Saturday, February 18, 2006

Benjamin Britten's War Requiem

Well, since I'm writting my mass class paper about this piece, I thought I'd listen to it again. I heard a performance of it in Cincinnati, about a month after the attacks of September 11th. For yall who don't know, this piece is a combination of the traditional latin requiem mass text and modern anti-war poetry. It makes for a very intersting and ironic mix. This piece is both hauntingly beautiful at times while at other times very difficult to listen to. This piece is a huge production. A full orchestra, full choir, a chamber orchestra, soprano, tenor, baritone soloist, and boys choir are required to perform this piece.

The full chrous, orchestra, and soprano sing the litergical text, while the tenor and bartione sing the poetry. Through the work they develop a relationship with each other. The Libera Me finally reveals the true nature of their relationship. The baritone is man that the tennor killed in battle yesterday. They sing that they must sleep now. The soprano soloist and the boys choir enters back in a beatiful closing sequence. The last chord of the piece is in a hauntingly surprising key. When I went to the performance of this piece at the end, for about a minute no one clapped or moved. All were still as we thought about what we just had experienced. The war requiem is trully an experience. And whether a pacifist or not, everyone is moved by the reminder of the ravages of war.

If you ever get a chance to attend a performance of this piece, GO!

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Symphony No. 38 in D Major K.504

So at the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra Concert last Sunday, I really enjoyed listening to Mozart’s Symphony No. 38 in D Major K504 and wanted to listen to it again. I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the Adagio before, but not the whole piece. The recording I listened to was the European Festival Orchestra directed by Johannes Walter.

Adagio- The piece begins in 4/4 in a major key. The violins have the melody for the most part. Timpanies play a huge role in the piece, however there are no clarinets.
My favorite part of the symphony is about 4 minutes into the piece, the theme which is just a couple measures, is played in major and then repeated in minor.
There is a recapitulation near the end in which all of the melodies are repeated. There were like 6 memorable melodies and parts of them were all repeated.

Andante- Also starts out in a major key, however in 6/8. The main theme in this movement is violins playing a staccato melody. There are many modulations and the movement can’t seem to make up it’s mind to what key it’s in. Around 3 minutes into the piece the oboes have a beautiful melody which the violins take over and the brass adds nice harmony to it. In the recap, the melodies are played then repeated increasing in dynamics. Then, the same melody is repeated in minor. To end the piece, the violins play a phrase, brass repeats the same phrase, and then the violas and percussion repeat it as well.

Presto- This is a very upbeat 4/4 movement. The flutes carry the melody often; however the violins are still the most prominent. After the main theme is exposed, the flutes play a phrase of the theme and the violins repeat the phrase in a minor key. About 4 minutes into the piece the cello or bass plucks the theme which is unique to the movement.

All three movements were in Sonata form- the melodies were introduced in the exposition, they were developed and then parts were repeated in the recapitulation.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

And endless stream of drumming

Mkay...so I listened to an hour of arabic music performed by miscellaneous artists. It was difficult to tell when one song ended and another started unless the tempo changed drastically. 'Cause to just listen to it without really knowing Middle Eastern music style and structure and form it's just one continuous blend of the same instruments - drums playing in complex rythmic patterns that are usually the same throughout each piece, bell chimey like instrument..probably Zils..(the little finger cymbols bellydancers use)...and some weird sounding wind insturment of some sort..like a mix between recorder and kazoo. All in all, when fast track came on it was quite exhilarating cause good drum beats just make people wanna dance.

And endless stream of drumming

Mkay...so I listened to an hour of arabic music performed by miscellaneous artists. It was difficult to tell when one song ended and another started unless the tempo changed drastically. 'Cause to just listen to it without really knowing Middle Eastern music style and structure and form it's just one continuous blend of the same instruments - drums playing in complex rythmic patterns that are usually the same throughout each piece, bell chimey like instrument..probably Zils..(the little finger cymbols bellydancers use)...and some weird sounding wind insturment of some sort..like a mix between recorder and kazoo. All in all, when fast track came on it was quite exhilarating cause good drum beats just make people wanna dance.

Water Music- a boat ride anyone?

Handel is pretty much amazing, as we all know. I thought for this week I’d go with his Water Music Suites in F major, G major, and D major. I know I’m slightly biased as an oboist toward these works, but that’s ok right?

