Listening Log

The Dragonborn Comes – Jeremy Soule

Today, I would like to talk about A very short piece of music. As a younger adult living with my parents back in the day, I would waste countless hours playing video games. I only appreciate now, as the video games have become such massive projects, how advanced some of the soundtracks can be.

Without knowing the piece someone could be forgiven for easily mistaking a video game soundtrack for a piece of film music with big bold brass or the delicate but effective timbre of strings only set an octave apart. This sort of scoring features quite heavily in the adventuring gamers world accompanied by vast virtual landscapes which can be, stunning!

However, this piece is only side tracked and it is not quite complex as a vastly scored main theme or the crashing of drums in a dangerous scene sequence or mission. However it has the medieval kind of sound that I really love and enjoy listening to.

The Dragonborn Comes, performed by malukah, Composed by Jeremy Soule

As I hear this piece I am drawn to it, my ear tells me it is in C# minor. It is quite easily sung by any character in the game which tells me maybe the range is accessible to both male and female voices. I prefer the timbre of a females voice when this piece is sung. THis makes me thing, Maybe it is in the range of an alto or contra alto? I certainly think a soprano may struggle with some of the notes.

The harmony sounds really quite simple, maybe only based on two chords? That makes me think it could be I and V so C# and G# However, it does not have the anchoring feeling of V and I it always seems to return home without wandering as far as G# this makes me think then that the second chord could be VII. THe melody rarely wanders to far astray and before it goes too far it goes down to the note before C# and the phrase is ended VII to I every time. I hear a change in the second verse of this song, it does go up to the V of G# I think that might just be adeded for interest in the song “For the darkness has passed and the legend yet grows.” An uplift from the VII and I to the V, for some uplifting lyrics perhaps?

Different characters in this game sing it differently so I can not anchor down it’s bar measures. I have a feeling it could be in 5/4 or 6/4 it depends on the length of the pauses between phrases. I prefer 5/4 however. This seems to contain more of a consistent flow perhaps that’s just a musical preference or an attention span problem? One beat, I feel is a good number, two beats rest at a slow tempo, in my opinion, interrupts the story. However in the included embedded video from Will of D I feel this is a 6/4 performance however in a quicker tempo than in game.

I have referenced this particular piece in my 4th assignment, I felt that I should maybe explain as to why it is that I chose this piece and how it influenced the work I did in assignment 4. This piece did have a direct impact on that assignment as It is in the Key I like, The phrasing flows nicely as it never flows too far astray from home. It only has one leap up to V for an uplifting part of the song, “for the darkness has passed and the legend yet grows” It is a line that is worthy of the lift. I think Jeremy Soule did a fantastic job on the whole soundtrack, however, this particular song really did stand out above the whole fantastic soundtrack. I think the reason for that is mostly personal preference, IT has that medieval feel and it is in C# minor, I like the lyrics to.

Reference

The Dragonborn comes – Jeremy Soul performed by Malukah.

Listening Log

Kiss The Rain – Yiruma

over the last few years minimalist piano solos seem to have benefited from a surge in popularity. In my personal opinion This started with Einaudi and his album “Le Onde” in 1996. Einaudi had been a professional composer since his post graduate studies since 1982 where he was employed in the tangle-wood music festival. This is where he first became exposed to american minimalism and it is from here where I certainly became interested in this particular type of music and, also, therefore, How I cam across the beautiful music of Yiruma

Yiruma is a south Korean pianist-composer. His name literally translate to “I shall achieve” he was a promising pianist from the age of 5 and moved to England in 1988. In 1997 he graduated from Purcell School of music and moved on to complete a composition masters at the Kings College London in June 2000. It is here he released his first album “Love Scene” where he achieved South Korean History and became the first south Korean pianist to tour Europe. Whilst in the music industry Yiruma renounced his British citizenship so he could enlist in the South Korean Navy and perform his music in his own country. In his own country his music was always on issue and because of that, he sold out in 10 South Korean Cities.

Kiss the Rain was released in 2003 and is a typical woeful song of “I love you but you have never loved me” However the beautiful melody floating high above the ledger lines and with its gorgeous 8va really does paint a beautiful picture of the rain falling down. This piece or song has a typical verse chorus structure. Verse 1, chorus, Verses 2 and 3, chorus then Verse four and Chorus.

Yiruma “Kiss The Rain”

The melody remains (mostly) the same in the each verse but there are many ways in which Yiruma maintains the song’s interest is to add harmony in the right hand during the second and third verses which helps to add a think texture and likewise in the fourth verse However the fourth verse has been modulated to A major. It gives us the impression that he will be okay, not being loved by someone that you love does hurt but by modulating back in to A major, I believe Yiruma is saying he will just have to cope and get on with his life. However the last question Yiruma asks “so why am I still here in the rain?” drifts away high up as a pianissimo, to me this feels somewhat like a melancholy sigh or someone dreamily staring out the window questioning their life choices!

However, the reason I used Einaudi as an example is the interpretation by the person playing it. I am trying to teach myself piano and I can play some of Einaudi’s works and I am struggling but can play some of kiss the rain. The amount of expression that you can put in the phrases is phenomenal. This piece of music is so open to interpretation that it allows a performer so much freedom. I can play the first verse every day for a week but it would never be the same twice, depending on how the day has gone. The way the phrases are shaped and how they sing, up in the ledger lines, is a complete musical canvas. Like an ambiguous join the dots, where no matter what order you join the dots, you can get a musical masterpiece.

