Stranger Things Have Happened

An eclectic collection of various things at random moments

Original Listening Journal

This is the original listening journal in all its glory. I’ve left the dates and links for my benefit and so you can see my musical journey. I loved this class so much and my world just got bigger from it. So here is my listening journal from Fall 2017. It starts from week 2 because we learned about it in week 1. You’ll also notice I progressively stop narrating what happens second to second and just focus on the point or concept that I wanted to discuss.

Note: I do use Spotify so my links are to Spotify. You can get a free account (or a paid one). I love Spotify, I really do. So yeah, Spotify.

Week 2

August 30, 2017

Song: “Knights of Cydonia” – Muse – Black Holes and Revelation

“Knights of Cydonia” by Muse is one of my favorite songs. I love the build, the lyrics, the sound of Dominic Howard’s drums in the background. It’s an interesting song with a few layers to it. On the surface, you have the song at face value, a song about fighting back and fixing it ourselves with a upbeat rock vibe to it. Below that you have the words. The song has two verses, back to back, and then just the chorus three times. The first verse tells the listener to look through history and actually look, that people can’t wait for fate to take over and fix things. In the second verse, the speaker points out that we, the people, can’t benefit when the people in power don’t know what to do. The speaker then says, “Don’t waste your time, or time will waste you,” which means that nothing will get done if someone doesn’t do something about it. The chorus is a call to arms, to rise up and take the power back (wait that’s Uprising’s lyrics). The song is a call for change and a message that change can’t happen if no one does anything.

Surrounding the lyrics is the beat, the rhythm, the various sounds that mix together to create a sound that is distinctly Muse. The intro sets a space cowboy sound to the song. The song opens with a sound that’s reminiscent of the Star Trek teleports. That sound if followed by the sounds of hooves and whinnies and laser guns being fired. There’s an explosion in the background, an air raid alert sounds and grows louder. Then it cuts off and is immediately followed by a guitar and vocals beginning the build to the first verse. Within the build, the vocals change key a few times, and the guitar has its own build. Eventually the drums pick up and there’s a drop. The song drops into an electric guitar riff and with the drums backing it up, deep in the background there is a synthesizer doing a sequence (I want to call it an arpeggio but I really don’t have that much knowledge in music theory to confidently call it that). Flowing from the drop, an instrumental riff takes over and establishes the tune of the song through the electric guitar. The synth is still playing in the background, masked by the drums. The song launches into a more crowded instrumental riff adding in vocals and trumpets to the mix. The synth changes key, still masked. There’s a transition to the verse, the extra instruments and vocals cease based on a cue from the drums, a fly in sound is played and all that’s left are the drums, something I’m assuming is the electric guitar, and the ever present synth.

With the verses, the drums are constant, providing cues for the rest of the sounds. The guitar plays a few cords intermittently, but the synth plays on faintly in the background. With the last word of the second verse, another fly in sound occurs, the synth leaves the background and can be heard clearly, then the guitar picks up again with the vocals. The synth ceases, but the drums still guide the others. The build from the beginning picks up again, the guitar and vocals change key in the second iteration of the tune. The transition occurs and the guitar leads the song into the transition followed by a quick build up with the drums. The synth has picked up again and builds with the guitar and drums. Everything cuts and the chorus begins. The synth is in the background, a lower key and faint. In the second pass of the chorus, there’s a build up with the guitar and the drums, the synth changes to a higher key and is hard to pick up. The build leads to an extended note from the vocals and the drum speeds up before cutting, the synth ceases as well. The guitar picks up and launches into a solo, the drums are in the background keeping time. In the second round of the guitar’s riff, the vocals come back with the chorus one last time. The song maintains the guitars riff and a different synth comes in and plays out the tune to the chorus, then it’s just the guitar and drums playing the song out. The last thing heard is the sound of a fading amplifier.

I find this song intriguing because, to me, it doesn’t follow the normal flow of a song. It starts with a long beginning, only has two verses, but feels the need to go through the chorus three times. The song is 25% words and 75% instrument. It builds and drops and transitions. The sounds that are used are interesting. While it uses an electric guitar and drums, it also uses a synthesizer, some brass (or at least I thought it was brass), and some odd sounds. But all these sounds are mixed together just right to create an beautiful sound. While listening to the song, I found myself zeroing in on the synthesizer that was continuously playing in the background, lost among all the louder, bolder sounds. So I decided to focus on it and figure out what it’s role was. As I listened, I noticed the key changes and at one point, it was the cue to move on to the next line of notes instead of the drums. I felt like the synth was that one constant that would see to the song getting to its destination. It’s a sound that is easily lost in the chaos, a sound that’s easily forgotten. But it’s a sound that grounds the rest of the chaos.

August 31, 2017

Song: “Archer’s Theme” – Dennis McCarthy – Enterprise (Original Television Soundtrack)

Star Trek: Enterprise is my favorite spin-off show of the Star Trek franchise. This song is the full version of the closing song for the show. It has that nice regal, yet dreamy feel to it that most Star Trek songs have. This particular song has a slightly more dreamy feel to it, which to me matches the show and its captain really well. Star Trek: Enterprise follows the crew of the very first voyage into space (like space the final frontier voyage, not let’s go to the moon voyage). Archer is the captain and he grew up watching his dad work on and develop the warp drive engine, the engine that would enable humans to “boldly go where no man has gone before.” So for Archer, being the captain of the first ship, the very ship his father didn’t get to see made real, is a lifelong dream finally coming true. His theme is so uniquely Archer, yet fits the show’s personality as well.