Suite in F major

I really like the opening Overture to this suite. It is so crisp in its articulation and counterpoint; every line can be heard. Handel displays his excellent use of fugue in this movement. Moving on, the following Adagio opens with a wonderfully ornamented oboe solo, which I have heard played differently on every recording I have of the suites (one of my favorite aspects of baroque: improvisation). On this recording the oboist leads gracefully into the cadences.

The next allegro has alternations of strings and oboe with horns. Occasionally the two groups combine on the same line. I really like the use of syncopation in this movement. The Andante afterwards is alternating oboes and strings in a similar way to the previous movement. Suspensions abound within the oboe section creating a silky texture. The following movement, a vivo, is as its name alludes to, full of life. Contrasting phrases by instrumentation and dynamics add to this movement’s return of the crisp texture of the overture.

The subsequent movement, an air, is calm and serene. Oboes dominate the texture again with bassoon and string accompaniment. The next movement returns to the livelier side of things with a minuet. Opening with a horn call, the oboes and strings quickly join in on the joyful melody. The low strings and bassoons take the reigns in a sweeping and smooth melody in a delicious contrast to the opening call, which returns to close the movement.

The Bouree after the minuet gives a lively and welcome tension to the mix. It alternates strings and winds (oboes and bassoons). This movement reflects the structure of the following movement, the famous hornpipe, a well known orchestral excerpt for oboe. Starting out with strings, the texture switches to winds. Then the entire piece is played with full orchestra to close it. The following allegro keeps the music moving with short rhythmic patterns in a descending melodic line.

The horn section returns in the penultimate movement, an allegro. They sweep through the orchestra, with oboes providing suspensions over the section. The final movement of the F major suite is another hornpipe with the full orchestra. Alternating horns and oboes set this movement apart from the rest, and there is definitely a feeling of closure to the movement.

Suite in G major

The G major Suite opens with a sarabande flute solo. Trills increase the sense of pulse in the movement. A solo violin line enhances the flute line on repeated sections. The subsequent rigaudon is quick in tempo and lively in nature with technical passages for strings, oboes, and flute alike. The following trio continues with vivacious feel of the previous rigaudon.

A menuet provides contrast to the technical passages of the previous movements. This movement has a somewhat mysterious side to it. The strings play through the material and then a solo recorder plays a trio with bassoon and later string accompaniment. The gigue provides a more technical backdrop for the recorder and orchestra as a whole. It still keeps the enigma about it though. The concluding trio feels final in a bouncy melody in both strings and recorder.

Suite in D major

A trumpet and horn fanfare opens this suite, a much more brass dominated work. The horns copy the trumpet line for an echo effect. This opening seems highly technical for the brass section. An alla hornpipe continues with technical virtuosity adding the oboe section to the texture. The familiar echo effect occurs in this movement as well.

A minuet stands in the middle of this suite, very similar to other Handel minuets. Alternating string and oboe with trumpet and horn provides contrast in this movment. The lentement seems to have finality about it, however, it is not the final movement of the work. A trumpet melody echoed by oboes is the main material for this movement.

The following bouree is lively and keeps the spirit of the call and answer alive. Forte trumpet lines are repeated by piano oboe. The final minuet is a repeat of the previous minuet. This may be to tie back to a past theme in order to unite the work.

I think that as a whole my favorite suite is the F major, but that may be because it is the one I am most familiar with.

I decided to let my ipod randomly choose the music I would listen to again this week. My first song was "The New Wild West" by Jewel. This song is interesting because the melody is almost more like speaking than singing. It focusses so much on the lyrics that most of the music happens in the background. There's a lot of percussion and some guitar, but that's about it. Then, about half-way through the song, there's a soft break where she sings suddenly leaves the all important lyrics behind and sings a very pretty tune on "ah" for a few seconds before going back to the monotone melody.

The next song I listened to was "It had to Be You" performed by Harry Connick Jr. I love this style of music, and for the most part I enjoy Harry Connick Jr.'s music, but sometimes his improvisation just seems a little too disjointed for me to actually enjoy it.

