Friday, March 24, 2006

Muse: Absolution

This week I listened to Muse, a British alternative rock band from Britain. The songs I listened to were from their newest album “Absolution” which was released in 2003. My favorite song on the album, “Time is Running Out” starts out with a really neat bass line which is repeated throughout the song. There are also really neat guitar riffs in the transition between the refrains and choruses. The lyrics of the album are pretty depressing, about the world ending soon, however there are interesting words that give character to the piece such as “asphyxiated”, “fixation”, and “elation” and definitely a lot of text painting is used. The next song, “Apocalypse Please” features a piano which they make sure not to cover up with their strong guitar and percussion. I suggest you listen to the album; it’s different, and good.

Monday, March 20, 2006

early morning vh1

Letting vh1 do my music selecting for me...figure it's a good way to see some new stuff....and not be bothered with choosing music.
"upside down" - jack johnson: love his new song even though it's for a children's album soundtrack that accompanies the movie Curious George. I'm sure speigelberg you will be taking your youngins to see it so you might hear this mellow, acoustic guitar (true to jack johnson style) song, thats simple melodically and repetitive, but not too long and is in a happy key
"unwritten" -natasha bedingfield: i don't too much like her voice.it's obvious that she makes it raspy on purpose and her style isnt really distinctive from other pop artists out there although i think she'd consider herself as some throwback to the sixties flowerchild mentality based on her dress and the lyrics to her song. The song gets annoying as well cause there's maybe one and a half verses and the chorus is repeated about 8 times
"beautiful" -james blunt: he's credited as having an angelic voice....i must disagree...it's very pinched and whiny and shaky..which is probably why he doesnt hold a note more than a beat or two...but..i guess that doesn't matter when you were "a captain in the british army".
"speed of sound" -coldplay: i like coldplay but dont ususally like their over electronic sound..which is what this song is...i really appreciate it when it's just the lead singer and his piano with back up acoustic guitar and vocals..
"black horse& cherry tree" -k.t. tunstall- she calls her style "blusey folk girl rock stomp"....right....well i've taken a listen to her cd and this is the only song that carries that gumbled genre.....she's a scottish artist and i dont really think she should be dabbling in blues or rock...as she doesnt int he rest of songs on her album...she's just a pop artist similar to Dido...and this song where she's trying to be different is so cliche with use of drums and heavy guitar and singing with a pushed raspy voiced about a country love theme
"black sweat" - prince: I love prince...not because i like all his songs..but there are a choice few of his singles that i could listen to over and over..this being one of them because he's an old artist that is true to his style...this song sounds like what he might've put out in the 80's with the synthesized drums as his only accompaniment and this high siren that plays in the chorus. its great cause its not repetitive and the suggestive lyrics are great
"photograph" -nickelback: i hate this song..i hear it too much..it's long and talks about life in a small town...i just dont really like rock..
"the real thing" -bo: so this is a guy from some season of american idol..and it's obvious why he didnt win.he does that annoying thing where it sounds like he's sighing at the end of every phrase..blech..watching this vh1 i realize how many of the songs sound a like..he's trying to be this pop rock guy and sounds just like the lead singer of nickelback..
"be wit you" - mary j. blidge: like how they spell the title? people do really say it that way..anyway..she's another artist that has been around for years and has always remained true to her style..just a rough r&b sound..thats realyl soulful...its a good love ballad..more urban and not popish

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Gershwin

So this week I decided I would just make notes about each piece

Rhapsody in blue
Jazz clarinet solo starts with the theme, accompanied by brass and other woodwinds at first followed by strings
Solo transfers to muted trumpet and then to the solo piano
Full orchestra enters with theme at forte volume
Piano takes over with awesome virtuosic playing in classic Gershwin style
Bass clarinet joins for a short while to add countermelody
Orchestra enters again as a sort of transition for the piano
Melody sweeps/stutters in strings
Almost a darth vader moment where the melody sounds "star wars"-like
Then the well-known part with the motive Delta stole to advertise their friendly skies

