Sunday, March 12, 2006

The Outfield's Music

I thought that I would add more to my list 80's rock song blogs. This one by a band which is similar to Mr. Mister but sounds very much like The Police, The Outfield. This was a 3-piece band fronted by bassist/vocalist Tony Lewis, who is often compared to Sting (who is also a bassist/vocalist). The other steady member was guitarist/keyboardist/backing vocalist John Spinks. The drummer position shifted around, but the original drummer was Alan Jackman. Their band name came from their love for baseball.
The Outfield had a good number of hits, including: "Everytime You Cry," "Your Love," "Since You've Been Gone," "Winning It All," "All The Love," and "Alone With You." They definitely followed a formula which included prominent drum beats, intricate 2-part harmony, and lots of reverb. However, they were a pretty solid band with great vocals.
Also, it's interesting how little known they are, despite their large amount of hits, which had a very good amount of radio play. The only explanation I can think of is the fact that the majority of their hits were on their debut album. After this album, not only did they change drummers, but their sound drastically changed. This sound wasn't quite as popular as the first, and this was probably why they went down. However, one would think that they would still have a solid fan-base, but I guess we'll never know exactly. They are still performing and recording today, and that in itself is respectable.
But let's not condemn them. They were extremely popular at their prime, much like Mr. Mister and The Police. However, they're music was much more accessable than Mr. Mister's, and they were much more popular. The Police's longevity may only be because of their expertly timed breaking up and Sting's legendary solo career, (which in itself may only be great because of The Police's falling out). The Outfield did not dispand. They pursued on and changed sounds. Sometimes this works to a bands favor and sometimes it does not. However, you can never predict where popular entertainment will move to next.

Amici - The Opera Band

This week I listend to the CD - "Amici - The Opera Band". Amici is a group of 5 opera singers; 2 girls and 3 guys. They are accompanied by an orchestra. The violoinists in the orchestra are amazing. This group takes classical pieces and puts a different beat to it. Normally its an up-tempo beat but there are a few songs with a slower tempo. They also take common classical melodies and add really nice harmonies to add different colors and textures to the piece.
The pieces I listened to are: Prayer in the Night, Senza Catene, Canto Alla Vita, Vita Mia, Whisper of Angels, Song to the Moon, Zadok the Priest, and Nessun Dorma. My favorite pieces are Canto Alla Vita and Prayer in the Night.
Canto Alla Vita has an acoustic guitar, drums and strings, and has a really nice up-beat tempo. The tenor in this piece has a beautiful tone and really nice high notes. The voices on this piece really blend well and create nice harmonies.
Prayer in the Night has a huge orchestra and is overall just a huge piece. It almost feels like music you could listen to, to pump you up for an exciting time, or music used in a very intense situation of a movie. There are a lot of really nice string parts in this piece and lots of timpani as well. In this piece all 6 voices are singing with intense and strong harmonies. Through out the piece the verses are normally sung as a duet, and as the chorus comes in the rest of the voices come in one after another; adding voice after voice on top of eachother. There are constant crescendos to set the intensity as well as adding more and more instruments to the more intense parts of the piece.
I strongly recommend this CD to anyone who enjoys symphony music, or opera, or any classical music.

Band Concert

So I spent a delightful hour this afternoon listening to the DePauw Band. The first piece played was Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copland, and I must say that the brass and percussion sections played very well. I liked when the horns joined the trumpets; it gave me goosebumps. Timpani imitated the trumpet call on occasion. The next piece was Sea Songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams. Based on English folk songs, the work had a march feel to it with snare drum and clarinet/flute runs. Overall the piece was highly rhythmic. Copland returned to the program with "The Promise of Living" from The Tender Land. It opened with a series of woodwind solos including clarinet, oboe, flute, and English horn. The texture overall remained smooth with a few powerful brass sections.
A woodwind quartet followed with selections from Eugene Bozza's Trois Pieces pour une musique de nuit. This was probably the highlight of the concert for me; the group played incredibly musically, and they had awesome intonation. I was really impressed because intonation is one of my biggest problems in ensemble playing, as some of you probably know.
Miniature Set for Band by Donald H. White brought the focus back to the full ensemble with three movements. The first was march-like in character, similar to Sea Songs. The second movement opened with horn, euphonium, and flute. This movement was much darker and seemed to have more substance. The postlude was much like the first movement with more finality.
Saxophone quartet graced the stage next, playing Stella by Starlight by Victor Young. The piece was characteristic of the jazz style, and the director of the group, Randy Salman, danced along in his chair in the audience.
Another White piece, Patterns for Band, followed the quartet. The entire base motive for the work existed in the trombone line in the first measure, a series of four notes on which the entire work was built. It was interesting to hear how the motive was changed and shaped throughout the performance. The piece felt violent, turbulent to me. The concert ended with a common wind ensemble piece, Festive Overture by Dmitri Shostakovich. The work opened with a brass fanfare followed by a clarinet solo melody. This piece was a race to the finish with a majestic brass melody and multiple deceptive endings. Yeah, awesome concert everyone in band; great job!