Going back to Jewel, the next song that came up was "Fat Boy." This song is much softer and more pensive than the Jewel song I listened to first. It's much more melodic, and it seems to me that Jewel puts a lot more of herself into it. Part of what makes it seem more personal is that it's just her singing and playing the accoustic guitar without anything else in the background, so I can really hear her emotion in her voice and in her playing.

In a complete contrast, I then listened to "I Move On" sung by Catherine Zete-Jones and Renee Zelweger. This is a very flashy jazz piece with a lot of blasting trumpet. It's interesting that even though this is a duet between the two main characters in the musical Chicago, it's sung completly in unison.

After Chicago comes "Pick-a-Little, Talk-a-Little" from Music Man. I greatly enjoy the way the music sung by the gossiping house wives sounds like clucking chickens. I also enjoy the barbershop quartet that comes in at the end of the song.

Next on the list of randomness came "Painter Song" sung by Norah Jones. This song is very relaxing because of the soft piano and easy beat. Norah Jones's music is always great for destressing.

I then listened to "O Silver Moon" from Rusalka sung by Renee Fleming. This song is definitely one of my favorites. I don't know the translation to the words, but the melody has such an absolutely heartbreaking longing to it, and Renee Flemming performs it so expressively that I have never felt compelled to look up the words. The music is so brilliant that it speaks for itself.

Constantly proving how random it can be, my ipod then produced "Angeles" sung by Josh Kelly. This song is enjoyably relaxing to listen to, but there isn't a whole lot of complexity to be found in the music, lyrics, or performance.

Next I listened to "Prince Ali" from Disney's Aladdin . This song is a lot of fun because it sung by Robbin Williams. It's also fun because the music is so grand that it gives a very good sense of how aweing Aladdin's menagerie is supposed to be in the scene.

"I'll Tell the Man in the Street" sung by Kristin Chenoweth was the last song I listened to. It is a completely sweet song from the 1930's movie I Married an Angel. It's about how she wants to tell the world how much she's in love, but instead of being fast and excited, the music is slow, which to me gives it much more emotional depth. Kristen Chenoweth performs it beautifully.

The Last Five Years

The Last Five Years is an off Broadway musical that takes the average love story to a whole new level. This show is written for two cast members, one male and one female, and an orchestra. The story is interesting not only because of Jason Robert Brown’s incredibly complex composition style but also because of his approach to the story. The story line is the typical love story with a small twist, her story begins at the end of their relationship, and his begins on the first day they met. The two are never on stage together, the one exception being the proposal scene.
Although I love almost all musicals, this one holds a special place in my heart for the sincerity of the storyline, the surprisingly uplifting nature of the story (even though it is about a failed relationship), and the complexity of the repeating motives. Unlike most other musicals, this composition does not have any “reprised” numbers. The repeating motives are passed from the male character to the female and visa versa after the proposal scene. The effect this has is that there are a few motives for the beginning/successful part of the relationship and completely different themes for when the relationship goes sour. An interesting side note is that most casting agencies will not allow you to walk in with a song from Jason Robert Brown show because it is far too difficult for many accompanists to sight-read.
To me, this particular musical is more successful than any other in its genre to truly capture human emotion. Unless you’re heartless, there is no way to listen to this recording and not be moved.

The Mars Volta

I listened to "The Mars Volta". They are a somewhat of hard rock group. Their music is very interesting yet amazing to listen to. The CD that I listened to is called "De-Loused in the Creamatorium". The CD was written in dedication to one of their fellow band members, who was in a coma while the CD was written. The other members of this band tried to write each song as if they were in a coma. Each song is supposed to resemble certain things about what was going on in their friends brain while he was in a coma.
The lead singer in this group is an incredibly high singer. In many different songs he belts an 'E' and a few times he actually sings an 'F'. These 'E's and 'F's are two octaves above middle 'C'. The music is very different from anything I have ever heard of a popular rock band. There are MANY different sounds used by various instruments, mostly though by a synthesizer or electric guitar. The drummer of this group is also an amazing musician. Most of the music has the basic rock 2/4 beat, however there are many other syncapation rhythm's throughout the CD. This band is very tight, and it is surprising to me that they aren't more popular than they already are.
The lyrics are very hard to understand throughout the CD, and even when I can understand them, they don't make much sense. This is the point of some of the songs as I described with the coma idea. The music is just great, with many catchy melodies and themes. Nick Nesbitt, Brett and I have been listening to the group constantly and trying our best to sing along!