The song is an instrumental track comprised of some strings, a few horns, a piano, and a few others. The first ten second is the opening of the song. It starts off dreamy with a strong, clear sound that I think is either a clarinet or a violin. At 0:11, some more strings come into the background playing a few soft, sustaining notes. The strong sound continues with it’s melody. At 0:25, there’s a cymbal roll to transition to the next part of the song, it also cues the horns to take the place of the single strong sound. The strings in the background continue and a piano plays its own melody in the middle ground (it’s louder than the strings). There’s also a bass guitar in the background. At 0:46, there’s another cymbal roll and a second guitar does a slide. At 0:48, there’s a cymbal crash and the drums pick up. It’s a constant 1-2-3-4 with light taps on a cymbal and a few variations between the 3rd and 4th beats. There’s a snare drum that is mostly used, in one of the beats it was a kick drum then a crash and another time it was two quick crashes. Meanwhile, the bass is still in the background, there’s a second guitar (or is it a keyboard) in the middle ground playing what seems to be a progression. The horns are still playing the main tune. At 0:56, a third (or is it second) guitar comes in and plays something, I don’t really know what it’s doing, but it works. At 1:09, there’s another cymbal crash and most everything fades out. All that’s left is a few horns playing, the drums are still playing their constant beat, and the strings are playing softly in the back. The horns play one last sustaining note at 1:17 and the others follow with their own sustaining note and then the song has a quickish build, then cut ending.

Week 3 – Well, it’s supposed to be…

September 14, 2017

Song: “Boom Boom” – John Lee Hooker – Burnin’

I chose this song because I first heard it as the theme song to NCIS: New Orleans, but it was a different version. I wanted to compare the two versions, so this the original artist, John Lee Hooker. The song has 12 bars per verse. although it seems like the final verse is more than 12 bars… and it follows what I think is an AAB(A) form. It definitely has call and response between the singer and the band.

The song starts with the intro. The guitar is the first thing the listener hears, and it is immediately followed with a reply from the piano, drums, and bass. The second time the guitar plays it’s accompanied by a soft kick drum that’s just there to keep beat. The kick drum plays with both the call and response because it’s keeping beat.

When the first verse starts, the singer is still accompanied with the drum to maintain beat. The guitar joins the other instruments in the response and what sounds like some kind of brass instrument joins in. This goes on for the two verses. In the second verse, the last line acts as a transitioning point for the song to move from the verses to a solo for the instruments.

In the solo, the band keeps with the tune but a variation of it. The brass instrument seems to have its own conversation with itself while the guitar and piano are playing their bit together. The drum does a quick roll and the instruments come back and tone down their riffing and the band flows back into the original tune.

In the last verse, the singer comes back and the horn seems to have a bigger part in the response, as it and the piano are the dominant sounds along with the drums. The song fades out with the singer and band having a light version of a call and response.

Overall this song is a fun song. It has a steady beat and is easy to count too. The vocals are strong and clear, yet relaxed, almost like a guy chilling out on his front porch.

September 14, 2017

Song: “Boom Boom” – Big Head Todd and The Monsters – Beautiful World

This version of the song is the version I first hear when NCIS: New Orleans aired. It’s a favorite theme song of my mom and I’s. While the NCIS: NO theme is a condensed version of the song, it still intrigued me. It had a jazz vibe while also having a bit of rock to it. It seems to follow the orginal AAB(A) pattern but an expanded version of it. I couldn’t figure out how many bars there were, but I think there’s more than 12. It has a long intro, but it does follow a call and response format. The band gets a solo after the second (third?) verse. In the last part, the song returns to the original beat and the band gets another solo at the end.

The intro is kicked off with the singer saying something that cues the guitar and kick drum. There isn’t any call and response in this part. The singer comes in every so often to say something or sort of sing a bar. At one point the singer says something (I’m assuming to the guitarist) and the guitar stops abruptly and is then told “ya gotta come on.” The guitar and kick start again with the singer popping in every so often. After a few bars, the guitar does a riff that cues a second guitar to come in with more drums and moving into the actual song.

The first verse enters a call and response between the singer and the band. Within the band there is a guitar, a bass, drums, and something that sounds like an organ or synth that doesn’t come in until the band’s solo. Unlike the original song, the vocals aren’t accompanied by the drums to keep beat. However, like the original, the last line of the third verse is within the transition to the band’s solo.

The solo is kicked off with the drums doing a roll of some sort. The bass is keeping beat in the background. The guitar is doing a variation of the song’s overall tune. The organ sounding thing is also in the background playing something. The drums are doing a riff of their own with the guitar. Like the original song, the drums do a roll that cues the band to wrap up their solo and come back to the original tune.

The last part of the song is like the first. There’s a call and response between the singer and band. The drum uses what I think is a top hat or something small to count off the beat to cue the band into their final solo/outro.

The drums pick up with the same drum roll that kicked off the first solo. The organ thing comes back and everyone goes back to what they were doing during the first solo. The drums do another roll that cues the band to stop and the song ends.

The song takes the original blues song and twists it into a song that leans more towards rock. There are some similarities between the two songs and a few differences. There isn’t any kind of brass and the piano is replaced by an organ/ synth thing. Overall, this version of the song keeps to its heritage while also bringing in elements from a different genre.

Week 4

September 14, 2017

Song: “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd – Second Helping

No car trip between my mom and I was complete without Lynyrd Skynyrd singing about Alabama. I’ve been hearing this song since I was in kindergarten. It’s a favorite of my mom and I’s and remains so today. I never heard about the controversy behind it until two minutes ago when I googled it. While it can be interpreted as racist, it isn’t, people just don’t pay attention enough. It was written in reply to Neil Young’s songs, “Southern Man” and “Alabama” which were essentially South bashing songs. Lynyrd Skynyrd have gone on the record saying the wrote the song as a joke and the lyrics just ended up that way. They were touring in Alabama and were taking in the state and listening to Neil Young and decided to write a song to show how great Alabama was. For the record, they loved Neil Young and, as I said, wrote it as a joke. The song itself follows a path of intro, verse 1, verse 2, chorus, transition, verse 3, chorus, bridge, verse 4, chorus, variation of chorus, outro.

The song opens with Ed King counting off “1-2-3–” and the beginning guitar riff too kick off the song. The guitar is joined by another guitar and drums followed by a third guitar. There’s a piano that accents the tune. Then the vocals come in.

The first verse is sung. The bass guitar is in the background keeping beat with the drums. What I think is the rhythm guitar is playing with the bass, keeping the rhythm and tune while the lead guitar plays its bit. The drums keep a consistent beat. Every so often the piano accents the words from the vocalist. When the verse ends, the lead comes in and plays the tune before the vocals come back.

