Introduction to Music, Fall 2017

Prof. Jake Cohen, Rutgers-Newark

Category: Blog Entry 1 (page 1 of 6)

Concert Preview

For my concert of choice I will be attending the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra at NJPAC on December third. Conductor, Xian Zhang along with Stephen Hough on the piano and an orchestra will be performing classical pieces of the Romantic period by Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. Rachmaninoff’s pieces being performed are Vocalise, and Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganni. The third and final piece being played will be Symphony No.6 by Prokofiev. Both composers have elements within their pieces that differentiate them from the norms of musical composition and inspiration from sources that change how the music should be interpreted.

From my research on Rachmaninoff I take that he was committed and determined to express perfection in his pieces. His drive is admirable as is shown with his experience as a “pianist, composer and conductor.”[1] Rachmaninoff’s vocalise was inspired and written for poets of the Romantic era. Interestingly his piece is not written over the top but in a simple manner that captures lyricism and his emotional interpretation. His composition pieces based on other works is interesting and knowing the source of his work makes me wonder how and why he interpreted a specific piece. I wonder from reading this if he is attempting to deliver a message that builds on the original poets or was he simply delivering what he believed they were attempting to express in a musical instrumental manner. Rachmaninoff is further known for his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganni, which is 3 movements performed as a continuous piece. The piece is said to sum up his lifelong fascination with chants by including 3 different chants in each movement. Knowing his piece is variations will affect how closely I listen for how his variations differ and for the chants and how they affect the overall piece for me as the listener.

Prokofiev’s “Symphony No.6”is interesting as it made its premiere post World War II but was composed during the war. Times of war and times post-war are different because while one is an aggressive, fearful state of mind I would say post-war state of mind is grounded in mourning loss, celebrating victory or dealing with defeat. The state of minds can differ drastically; however, the style with which Prokofiev’s symphony was written differs from war themes in certain aspects. Rachmaninoff is known for being eager, playful and imaginative. I believe we see some of the playfulness in his choice not to make the piece darker. Prokofiev is said to have finished the piece in during his stay in a hospital, working while doctors were away. Victor Seroff highlights Prokofiev’s reluctance to stop working, “but how could he stop thinking? he asked-and his thoughts were always on music.” A composer who writes themes “even while chatting with friends” tells me they have a lot to get out of their mind, to share with the world. Such eagerness will effect how I listen because I wonder if his style is rapid and loose or tight and well composed to deliver messages.

[1] Geoffrey Norris. “Rachmaninoff, Serge.” Grove Music OnlineOxford Music Online. Oxford University Press, accessed November 28, 2017, http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/50146.

[2] Seroff, Victor I. Sergei Prokofiev: a Soviet tragedy; the case of Sergei Prokofiev, his life and work, his critics, and his executioners. New York: Taplinger Publ. Comp., 1979.

 

 

Blog Entry 4

Beethoven was among one of the few composers who was very influential during his era. Although he faced many challenges throughout his life, deafness being one didn’t stop him from progressing. Many people give up easily when they come across situations that prevent them from reaching their desired goal but Beethoven on the other hand took deafness as a learning process. He figured out ways to make music by adjusting to his disability and it made him a better composer. Listening to his music before and after his deafness, does say a lot and it amazes me how he heard sounds in his head and put it into action so the world can hear what he had in mind. With this being said, I strongly believe that we fetishize narratives that overcome disabilities because we give them respect and more credit for surpassing their abnormalities. It also shows their determination and dedication of continuing to pursue something they love and are good at no matter how hard their situation might be. Straus argues that Beethoven shows triumph narrative in parts of his music and it is true especially when he does his solo. He throws different keys and the sounds are unexpected. Is like having mixed feelings at once. This shows his abnormality but for Beethoven it means more than just random sounds, could be that he is trying to interpret his own view towards music, how all music should not have a specific flow, expectation or any sound be considered abnormal.