Inspiration in the form of a Senior Recital

After attending Sarah Masterson’s recital, I found myself extremely inspired to write a blog for Musicianship! Her program covered major composers from each of the time periods- Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninoff, and Kapustin. I have always hated performing Bach. Naturally, Dr. Phang has assigned me a Bach piece to perform for juries every semester thus far (until now!!!). I have great respect for anyone who can perform Bach with the skill that Sarah showed this evening. I think that she could have done a little more with the dynamic contrast in some of the sections, but I understand that Bach is very hard to interpret because of the lack of his own dynamic markings. I like listening to Bach and the Toccata (E minor) that Sarah played was especially beautiful, but performing his pieces are the bane of my existence. I almost always have memory slips and saving oneself from a Bach memory slip is possibly the hardest thing a pianist can do.

In the last few weeks and definitely after the recital tonight, I realized that I’ve found a new respect for Beethoven. The sonata Sarah played (Op. 31, No. 2) was one that I had heard before. I have always liked listening to Beethoven Sonatas but after I’ve studied a Beethoven Sonata, it amazes me time and time again how his sonatas have a specific “Beethoven” sound and at the same time can be so contrasting. What interested me about this piece the most was that the main motive was inverted every third or fourth time it came back.

Everyone always gets super excited about Rachmaninoff (Sarah played three of his Preludes), because his hands were huge and whatever, but frankly, I prefer a more Beethoven style program. Of course, a good program will cover all the eras, including the Romantic, but I personally would choose someone else, Debussy, perhaps. This bias could exist because I have never studied any Rachmaninoff pieces in detail myself, and have specifically studied pieces by Debussy and Beethoven. Sarah did perform the Rachmaninoff quite skillfully, in any case, and her hands most definitely do not span a twelfth.

The last piece Sarah performed was a sonata by Nikolay Kapustin. This was a contemporary piece that swung. It was very catchy and I found myself tapping my foot along with all the syncopations involved. I plan on asking Sarah for a few pointers with my own contemporary piece I’m working on for proficiencies, as I think it takes a different mind set to learn each other periods and I know I definitely have the least experience learning contemporary pieces.

All in all, nice work to Sarah for a job well done!!

Valentine's Day (early, of course) through orchestral music

So, it’s Friday night at 9:05 pm. I have been waiting for this concert to air for roughly one hour and 45 minutes now. Every Friday night, MPR broadcasts the Minnesota Orchestra live from Orchestra Hall in downtown Minneapolis. Tonight’s concert program includes pieces that honor Valentine’s Day (yes, they acknowledged that they were celebrating five days early) through music.

The first piece played was Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Whether it is your first time hearing the piece or your 81st, it is seven minutes of pure passion through music. The piece’s strength and intensity is created in a very short amount of time through mostly harmonic and melodic tension and the consequent release throughout the entire piece.

The piece starts off with a quiet ascending three note ascending line in the violins and violas. The lower strings are only added once the piece has developed the motive further, increasing the overall dynamic and intensity range. The climax occurs after about five minutes of tension followed by release. The entire string orchestra, in a very high tessitura for their respective instruments, holds an intense tension-filled chord. This chord, after a short break, is followed by a release as the upper strings return to the original ascending line, which is calm and introspective. The piece ends as quietly as it starts, leaving the audience with a feeling of serenity after the emotional intensity of the work.

One of the most surprising parts of the live performance with the Minnesota Orchestra was the unusual, yet effective long grand pause that the conductor, Gilbert Varga, took. It seemed to serve as a “clearing of the air” or a break from the emotional work. Most conductors take a grand pause at that point in the piece, but this one seemed to last for at least twice as long as normally heard performed. It would be interesting to find out why he decided to take that long a break at during that moment.

Barber was one of the first students to come through Curtis Institute and his classical training can be heard clearly through this piece. Although full of thick chords and unusual harmonies, it is very much within the classical framework which he was taught.


Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 4

To Tchaikovsky, his Symphony No. 4 was one of his greatest works and most time-consuming works. When asked about the piece, he stated that he considered this work to be a reflection of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, stating, “I, of course, have not copied Beethoven’s musical content, only borrowed the central idea.” The motive of “fate” is introduced in the first movement by the brass returns in the last movement.