The lead singer is joined by back up singers. The band continues as it has been. The lead guitar and the drums lead the song into the chorus.

The chorus is sung by the lead and the backup at the same time with the band still going on as it has been. There is a small transition into the third verse.

The lead singer sings the verse alone with no back up singers. The band still continues as it is. The drums lead the song into the chorus again.

The back up singers come back and sing with the lead again. Band is still as is. At the end of the chorus the drums cue the band into the bridge.

The band plays on their own. The lead guitar has at it and goes into a solo. The drums switches it’s beat from being drums based to cymbal based. There’s a few crashes and the light tapping on one of the smaller cymbals. The bass and rhythm move into a variation of the tune but still recognizable. The backup singers come back as a way to bring the band back to the song. The band returns to the original tune and the fourth verse starts.

The lead is joined again by the back up singers. The band returns to how it was playing before. The drums lead the song into the chorus.

The chorus is sung again as it was previously. At the end of the chorus, the lead guitar plays a riff and the vocals launch into a variation of the chorus. The band continues as it was. When the final chorus ends, the piano picks up and plays its own riff and the lead guitar is silent. The rest of the band plays out with the piano, cymbal crashes accenting the fade out.

September 14, 2017

Song: “Deck the Halls” – Mannheim Steamroller – 30/40

Christmas isn’t complete without Mannheim Steamroller. It’s not Christmas without them, it just isn’t. I know it’s not Christmas time yet, but I listen to Mannheim all year round because I love them so much. Actually, my family just plays Christmas music year round in general… Anyway, I’ve had the beautiful pleasure of seeing them live a couple of times and it makes a difference in trying to figure out what sounds are what. I went years thinking someone knew how to do something fancy on a horn when in fact it was just a synth. Deck the Halls is a well known Christmas song and one of Mannheim’s show openers as well as the song they played in 2011 and 2013 in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The opening of the song is the typical Deck the Halls tune embellished with sounds from a synth and brass. The various sounds of the band and the orchestra pieces that are with them come in at various moments and join into a festive song. The harpsichord has the honor of playing the first full bars of the song, accented by the drums. A horn comes in to play the next bit of the song. And the band comes together to play the third bit. The harpsichord cues a continuance and the horn comes back. All the while, the drums are in the background keeping beat with the synth. It’s a unique sound to the classic Christmas song. The horns come and lead into the strings picking up. The synth plays what I imagine a spiral upward sound, and the strings come back and play a quick repetitive few notes together (I’m picturing their violinist turning around to conduct them, it was entertaining). The horns accent it and the strings launch into a vigorous playing of the song with the harpsichord. The horns come back again and the drums start cuing for a wrap up. The synth comes in and plays another bit that sounds like… something, I always picture spot lights coming up.

It’s hard to do anything by Mannheim Steamroller justice because Chip Davis incorporates so many different sounds into his work that it becomes a three ring circus, but in a good way. To me, it makes the listener jump around and listen to the different parts of the song. If I were to continue to describe every single sound in every single moment, it would take a while. Part of why I even decided to approach this song was because I have seen them perform it live so I know what every thing is and can confidently say, “Oh, this sound is this.” It’s a song that definitely requires a lot of listens to really hear everything. I’m still hearing things I didn’t realize were there and I’ve heard this since I was, again in kindergarten. The harpsichord is easy to over look, but not because it’s quiet. It’s overlook-able because of everything else going on around it. But that’s what makes this song beautiful.

Week 5

September 20, 2017

Song: “The Prologue” – Leonard Bernstein – Symphony No. 2, The Age of Anxiety

The first movement of Bernstein’s second symphony is calm and ever so slightly haunting. Not haunting in the conventional sense where one usually thinks, “Oh that’s creepy,” or “There’s something else here with us,” but haunting as in it thinks about the past, not a happy past, but not necessarily a sad past either. It reminds me of an opening to a classic black and white film. To me it sounds like someone contemplating the past and reflecting on the past.

The clarinets produce a sounds that gives the movement its contemplative tone. With only two (or three) clarinets playing, it creates an atmosphere of solitude. The first clarinet opens the piece by playing a melody that is constant throughout the movement. The notes are played slowly, while also being held. When the clarinets quiet the first time and come back with one of them playing on a higher octave (key?) while the others continue to play on the previous octave (key?), it is a bit unsettling. Not unsettling in a bad way, but unsettling because it’s not what you would expect. The clarinets were playing slowly with low notes and then one of them is playing a slightly higher note that doesn’t seem to match the others. It’s quite beautiful and reminds me of a contained, toned down chaos; I suppose this is a sort of dissonance. The higher notes don’t last for long though, they come back to the first melody. The clarinets sort of fade out again, and play the melody again and are then joined by what I think is the celesta. The celesta adds in sustaining notes to the backdrop and the tone changes to something dreamier, I would say whimsical but that’s not really the right word. There’s another wood wind coming in that has a higher pitch and is walking down the scale that’s being used. The clarinets meet it at the bottom and they are sent off with a note from the piano to signal the movement change.

September 21, 2017

Song: “An American in Paris” – George Gershwin

“An American in Paris” is a fun piece. It utilizes the whole orchestra and tells a story of someone walking down the street of Paris. It has parts with high energy, an allegro and vivace (hoping I phrased that right), while also having parts that are chilled out in an adagio. There’s some parts that have a spirited walking feel, an andante con brio (again, I’m hoping I’m using these terms right), but even then some of those walking parts sound like someone’s skipping or has a spring in their step.