Blog Post 4

 

Beethoven’s deafness should definitely have an impact on how we understand his music because it should us a new perspective on how music is felt and heard.  When Beethoven lost his hearing, he could no longer “hear” the music as someone who hasn’t lost their hearing does. This allowed him to feel the music, feel every note, every bang, every dramatic climax and more. Loosing his hearing did not hold him back from making music but in my opinion made him even more talented. He was able to translate what he wanted to say without hearing it, but actually feeling it.   Also I believe that Beethoven’s deafness impacted his music because he started reflecting from a different type of place in his life. When a person has gone through a traumatic experience such as loosing their hearing they feel, see, and reflect on the world in a new way. Beethoven’s hearing loss caused him to show his vulnerability, and struggles but through music which later became absolutely astonishing.  Beethoven used his music to channel all the struggle and adjustment to his disability through it and produce music that reflected that.  I believe that we do fetishize narratives where a person overcomes disability because they show strength, perseverance and hope for others. When a person suffers a traumatic event that causes him/her to have a disability or a person born with a disability they have a much harder time to adjust to society. Some believe that because someone has a disability they automatically cannot be successful, but that is incorrect. When a person with a disability succeeds they work their hardest, go though hell, and persevere to be successful. As a society we fetishize this because it shows us that everyone is capable of success and there is hope for everyone whether they have a disability or not to succeed and become great.  It proves that anyone regardless can do anything if they put their mind and heart into it.

An example of a “triumph narrative” in Beethoven’s Fifth symphony is the first movement. The beginning of the movement starts off with a loud, gloomy timbre, fast tempo and an uneven texture unlike most other classical pieces. The beginning also shows that there is a lot commotion and chaos going on in the piece but as it continues it gets softer. Also the moment changed from minor key to major key. This causes a change in the timbre and also cause there to be tension between the different instruments.

 

Blog Post # 3

Tu se morta,” from L’Orfeo by Monteverdi includes text painting within the song. He uses text painting to show and emphasize important parts of a text. One example where text painting is used is when  towards the end of the song when Monteverdi sang “Addio terra, addio cielo e sole, addio.”, which means “Farewell, earth! Farewell, sky, and sun, farewell!”. While he sang this, the orchestra’s pitch increasingly became higher and also the dynamic became softer. One part where this is very present is when he sings “addio cielo e sole” because it is representative of the sky and the sun which bring warmth and happiness. This is used to explain the happiness he will soon feel when he retrieves his wife from hades. ANother example in the song is when Monteverdi sings “E intenerito il cor del Re dell’ombra” when translates means “ And having softened the heart of the King of Shadows”. When he sings this his voice soften up just like the lyrics “having softened the heart”. His pitch is not as too low which would give a depressing vibe to the song but also not too high its average which shows “softness” and comfort. Aside than text painting Monticello uses a change in dynamics to make an impact on the audience’s emotions. He will sing softer or more aggressive with a higher or lower pitch to portray a certain type of emotion.

The song that I chose was Loin Control by Russ.  This song talks about a girl who is in a new relationship but can’t seem to go of the baggage she has from her last destructive relationship. Russ starts off the song by singing the hook/ chorus rather than singing an independent verse.  When Russ sings ” She’s fallin’ in love now. Losin’ control now” the pitch of the song “falls” or decreases when he says the word “fallin”. Also, the tone of his voice decreases as well when he sings this line.  Also when Russ sings, “She’s falling but she doesn’t think he’ll catch her; Cause her last relationship was a disaster” the pitch also decreases when he says falling. Also when he says catch, I feel like there is a loop/ a dip in the notes of the song.  One more example where word painting is shown in the song is when Russ sings, “he fell for him and hasn’t gotten’ up since”. When he sings this the music pauses to show emphasis and has an impact on emotions because the girl who in the song finally chose to love the guy even if she has insecurities. This makes an emotional connection with the audience listening.