An American in Paris
Happy, cartoonish melody
Orchestral introduction has dotted rhythms
Accented dissonances
Very active melody, vibrant
Tempo slows
many wind solos
Texture becomes more agitated
Much use of hemiola
Texture moves back and forth between agitated and calm

Cuban Overture
Definite Hispanic taste at the beginning
Fast wind runs
Percussion backdrop- Maracas and congas
Oboe, wind solos
Trumpet solos

Variations on "I got rhythm"
Orchestral Introduction
Theme- piano
Var I-dotted rhythm piano with sax playing theme
Var II-descending octaves
Var III-smooth triple meter, waltz-like, very unrecognizable theme
Var IV-similar to I and II with added trills and more accented dissonances, asian influence
Var V-orchestral variation with woodwinds, piano cadenza on theme
Var VI- alternating piano and brass, finality with just piano
there may have been more or less variations, but this is what I counted by ear

Rhapsody No. 2
melody dominated by brass when piano is not present in the texture
clarinet duet in the middle with syncopated piano accompaniment
piano goes into a cadenza with scalar patterns

well, that's it for this week
I decided to write about the group Les Yeux Noirs this week. They are a group from France. They play"gypsie" music with Yiddish, French, German, and Italian influences. It's definitely some of the most interesting music I've listened to in a very long time. Gypsie music is a little on the rare side around here.

The rhythm of this music is very dynamic. It's almost impossible to listen to without dancing or at least tapping your foot. It's also a lot of fun to hear all the different cultural influences mixed together. The more I try to pick them out, the more difficult it becomes, especially with the songs that don't have any singing. It all just sort of blends together and becomes its own sound.

It's difficult to distinguish all the different instruments they are using sometimes. I recognize the more familiar ones like the violin, but some of the others that I'm not as used to hearing, I'm not always sure about.

One of my favorite songs is funny because there's a point when they start using the instruments to have a conversation and to make animal noises. I have no idea how they get some of the sounds that they do out of their instruments, but it's really cool because what they are "saying" seems to make sense even with out words.

This particular recording is live and listening to the audiences reactions gives me the impression that as fun as it is to listen to a recording of this music, it would be amazing to experience it in person. You can hear the people in the background getting into the music. They clap, and whistle and start singing along. There's even one song where the band ends the song and the audience keeps clapping and singing the song because they're not ready for it to end. I think that that would be an unbelievably cool experience.

Cello Concerti Afternoon

This afternoon, I had a burning desire to listen to a cello concerto (no idea why), so a scanned my iTunes for appealing pieces. I found a recording of Yo-Yo Ma playing the Dvorak and Elgar concerti among others.

Dvorak’s cello concerto begins with the winds and strings passing the melody between them with quite a few notable wind excerpts, especially in the clarinet. The cello then comes in after about four minutes when the theme has been well-established by the orchestra. The timbre of the cello on this warm melody is, at times, a stunning combination; they fit each other perfectly. The timbres of the clarinet and horn throughout this movement in combination with the cello are brilliantly orchestrated. All three instruments naturally have very warm sounds in relatively similar tessitura.

The second movement, like the first, starts out with a clarinet solo which is then joined by the cello and background winds. This movement is my personal favorite, for it combines the strengths of the wind section with the cello sharing the melody and providing harmony throughout the movement.

The third movement starts off quietly with the horns coming out of silence and the orchestra joining and consequently increasing the dynamics. This movement has the fire and intensity which we have not heard to this degree in the first two movements. Dvorak said of this movement that in response to his friend and cellist desiring to change the movement, “The Finale closes gradually, like a breath, with reminiscences of the first and second movements; the solo dies away to a pianissimo, then there is a crescendo, and the last bars are taken up by the orchestra, ending stormily. That was my idea and from it I cannot recede." This is just what he does and the juxtaposition of the quiet ending of the cello and the loud ending of the orchestra is perfect for this concerto, for it ends with the both the emotional impact of the dying away of the cello as well as the intensity provided by the orchestra.

