somewhat unsatisfactory. Note: this is probably impossible.
Impossible, at least, until somebody puts together an A/V arts tournament. You could combine pyramidal name-that-tune snippets with Conan O'Brien-What-in-the-World-style zoom-outs from paintings, make everyone happy. Or confused.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Mike Bentley » Sat Aug 01, 2009 12:46 pm

BuzzerZen wrote:
Sir Thopas wrote:
theMoMA wrote:I'm uncomfortable anytime we start saying that people who study things a certain way should be getting tossups over people who study things a different way.
Until you can figure out how to reward players who merely listen to a piece, the solutions are somewhat unsatisfactory. Note: this is probably impossible.
Impossible, at least, until somebody puts together an A/V arts tournament. You could combine pyramidal name-that-tune snippets with Conan O'Brien-What-in-the-World-style zoom-outs from paintings, make everyone happy. Or confused.
I still plan on completing that visual tournament someday.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by lasercats » Mon Aug 03, 2009 12:38 am

Usually, descriptions of intervals and tempo markings to little to nothing for me. Then again, I am a singer and haven't played in an orchestra in two years. I suppose those who play in orchestras have a little better handle on those clues, but I still think it is a stretch. How many movements in the world begins with "Allegro, ma non troppo"? Too many to really narrow it down.
I agree with previous suggestions to include clues about conductors, premieres, performers etc. Historical details like the composition process and critical reaction are also great clues.

Also, more vocal clues need to be written. A clue about a tenor aria having 9 high Cs is just as legit as G-Major Arpeggios.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:00 pm

I never thought I would have to post this, but nobody should ever use time length clues in their questions. This weekend the Magin packet at VCU Open had a clue asserting that the Clock symphony was 9 minutes long, which is both worthless and not actually true all of the time. The whole thing about music is that each conductor has a unique way of performing something, so I can find youtube recordings of the symphony that are closer to 8 minutes, and I'm sure if I spent some more time digging I could find some closer to 10. Because of how nondescript these clues are, and inaccurate to boot, I will ask in the future that nobody else use a recording length clue again.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Cheynem » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:26 pm

I'd like to hear some general feedback from music players about that tossup as I felt it odd that it was answered by me, who knows nothing about music and merely buzzed on a reflex buzz on the giveaway, despite there being much better music players in the room.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Not That Kind of Christian!! » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:40 pm

Cheynem wrote:I'd like to hear some general feedback from music players about that tossup as I felt it odd that it was answered by me, who knows nothing about music and merely buzzed on a reflex buzz on the giveaway, despite there being much better music players in the room.
Yeah, you and I buzzer-raced on the giveaway, and you won, for several reasons. Most importantly, you had a good buzz on a clue you knew. I wasn't thinking that Clock would come up at this level of tournament, and I was a little baffled by some of the clues (like the time one Charlie mentioned).
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by SnookerUSF » Tue Aug 11, 2009 1:56 pm

So,

Forgive my ignorance or misjudgment, but could it have been some kind of "meta-clue" regarding the inclusion of the length of time regarding the Clock Symphony. That is to suggest that including the length of time it takes to perform is some kind of clue about the theme of what is being performed.

Also, on a totally different note, 9 minutes (or as Charlie suggested 8-10 minutes) is rather short for a symphony, right? Perhaps, it was used as indicator of its possibly unique shortness in the Haydn symphonic catalog.

I mention these two possibilities, not because they are necessarily valid in this case, but because there possibly exist works of music wherein its performance length, in context with other clues, would be a legitimately helpful piece of information. Is this ludicrous?