The piece opens up with a lively sound. The strings are playing quick notes, the woodwinds are adding their voice with a light flourish of notes that could represent whistling. There’s a light pizzicato from a bass in the background. The bass adds in their voice as well as the percussion. There’s a lot going on within the first 40 seconds of the piece. It’s a busy street full of hustle and bustle. There’s car horns sounding off intermittently. The orchestra builds then drops into a quieter part. The tone chances from a busy street to a quieter street. The quiet doesn’t last long though and the orchestra returns to its lively tune. The orchestra plays a slightly toned down version of the beginning then swells back into the lively street with car horns. It trails off into a legato with the woodwinds being the main voice, the strings accompanying with soft drawn notes. The orchestra picks up again and it’s a wonderfully lively street again. The xylophone used adds in a voice that’s curious and looking around, it cuts off as if something has caught the person’s attention. Adding to that the brass rises and falls along the scale drawing the orchestra into a lively build, there’s a brief quiet where one of the woodwinds takes over, and then a return to the lively before moving into another quieter, calmer part. The woodwinds are again the dominant voice with the strings adding into the conversation. The strings play a pizzicato and take over as the dominant voice. Then the brass come in with a sort of strolling around tune. The percussion using wooden blocks to accent the tune as steps along a cobblestone path. It’s a nice relaxed tune, personally I visualize walking along River Street in Savannah, even though this is supposed to be set in Paris. It’s a light, relaxed strolling tune. None of the other parts of the orchestra are hurried, everyone is just going with the flow. The strings seem to be a predominant part along with the brass playing the continuous melody that comes in intermittently. The orchestra builds and the strings take over with a new melody that leads the orchestra into the next part of the piece. The orchestra moves into a build and sounds as if they’re climbing towards something. They come back with a large voice, the new melody being used and then a violin comes in with another tune. The brass comes in with some trotting notes. The woodwinds pick up and some of the lower brass come in. Then the orchestra picks up into another lively tune. It’s jolly and reminds me of the rack of an American Saddlebred (the rack is a gait, it’s actually a fifth gait so not every horse can do it, Saddlebreds can). It chills out into a quieter, calmer tune, then picks back up into the lively tune again. There’s another build into an energetic tune with the brass at the front before the strings take over again. There’s a small wind down before the orchestra launches into its final pass. The orchestra plays a nice concluding sound with everyone and fades into a string and a woodwind playing a melody followed by a tuba playing that same melody. Just when the listener thinks it’s over, a couple of woodwinds come back with some wood blocks to accent it and the orchestra gradually comes back into a lively street again with the car horns. The original tune comes back at a hurried pace and the piece concludes with the brass playing their bit, the woodwinds coming in for a quick moment and the orchestra playing as one large sound one more time with a drum roll out.

There are a lot of parts to this piece. It really is a fun one though. The instruments all add in their own personalities and really rounds out the piece.

Week 6

September 28, 2017

Song: “And I Will Kiss” – Underworld (featuring Dame Evelyn Glennie – Isles of Wonder

Last week after the ASO concert, I went poking around Spotify for orchestral pieces. Somewhere in my search, I got in my head that I wanted to listen to the 2012 London Olympic Opening Ceremony music from when the ceremony was depicting the Industrial Revolution, titled Pandemonium. I ended up watching it all on YouTube when I couldn’t find it, which led me to watch Sochi’s opening ceremony (it was a very Olympic weekend). Anyway, this is hands down, my favorite piece from the entire London Olympics. It is a long piece, about 17 minutes long, but to me it’s worth every second. (Side note: Can I just mention that J.K. Rowling was there reading from Peter Pan and then a giant Voldemort came out with the other classic British villains from British literature and then Mary Poppins came to save the children? That was an amazing segment and made for very interesting images.)

The album version of the song starts with an intro that wasn’t apart of the Opening Ceremony. The sounds of a crackling fire and other ambient sounds fill the intro with the occasional yell and strike of the drums. With one final yell, the drum beat picks up and the actual piece begins. It’s a simple song, and the beats and melodies don’t really change. As the drums go on a synth comes in to add to the beat. The synth fades out and is replaced by a deeper sound. Finally, another synth comes in and ads chords to the beat and gradually more sounds are added. It’s a piece that mixes artificial sounds with the raw sound of the drums. Around the 5 minute mark, vocals come back, calling and yelling before vocalizing to a set rhythm and pattern. The variation in the song comes from the vocals, the drums remain in a set beat and most of the modulations and synths follow the drum beat. There’s one synth that provides a melody that goes with the vocals. Around the 8 minute mark, the drums and various synths cut and the one synth that was following the vocals leads the piece into a lower energy, resting part. The vocals are replaced with whistling and it sounds like there’s a few steel drums playing the melody. (This moment was put in to remember the fallen from all the wars). Around the 9 minute mark, the original drums come back and the synth crescendos a little bit to create a build. The rhythm picks up and a few new synths come in, the vocals gradually come back. Around the 10 minute mark, there’s a different synth that takes over with the melody. At 11 minutes, a brass like sound comes in and plays the melody; it creates a slow build feeling even though the song isn’t really changing. Gradually the brassy sound gives way to another synth that takes over around the 12:30 mark. The new synth adds to the build and the strings that came in I really don’t know when, start playing their own build up. The drums are minimal and more in the back ground. The feeling is that something is going to happen. At the 14 minute mark, the build is more evident and the whistling comes back and is soon joined by the vocals. The drums are back to being in the thick of things. The vocals build up and the entire piece keeps building. Around the 16 minute mark, there’s a cymbal crash and the everything dies down again. The strings play the main melody/ chord progression, the whistling comes back with vocals to back it. The song fades out with a little bit of brass.

Again, it is a long song, but it’s an interesting song. Some things to keep in mind is that while the song was playing the Industrial Revolution was happening, so all the build up was being paired with smoke stacks coming up from the floor. I love this piece so much; it’s pops into my head constantly.

Song: “I Heard Wonders” – David Holmes

Continuing with the theme of the London Olympics, this song was used in the montage of the Olympic Torch run, beginning with the lighting in Greece and following the Torch all the way to the present, which at the time was in the hands of Jade Bailey on a boat driven by David Beckham. I found the song fitting for the montage and the journey of the Olympic Torch.

