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Analyzing Music

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Autor:  tasha129082  04 December 2008
Tags:  Analyzing Music,  Music
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Music on one of the most powerful of the arts partly because sounds – more than any other sensory stimulus – create in us involuntary reactions, pleasant or unpleasant. It may be difficult to connect analysis with the experience of listening to music, but everyone's listening, including performer's, benefits through understanding of some of the fundamentals of music.

Music can be experienced in two basic ways: hearing and listening. Hearers do not attempt to perceive accurately either the structure or the details of the music. They hear a familiar melody, which may trigger associations with the composer, time era, or places dedicated to the song. Aside from melody, little else, such as details or chord progression, is heard.

The listeners, however, concentrate their attention upon the many elements of the music. They observe the form, details, and structure of the music, focusing upon the form that created the content. They listen for something – the content. Even the most avid listeners will be hearers under certain circumstances. No one is always up for concentrated attention.

In order to continue, some important terms and concepts must be introduced to arrive to a clear discussion of music. Some of the basic musical terms include tone, consonance, dissonance, rhythm, tempo, melody, counterpoint, harmony, dynamics, and contrast. Each one is essential to the analysis of music. Most music contains at least one, if not all, of these variations within a piece of music. That is primarily what creates a pleasant or unpleasant experience.

If music is like the other arts, it has a content that is achieved by the form's transformation of subject matter. However, some critics have denied that music has a subject matter, while others suggest so many different possibilities can create utter confusion. Two theories that Humanities Through the Arts identifies are "two basic kinds of subject matter: feelings and sound." (Martin)

It is difficult for music to refer to objects or events outside itself. Therefore, it is difficult to think of music as having some kind of subject matter, just as a painting or sculpture might have. Composers have tried to avoid this limitation by a number of means. One is to use sounds that imitate sounds heard outside of music. Another means is a program, usually in the form of a descriptive title, written description, or an accompanying narrative.

Feelings are composed of emotions, sensations, moods, and passions. Any awareness of our sense organs being stimulated is a sensation. Emotions are strong sensations felt a related to a specific stimulus. Passions are emotions elevate to great intensity. Moods, however, are sensations that arise from no specific stimulus. Moods are normally aroused by emotions and passions, mixing in with them so thoroughly that we are unaware of their origin. This is often the result when we listen to music.

Music seems to be able to interpret and clarify our feeling primarily because the structure of music parallel with the structure of feelings. Music can change an individual's state of mind, attitude, and tone just by the beats of a melody. It can sadden or excite its audience and enhance their viewing pleasure. A study conducted by the Institute of Hearth Math investigated the impact of different types of music on tension, mood, and mental clarity. They found that when listening to grunge rock music, significant increases were found in hostility, sadness, tension, and fatigue, and significant reductions were observed in caring, relaxation, mental clarity, and vigor. In contrast, after listening to the designer music, significant increases in caring, relaxation, mental clarity, and vigor and significant decreases were found in hostility, fatigue, sadness, and tension. The results for New Age and classical music were mixed. Feeling shifts among subjects were observed with all types of music. (www.hearthmath.org).

Nevertheless, how can music interpret feelings? First of all, music can possess an exceptional power of sound that evokes those feelings. Second, feeling is heightened when a tendency to respond is in some way stopped or inhibited. Musical stimuli activate tendencies that are frustrated by deviations from the expected, followed by meaningful resolutions. We hear a tone and find it lacking something that resolves it "needfulness."