The work opens with the famous unison brass line that is in every brass player’s excerpt book (and yes, one of the trumpet players still fracked it…pesky trumpet players). Tchaikovsky stated that the opening brass line was “Fate, the decisive force which prevents our hopes of happiness from being realized, which watches jealously to see that our bliss are not complete and unclouded, and which, like the sword of Damocles, is suspended over our heads and perpetually poisons our souls.” This line was heard throughout the first movement and will return in the middle of the last movement. After the brass opening, the movement is quite animated and parts are quite playful. These lively runs in the strings and woodwinds slowly develop into hurried lines, seemingly running away as the trumpets and horns approach again with the call of “fate.”

The second movement begins with a solo oboe, evoking a feeling of solitude and stability. The solo is slowly joined by a multitude of other instruments, each contributing to a calming and settling feeling after the tumultuous first movement.

The third movement begins with quiet pizzicato strings (hence, the title pizzicato ostinato). This movement seems to be filled with many small vignettes, which flow together throughout this movement.

The fourth movement begins with a joyous feeling with running, jubilant lines throughout the first part of the movement. Quite suddenly, the solo oboe returns followed by the frantic running lines of the woodwinds and strings as the brass forebodingly return with the “fate” motive originally presented in the first movement. About two minutes from the end of the movement, the brass finally overpowers the running lines of the strings, sounding the call of “fate” once more. The call dies down in the horns, who ironically, build up the joyous feeling in the next phrase, increasing in dynamic. The movement ends jubilantly, as if Tchaikovsky may be hoping that joy and happiness have had the last word even in music.

Yet another journey into the randomness...