The song opens with a guitar riff that sticks with it throughout the whole song. The drums have a steady beat, there’s a keyboard playing a few chords and the melody. It’s a steady beat, but one that’s quick and easy to bop around to. The vocals aren’t over powering, they mix in with the band. It’s really easy to ignore the lyrics and just focus on the band. The drums cue when the band needs to play something else than just the beat. There’s a build around the 2:50 mark that builds back into the song’s basic beat and rhythm. It’s not a complex song, it’s just a simple song with a steady, consistent beat and pace. The song ends with the keyboard playing the melody it was playing pretty much the whole time.

This is one of few songs that has lyrics that I can have in the background while doing other things. It’s simple, basic and not complex in the slightest. I think it’s a great song to set to a montage and fits what it was used for.

Week 7

October 4, 2017

Song: “Pueri Hebraeorum” – Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina – Lent at Ephesus

The song sounds monophonic. There might be three groups of singer; one starts the song off higher on the scale, the second follows the first on the same key, then they are joined by the third group that sings lower on the scale. There seems to be a mix of syllabic and melismatic singing. The way the voices mix and mingle together is enchanting. The voices sound like they’re dancing with one another, passing around partners fluidly while still turning about in the ballroom. The beginning of the song reminds me of dancers bowing to their partners before moving to begin the dance. The song has consonance the whole time. The last 30 seconds of the song sounds has the voices in conversation with each other, rising and falling with the notes, blending in such a way that the listener hardly notices that the vocals come together on the same note to finish the song, like train pulling into a station, or a dressage rider coming in for their closing halt and salute.

October 7, 2017

Song: “Nunc aperuit nobis” – Hildegard von Bingen

The vocals are very malismatic. The singers sound like they are singing together and not in different section. It is peaceful and very pretty. There are some singers maintaining a note, so I suppose there is a drone of sorts. The notes flow together and blend very well with each other. It is easy to get lost in the song. Unlike the last song, where I visualized dancers, with this song, I visualize someone walking through a garden or the halls of a castle (or church, something old and stoney).

Week 8

October 11, 2017

Song: “Meat is Murder” – The Smiths – Meat is Murder

This song creeped me out, but I liked it. It was unsettling and slightly scary, but the song utilized sound in an interesting way. The point of the song is to bring attention to the meat packing industry and animal cruelty, but it drives home the point in such a way that it sticks with the listener. The long intro starts the song with the sounds of what could be a slaughter house or meat packing factory. The sound of the cow’s mooing paired with the sound of the saw is haunting. The drums and main melody slowly crescendos into the front while the factory sounds fades into the background. As the intro builds up to the song, the frequency of the saw and cow sounds increase just enough to make an impression on the listener. Even when the melody picks up, there’s still a sound that accompanies the band as a representation of a saw. The lyrical portion of the song has a heavy feel to it. It has dark, yet purposeful feel to it. After the vocals, the song moves into the outro. The cow moos come back, but instead of sounding like they are in the foreground, they sound distant and have a bit of an echo. The cow is joined by the baas of a sheep, who also sounds distant with an echo. The drums and guitar plays the song out and fades out leaving the listener with the sound of a saw blade as the last thing the listener hears.

The song has a consistent beat that sticks with the song for essentially the whole time. A few of the words in the song are accented. Phrases like, “This beautiful creature must die,” are sung clearly and are easy to understand. The word, “murder,” is also sung clearly and with a bit more force. There is a bit more bite to the deliverance of the final stanza of the song, especially in the line, “The flesh you so fancifully fry.”

Song: “Canon in D Major, P. 37” – Johann Pachelbel

It’s a popular wedding song that made an appearance in Disney’s “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement.” I knew this piece for years as, ‘that other wedding song that isn’t Here Comes the Bride.’ Hearing the piece from beginning to end is beautiful. It is a shame that the piece is often excerpted or shortened when it gets used in media. The piece starts out with a slow tempo, the theme of the piece is established in the first few bars. As the piece is played on the quartet comes together and each string plays their part. There’s a pizzicato from one of the strings in certain parts. There are moments where the violins(?) are making sounds that sound like flourishes, for me the visualization is birds shaking water from their feathers, and for a moment I wondered if it was just a string quartet playing. The amount of different sounds an instrument can make is very interesting. The piece cresendos and decresendos at parts, but it is done in such a way that you barley notice it if you’re listening to a different component of the piece and not paying attention. The piece is beautiful and varies in pitches, but the pace remains consistent.

Week 9

October 23, 2017

Song: “Mazurkas, Op. 7: No. 2 in A Minor” – Chopin

The ostinato in this song is the first couple of bars played at the beginning. It is played throughout the piece and is used as a way to bring the music back to focus. Chopin makes use of rubato throughout the piece, but it is easiest to pick out in the middle of the piece. The notes vary in how loudly and how softly they are played. The ostinato is played at the same tempo every time no matter what the tempo of the previous part was or what the tempo following it would be. I can hear the left hand playing a chords for the duration of the song, while the right plays the melody. There is a bar where both hands play the same notes, creating a louder, variant sound that is produced from the two different octaves being played. The song is a quiet song with flashes of energy.

Song: “The Body Electric” – Hurray For The Riff Raff

The first thing about this song that jumps out at me is the way the guitar is being strummed. It sounds like a relaxed strumming. Paired with the vocals, the song sounds like a relaxed conversation between the artist and the listener. The violin adds body to the song. The guitar plays the same chord progression for the duration of the song. The tempo stays the same during the song and is maintained by the guitar. How does the relationship between the “relaxed” sound and the violence of the lyrics work?

Week 10

October 26, 2017

Song: “Dance of the Sugar-Plum Fairy” – Tchaikovsky

The “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” is probably the piece that most people think of immediately when talking about “The Nutcracker,” if not then it’s probably the second or third (the other two are probably the “March” from Act 1 and the “Waltz of the Flowers” from Act 2). It’s recognizable and easy to recall. The piece is distinct, as are many of the other pieces within “The Nutcracker.” The opening bars of pizzicato are iconic as are the twinkling sounds of the celesta playing the beginning of the main theme of the piece. The piece is smooth with slight increases and slight decreases in tempo at times. The fluidity of the song can be attributed to the constant crescendo and decrescendo and how the piece moves up and down the scale. The celesta gives the piece a light, airy tone while the orchestra adds a purposeful tone to the piece. The last part of the piece is interesting because it doesn’t follow the same style that the rest of the piece does. It’s quick, with a skipping/trotting tempo that moves along the scale. It’s not rushed or hurried, but it is quick to end.