It is almost needless to say, but Yo-Yo Ma mastered both the Dvorak and Elgar concerti. Similar in many ways for they were written, in the grand scheme of things, relatively closely together, however Yo-Yo Ma brings out the beauty in both of them.

"Countdown" by Lindsey Buckingham

Let me start this entry by saying that Lindsey Buckingham is my musical idol. He is an amazing guitarist and singer, and he is a genius when it comes to songwriting, arranging, producing, and recording. He is most famous as the frontman of Fleetwood Mac, but he's also had an illustrious solo career. Several years ago, "Countdown" was the song that introduced me to this solo career.
Buckingham is often compared to to his idol, Brian Wilson. And when you hear the dense intricacy of layered melodies, countermelodies, and rhythms in every one of his songs, you can see why. "Countdown" is very straight-ahead and much simpler than the majority of Buckingham's songs. However, one thing that separates it from other Buckingham tunes is that it was the first single he released after he left Fleetwood Mac, (Buckingham would later reunite with Fleetwood Mac in 1997. He is still with the band today.) Obviously, the choice of Buckingham's post-Mac first single would be a hard one. Especially since Buckingham lead Fleetwood Mac to be the best selling band of all time. Fleetwood Mac has sold more than 30 million copies with their Rumours album alone. I believe the reason he chose "Countdown" was because of it's repetitive catchiness and optimistic attitude.
There are several things that separate Buckingham from other mere rock musicians. One of which is his guitar playing. He has developed a very unique style of finger-picking which gives him the power of 3 guitarists. With his thumb he plays a bass line. With his first two fingers he plays a mid line. With his bottom two fingers he plays a treble line. As a songwriter, he has written more hits than most bands can accomplish in their entire career. These include songs such as "The Chain," "Go Your Own Way," "Big Love," "Holiday Road," "Peacekeeper," "Tusk," "Go Insane," "Trouble," "I'm So Afraid," "Never Going Back Again," "Second Hand News," "Family Man," "World Turning," and "Soul Drifter" just to name a few. As a producer, he is responsible for the sound that gave Fleetwood Mac their most successful albums of their career such as, Fleetwood Mac, Rumours, Tusk, Mirage, Tango In The Night, The Dance, and Say You Will.
However, I think the aspect that displays his talent the most is that on all 3 of his solo albums he performs all of the musical elements. He plays every instrument. He sings every vocal. Of course, he has a guest artist here or there, playing one line, or singing one element, but the majority of his songs are entirely performed by himself. "Countdown" is one of these songs. What is even more impressive about this is from a recording standpoint. Buckingham is such an amazing recording engineer that he mixes the sounds together in a way that you can't realize he is the only performer. This is even the case from a vocal standpoint. He is so good at speeding tracks up or slowing them down and recording on top of them that he can change the timbre of sounds without losing the sense of pitch and harmony. This is the method he uses for getting backing vocals that sound like different people, both male and female sounding. This is also how he gets his extremely high guitar solo on "Countdown" to sound so unique without giving you a headache.
Buckingham is also a pro when it comes to mixing in subtle and repetitive lines into his songs that the standard listener would not notice unless they purposely listen for it. In "Countdown," there are tons of intricate, melodic backing guitar lines that are smoothly layered into the mesh. There are also repetitive percussion rhythms on shakers, cowbell, tambourine, and congas that subtlely go unnoticed. This "Wall of Sound" subconsciously adds to the extreme catchiness, which is already made by the chord progression, lyrics, lead guitar lines, drum pattern, and vocal lines. The "Wall of Sound" technique was created by hit producer Phil Spector. This was passed on to Brian Wilson. Buckingham morphed it into a style that is totally his own, and that has appealed to huge, mass audiences around the world, selling more copies of single albums than his own idols, The Beatles and The Beach Boys. "Countdown" is a great symbol to his success and groundbreaking innovation.

