September 2014 MTNA e-Journal

Colorful Illustrations In Piano Method Books: A Pilot Project Investigating Eye Focus
By Gilles Comeau

Over the years, the presence of pictures in North American piano method books have become very common: from the simple black and white sketches in the early 20th century to the more modern graphic and high-quality color printing, pictures appear on almost every page. There is no doubt that these pictures are very attractive and appealing to young students. However, we know nothing about the effects these decorative illustrations might have on children who are learning to read music. Using eye-tracking technology, this research pilot project investigates if the presence of colorful illustrations is attracting a learner’s attention while previewing a score or when playing a piece for the first time. Data analysis indicates that illustrations are drawing the student’s eyes away from the musical score, particularly during the preview period, but also during the performance of the piece. [Read More]


Béla Bartók’s Other Microcosmos
By Sylvia Parker, NCTM

Petite Suite for piano is the last among Béla Bartók’s many settings of authentic folk melodies. A rarely played hidden gem derived from 44 Duos for Two Violins, it is within reach of the intermediate/advanced pianist. In addition to providing engaging performance repertory, it provides also a microcosmos of Bartók’s work with peasant music. This article offers an opportunity to compare directly Bartók’s research, composition and performance inspired by the peasant music that shaped his musical thinking. His notations of authentic folk melodies appear alongside the scores of his piano arrangements; his field recordings of peasants singing and playing appear alongside the violin duos and his own piano performance of Petite Suite. The author provides background context along with brief discussion of each movement. Juxtaposing the sound recordings of these folk melody “jewels,” as Bartók called them, brings them to life as no verbal description can. [Read More]