Sunday night
9:05pm: Here goes number 1--"Under Pressure" by none other than David Bowie and Queen. I greatly enjoy this song. The beat is the first thing one notices because it is the first thing one hears. This song is driven by the rhythm, just like most songs. I think it's great that Vanilla Ice tried to claim that he didn't steal the beat of this song for "Ice Ice Baby." After a while, the melody becomes more prominent than the beat. The melody then gives way to the beat heard first. Finally, the song ends with snapping on the 1 and 3.
9:09pm: "Let's Get it On" by Marvin Gaye is the next song on my i-Pod. This song is wonderfully soulful. Something that I've never noticed before is the plethura of instruments used to make this song. There's sax, violin, drums obviously, voice, bass, trumpet (possibly), flute. It's crazy!
9:13pm: Up next is the ever-popular Frank Sinatra with "The Very Thought of You." The past two songs seem to foreshadow what Tuesday is (Valentine's Day for those of you who still need to buy your presents, you might want to get on that...). This song is all about the melody in Sinatra's voice. All the instruments seem to compliment his voice. The words are very clear. I can understand all of them. This song has mostly string accompaniment.
9:16pm: "Think of Me" by Andrew Lloyd Webber from Phantom of the Opera is up now. I don't really know what to say about this song besides that I am not a huge fan of Sarah Brightman's voice. This is my personal opinion, you can disagree. I find that her vowels sound funny and not like the right vowel. I'm getting rather bored with this song. I would have to say that this piece is a rounded binary piece. It has an A section and a B section that both repeat. Then it goes back to the A section and finally ends with coda.
9:21pm: "Tangled" by Maroon 5 is the next song that my i-Pod decided to play. I don't know what to say about this song. I like this song because of the rhythm and I find the lead singer's voice to be unique and kind of rough, but I like it. There's really only so much I can say about an hour worth of music each week.
9:24pm: "Dandelions" by Five Iron Frenzy. I tend to like music with a good beat, a good melody, and good lyrics, at least that's what I like in my pop music. This band makes me happy. Usually, their music is just crazy. The brass in it tends to be good and uses a lot of syncopation. The vocal parts also use a lot of syncopation.
9:27pm: "Pharaoh's Dreams Explained" by Andrew Lloyd Webber from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The role of Joseph in this CD I have is sung by Donny Osmond, and I will admit right here and now that I am a fan of at least his singing. This is the shortest song.
9:29pm: "Funf Lieder, Op. 40--1. Maerzveilchen" by Schumann sung by Anne Sofie von Otter. This song is a traditional lied. And it's over.
9:31pm: "Your Body is a Wonderland" by John Mayer. My i-Pod is really liking the love songs today. It always amuses me to just stick my i-Pod on shuffle songs and see what it comes up with. Generally, it's a crazy, random mix of music, like tonight for instance. I like John Mayer. He does a good job with lyrics and melody. And, he's fun to sing along with. I guess I would say that this song is a continuous composite ternary form. The A section is simple binary (ab repeat). Then, there is a B section, and then the A section repeats.
9:35pm: "I'll Be There" by the Jackson 5. Michael Jackson had such a great voice when he was little, and he was so normal. What happened? ...that's all I have to say...
9:39pm: "Overture" by Andrew Lloyd Webber from Phantom of the Opera. I have heard this song so many times, I know what it is immediately just by the first chord. This first part of the piece is all about the organ. It does a lot of impressive runs while the other instruments have the melody. The melody passes around the orchestra. This song is interesting because it has such a rock beat with a classical orchestration. I guess the first chorus number in the show is also part of the overture. Very strange.
9:42pm: "At the Same Time" by Barbara Streisand is up next on the i-Pod. This song is Streisand singing with a pop orchestra as her accompaniment. Now there's a children's choir singing along with her.
9:46pm: "Colors of the Wind" from Pocahontas (I hope I spelled that right). Apparently Pocahontas's voice is done by Judy Kuhn. Everyone knows this song. Come on sing it with me! "Have you ever heard the wolf cry to the blue corn moon? Or asked the grinnig bobcat why he grinned? Can you sing with all the voices of the mountain? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind? Can you paint with all the colors of the wind?" "How high does the sycamore grow? If you cut it down then you'll never know!" This song is typical Disney. Allan Mencken composed this movie along with most of the early to late 90's Disney movies.
9:51pm-9:52pm: Break.
9:52pm: "It Had to Be You" by Frank Sinatra. From the first second of hearing the vocals in this song, I'm able to tell it's Sinatra. His voice is so distinct. I'm really running out of things to say. I feel like when I'm listening to my music like this it becomes unenjoyable. I want to just sit back and enjoy the music, so I will do so.
9:56pm: The Beatles, "Hard Day's Night" is up next. This song has a good beat. It's one of those songs you hear and know it's the Beatles, unless you've been living under a rock.
9:59pm: "What if Jesus Comes Back Like That" by Collin Raye. Yes, I know it's a Christmas song. This song is not one of my favorite Christmas songs out there. I tend to prefer more traditional Christmas music, but I just grabbed all the music out of our CD rack during winter break.
10:02pm: "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong. I greatly enjoy this song. I love his voice; it seems to soothe me and calm me no matter what. The form is AABA. I would then say that it is Ternary based on the fact that the B section seems to stand on its own.
10:05pm: The last song of this week is "The Lilac Fairy" by Tchaikovsky.
It's been nice chatting with you. Until next week.

Sarah Masterson's Recital

So I went to Sarah's recital and decided it would be good to write about it. While I was sitting there I noticed that I guess my musical training has not been totally useless. I could have told that she was playing Bach even if I hadn't had a program. My mom, who is totally ignorant of music in all forms, always asks me if it doesn't ruin the listening experience to know too much. She wants to know if knowing all the details and thinking about them while listening ruins the pleasure of the experience. Sometimes I think it does, but at other times having a good understanding of what's going on in the music makes the listening experience better.

I like the way recitals are set up to represent a broad time spectrum. She started with a Bach Tocatta, typical mechanical work, then moved up to Beethoven and rachmaninoff and ended with a Kapustin piece that swung.

I think more than any other performer, piano players amaze me. Maybe it's because my own piano skills are so lacking. I find it hard to comprehend how she could play pieces so long from memory and be able to keep concentration whereas I, as an audience member, occasionally found my mind wandering, and all I had to do was listen.

So I had a lot more to say that I thought about during the recital but now I can't remember it. But I do remember that when I went in there I was in a pretty crummy mood and was tired and cranky and now I feel a lot better.