Song: “Pictures at an Exhibition: Promenade” – Mussorgsky

“Promenade” is played with a steady tempo with strong, purposeful strokes on the piano. The piece has a strong, important feel to it. The piano conveys the strength and importance, however the orchestra conveys both of those qualities while adding to it. When played by an orchestra, the piece gains a regal tone from the beginning brass that is maintained by the strings. The orchestra adds body to the piece; the various sections give it dimension and depth. While the piano can convey strength and purpose, the sounds a piano makes lacks a certain element that gives it an edge when conveying those two qualities. With the orchestra, it is also easier to hear the different threads of the piece (orchestration). The piece begins with the brass playing the main theme of the piece. The strings play the same part after the brass and flow into a different melody. The brass comes in and together the two sections play the theme.

Week 11

November 2, 2017

Song: “IX. Contest With The Supposed Magicians” – Strauss

“Contest” is a short piece, but it tells a tale of Don Quixote. In Strauss’ tone poem, Don Quixote is represented by solo cello that plays a theme that is boisterous and noble. Sancho Panza is represented by a solo viola. The piece begins with Don Quixote and Sancho Panza wandering around on their adventures. It is a loud vigorous beginning to the piece with the strings and trombones playing fast and furious. Then the scene changes to the pair of monks conversing as they walk. The monks are represented by a pair of bassoons that are played softly. The bassoons converse with one another and have a smooth, gentle tone to them. However, once Don Quixote sees the monks, he sees them as evil wizards and chases them off. This is illustrated as a few bars of pizzicato from the cello that crescendos into a vigorous ending. The cello is joined by the rest of the strings while the bassoons continue to play. The final sound is grand, yet chasing. The piece moves from imagination, to reality, to imagination and reality crashing together.

Song: “6 Little Piano Pieces, Op. 19: No. 1 Leicht, zart” – Schoenberg

I chose this piece because it was the first piece I had ever heard by Schoenberg. I found it odd yet intriguing when I first heard it. I didn’t really know anything about what Schoenberg might have been doing when I first heard the piece. I thought it was utter madness for it to be on a Spotify playlist (Modernism 50: Spotify Picks). The broken notes that sounded like incomplete thoughts were odd to my ears. But I liked it. There was something within me that was trying to tell me that it was ‘wrong,’ that it didn’t match the concept I had of classical music. After today’s class, I get why my brain was trying to tell me that it was ‘wrong.’ I had never heard of expressionism before and had no idea that the madness was the point of it. Over the course of the semester, I found myself continuously drawn to any dissonance within the pieces we’d listen to. When I stumbled across Schoenberg about two months ago, I recognized the obvious dissonance, but didn’t know why it was so dissonant with only a couple bars of what is just barely consonance. I find it beautiful.  I’m glad M&C is helping make these types of connections for you! 

Week 12

November 8, 2017
Song: “Rite of Spring: Sacrificial Dance – The Chosen Victim” – Stravinsky

The piece is organized, yet slightly chaotic. The intensity of the violins’ strokes and the harshness of the drums give the piece a wild feel to it. Taken out of context of the piece being a part of primitivism, I would say this piece has a primal feel to it. What I mean by primal isn’t the sense of “oh it’s representative of a time before civilization,” I mean that it reminds me of life before what we consider “civilized.” Maybe it’s because I’m knee deep in what various philosophers consider natural law and the state of nature (Core 201, yay…), but to me, if you take out the primitivism part, it is a piece that goes back to civilization, before “civilization.” The only reason that our society today is “civilized” is because we have lines painted on a road, take away those painted lines and chaos ensues (ever seen a parking lot without lines? It’s chaos, complete chaos). That’s what this piece means to me at least, searching for a parking spot in a lot without lines.

November 9, 2017
Song: “Dido and Aeneas Z.626: Act III, Thy hand, Belinda/When I am laid in earth (Dido)” – Henry Purcell

I’m a Phantom fan. So all my previous knowledge about opera comes from whatever gets mentioned in Phantom. That said. I enjoyed this aria. In theater, ok Shakespeare, I’m familiar with the long, drawn out death scenes (I love Hamlet, but he takes forever to die at the end), so the final words, death song wasn’t my first rodeo. Still, it’s a nice piece. The vocals range in pitches. Sometimes, the vocalist has low notes, and then she jumps to a higher note. There’s a bit of melisma in the song. When she sings, “Remember me, but Ah! forget my fate,” there’s melisma while she sings “Ah!” Meanwhile, in that last verse, she gradually gets higher in her notes, leading to her death. The accompaniment is also very expressive, it plays a slow lament while also conveying that Dido is saying all of what she’s saying with her last breath.

Week 13

November 15, 2017
Song: “Ride of the Valkyries” – Wagner

I’ve heard parts of this piece for years. I never knew what it was called though, until now. Amazing how songs get detached from their historical and musical contexts, isn’t it? In Norse myth, the Valkyries were women who decided who died in battle and who lived and of those who died, which half would get taken to Valhalla. The strings convey that the setting is dangerous, or rough, while the brass convey that there’s a job that needs to be done. The beginning of the piece sounds like the Valkyries approaching the battle field, then moves to them beginning to do their duty of choosing who lives and who dies. It gradually leads up to the Valkyries leaving the battle field with the dead who will be delivered to Valhalla. The piece is interesting, and has a fierceness to it.

November 16, 2017
Song: “Poor Fool, He Makes Me Laugh” – Phantom of the Opera – Andrew Lloyd Webber

I’ve been waiting all semester for this moment. I was listening to Phantom this morning while I was doing math and this particular song stuck out to me. It’s interesting because it has never sparked my attention before. For whatever reason, this time the song grabbed my attention this time and I’m glad it did. I chose the recording from the 25th Anniversary performance at the Royal Albert because Ramin Karimloo is my favorite Phantom and to me it’s the best of the recorded albums. The bass notes from the orchestra are deeper and the sound of the orchestra in general is darker.