Blog 3/12/06 - Compare and Contrast

This week was full of listening to the music of Prokofiev, for I am doing a presentation on his life and music for another class. Never hurts to kill two birds with one stone. Anyways, Prokofiev’s musical maturation process was different that most composers; he went from the more experimental music to composing within many of the confines of classical music. Within this analysis though, it is important to note the influence of Stalin’s regime over the arts. In an effort to control the creative processes, they accused Prokofiev of “excessive formalism,” which is essentially not appealing to a wide enough audience. Due to this, Prokofiev was forced to compose music that incorporated more of the style characteristics of the “simpler” classical music.
One of the main pieces that I listened to was his Symphony No. 1, which is also known as the “Classical” symphony. It is marked by typical classical form and structural elements. For example, the first movement is in sonata allegro form. It also is very triadic and the harmonies are often presented in a similar way that a classical symphony would (a.k.a. Alberti bass). It is performed by a typical classical symphony orchestra, which includes strings, percussion, and two of each of the major wind instruments.
It is interesting to compare this with his music for the opera The Love for Three Oranges. The march from this opera contains the rhythmic simplicity of Symphony No. 1. During this time, other composers were tending to use complex meters and rhythms, however Prokofiev generally stayed away from this trend. This piece displays trends consistent with Prokofiev such as rhythmic intensity, larger intervals sizes in parts of the melody, and a relatively simple form.
It has been interesting to study Prokofiev and all of the influences, both external and internal, that have played a role in the creation of his music. It will be interesting to see what the next 50 years bring to classical music and to the music of Prokofiev.

More Mozart

Ok, so I know I listened to Mozart last week, but for this weeks listening I used an album of Mozart arias. The album included multiple songs from the operas La clemenza di Tito (K.621), Cosi fan tutte (K.588), Le nozze di Figaro (K.492), Don Giovanni (K.527), and three concert arias (K. 505, 578, and 588). I found the most interesting part of my listening this week was comparing it to last week’s listening. Obviously, the masses I listened to were very different because they were composed primarily for chorus rather than solo soprano. The latest mass I listened to, however, was K 427. Every one of these arias was composed after Mozart started composing his last mass setting. These arias really embody what we think of when we imagine a vocal work by Mozart. I appreciate Mozart’s fluid, light vocal line and interesting accompaniment so much more now that I have listened to so many early vocal works.

The mezzo-soprano performing all of the arias on this album is Cecilia Bartoli. I really enjoyed listening to Bartoli’s voice, but could not help wondering how she could be classified a mezzo-soprano and be singing all of these traditionally soprano arias. I never would have actually thought of her as a mezzo-soprano if I wouldn’t have looked at the back of the CD cover, but hey… if she can do it more power to her.

Well, well, well Prof. Cymerman

As I've been promising for weeks on end: a night at the piano with Professor Claude Cymerman. His opening piece was Fantasy in d minor by Mozart K. 397. As soon as I saw that, I could hardly conceal my excitement. I played that same Fantasy when I was in high school (obviously not nearly as well as CC played it... but still). I think all students enjoy hearing pieces that they've played performed by their teachers. This particular Mozart Fantasy is possibly one of my favorite pieces. The way that Professor Cymerman can get so much contrast in his dynamics continues to amaze me. The melody is brought out perfectly but the "other stuff" is hardly ignored. When he played the Fantasy, I heard the "other stuff" as being what made the melody so beautiful. Also, he is the most relaxed performer I have ever seen. I wonder if he has any performance anxiety because he comes off as being the most controlled, relaxed performer ever. It's almost like he just flops his hands in the general direction of what notes he needs to hit and they just go. Aimed flopping. I wish that I could play with that much confidence and control.

Everyone was waiting for it: his transcription of The Rite of Spring. My favorite part of this piece was when CC used his fists to pound out low "chords" to signal a climax. The piano is a rather versatile instrument and I dont think we take advantage of that often enough. I can appreciate CC's effort to diversify the "stereotypical" pianist.

Although The Rite of Spring was what everyone had been looking forward to, and also the big finale, I found that the other stuff was what made the concert for me. Other than the Mozart, he played part of a Toccata for organ, a chorall, and a transcribed movement of a violin Sonata- all by Bach. Quite a Bach heavy concert, but it was all so beautiful. The transcription of the violin Sonata was amazing. Usually I find myself getting sleepy with slow relaxed music, but I was so intent at this concert.