Countdown
Written by Lindsey Buckingham

I'm waiting on the countdown
Sitting in the shade
Things about to turn around
How the madness fades

Oh, I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

Right through your fingers
Time slips away
Oh, this feeling lingers
Right here I'm going to stay

I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

So I'm sitting in the shade
Under the dreaming tree
Now the madness fades
Right here I' going to be

Oh, I've been waiting on the countdown
Things about to turn around
And now I'm out of the lost and found
Just waiting on the countdown

Kind of Blue

It's been a while since i really sat down and listened to some jazz, so I decided to pull out Kind of Blue. This cd has the Miles Davis quintet playing "So What", "Freddie Freeloader", "Blue in Green", "All Blues", and "Flamenco Sketches."

I like this cd because it's not difficult to listen to. As many jazz classes as I might take and as hard as I might try...some of it I just don't get, like some of Miles' later music, but this I like.

"So What" is one of my favorites. My senior year I got to play with the jazz band because they did Chick Corea's "Spain" and so I ended up going to all the competitions with them and our combo played this. It's a good song to get the listener into the cd because of the repeating "so what" line.

The next track, "Freddie Freeloader" when it begins almost sounds like a continuation of "So What" In general This whole cd just has a nice relaxed feel to it and is easy to listen to without having to focus on what's going on in the music too hard.

The last track is "Flamenco Sketches". I really like this song, almost as much as “So What”. To me this would be a great song for a movie. It would fit in one of those scenes where the guy is walking down the street at night in the rain and the lights are all lit up and everyone’s walking around in pairs and he’s all alone. I think this song being last was a good way for the album to wind down after the more upbeat beginning of “So What”.


So that was my jazz listening experience. Now I guess I had better go back to attempting my theory homework......

Rantings After a Night of Theory From Hell

I went to the University Chorus concert today. First of all, congrats to all the participants. You guys sounded pretty good! The concert consisted of four works by Mozart (fitting since it is the 250th anniversary of his birth- which Prof. Crouch also remarked on), a piece by Jake Heggie- for soprano section, a piece for the men's choir, and then three pieces transcribed for choir. From the first half of the concert, I enjoyed the Mozart piece that featured a live oboe. Steven Maijala. The piece was called Quis de Comprehendat. Steven sounded amazing. The oboe sound just floated above the choir.

The second half of the concert took on a different tone. The women's choir sang the Jake Heggie piece that they performed when he was in residency here. The men's choir sang a piece about Captain Morgan... which was rather funny but I thought was more of an easy filler than anything else- in unison, etc. Kudos to them for doing it memorized though. It made me laugh. Finally, the last three transcribed pieces were really good. They were all done a capella and had a rather nostalgic feel. The Battle of Jericho was my favorite piece of the whole concert. It featured each of the different sections- including Ralph with the tenor section, was more upbeat, with a catchy rhythm, and had weird disonant chords that were sustained. Very cool.

Again, nice work all you choir people.

Ziegler

Im not one to usually post on music school concerts, but tonight's performance by Matthias Ziegler blew me away. In his performance, ziegler included many different types of flutes including the contrabass flute and a flute he has been developing himself. All of his pieces were original compositions except for his encore, Well you Needn't by Thelonius Monk. He was able to get songs out of the flute that I've never heard before. To do this, he put microphones on the inside of the flute so that we could hear the little nuances that a floutist is trained not to let sound such as air and key stomps. Not only did he mic the instruments, but he had a looping device as well so that he could play and record something and then play over his loop, and then play over that...etc. He says that there is a whole orchestra within a flute and after tonight I certainly believe it. He manipulated sounds by singing pitches while playing others (making chords), using an almost "beat box" type style of tounge and percussion, and also by using his new instrument which combines the mouthpiece of a flute with a vibrating membrane.

I still cannot get over the sound and style of this concert, if I could've afforded a $15 cd, I would bring it to class...but sorry, AJ is poor.

Godspell

I can't remember if I wrote about this album or not. I might have mentioned it but not written about it. Well, anyway, I was listening to this album earlier this week because I was practicing the dances to them. I know it sounds silly but I was. Plus, I just love listening to it and singing along. What am I talking about, I sing along to everything I listen to.

