Sunday, November 29, 2015

Listening Journal, Week 6

Week 6 listening may have been the most diverse grouping of music that we have had for this course. In order to better compare and contrast different music, I have grouped similar-styled music together. The first three songs are rocks songs.  All three tell stories through the lyrics.  Crocodile Rock, performed by Elton John, brings back a 1950's jukebox type of feel through the chord progressions as well as the instrumentation.  The song lyrics even mention the 1950's hit, Rockin' Around the Clock and how the couple in the song were singing Crocodile Rock.  The hook of this song is the point where the singer is singing "la la la".  While this song is quite short, the next two songs are much longer.  Hotel California, performed by the Eagles, is a much more laid back tempo, which uses the same chords throughout.  The song, like Stairway to Heaven, begins with a lengthy instrumental introduction.  There are many verses in Hotel California (I counted 10).  I especially find it interesting that the band uses the guitar to tell the story as well, including the ending of the story.  Stairway to Heaven, performed by Led Zeppelin, uses the instrumental interludes to connect different sections of the song.  Our text indicates that the instrumental sections are labeled as "x".  The song gains intensity by speeding up the tempo as well as thickening the instrumentation.  The piece ends with a vocal solo unaccompanied.  

The next two songs are both forms of Latin music.  I listed to Oye Como Va, performed by Santana and Pedro Navaja, performed by Willie Colon and Ruben Blades.  Both songs have grooves established toward the beginning.  Oye Como Va eases its way into a groove by starting with keyboards and bass, followed by drums and guiro.  Oye Como Va is sung in unison by the band, which is the only vocals of the song.  Most of the music features the guitar and one moment where there is an improvised organ solo.  Pedro Navaja has many sound effects in the background.  Like Oye Como Va, there is a lot of material that is played multiple times.  This song has many key changes and also adds trombones about half way through.  My favorite part is the quote of "Maria" from Leonard Bernstein's West Side Story.  

I listened to two country songs this week.  These songs have very different tempos, but use much of the same instrumentation.  Thank God I'm a Country Boy, performed by John Denver, begins with hand claps and the soloist.  The fiddle, bass, and piano join the soloist after the first verse and the tambourine is added later.  The lyrics are very rhythmic and have a lot of syncopation as well as rhyming.  There are several spots where the music holds, just before the singer sings the title.  Poncho and Lefty, sung by Townes Van Zandt, begins with just him and an acoustic guitar.  The verses all differ slightly.  Verse two adds a fiddle, and verse three reports the last part of the chord progression.  The piece slows down and ends abruptly.  

The next three tunes are all performed by African-American artists.  These three styles are different from each other.  There are similarities:  Each song has an established beat that works for dancing.  Each song is very rhythmically entertaining either through the lyrics, the accompanying rhythm, or both.  Superstition, by Stevie Wonder, is one of my favorite all-time songs.  The song starts with the drum set and is join by an electric guitar solo.  Wonder sings the title right away.  Each verse sounds the same, however, the instrumental interludes and accompaniments change through the addition of the the brass and saxophones.  As the piece ends, the instruments play pieces of material that were introduced earlier in the song.  Love to Love You Baby, performed by Donna Summer, is a very long song that has many sexual overtones.  The beat is established immediately and never changes tempo.  The guitar plays a funk riff that is heard throughout and the vocal part is very short and is certainly the hook to the entire song.  There was a lot down with layering and voice-over.  Like most dance music, the song is very repetitive in order to keep the dancing going for awhile.  The Message, performed by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, is a story about what it is like to live in the inner city.  Like most rap, the lyrics rhyme a lot and contain a lot of syncopated rhythms.  The accompaniment is drums and keyboards.  It is amazing how far rap has come since it's early days in the 1970's and 1980's.

The final song that was included in my listening does not really fit with the above music.  I suppose this is fitting since it is considered punk rock and was designed to not fit in.  Like a lot of alternative music, the vocal sounds whiny and tends to sound frustrated, especially as the song progresses.  While most music, including much of the music listed above, uses the title of the song as a hook, Psycho Killer, performed by the Talking Heads, does not.  The hook of the song is actually the repeated "Fa fa fa fa fa . . . " in the chorus of the song.  Toward the end of the song, the instruments end the tune with an array of dissonant chords as well as balance in the right speaker to the left.  

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