In conclusion. I think CC (or any other piano faculty) should definitely give more concerts. Seeing them perform makes me that much more excited and passionate about it.

over 16 hours of music listened too this week...

that's right. I have driven over 16 this week in dealing with a family illness and since I listened to music the entire time, I will attempt to touch on most of it.
I started out driving last Sunday night listening to Jeff Buckley. He is an amazing singer songwritter. His high tenor vocals soar over rocking electric guitar. His cd "Grace" is on my top five album list. Check it out.
Then I don't really remeber what I put on. I think I might have just listened to the radio for a bit, everything from classic rock to country.
On my way back to DePauw on Tuesday night I stoped about half way and bought a new cd from a Starbucks. Antigonie Rising to be exact. An all girl band. I don't know if I really like it yet. It reminds me of Melissa Ethridge with more back ups.
I then listened to an all time favorite, Radiohead. Radiohead is by far my favorite band. I find their music so intelligent and beautiful. Yay for them.
Wow I'm so tired right now, this is getting quite loopy.
Then some Dave, "Crash", which I believe to be the bands best album.
Then on Friday when I drove up again I listened to Carlise Floyd's Susanna, in preperation for Concerto's. It's a great opera. Then I listened to a pop cd mix from Feburary, 2004 which included such hits as Brittney Spears "Toxic," and The Darkness's "I Believe in a thing Called Love."
Today on the way back I listened to Guster's "Parachuttes" on a loop till I could pick up WGRE.

So I think 16 hours of music should possibly make up for me missing a blog last week?

I'm singing in the rain, just singing in the rain....

So I was trying to think of what to blog about...and I looked outside and it came to me.
Singin' in the Rain was one of my favorite movies when I was a kid. I LOVE Gene Kelly. I remember reading somewhere that they wrote the movie around the music which is pretty unconventional. The songs are pretty catchy...most of them stay with you for a while after listening to them.

One of the best things about the cd of this that i own is that the tap dancing sounds were left in on the big numbers. I think my favorite song, both alone and with its scene in the movie is Don O'Connor's "Make em laugh", it's upbeat and happy and overall a good message i think.

The love songs all sound pretty typical of a movie made in the 40s. The lyrics are pretty basic and don't go very deep. Some of the orchestration and use of vibrato in the orchestra are a little different that what I'm used to hearing on musical soundtracks.

I really don't know what else to say. I love the movie, I love the music, I love Gene Kelly, and I can think of nothing better to listen to during our current monsoon.

Gesualdo's Madrigals

This CD is a compelation of madrigals by Carlo Gesualdo who I'm writing my history paper on. He seems like a pretty cool guy...ya know, just went a little crazy after he killed his own wife and her lover but other than that hes a pretty normal guy. I think his crazy life helped him write his music. Most of it is sad music with a deep meaning to each song. His chord changes are frighteningly beautiful and the text that he uses in his madrigals go very well with his musical style. He often speaks of God, love, death, pain, languish, and happiness (but very few times.) He is a very interesting person to study and to listen to his music after you study his life makes his music much more understandable. He had a great impact on the music (madrigals) of his time. There are few 16th century madrigal or motet composers that I enjoy listening to and he is one of my favorites. His music is so much more creative than any others I have heard. I also like the romantacism that he uses in his writing. He uses great syncopation as well as beautiful cadences in each of his works. Anyone who enjoys many voiced choir works should hear some of his works. Just be prepared to fall asleep.

311 - Music

311's first released cd, Music, shows just how different a band 311 is compared to other pop/punk bands of their time. Songs like Hydroponic, and My Stoney Baby show close comparisons to the band Sublime, a band catorgorized by their Rastafarian attitude and ska-type of music. Other songs, like Freak Out and Feel So Good, resemble a more typical pop/punk band. The song Do You Right, almost resembles Latin American music somewhat, kind of sounding like Malegeuna for the second half of the tune. This is probably their most successful album, and the one that earned them their record label. However, this band, that prides themselve from Omaha, Nebraska, has been very successful over the past few years and it is because they have not changed their image. They pride themselves on being independent from large corporate sponsors, which is very rare for this period in time. I was first introduced to this cd back in elementary school, and I loved 311's sound immediately. Their drummer, Chad Sexton, was a quint player in the Cavalier drum and bugle corps before finally joining the band. This experience can be seen in some incredible chops and elaborate drum rhythms that he plays. The bass player, P-Nut (yeah, interesting?) loves to bring out the occasional slap bass, and with an American and Mexican singing lyrics, it provides for some interesting differences in lyric style. Anyway, this cd is pretty easy to listen to, and don't worry, they have like 8 more CDs so I'll probably do another one in the future.