Thirdly, it may be that musical structures possess more than just one general resemblance to the structures of feelings. "The tonal structure we call ‘music' bear a close logical similarity to the forms of human feelings – forms of growth and attenuation, flowing and stowing, conflict and resolution, speed, arrest, terrific excitement, calm, or subtle activation and dreamy lapses – no joy and sorrow perhaps, but the poignancy of either vitally felt. Such is the pattern, or logical form, of sentience, and the pattern of music is that same form worked out in pure, measured sound and silence. Music is a tonal analogue of emotive life." (Langer)

These structures of the close similarity between the structure of music and feelings are fairly convincing because they are extreme. Most listeners would agree that some music can be associated with gloomy moods, and others associated with exhilaration. Undoubtedly, these associations are the result of cultural conventions that we unconsciously accept. However, perhaps within music there is the basis of all these associations. Bouncy music would not evoke feelings of peace, but rather of happiness. Likewise, soft vibrating string instruments would not evoke the feeling of happiness, but of calm. The associations of feelings with music do not seem to be entirely conventional, but are made because music sounds the way feelings feel. No art reaches into our life or felling more deeply than music.

Apart form feelings, sound might also be thought of as one of the subject matters of music, because in some music it may be that the form gives us insight to sounds. This is somewhat similar to the claim that colors may be the subject matter of some abstract painting. However, the similarity of a tone of music to a tone in the nonmusical world is rarely perceived in music that emphasizes tonal relationships. In such music, the individual tone usually is so caught up it its relationship with other tones that any connection with sounds outside the music seem irrelevant.

Tonal relationships in most music are very different in their context from the tones of the nonmusical world. However, music that does not emphasize tonal relationships gives us insight into the sounds that are noises rather than tones. Since we are surrounded by noises of all kinds, we usually turn them off so they do not distract us. That is why we are surprise and sometimes delighted when a composer introduces such noise into a musical composition, and for once, we listen to rather than them away, therefore discovering these noises to be quite interesting.

As you already know, different kinds of music initiate different moods and can create different mental pictures that vary from person to person. There is a multitude of music, such as rap, Christian praise and worship, country, classical, jazz and rock. Each style is distinctly different from the others. In this essay, we will look at six different types of music and analyze the pictures created when listening to each cut of music.

Worship, as described by Webster's dictionary is "to regard with great or extravagant respect, honor, or devotion. Therefore, Christian praise and worship is the joyful thanking and adoring of God, the celebration of His goodness and grace. "raise and worship music is a type of prayer" (www.spiritprayer.com) placed into piece of music. When I listened to "Shout to the Lord" by Darlene Zschech, I envisioned the entire world shouting and praising his wonderful name, singing for joy at the marvelous works He has done. Mountains bowed down and the seas roared at the sound of his name. The entire world proclaimed their love to their God, who they love to worship and serve.

Country music is "a type of American popular music associated with rural culture and the Southern region of the United States." (www.thelazyc.org.uk). The musical instruments used in each piece vary with each type of country music, but some are common to nearly all country groups.

The story told in songs is an important part of country music. Many country songs today use direct language and realistic situations to describe the real concerns of adults. Most country songs are about love and romantic feelings. Many are happy songs, but some explain the feelings of loneliness, loss, and separation that result when love or romance ends, or when married couples are unfaithful. Some country songs are about work. Others express sacred themes, reflecting the importance of religion in Southern life. Some country songs are about events in the news, and some are humorous. Many old folk tunes are still sung in country music.

Styles vary from one style of country music to another. For example, bluegrass and other "mountain music" styles feature a high-pitched, nasal singing tone. Other singers sound like pop music vocalists.

When listening to "Mr. Mom" by Lonestar, I envisioned a stay-at-home day rushing around the house, chasing children. Diapers are everywhere, and bubble gum is in the baby's hair. Dad goes to the football and soccer games, leaving enough time for PTA. He looks at the grocery list left by his wife that is seven pages long. Smoke starts coming from the oven in a failed attempt to bake a cake. The kids eat it anyway. He will look for a job one more time. He has to pay the bills, and wonders how his wife ever managed to do all the things he has had to do as "Mr. Mom."