A Perfect Cirlce - Mer de Noms

French for "Sea of Names," A Perfect Circle's first album release is a cd of many moods and varieties. With the lead singer from Tool, Maynard Keenan, and a few of his close friends they formed the alternative band, A Perfect Circle. My favorite song is Sleeping Beauty, which has a rather mellow tone and very melodic chorus. This was my favorite song in high school and it was because of the lyrics that mae up the chorus. The first single released, Judith, is another great song. The lyrics question the purpose of religion and asks if there really is a "God." The song 3 Libras is a lot more mellow and is the only acoustic song on the album. The lyrics of this song talk about a lost love and relates back to the lyrics of Sleeping Beauty. Like Tool, there are songs that aren't the normal format that most rock songs follow. Renholder is a song that doesn't really have any rhythm or harmony.
This was a pretty good album release. A Perfect Circle is in many ways like Tool, but without all the rhythmic complexities. The lyrics are a little more spiritual based, and the melodic lines are much simpler. It was nice listening to this cd again because I haven't in a long time. Good times.
Austin Johnson
Beyond Words by Bobby Mcferrin
I listened to Bobby Mcferrin's, "Beyond Words." As I first started listening to this album, I realized that I was in for something quite different. In comparison to other jazz vocalists and artists, he is quite unique. In addition to using no words, the instrumentation seems to contrast the traditional instruments used by other artists.
The album begins with an ecclectic African-like feeling. The music induces a feeling of euphoria and relaxation in the listener. It is amazing how Bobby can evoke so much emotion in the listener without using words. In place of words he uses syllables and unique choral harmony to express his emotion and message to the listener. I would venture to guess that Bobby is influenced heavily by African tribal music. Much of the CD is composed of non-traditional rythms and accents. One cut that expresses this the most is, "A piece, A Chord." The piano is often on the offbeat, contrasting the singers and the drum. This cut is my favorite on the CD. Another favorite of mine is the last track of the CD, "Monks/The Sheperd." The song flows very much like water, transitioning ever so slightly and smoothly.
I would definitely recommend this to sommeone for relaxation and educational purposes. I could easily fall asleep or study to this music but I would not normaly listen to this if it were were any other purpose.

Il Divo

I decided to listen to Il Divo, the opera pop group of four guys created by Simon Cowell, basically because they are amazing.

“Unbreak My Heart”- Il Divo put a Spanish spin on Tony Braxton’s hit. The plucking of the classical guitar and the fact that it is sung in Spanish adds to the Spanish flair.

“Mama”- In this piece, I noticed the two direct modulations in a row in the last chorus and the lyrics struck me as important in this piece. The phrases were shaped around the lyrics and it is one of the only pieces on the album sung in English.”Cause I know you believed in all of my dreams And I owe it all to you, Mama”

“Nella Fantasia”- This piece had ten measures of an unnecessary instrumental interlude. The interlude was just the same as the accompaniment which was playing all along and didn’t transition, modulate, or anything. It was just rather boring.

“Passera”- starts out with a recitative-like verse, then the chorus is repeated many times, another recitative-like verse is in the middle, followed by the chorus many times adding instruments and voices then fades out in the end

“Unchained Melody”- While listening to this piece, I noticed most prominently that the tenor is in high falsetto the whole last chorus. It adds a lot of depth to the piece.

“Everytime I look at you”- Listening to these pieces intently, I’ve noticed that although the melodies in the songs are completely different, they are all built the same way. Each one starting with a single voice singing the verse and more voices added in the chorus. Each time the chorus is repeated, more harmonies and instruments are added along with modulations. Some pieces the end is very dramatic and in some cases, it winds down to similar to the beginning as in the case of this piece.

“Ti Amero”- This piece is built similar to a round. One voice will sing a phrase and another will repeat half way through the phrase. I love when in one of the final choruses, they start singing in unison then break out into harmonies.

“The man you love”- In this piece, the whole accompaniment seemed synthesized. The drum sounded really fake and there were odd percussion and synthesized string sounds. It kind of distracted from the voices and harmonies.

“Hoy Que Ya No Estas Aqui”- This song should be the soundtrack to a soap opera. It’s very sensual and has a very dramatic ending. They sing very softly and some of their sound quality and the timbre of their voices are ruined by it.

“Sei Parte Ormai Di Me”- Throughout this piece I noticed the castanets. They were played after most phrases and added to the Spanish allure of the piece.

“Feelings”- There’s something very nice about four guys with beautiful voices singing about feelings. The castanets also followed phrases in this piece which made the two pieces strikingly similar.