Well, I had never heard the music to this show until last summer when I did it and I have to say that Stephen Schwartz is the man. Even in the 70's, he had a recognizable style and flare to his music. After hearing this musical, you can pretty much tell what other musicals he's written. Of course, Godspell has been around for a long time and is probably one of the more popular Schwartz musicals to date, with the exception of Wicked.

Godspell is based on the book of Matthew, telling the story of Jesus' life and teachings in a fun, clowning around, song and dance way. The first act deals with all his early teachings of love thy neighber and brother, keep good deeds done to yourself. The second act than deals with Jesus' last few days on earth, from his encounter with the Pharisees, the Last Supper, his crucifixtion and finally, his resurrection.

All the characters represent the disciples of Jesus and each has their own personality. Each character also has their own musical number which explains or emphasis' one of the teachings of Jesus. All of these songs are very catchy and upbeat, with the exception of Second Act which is more serious. Possibly the most recognized song from this show is "Day by Day", a repeatitive song that grows with each new repeat. The theme never changes and the chorus parts add more to the melody. It starts out very slow but gets faster and more upbeat throughout. I think the reason why it repeats so much is because Schwartz was trying to get the point across that with each new day, we should always look to God.

There are quite the dance numbers in the show as well. Very upbeat and rockin'. "Bless the Lord" is the first big dance number and is the song I sing in the show! This song has a big gospel feel to it as well as a rock and roll. It has a form of question and answer between the men and women parts and between the soloist and the cast. Tons of fun and definitly a showstopper. "Light of the World" is very much a 70's disco song. It certianly has the feel of one.

The ballads in this show are very beautiful and very moving. They are so full of emotion even if they do have a simple melody. Although, the song, "By My Side", which is sung at a point in the play where Judas goes to the Pharisees and Jesus knows he will be leaving them soon, is full of melodic tension, especially between the two women singing it, which are supposed to represent the two prostitutes Jesus' saves. It is a very beautiful song.

This is a great show that I feel stays true to the story of Jesus and his teachings. The music is great and it's so fun to watch and perform. You know you've done your job when the audience comes out crying, in a good way of course. I can't wait to do this show again!

Songs for Athene-Chamber choir concert

“Lay a Garland”- a piece in eight parts by Robert Pearsall, full of melismas and very polyphonic; ends on a PAC

John Tavener pieces:
“The Lamb”- I don’t think there was a time signature; the rhythm was based on the text.
It was a really neat piece where the sopranos sung the first phrase and then the altos sang with them in an inversion of the first phrase. The third phrase that the sopranos sang was in retrograde.
“Funeral Ikos”- much of this piece was in unison, the words are very important, but depressing
“As One who has Slept”- about the resurrection of Christ
“Song for Athene”- sung at Princess Diana’s funeral was beautiful. The basses were a drone throughout the piece and the rest had simple melodic, but it was very dramatic. This piece also didn’t contain a time signature.

“He will Gather us Around”- this Jake Heggie piece stood out in the program for it contained very jazzy rhythm and harmonies

“A Prayer for the Captive”- This was a traditional Shaker hymn which Prof. Edberg improvised on his cello, it gave me goosebumps

The program as a whole was remarkable, but very somber and the lighting changes in Thompson made the pieces very dramatic.