Jazz is "a type of music first developed by African Americans around the first decade of the 20th century that has an identifiable history and distinct stylistic evolution." (www.encarta.msn.com). Performers of jazz improvise within the conventions of their chosen style. Typically, the improvisation is accompanied by the repeated chord progression of a popular song or an original composition. Instrumentalists emulate black vocal styles, including the use of glissandi, nuances of pitch, and tonal effects such as growls and wails. In striving to develop a personal sound, performers create rhythms characterized by constant syncopation and by swing. The typical instrumentation begins with a rhythm section consisting of piano, string bass, drums, and optional guitar, to which may be added any number of wind instruments. In big bands, the wind instruments are grouped into three sections: saxophones, trombones, and trumpets. Although exceptions occur in some styles, most jazz is based on the principle that an infinite number of melodies can fit the chord progressions of any song. The musician improvises new melodies that fit the chord progression, which is repeated again and again as each soloist is featured, for as many choruses as desired.

Although pieces with many different formal patterns are used for jazz improvisation, two formal patterns in particular are frequently found in songs used for jazz. One is the AABA form of popular-song choruses, which typically consists of 32 measures in â„– meter, divided into four 8-measure sections: section A, a repetition of section A, section B (the "bridge" or "release," often beginning in a new key), and a repetition of section A. The second form, with roots deep in African American folk music, is the 12-bar blues form. Unlike the 32-bar AABA form, blues songs have a fairly standardized chord progression.

When listening to "Body and Soul" by Stan Getz, I immediately saw the vision of a dark coffee shop, with little lighting, filled with the smells of freshly brewed coffee. The room is calm and relaxed. People, dressed in black, sit around tables, talking, sipping coffee, and listening to the band play. The band stands upon the stage, playing the rhythmic tones, commonly known as jazz. Occasionally, someone will go to the stage and read a poem they have waited too long to read. If it is good, the crowd will snap several times to signify their applause.

Rap music "is rhythm-and-blues music that consists of rhythmic vocals declaimed over musical accompaniment." (www.encarta.msn.com). The accompaniment generally consists of electronic drumbeats combined with digitally isolated sound bites from other musical recordings. Rap group typically consists of at least one to two rappers and a disc jockey. In groups with two, the rappers generally serve as foils for one another, alternating or completing lines and verses in a seamless pattern. The rap often uses a call-and-response format typical of much African American music. The wordplay in a rap is rooted in African and African American verbal games, known as the dozens and signifying. Rap vocals typically emphasize lyrics and wordplay over melody and harmony, achieving interest through rhythmic complexity and variations in the timing of the lyrics. Lyric themes can be broadly categorized under three headings: those that concern human relationships, those that chronicle and often embrace the so-called gangster lifestyle of the inner cities, and those that address contemporary political issues or aspects of black history.

Underpinning the rapper's vocals is the separately recorded musical accompaniment, known as a backing track. In general, backing tracks for rap recordings emphasize rhythmic accompaniment and timbre rather than harmony. Furthermore, many rap songs lack chord changes altogether, influenced in part by the highly rhythmic style of rhythm and blues music called funk. Originally a DJ created backing tracks by playing two records, switching back and forth between them in a technique known as cutting and mixing. Occasionally the DJ mixed one recording over another so that both were heard simultaneously. Other techniques used in early recordings were rotating a vinyl record backward and forward by hand to create rhythmic sound effects and quick combining short sound bites to create a sound collage.

When listening to "Lay Low" by Snoop Dog, I pictured several men trying to hide from something. They are standing in a dark alley, filled with dumpsters and trash. They talk about everything, ranging from politics to the world in which they live.

Classical music is "popular term for the Western tradition of art music that began in Europe in the middle ages and continues today. It includes symphonies, chamber music, opera, and other serious, artistic music. More narrowly, the "classical" style refers to the work of the Viennese classical school, a group of 18th-century composers that includes Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig van Beethoven, which is the epitome of what is called classical music." (www.encarta.msn.com). The accompaniment includes dozens of instruments from the woodwinds, brass, string, electronic, keyboard, and percussion sections. The style of the music varies with each composer.

When listening to "2nd Symphony" by Beethoven, I pictured the composer standing poignantly upon the stage, before a gigantic band, waving his hands and leading the band. The band plays with all their heart to please their instructor. The crowd avidly listens to every not being played. Everyone is happy and sad all at the same time.

