Thursday, April 5, 2012

An introduction to one of my passions....

Hello All,

Your friendly neighborhood husband blogger, here.  So Tracey has been bugging (read: lovingly suggesting to) me to write another blog post.  It's taken me forever to figure out what I could possibly write about.  She suggested I write about music, since I'm so passionate about it.  That struck me as a great idea, but the more i dove into it, the harder it got to do.  I think, though, that I have finally settled on writing a series of posts about various things that I'm passionate about.  So with that, I think we'll start with a general overview of why I like music and why I say if you're open to it you can find something to appreciate in any genre of music.

What makes music so great?  At the end of the day, there are a finite number of notes in the human hearing range.  The magic lies in how those notes are arranged.  I know on a conceptual level everyone gets that.  Everyone has their favorite genre of music.  Most people like music similar to what was popular in their teens.  There are several reasons for this and this article has a good explanation of it. (Also, is hilarious)

7 Reasons you'll end up just like your Parents

If you weren't exposed to lots of different kinds of music back in your teens, it may be too late for you, but I'd challenge you to try new music when you get the chance.

Music is very evocative.  You might not think about it much, but you hear it all the time.  People will put on their favorite music to relax or to inspire them.  Sometimes if they want to get in the right frame of mind they put on a particular type of music.  There's a reason we don't refer to screaming metal as "romantic."   Music is one of the few human sensory inputs that described as things like mellow, sad, droll, happy, jumping, lively, soaring.  There are so many ways to describe a given piece and everyone receives it differently but there are commonalities that can force people to feel a specific way.  Movies use this to great effect (well the ones with a good score.)  I tried to point this out to a room full of people watching a movie one time because it struck me so vividly, but it didn't really go over too well.  Check out this clip of the title screen to the new Star Trek movie and let's talk about it after.

(I was going to embed the video from YouTube but embedding has been disabled)

Star Trek Title Sequence

Notice how it starts with just these quick high notes.  It starts to evoke a sense of anticipation as the image fades out.  As the picture fades completely you get your first hint of percussion.  As the titles start to fade in and you can see the side shot of the Starfleet emblem, the percussion comes in a little heavier underneath some accent notes that are added into the mix.  Like I said before the anticipatory feeling was already building by adding in accent notes along with a hint of what you are about to see visually it cranks up that anticipation but subtlety letting you know you're getting close.  Then the notes drop out of the mix and your left with only percussion.  The music is letting you know, "this is it."  Then just as all the letters become visible and the symbol gets to a quarter turn, the music let's loose with this sweeping, soaring main theme.  That contrast from the previous style of short notes to this new style of long notes evokes a feeling of majesty and a sense of an epic scale.  It holds that feeling for a few seconds and then goes back to the shorter notes that promise action and adventure.   Regardless of your feelings of the rest of the movie, these 35 seconds or so have just made a promise to you of what you are about to see and it's up to the rest of the movie to live up to that promise.  When a score is done right by a competent person, these things are very thought out and measured.  Score composer do your best to force you to feel the way the director wants you to feel about any given scene. What other medium has that kind of power?

I don't think this will be my last post about music. In fact, it may become a regular thing to dissect a given piece that i find particularly enjoyable.  I'm not really sure.  I want to leave you with a song that just makes my music heart happy.  The song is called "The Humbling River" by Puscifer.  For those of you not familiar with musical jargon, I'd like to take second to explain at a overview level what a couple of things are.  For you who do know music, yes I'm oversimplifying the concepts, but I don't care.  Melodies are the familiar part of songs.  They're the sequence of notes at the forefront.  Generally their the notes you sing when you're singing a song.  A Harmony is an accompanying line of notes written in the same rhythm and pattern but using different notes that complement (hopefully) the notes in the melody.  A harmony can make a melody sound happy or sad.   A counter melody is similar to a melody in that it is a series of notes, but they are generally a different rhythmic pattern sung in the background of a melody.   What this song does so beautifully is it gives you a melody over and over. Eventually it gives you a second melody. It's very similar to the original melody but it has a slight difference in the length of notes or syllables.  To emphasize the difference there is also a harmony thrown into it.  Then the brilliance happens, the thing that pushes this song from pretty to beautiful.   They bring the first melody back as a counter melody and underlay it beneath the new melody and add harmony to it as well.  The technicality needed to pull this off is mind blowing.  This is a master crafting a song.  I really don't have enough words to express how great this is.



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