 

Blog Post 3

In the recitative “Tu se morta,” there is text painting when the lyrics speak about going into the deepest abysses. Here the singer starts singing in a lower pitch. He doesn’t dramatically change the pitch but gradually his voice gets deeper. Another example is when he is saying farewell to the earth and sun and sky when he sings to the earth he has a low pitch but when he says farewell to the sun and sky his pitch is high. The earth is low and sun and sky are high. Along with text painting, Monteverdi makes the mood of this song by having specific instruments, especially the organ. The instruments are playing in a minor chord along with the vocals. The instruments are not overpowering the vocals and rather letting the vocals be prominent. When he sings about bringing Eurydice back and seeing the stars there a hopeful feeling in the music.
In Bollywood, there is also a lot of text painting especially in songs about the gods and holy festivals. One of the songs that are my particular favorite.

In the song “Nagada sang Dhol,” when the singer starts singing about the dhol which translates directly to drum, she stretched out the word dhol. It’s similar to the sound the drum makes, it’s not vibrato but she stretches the word dhol like the sound of a drum. Later she does a knocking sound as well. The artist probably emphasized the words because not only does it make the music more catchy but one remembers the lyrics. And the word was in the title. The representation is pretty obvious. The musician is using both vocal and music. Whenever she would say dhol they would also play a note on the drum and it wasn’t just one but multiple drums.

Concerts

Below are some of the resources for finding a concert to attend. The most important part of this is to plan ahead! There are literally hundreds of free concerts throughout New York City and New Jersey, but you need to put in a little bit of work to find them. If you wait until the last minute, you’ll end up spending too much money on a big concert event.

N.B.: Many institutions have student discounts that allow you to see concerts for under $20. You might even end up sitting in what would otherwise be a very expensive seat! However, some of them require that you register ahead of time (e.g. the Met Opera).

The concert must be music from the art music (classical) tradition

If you are unsure of whether your concert qualifies, please email me and ask! Generally, if the works being performed are genres from the second half of our book (opera, oratorio, sonata, symphony, concerto, art song, etc.) or are by composers from the European tradition, then they qualify. There are also plenty of contemporary composers who might use non-traditional instruments or genres; these are fine too as long as they are part of the art music tradition (again, if you have questions, ask).

The following are not acceptable concerts: musicals (Broadway-style), jazz, “world music,” any kind of popular music (rock, hip hop, country, folk, etc.).

The music must be performed live

No operas or dance performances with recorded music are allowed.


Institutions (check their websites to see about student pricing — you should not pay full price!)

New York Philharmonic

Metropolitan Opera – student tickets require advance registration

Carnegie Hall

NJ Symphony Orchestra

Baroque Orchestra of NJ

Lincoln Center Great Performers

92nd St. Y

NJPAC

Kaufman Music Center (near Lincoln Center)

Schools – many area schools offer classical recitals by students which tend to be FREE. Check in advance.

Juilliard

Montclair State

Rutgers-New Brunswick

Drew University

Kean University

CUNY Graduate Center

NYU

Manhattan School of Music

Also, feel free to check the classical music listings of websites such as The New Yorker, New York Times, NJ Star-Ledger, New York Magazine. Or just google and see what you can find!

Blog Entry 3

One example of the recitative in this song was at part (9:33) where the guy started to mention the stars and the music and it’s tempo got higher, stronger, and you could hear the guy more rather then his mumbling. As he mentions the lyrics of the stars and since stars are shiny and when someone thinks of stars it brings a light into someone’s thought only because stars are never thought of as bad. When I say this I mean when someone thinks of a thunderstorm they think of something gloomy and dark and it is the opposite for the stars. The stars are never put together with a gloomy mood rather than a happy one. So as mentioned when he starts to talk about the stars his music gets clearer and softer. Another example is at (10:01) where the man starts talking about farewell with his wife and he music gets lower, to my hearing he was mumbling as if he were sad which he is but it was very unclear to hear him. I had to read the lyrics to understand him, but not only did this happen but the music got softer and gloomy , like how he was feeling because he wasn’t with his girl. Monteverdi also emotionally impacts the song with the face structure of the guy singing because he was gloomy and sad and he didn’t look happy. Which were his exact feelings about his girl leaving him. So in a way you could almost feel what the guy was telling and how depressed he was. The song I picked was Miley Cyrus “Wrecking Ball”.