This is one of the last songs in the first act of the show. It begins in the middle of the production the opera house is putting on and the phantom disrupts the performance by expressing his displeasure about his box being taken. “Did I not instruct that Box 5 was to be kept empty?!” The music cuts while the performance gets their bearings of course that’s not the end of the Phantom’s meddling. Carlotta is suddenly overcome with frog noises (implied that the Phantom causes it in retaliation to Carlotta’s comment to Christine). The show is stopped and the owners say that Christine will take over Carlotta’s role while in the meantime the ballet from act 3 will be performed. The music for the ballet starts and plays while the dancers dance the ballet. Meanwhile, the keeper of the flies is then murdered by the Phantom and the scene ends with chaos and panic ensuing from the sight of the keeper hung from the rafters of the opera house.

To be honest, this is one of my favorite moments in the show. The drama of it when I saw it in New York was amazing. While the ballet was dancing, they projected shadows of the Phantom periodically to show that he was up to something, before dropping the body of the keeper from the rafters. I’ll never forget that sight, the dummy dropping from the rafters, and then just swinging there from the rope. It was quite the sight. In the touring show, they just turn the stage a bit so the audience can see what’s going on and the actor is simply lifted into the air for a bit before being found. To me it takes the drama out of it, but that’s beside the point.

Musically, this song is amazing. To me, Webber is a fantastic composer. I’ve heard enough of his works to know which notes and bars he favors, so it’s always interesting to listen one of his shows, hear a bar, and have my mind jump to a different show of his (it happens often). The music for the show the opera house is putting on is light and airy, to me it sounds like he went for something that sounded baroque, but I could be wrong. It’s strings heavy, with a few horns and woodwinds. However, whenever the Phantom starts stirring things up, the tone changes into a heavier, darker tone. There’s the repeated bass note from a keyboard, the strings play a rapid tremolo. The music fades out as the characters address one another and then picks up again when Carlotta says to continue. Of course the frog sounds Carlotta makes in the next bit of the song contrasts against the pretty tune the orchestra is playing. The tempo picks up as the Phantom laughs and the cello picks up with its own low notes. It cuts out as the opera owners comes on stage and addresses the audience. The music continues with the ballet, another light, airy tune with elements from the song Carlotta was just singing. Of course when the Phantom starts doing his thing, the dark tones that follow the Phantom begin to take over the light tones of the ballet. The drum starts softly then crescendos, bringing with it a few of the horns. During the crescendo, the strings loses it’s consonance as the darker tones take over. Consonance is consumed by dissonance that erupts into the Phantom’s main bars. The brass picks up with the telltale Duuun-Duhduhduhduh-duuh. The orchestra shifts into what will be revealed in act 2 as the Phantom’s Don Juan, as chaos ensues on stage. It’s quite beautiful. While the dissonance doesn’t last for long, the chaos that it brings remains until the scene changes.

To me, this song is a piece that shows what Webber can do with two different tones. The way he slides in the Phantom’s tones to signal that something is going to happen is seamless and to me, the way dissonance consumes consonance, creates chaos, but having chaos remain once dissonance has gone away is brilliant. I’ve heard consonance within dissonance and dissonance within consonance, but aside from Webber, I have yet to head one consume the other. I could wax poetic about Webber and his shows all day, but I think this is enough. (Really, I’m sure I could write an entire paper about Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. [Side note: my favorite overture is the one from the movie. The drop with the brass taking over towards the end as the orchestra gets ready to build into the final bars, amazing.]

You have been very consistent and extremely detailed in your journal entries. In many ways, this is a model listening journal. I appreciate both the enthusiasm and attention to musical specifics you record each week. Keep it up through the final weeks’ entries. –ST 11/27

Week 14

Thursday, November 30, 2017

I really did mean to do this over the break, but for whatever reason that didn’t happen. However, I still wanted to write something, so I am.

Song: “We are the World” – 1985 and 2010
Video links: 1985 and 2010

This is perfect for Thanksgiving. It’s such a beautiful song. It was written and produced in 1985 to raise money for United Support of Artists for Africa. The song included key artists from the time, artists like Michael Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Steve Perry, and so many more. The song was the same lyrics over and over so it was easy for everyone to learn. The song was written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson, planned by Herry Belafonte, and produced by Quincy Jones. The song helped raise $75 million for the charity to contribute to famine relief, women’s health and childcare, and so much more. It’s a beautiful example of how an entire industry can come together for a great cause. Alternatively, 25 years after, with the goal of raising money for Haiti after the earthquake, artists across genres came together and produced this song again. Pop, rock, hip hop, country, artists came together once again to support a cause. The new production of the song included a new rap verse for the hip hop artists (which was great to see actually). Michael Jackson died a few weeks before the song’s release, but his material from the 1985 recording sessions was incorporated into the song and music video. His sister, Janet Jackson, sang a duet with him in the song. Of course, since it’s 2010, auto tune is also incorporated into the song. T-Pain is given a solo, so the auto tune was real. But the song didn’t do as well as it did the first time. Part of it is because anyone can google various charities to donate to. Critics judged the song harshly and negatively, but the public enjoyed it.

Song: “Shadowland” – Lion King Broadway

This is one of my favorite songs from the Lion King Broadway show. I went with my Mom to the Disney Broadway Live concert ASO put on. Four actors from New York performed various songs from Disney’s Broadway musicals. Among the various songs, Shadowland was sung during the Lion King portion. It was interesting to see how the song was performed without a giant set and cast. Jenn Gambatese, Kissy Simmons, Josh Strickland, and Alton Fitzgerald White performed. Kissy Simmons was who sung Shadowland. She was Nala at one point in the actual show and that past performance showed in this live performance. Her demeanor changed, suddenly Kissy wasn’t there and Nala was in her place. Her movements were those of a lion. Her voice was clear and powerful. The symphony played behind her, I watched the percussionists and saw the bongos being played and looked over to the timpani and noticed it was being played, so I, reluctantly, switched my attention from Kissy to listening for the timpani and it’s there. There were a few moments within the show overall where a sound that I know is there was drowned out by the other instruments, which happens in live performances. I had fun watching one of the double bass guys put his bass down and pick up his guitar and just rock out to what ever song was being performed, he was having a blast. All of ASO looked like they were having fun, the conductor, Michael Krajewski, would look behind him occasionally to see what the performers were doing. He got really invested during one of the duets. It was interesting to see everything being played in front of me instead of down in a pit. I do have a habit of looking into the pit during a show because sometimes I loose interest in the middle and need to look at something else, which is why I’m always in the balcony or somewhere I can easily see the pit. It was nice, not having to look into a pit and just looking behind the four performers to see the ASO.

