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Sound Map Number One by The Cockpit Ensemble
The Cockpit Ensemble
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That was the sound of a piece called ‘Sound Map Number One’ by The Cockpit Ensemble.

Hearing lots of voices singing together often makes us think of choirs, where singers follow words written down on paper. These singers, however, are not following words, but dots, dashes, lines and arrows on a “sound map”. This map shows the singers the way forward without telling them exactly where they are going. What pitch they sing at, for example, is left up to them!

How strongly or softly they sing, however, is written down on the score as an ‘f’ or a ‘p’. This stand for two musical terms: ‘piano’ (not the instrument!) and ‘forte’. When used as part of a musical score, ‘piano’ means to play quietly or softly. ‘Forte’, on the other hand, means to play loudly or strongly.

Along with these two musical terms, two techniques appear in this minute, ‘trill’ and ‘tremolo’. As they are similar, they have been represented by the same mark, a wiggly line. This gives the singers some choice over how they want to perform the sound. A trill is where there is a very fast series of single notes (think of a bird singing in the trees) and ‘tremolo’ is a way of playing a series of notes that trembles or wobbles slightly. Musicians who play stringed instruments such as guitars or violins often use tremolo as a way of adding a feeling of shifting emotions to the music they are playing.

Image courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives