8

Charles Schulz was a very careful transcriber of music into Peanuts. Many passages are identifiable (lots of Beethoven, no surprise). However, Schulz could not read music himself -- thus copying from printed sources in his library. enter image description here

But, in this comic, featuring Woodstock, the music is ... weird. Are they random? Is it just "off" in its transcription (Do you otherwise recognize it?)? Is it to reflect the tunelessness of birdsong? Would love to hear some ideas. enter image description here

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I don't know if this is a particular piece, but my guess is that the first three dyads in the right hand should be one step lower. More consonant would be:

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This is in contrast to what's written, which would be an odd extended chord. Instead, the "corrected" version is just a clear I moving to V7.

As for the "tunelessness" of birdsong, I just wanted to mention that birds actually sing some astonishingly intricate melodies. In fact, some composers have incorporated birdsong into their compositions; the most famous of which is Olivier Messiaen. Some of his uses are documented here, and I give a sample image below that shows the correlation between bird song and some of his music:

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  • Richard- it's probably obvious, but (as I thought when first seeing this example) it would work equally well a half step higher, in E major with four sharps. And you are right that some birdsong is astonishingly intricate. I don't think any of it is tonal, however, unless it's mimicking human music. – Scott Wallace Oct 10 '18 at 9:59
  • In the supplied snippet there's only one semiquaver, not two. – Brian THOMAS Jan 22 at 13:03
  • @BrianTHOMAS Oh, good catch. Perhaps it's 6/8, and there's a missing dot on the first eighth? – Richard Jan 22 at 13:06
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I've always been impressed with Shulz's draftsman ship skills, so accurately copying musical notation snippets into his cartoons. For that reason, I think he would have found a choral piece and copied a snippet of it out to represent a choir of birds. Perhaps the dissonance and rhythmic ambiguity in the supplied music snippet is deliberate because birds don't sing 12 EDO or cadences or observe tempo markings or time signatures.

The prevailing typesetting style for choral music at the time the Peanuts strip was written was not to use beaming between quavers unless the syllables belonged to the same word. This is anecdotaly one of the reasons singers have for poor rhythmic sight-reading—simply because the useful information that beaming imparts has been deliberately left out of the part. Thankfully this typesetting style is far less common these days.

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