May 04, 2010
At our final family concert of the season, Jokin’ Baroque, some of our audience members had questions that they didn’t get to ask. We asked them to write down their questions so that we can answer them right here on the LACO blog.
Hailey, age 6 from Van Nuys asked, “Why are cellos lower than violins?” Well Hailey, the short answer is that cellos are lower than violins because they are bigger and the strings are longer. All instruments create sound by causing air to vibrate. The faster the air vibrates, the higher the pitch. So if an instrument has a really big body, long string or really long tube to blow into, the air takes longer to vibrate, and the sound is lower.
Sofia, age 6, from Los Angeles wanted to know how the orchestra stays in tempo with each other. Most of the time, a conductor will give the musicians a tempo using visual signs. Watch the conductor’s hands closely next time you see an orchestra, or look up a video online, and watch how his hands keep time with the music.
For smaller ensembles that don’t require a conductor, the musicians listen very closely to each other to stay in tempo together. Sometimes they will pick a leader to give the tempo, who will use non-verbal communication such as head motion or eye contact to keep everyone together. It takes a lot of practice!
Carissa, age 9, from Glendora asked where the theorbo, a string instrument with a very long neck, originated. The theorbo began to be used in Italy during the late 1500s, around the time that a group called the Florentine Camerata was holding regular meetings to discuss the direction music should take in the future. The great astronomer Galileo Galilei’s father was a member of that group, and a very well known musician and composer in his time. It’s amazing where music can take you!
A few of our young audience members asked questions directly to specific musicians in the Orchestra. We’ve forwarded those questions to the musicians, and their answers will be posted here soon, so check back!