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Archive for March, 2010

Journal Entry #3: Hijacked Hits

In Michael Coyle’s essay, he explains the difference between cover songs and hijacking songs. It had been a popular method for white artists during the 50s to gain sales and reputation by hijacking, or exploiting, the talents of black musicians. Covering songs, however, is different from the term hijacking because it refers to another artist who interprets the song and gives an homage to it. Covering songs takes the original artist’s work and they are able to atleast give credit back the original artist and make their own interpretation of it , however hijacking is a different story. Hijacking hits was a primary way for white artists to exploit the talents of the black artists, which at the time was a highly controversial subject because they weren’t given the same equality in social justice and therefore racism was carried over to many areas including the music industry.

What I feel after reading this article was that covering songs involve a much more deeper connection to the artist who’s covering it and the original song. A good example of this would be to think about the top orchestras in the world today – they perform classical music by composers that lived centuries ago. However, every orchestra’s playing of a Beethoven symphony is not exactly the same as the other orchestra. That’s because the conductors take their time to analyze the music but at the same time they give their own interpretation to the music – as if they are trying to convey their own “this-is-how-I-feel-when-I-listen-to-this” style. It doesn’t digress completely away from the original intention of it (like hijacking would do) but it takes the music and gives it a more thought-out approach. For example : “Why do I feel this way when I hear that piece? Well because I believe that’s how Beethoven intended to convey to the audience and I will show you why. To me this song is about ____.” Therefore artists who cover songs can give it a new twist – play it either fast or slow, pop-y or not, theres still atleast some acknowledgment and link to its original format.

A more modern example would be a band named Deadsy who did a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” (and also Rush’s “Tom Sawyer”). What I’ve noticed (other than the fact that they do credit the original band for the song) is that even though the original was a more upbeat faster song, Deadsy had decided to give it a more slow, laid back and industrial twist to it (and also played around with some synthesizing).  Although the two styles are a bit different, the Deadsy cover doesn’t completely ignore the fact that the song has to stay true in its vocal, guitar and bass lines. But their more artistic and interpretive approach was that they are able to incorporate a synthesizer keyboard which does small improvs on top of the melody.

Authenticity is such a raised issue today that many people can regard “taking another person’s song” as distasteful (such as sampling also). But I feel that authenticity is important, but what also is important is that we, as listeners and musicians, are able to take what we hear and improve on it. Afterall, classic western music composers centuries ago did this in some of their famous works in order to pay homage to another artists’ work. (For example, Beethoven has dedicated many of his early piano sonatas to his famous predecessors, Mozart and Haydn. He incorporated their style, themes, melodies into his works.) But back then, it was considered an intellectual thing to do!

Journal Entry #2: Bebop

In Eric Porter’s writing he attempted to define the origins and influences of the bebop movement that developed during the 1940s. He describes bebop as “rapid tempos, dissonant chords and melodic lines, tritone and other chordal substitutions, extensive chromaticism, offbeat piano accompaniment, walking bass lines, polyrhythmic drumming … and a focus on extended, improvised soloing on the front-line instruments.” Coming from the end of World War II, African Americans felt that they needed equality especially since some of them have served for the country over the war period. Music, then, became a way to protest and also a way for one performer to speak to his audience about the changing times.

Porter viewed the era as “a product of collective orientation, if not a cohesive movement”” because bebop had defied the social trend of the blues and added intellectuality along with artistic approaches.  It became an aesthetic development, meaning it had beauty that was related to the high art category. It also reflected the black life, attitudes and politics that happened during the period. In Porter’s work, he brought in many names that had once tried to define and interpret Bebop, stating that it was an uprising from the African American community that opposed to the normal “jazz came from Africa” idea.

Bebop musicians did not want to fit into the stereotype they had created bebop that lets soloists freely improvise and play on the music. This creates a sense of individualism where the soloist stands out highlighting his or her musical talent and virtuosity. This idea reminded me of how bebop is heavily related to classical western music as well – music during an earlier time also had emphasized improvisation. During the Renaissance some singers actually improvised along with other vocalists, especially in secular music – that is, music that wasn’t related to the church or the liturgy. During the time musicians sang in groups and in certain cases some vocalists had to improvise on the spot as they performed in the public. From then on, Mozart had also done a lot of improvisations on older works and he was able to improvise on the spot while he performed at an early age displaying his genius which ultimately led to his father’s investment in his musical talent and put him on tour all around Europe. Concertos were created so that soloists of a particular instrument (i.e. Mozart’s Oboe Concerto in C, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, etc.)  are able to show off his or her virtuosic talent. Although parts where soloists performed in concertos were previously written by the composer, it also – in a sense – demonstrates the composer’s ability to take a musical idea and develop it – adding alot of technical difficulty for the soloist. The musical term cadenza is when a soloist is able to play on his or her own freely – and improvise – usually before the conclusion of a piece. Cadenzas are present in concertos and dates way back into the days of J.S. Bach and his famous Brandenburg Concertos. Not only were cadenzas only present in classical instrumental music but it was also present in some of the Arias that are part of opera pieces.

It is interesting to see how Bebop ties in with early classical music – the whole idea of improvisation and the display of high technical talent of the performer. This emphasis on the individual rather than just a bunch of musicians playing in an orchestra or band is significant as it represented social transformation for a group of people but can be viewed, much like in classical performances, as the emphasis and stress on the individual. The difference other than the eras was that during the classical age it was not to protest (like the bebop era during the 40s). But both are similar in that the soloist is able to send a message, musically, to its audiences through his or her own spotlight.

Final Research Paper Topic

What is known is that boy bands are usually three to six members in a group that are physically appealing to the public in terms of looks and dress. The demographic and target audience for boy bands usually tend to be teenage girls. The band members sing together in songs usually one by one or by creating vocal harmonies that resembles the arrange of a small choir – the only difference is you don’t have an SATB chorus, but most likely voices that make up the bass, a baritone, tenor or counter tenor since they are male. Although boy bands are sometimes disregarded as a significant or “innovative” subject when it comes to music, it is also important that we understand arranging vocals that give a certain “sound” when put together is extremely difficult – not to mention the fact that the singers in the boybands have to be able to sing ALONG with one another on different pitches. Usually when you have a vocalist he or she is just one voice carrying the melody against the musical accompaniment, but when you have more than one voice singing in harmony it is actually harder than singing solo. What comprises of a GOOD harmonic vocal arrangement is the ability for the singers to be able to listen to the other voices in his/her surroundings and be able to pick out specifically the note that he or she must sing in order to complete the harmony. It is not an easy thing to do especially coming from an experienced choral/group singer such as myself.

On my final research paper I would like to discuss the rise of boy bands and how it had influenced a whole generation of teenage culture and especially teenage girl culture during the 90s (and also some early on). I would also like to discuss what influenced or gave rise to these boy band trends and how did it change our teenage life, beliefs and social life.

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