In this song she starts it off really slow and she kind of talks the lyrics because she is sad. She is gloomy “ I will never want you” she sings in a soft melody and in the video she looks sad and the video is very gloomy it has grey tones in the background. And then when she says “ I came in like a wrecking ball” , Miley kind of screams it and yells it but with happier tones because she has overcome whatever it is she is talking about.

Blog Entry 3

After listening to the expressive recitative “Tu se morta,” from L’Orfeo, Orpheus does a great job at text painting the song throughout the entire scene. Orpheus finds out that his wife has passed away and asks for her return. As the video continues to play, he says “mi hai lasciato”, which means youleft me. The sound of his voice is soft and gives the audience a feel for deppression. He continues to express his sorrow by singing “mai tornare e sono ancora qui” that when translated means never come back and I’m still here. In this section, his tone increases and he sounds hurt. The fact that he is hurt makes the tone aggressive as if he is looking to kill the person or thing that took his wife away. Not only does Orpheus impacts the emotions of his audience, Monteverdi also adds instruments on the background to give us this suspense feeling by playing high and low sounds on certain words at the right moment. Eminem has few songs that relate to text painting. If we listen to his track “loose yourself” the words of are very catchy when he says “his palms are sweaty, knees weak arms are heavy”. His voice sounds like his heart is raising and gets the audience heart pumping making them feel lost and confused.

Blog entry 2

 

The song I’ve chosen to talk about is “let her go” from the artist Passenger and his music is very touching from the start. This is true because people don’t know what they have until is gone. We’ve all heard  “we don’t know the value of things until we loose it”, so when we stop caring is the time we lost it. For example in his song he says “only know you love her when you let her go” is letting go of the things we don’t know we love and this usually means that we take what we have for granted thinking that it will always be there and so our interest for that love one is no longer present, so we start to push them away. When Passenger states “only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low” he is referring to our emotions. For the most part you are “high” an individuals happiness and “when you’re feeling low” shows a person realizing that they aren’t happy anymore because all this time what made a person feel good in their life, is no longer present. I believe this video was made to make individuals cherish what surrounds them since majority of the video shows a variety group of people always together. The way this video is represented shows a setting with brownish colors and dim lights with a man who looks sad dressed like not only he lost it all but himself as well. This makes the audience feel some connection towards the music because it brings down their mood and makes them think about all the things they’ve lost. We can see how the artist is going back and forth singing alone then next to people then alone again. I personally believe he chose to make the video this way because he might have lost something in the past that opened his eyes later on.

Blog Entry 2 (RDominguez)

 

This is a music video that I found interesting for a while now. The artist ilovemakonnen places manikins that look alike all throughout the video. This is him trying to send a message saying that in the party world , such as in the clubs, bars, concerts, and etc. , everyone is the same in the sense that they are in the same mindset. Ilovemakonnen can be described as party kind of artist whose music brings out the party mood in everyone. He probably made this video for the party world eventually this song became a really big hit and until this day its a huge song heard everywhere. The title of the song is “Tuesday” hence fans hear or play this song on Tuesdays. Ilovemakonnen started a new trend with this song. Instead of partying over the weekend some people party on Tuesdays now. Throughout the video he shows people playing the song while they work behind the desk, clean the house, play basketball, and bartend. The reason why he portrays this is because he wants to  show the public that you can have fun wherever you are by making the best out of the situation. This promotes happiness and reduces stress in the workplace and at home.  At one point the featured artist ,Drake, says “Always working overtime ………. and how I’m putting work up on the weekend I look back and its a thing”. So here he is saying that working overtime and during the weekend its normal but he tries to make the best out of it anyways. The social statement that the artists are trying to make is that hard work pays off and he does by trying to push everyone to work harder and actually have a good time at it.

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