Edit: I just noticed that this was my 200th post, yeah!
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by ThisIsMyUsername » Tue Aug 11, 2009 2:14 pm

I apologize for the Clock symphony tossup. It's mine. But it certainly doesn't assert that the whole symphony takes 9 minutes to play (unless someone edited it oddly), which would indeed be ludicrous and false. It asserts that the minuet is 8+ minutes in length on most recordings when played with repeats, which is a uniquely identifying clue (it's one-and-half times to double the length of almost any minuet in a Haydn symphony) that I thought might help people who've listened to the piece (and therefore would have noticed that there's a gigantic minuet) but haven't studied it, and a detail I checked by going through most of the recordings of the piece I could find. Since it proved unhelpful, I won't include clues like this in future. The text of the tossup is below, if you want to critique it further:
After a minor-key Adagio opening, the first movement of this piece becomes as lively Presto in 6/8, a tempo and time signature the composer more often used for finales. The finale for this work, though, is in 2/2 time, marked Vivace, and ends with a fugue, a device the composer most famously used in the finales of his Sun Quartets. The third movement minuet is the longest the composer ever wrote in any of his symphonies, over eight minutes in length on most recordings when played with repeats, and is in the symphony’s main key of D major. The ninth of the twelve London symphonies, this is, FTP, which work by Franz Joseph Haydn that takes its name from the steady eighth-note accompaniment in its second movement, which imitates the metronomic ticking of the title device?
ANSWER: Symphony No. 101 in D major or “The Clock” Symphony
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by grapesmoker » Tue Aug 11, 2009 3:47 pm

ThisIsMyUsername wrote:I apologize for the Clock symphony tossup. It's mine. But it certainly doesn't assert that the whole symphony takes 9 minutes to play (unless someone edited it oddly), which would indeed be ludicrous and false. It asserts that the minuet is 8+ minutes in length on most recordings when played with repeats, which is a uniquely identifying clue (it's one-and-half times to double the length of almost any minuet in a Haydn symphony) that I thought might help people who've listened to the piece (and therefore would have noticed that there's a gigantic minuet) but haven't studied it, and a detail I checked by going through most of the recordings of the piece I could find. Since it proved unhelpful, I won't include clues like this in future. The text of the tossup is below, if you want to critique it further:
After a minor-key Adagio opening, the first movement of this piece becomes as lively Presto in 6/8, a tempo and time signature the composer more often used for finales. The finale for this work, though, is in 2/2 time, marked Vivace, and ends with a fugue, a device the composer most famously used in the finales of his Sun Quartets. The third movement minuet is the longest the composer ever wrote in any of his symphonies, over eight minutes in length on most recordings when played with repeats, and is in the symphony’s main key of D major. The ninth of the twelve London symphonies, this is, FTP, which work by Franz Joseph Haydn that takes its name from the steady eighth-note accompaniment in its second movement, which imitates the metronomic ticking of the title device?
ANSWER: Symphony No. 101 in D major or “The Clock” Symphony
This sounds like it's a useful and helpful clue. I don't imagine anyone even moderately familiar with any kind of music at all would do something like give how long a movement is if it weren't useful, and it seems like this is something that would be useful to knowledgeable players. I'm a little concerned that this thread seems to be moving from a constructive discussion of how to write music questions to directives like "don't use this clue that I didn't even hear correctly." Let's try and give people, especially people who actually seem to know a thing or two, the benefit of the doubt in their clue selection before jumping all over them.
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Re: Writing Music Questions for Music Players

Post by Sen. Estes Kefauver (D-TN) » Tue Aug 11, 2009 5:56 pm

I still disagree with the assertion that it is a good clue - I think that you should instead just say that it has a lot more repeats than usual. My whole point though is that giving a precise estimate of a movement's length is going to not be all that accurate because there is a lot of performance variability. Searching for that movement on Amazon.com yields recordings that are 8:23, 8:24, 7:48, 7:42, and 6:29, just at a glance. I know lots of programs give an estimated performance time, but there are conductors who have varying interpretations of how fast tempo markings are. In Kansas City at our decent orchestra, we had a well regarded guest conductor performing a Mahler symphony, I believe number 2 but I'm not sure, that ended up lasting almost a half hour longer than the projected time. I just don't see how guesstimations like saying that Minuet is about 8 minutes long will actually help people.
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