“A Mi Manera”- This song has one melody which is repeated five times:
1- single voice with piano
2 -piano and voice with harmony
3 -strings, cymbals, and piano; all four voices
4 -single voice with piano
5- piano drums, strings, brass; all four voices

“I Believe In you”- This is with Celine Dion. It includes yet another direct modulation in the last chorus. Seems like this is a common occurrence for Il Divo’s songs. The balance between was very nice. The guys were not overpowering. They were more of an accompaniment for Celine. The one thing I didn’t understand is that Il Divo begins singing in English. Then Celine sings a verse and chorus in French. In the end they are all singing English. They probably should make up their mind.

The Mars Volta: "De-Loused in the Comatorium"

A cool band name is underrated. A cool title for an album is definitely a bonus. A fresh and innovative rock album is divine. "De-Loused in the Comatorium", the Mars Volta's freshman album from 2003 may be a hard listen because of its heavy sound, complex rhythms and meter changes, and long stretches of instrumentals and sound effects. However, good music is good music, and there's no denying the musical talent of these guys, especially that of vocalist Cedric Bixler Zavala and drummer Jon Theodore. I will even go so far as to consider "De-Loused" the most revolutionary rock album since Radiohead's "OK Computer".
Band founders Bixler Zavala and guitarist Rodriguez-Lopez released "De-Loused" as a tribute to their childhood friend who spent many years in a coma, then woke up only to lose his sanity and throw himself off an overpass into oncoming traffic. As someone who considers musical content more important than lyrics, it doesn't bother me that I can't understand most of the lyrics. I'm guessing, though, they're pretty somber since this album is for their dead friend.
The Mars Volta have become known for ambitiously composing their albums with a musical theme or idea that strings the entire work together, almost like a song cycle. However, the band is gifted enough to differentiate each track and give each song its own character. All the songs are amazing and wonderfully crafted; the ones that stand out, however, are "Intertiatic E.S.P", "Eria Tarka", and the poignant psychadelic ballad "Televators". Vocalist Bixler Zavala has an amazingly high register; the intensity and virtuosity of his voice is something truly rare. My roommates Nick Nesbitt and Keith get such a kick when I try to hit the high notes on "Intertiatic E.S.P", since I'm a terrible singer.
The Mars Volta--think of psychadelic rock mixed with metal and a shot of free jazz. "De-Loused" is an awesome recording. However, their second album, "Frances the Mute," is, in my opinion, even better than this one. Maybe I'll write about "Frances" for my next blog.

/Brett Imamura

Let's jump ahead a few decades!

So last week, I was movin and grovin to the feel good sounds of the 80s. This week, I kicked it up a notch and decided to take on the latest hip-hop, rap and r&b...cuz that's just how I roll!

So just like last week, I took my computer down to the basement of my house, and plugged it in to our speaker system...so i could get a maximum amount of sounds and bass (cuz bass is cool). I clicked on my playlist (aptly names "the ghetto mix") and just went to work. Generally a great song to me consists of a great beat (that's great for dancing to), catchy lyrics (hey, who can beat "I like the way you do that right thurr"), and an interesting hook/melody (that I can sing to...cuz let's face it...rapping is not my strong point).

So I spent a great deal of time just dancing around my basement to my favorite rap songs and as I was listening; I started categorizing each song into a different genre of hip-hop, etc. Here's what I discovered: The bulk of hip-hop music talks about one of 4 things: 1) Sex (i.e. bitches and hoes...you know how is is); 2) Money and its buenefits (i.e. grillz - a great song...but a poinless buy); 3) Dancing (i.e. how many songs do you know that have "shake it" in them? Yeah...a lot); and 4) drugs and/or violence (although many mainstream songs are devoid of this final category).

I have to admit, my favorite songs to dance to are the ones specifically for dancing...like D4L's Laffy Taffy...that song has the dumbest words to it, but it's so catchy, and I can't get enough of it. Plus, it has "shake" in the song, so I have to do what it says!

My favorite songs to sing to generally have to do with sex, just because i find it hilarious at how rappers think up new ways to describe (generally) the same thing...EXAMPLES HAVE BEEN CENSORED

So basically, I spent a great deal of time philosophying (is that a word?) the music that I've been listening to for years...all because of Spiegelberg...thanks for that...lol