Overall my holiday was filled with music. As I read and studied for classes, I had Christmas music in the background. Lindsey Sterling’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Carol of the Bells” were often heard, as well as her rendition of “All I Want for Christmas.” There was a lot of jazz Christmas piano for me last week. After the concert, I went on a Broadway bender and ended up listening to Les Miserables in French. Of course I eventually grew bored of my Christmas Study playlist and switched back to my Doctor Who filled Study playlist, which fit the book I was reading really well… things like that happen to me sometimes. I once listened to my chronological playlist of Muse while reading One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and every time I tuned back into my music, the song matched the text. It was awesome and slightly creepy at the same time (the Drones album though, that matched the WHOLE book). Anyway, that was my holiday.

Week 15

Thursday, November 30, 2017
Song: “Imagine” – John Lennon

The part the stuck out to me was the first stanza of lyrics.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky

Those lyrics stuck out to me and stuck with me. I might have something to do with the fact that in Core 201 we just read C.S. Lewis’ That Hideous Strength, but those four lines of lyrics spoke to me. I wrote those lyrics down in my notes on this song too. Anyway, the song.

The opening piano is soft and the tone sounds contemplative. Lennon’s voice also sounds contemplative with a bit of hope. The drum and bass beats are barely there, it is obvious that the piano and lyrics are being framed and highlighted. The song is an easy song to listen to, it’s very relaxing. The piano tune doesn’t change and the drums don’t add flourishes into the song like I’ve heard in other songs. Lennon’s words are lost in the instrumentation, if anything his words are very clear. Overall, it’s a song that asks to be listened to and thought about.

Song: “Sound of Silence” (Acoustic Version) – Simon and Garfunkel

Okay, so funny (not really that funny) story. My dad plays guitar, well I say plays more like strums and plays notes that make sense, and finds things to practice playing on his guitar. So one afternoon, I hear “Hello darkness, my old friend” from the guitar, and I’m like, “Okay, dad’s playing his guitar.” Then I hear that one line again, and again, and again, for about half an hour or so. He played that one line for a week straight at the same time everyday for the same amount of time. I went nuts for a week. Picture it, that same strums over and over again, “Hello darkness my old friend,” pause, “Hello darkness my old friend,” pause, repeat. Anyway, that’s my little anecdote, on to my thoughts about the song!

I prefer this acoustic version of the song because it fits the song more. To me the later version of the song sounds forced. Like the added life to it was an after thought, which in a way it was. But the way the song is written, both musically and lyrically, it’s made to fit the acoustic form of a song rather than a livelier form. I can hear more emotion from Simon and Garfunkel in the acoustic version, where I don’t really notice anything in the other song. I’m also more focused on the lyrics in the acoustic version because there are only two things to listen to, the guitar or Simon and Garfunkel, whereas in the other version I’m listening to the band and not the lyrics. Simon and Garfunkel sound forced in the other version whereas in the acoustic, they seem to be easy in their recording of the song and at ease. Bottom line, in my opinion, there’s too much going on in the other version which detracts from the lyrics of the song.

Week 16

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Song: “Bohemian Rhapsody” – Queen

I used to not like this song. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it. I thought it sounded all over the place. Of course now I know what a rhapsody is and the song makes a bit more sense. It has different sections each with its own feel. The intro is done in a cappella, following that is a ballad, then a guitar solo, and then an opera like section. That section morphs into the rock section that was used in the music section of the London Olympics Opening Ceremony (such a great part of the ceremony). Of course after the rock part comes the outro, returning to the original tempo and modulation.

Socially, the song is thought by many to be the coming out song of Freddie Mercury and holds a spot of importance within the LGBT+ community. Many music executives told Queen that the song would never sell or be a success because it was “too long,” clocking in at almost 6 minutes. Other musicians who heard the song said it would never be played on the radio. However, Roy Thomas Baker, the producer, and the band got around this by playing the song in full to radio DJ Kenny Everett. They gave Everett the song on the condition that he never play it, he agreed with a wink, and teased his listeners with pieces of the song. The demand for the song increased and Everett ended up playing the full song 14 times in 2 days. Fans tried to buy the song but it wasn’t out yet. That same week, an American DJ heard the song on Everett’s show and managed to get a copy and played it on his own show. The Band’s record label was then forced to release the song and it was hit. The song hit number one twice in the UK with the same version.

Personally, now that I understand the song, I like it enough. It’s not one that usually gets stuck in my head (I often wake up with a song in my head), but the appeal is there.

Song: “Alexander Hamilton” – Hamilton – Lin Manuel Miranda

I finally decided in my stubborn head, to really give Hamilton a go. So one afternoon in the middle of the semester, I listened to Hamilton, really listened. I got through the first act and decided that it was in fact a great show. The rap and hip hop elements of the show were what threw me for a loop for years. I’m not a big hip hop person so every time I’d give it a listen, that’s all I heard. But once I decided to really give it a go, I wasn’t blocked by its elements. It’s an interesting show, I certainly learned something. Did you know he’s one of two people to be on our money who WASN’T a President? The other is Benjamin Franklin. It’s an interesting show, one that I have to finish… I only listened to the first act before I had to do something else. That’s the problem with streaming, you listen to what you want and just leave the rest.

That’s all for my listening journal. I’ll add to the music tab whenever I feel the need to write about music (duh). Hope you enjoyed my entire semester crammed into one post. I really did love that class.

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