Rock is "group of related music styles that have dominated popular music in the West since about 1955. Rock music began in the United States, but it has influenced and in turn been shaped by a broad field of cultures and musical traditions, including gospel music, the blues, country-and-western music, classical music, folk music, electronic music, and the popular music of Asia, Africa, and Latin America." (www.encarta.msn.com). In addition to its use as a broad designation, the term rock music commonly refers to music styles after 1959 predominantly influenced by white musicians. Other major rock-music styles include rock and roll, the first genre of the music; and rhythm-and-blues music, influenced mainly by black American musicians. Each of these major genres encompasses a variety of sub styles, such as heavy metal, punk, alternative, and grunge. While innovations in rock music have often occurred in regional centers—such as New York City; Kingston, Jamaica; and Liverpool, England—the influence of rock music is now felt worldwide. The central musical instrument in most kinds of rock music is the electric guitar. Other instruments commonly used in rock music include the electric bass guitar, keyboard instruments such as the electric piano, organ, and synthesizer; and the drum set, an African American innovation that came into rock music from jazz and rhythm and blues music. Instruments that play important roles in certain rock-music genres include the saxophone and a wide assortment of traditional instruments used in worldbeat music. The microphone also functions as a musical instrument for many rock singers, who rely upon the amplification and various effects obtainable through electronic means.

Rock music also shares complex technical aspects. Most rock music is based on the same harmonies as Western music, especially the chords known as tonic, subdominant, and dominant. The chord progression, known as the 12-bar blues, is based on these chords and has figured prominently in certain styles, especially rock and roll, soul music, and southern rock. Other common harmonic devices include the use of a drone, or pedal point, and the parallel movement of chords, derived from a technique on the electric guitar known as bar chording. Many elements of African American music have been a continuing source of influence on rock music. These characteristics include riffs, backbeats, call-and-response patterns, blue notes, and dense buzzy-sounding timbres, or tone colors.

The musical form of rock music varies. Rock and roll of the late 1950s relied heavily upon 12-bar blues and 32-bar song forms. Some rock bands of the late 1960s experimented with more flexible, open-ended forms, and some rock bands of the 1970s developed suite forms derived from classical music. Another important formal development in rock music has been the so-called concept album, a succession of musical pieces tied together by a loose narrative theme.

Much rock music is performed at high volume levels, so the music has been closely tied to developments in electronic technology. Rock musicians have pioneered new studio recording techniques, such as multi-tracking—a process of recording different song segments at different times and layering them on top of one another—and digital sampling, the reproduction by a computer of the patterns of a particular sound. Rock concerts, typically huge events involving thousands of audience members, often feature high-tech theatrical stage effects, including synchronized lighting

When listening to "Lay It Down" by Ratt, I pictured a huge room, filled with roaring fans. The music is blaring. The crowd jumps up and down with the tempo of the music. The band is upon the stage, playing their sparkling instruments, running around on stage. One of the members jumps into the crowd. He is carried slowly to the around until he can get back on stage. Everyone is screaming until you can scarcely talk.

Because there are so many different kinds of music, the amount of reactions to it seem endless, ranging from pleasant to unpleasant. That is why music on one of the most powerful humanities of the arts.


Works Cited

"The Effects of Different Types of Music on Mood, Tension, and Mental Clarity." Institute of Hearth Math. http://www.heartmath.org/research/research-papers/effect-music-mood.html

"Worship." Merriam-Webster Online. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/worship

"Praise and Worship." Spirit Prayer. http://www.spiritprayer.org.uk/praises.html

"Country Music Scene." The Lazy C. http://www.thelazyc.org.uk/musicscenec.html

"Jazz." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560708/Jazz.html

"Rap." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761563537/Rap.html

"Classical Music." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761595325/Classical_Music.html

"Rock Music." Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761558548/Rock_Music.html

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