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Musical Maps
Teaching Tools by James Boyk

Internationally-Known Recording Artist & Teacher
Pianist in Residence 30 Years at California Institute of Technology

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In our weekly behind-the-scenes sessions of music and talk at Caltech, "musical maps" made it easier to focus discussion, and also turned out to be powerful aids to understanding complex pieces However, they were only intended for on-the-spot discussion. If they are off-putting or intimidating here outside their original context, ignore them! They're reproduced just for fun, and for those who feel like delving into them.

For instance, look at the map of the third movement of the Prokofiev 8th Sonata (above). Notice that the bar numbers are given across the page near the top; the line begins "Bar 1  9  25...." Thus, the movement begins at the far left and ends at the far right.

Above the bar numbers is the "dynamic profile," showing how loud the music is marked in the score (sampled at 8-bar intervals). At the far left and far right are indicators of what height corresponds to piano, forte and so on. This is already interesting; for note that while the movement is at its loudest (fortissimo) for a while near the end, it drops at the very end. Can you imagine what kind of "story," what kind of emotional narrative, would cause or require this?

Roman numberal I is given to this dynamic profile (far left, near top); Roman II draws attention to the profile of tempi. This movement is not in a single tempo all the way through. For some reason, I didn't show the tempi where the Roman II is, but a couple of lines lower. Can you relate the tempi, or the places where the tempo changes, to the dynamics?

III is the structure of the movement, which is given ultra-simply. I could have elaborated this a lot; but in this session, I wanted to spend more time on other matters than structure. (These sessions usually began and ended with complete performances of the music being discussed, with examples in between and oodles of discussion from everyone attending.
    Note that the keys are given for each structural section. Thus, at the beginning of the movement (far left), we call the first section "A," and it's in the key of B-flat. It's unfortunate that letters A, B, C etc. are used to identify structural portions of pieces of music, because they can be confused with keys.

IV and V were reminders to myself of points I thought might be important or striking.

If there's interest, I will see if I can dig up more of these maps. I created dozens over the years.

—James Boyk


First movement of the same sonata.



Second movement of the same sonata.



Beethoven's "Rage over the Lost Penny."



Schubert's Impromptu in C major, Opus 90, #1.







This page Copyright © 2007 James Boyk.
Individual maps Copyright © James Boyk in their respective years.
This and all other pages in this site Copyright © James Boyk. All rights reserved.

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