Bach's B minor mass

Welp. It's mass class getting the best of me. I'm listening to Bach's B minor mass just because right now. I'm a dork. I'm going to concentrate on the Gloria. The first part of the Gloria, Gloria in excelsis deo, is very regal and typically Baroque sounding. It is set with a small chamber orchestra and full chrous. This section goes right into the Et in terra pax, a much slower section. Still with full orchestra, but now in minor and without the bounce of the first section. The next section, Laudamus te, is a soprano solo. It is very full of ornaments, and very lively. The Gratias agimus tibi is parodied almost exactly from an earlier Bach chroale, (which I have sung!.) This is a beautiful sweeping choral setting. And speaking of parodies, almost the entire mass has been parodied. It's almost as if Bach was compling a greatest hits highlight mass. The Domine Deus is a pastoral sounding duet between soprano and tennor. This whole Gloria is an arch which points to the Domine Deus. It is interesting that Bach choose a simple little pastoral duet to be the center of his whole Gloria! The Qui tollis peccata mundi is sung by full chrous and is slow and beautifully cromatic. I love the flute soaring over the chrous. ahhh. nice touch Bach. The Qui sedes ad dextram Patris is an alto with oboe d'amore solo. It's very flowing and lovely. It has a lot of short little motives and the oboe and the alto weave in and out of each other. The Quiniom tu solis santus is a bass solo and very regal sounding. It has bassons and a coranet (I think...) This goes right into the Cum Sancto Spritu, which is very lively and pretty. It's full chrous again to end out the very long Gloria section.

It's so hard to remember to do these!

So fortunately, I remembered that I'm supposed to do a blog this week, because last week was such a struggle...that it just didn't happen. Another fortunate thing is that I'm pretty sure I'll be the only one to talk about "The Colorado Quartet".

Yes, the Colorado Quartet...4 ladies who play string instruments as a group. I went to the recital at 7:30 Friday evening...and was not released from my seat until 9:30. While I enjoyed the music; I must say that the recital itself was a bit lengthy. The four women (Julie Rosenfeld [1st violin]; D. Lydia Redding [2nd violin]; Marka Gustavsson [viola]; and Diane Chaplin [cello]) played only 3 pieces: Haydn's Quartet in D Major (op. 50, no. 6); a contemporary quartet by Katherine Hoover, titled "The Knot" (quartet no. 3), and finally Schubert's Quartet #14 in D minor, more aptly titled "Death and the Maiden".

I'm always excited to hear stringed instruments, because their tambor is so unique. I like the light feel/texture from strings, as opposed to the heavy/full texture that one generally hears in brass quartets/quintets (whatever). {although i like both, mind you}.

I don't really remember much about Haydn's quartet, because it was first; and let's face it, there was A LOT of music after it, so it was easily forgotten. I'm sure I liked it, because it was rather tonal and somewhat predictable (which i like in music).

The second quartet was my least favorite because it was quite chromatic and had parts twisting and inverting minor seconds and major sevenths (it was not all that pretty). While I saw the musical value, I've decided that atonal music and I are not friends.

Finally, Schubert's "Death and the Maiden" was just one thing...LONG. Each movement easily could've been 10-12 minutes. I tried to use my new-found musicianship skills to pick out sections (i.e. A B A C A), but there were SO MANY sections that I had to give up. While I did enjoy the themes of each section, there was so much between them that I just lost the lustre for the music. I think that song could've made a recital in itself (almost).

um...so, yeah...that's what I did friday night...good times!

Nicole Nordeman

This week I listened to the CD of: Nicole Nordeman. She is a contemporary christian singer. This CD is only her on vocals accompanied by a full orchestra and piano. The CD is called, This Mystery. The tracks I listened to are: This Mystery, Tremble, Fool for you, Help me Believe, Small enough, Lookin at you, As, Home, Please Come, Every Season, and Why. My favorite two songs on this CD are Every Season and Why. I have performed both of these songs at my church at home with two vocalists.
Every Season is an amazing song with piano and strings. She talks about how every season comes back to God and how he has created everything. Throughout the song, each verse is another season and how something different of that season shows his presence. The really cool thing about this song is that the music and intensity of the song constantly grows, until the last season of Winter. It ends with winter, with the lyrics, "So it is with you, and how you make me new with Every Season's change".
Why is also a really nice song with piano and strings. In this song she is asking her Dad why Jesus had to go through the crusifixion and how so many people could be so horrible to one man. This song also tends to constantly be building with the lyrics and the music. Very much alike to Every Season.
This is an amazing CD that I think anyone would enjoy.