In the Verses the chord starts on the tonic before jumping up to the third and then up to the VI (this bar is in the relative minor of F minor. We then descend down in steps VI, then V, then progress chord by chord back down to the II where we then end the phrase on the V before the cycle then begins again. The chord structure in itself is relatively simple but so beautiful and effective. The verse lasts 16 bars and we are then in to the verse.

We begin the chorus on the Db , down to the C then breifly down to the Bb and Eb before spending a bar in the tonic and then in the 5th bar of the chorus we see a D natural (funnily enough the bit, I can’t get my fingers around at the moment!) We build through D major, G minor, C minor and F major up to the Bb in a beautiful Minor 7 chord that takes us so comfortably back to the Verse and the Ab minor of the next verse.

This build up, in particular the last four bars of the chorus feels to me almost like the part where the emotions are really getting to Yiruma. “But how can you love me, Like I loved you when, you can’t even look me straight in my eyes?” This makes sense that it would be the most emotionally climactic part of the song but that is only my personal opinion. I definitely find that in the chorus is where I find my favourite writing, I love all of it but the chorus, definitely – to me, holds a kind of musical and emotional climax.

As a composer, If I look at the chorus I look to see how the chords are put together to build the effect on the audience I think the D natural completely violates my musical expectations because I just don’t expect it, That D minor does not turn up anywhere else. Then we just build on The D minor with a G major, C minor and F minor (the dominant of Bb) then down to Bb (the dominant of the key signature of Eb) before we land safely back in the key.

I do not know if Yiruma meant this to be the case but with his stunning melodies, open harmonies and descending chord progressions through the verses he has created a universal piece of music that absolutely any performer can relate to and add a bit of their own personality.

Listening Log

Research Point – Das Rheingold

In this area of research I am going to be looking at how Wagner build on his musical idea to create an atmospheric start to his musical drama “Das Rheingold” as the purpose of this research was to learn how to utilise the cycle of fifths. I want to focus specifically on how Wagner managed to hold the Key of Eb for so long without this listener getting bored or loosing interest. I am going to analyse the first 16 pages which build right through until the entrance of the singers who’s manic intervals and rhythms create a frantic melody, which, arguably, could be a representation of the story line of this musical drama.

During the start of the piece we hear just a background whisper of Eb as the Contrabass starts off the whole piece, briefly followed by the entrance of the Horns. Just hearing the timbre of the horn and contra bass alone creates an atmosphere just from one note. We then hear the first snippet of melody. A four bar phrase played horn and developed and built upon to prevent an expectant and expansive beginning almost like a musical opening of the curtain. This ascending four bar phrase is repeated on top of itself creating a basic harmonic of C minor.

In this particular stage of the musical work, I feel that among the harmony the sound quality of instruments that gives them their own unique sound is an effective medium to create an affect of suspense. The phrase works its way up the orchestra each phrase is composed on top of the previous phrase causing almost the effect of a musical “round.”

The harmony begins to build and by second page we are already witnessing signs of modulation as the melody is raised up a third which lands us on a high G. In the last two bars of page two we hear the phrase being played in harmony from the bassoon section. The tune is played in it’s original key of Eb (starting on the G) by the second bassoon and is joined by the first bassoon who starts the phrase on Eb. This creates the harmony of thirds. However we are still in Eb but we hav eheard the tune played and harmonised in thirds. This harmony has now also, in a way, created a new melodic idea.

In the second half of page two the trombones hold down a new bass note of Bb and the cellos come in with arpeggios which highlight various different chords. The original four bar phrase has now become augmented and now lasts 8 bars with descending minims. In page 4 we continue to hear the melodic phrase. However, to create contrast Wagner scores the original melody line as per normal but has given it to the flute who provide a whole different timbre. On the other hand the bassoons start the phrase ascending but the phrase has then changed as it descends back down to G. At this stage the arpeggios are being built upon as well which adds to a feeling of building excitement. Page 5 introduces a new two bar excerpt which is an addition to our original four bar phrase. This new idea is then expanded through page 6 as the phrase becomes prolonged. Also in page 6 the clarinets start playing an altered version of this new two bar phrase as they run up two semiquavers before resting on the next interval. This creates the effect of driving the rhythm forward the violin cello part introduces these semiquavers throughout the whole bar which outlines the shape of this new 2 bar phrase.

The 8th page continues much the same way as the previous two pages, however the melodic phrase has augmented and now the values of the notes have increased, split in to 3 bar phrases the melodic phrase is now 6 bars long. This takes us in to page 9 where we return to two bar phrases but the melody has been raised and now the flutes are singing their top Eb’s out three ledger lines above the stave. The clarinets and Cor Anglais (English Horn) continue the driving rhythm as the string section are now all playing arpeggios. The excitement continues to build.

Page 10 takes us back to a four bar phrase. This maintains interest as it is still a very familiar idea but just different enough that we are still interested as listeners and audience members. By page 12 our phrases stretch across about 8 bars and starts taking off this feels like an increased level of building suspense. Something is coming up. Oboes clarinets and flutes take over the driving rhythm which now becomes a more prominent feature. The arpeggios are layered even thicker with the addition of more violins and cellos. The flutes shoot for the skies as their phrases now build to super G 4 ledger lines above the stave. Page 14 ascending scales are scored in which add another layer of suspense. Starting on bassoon and bass clarinet these scales then work themselves up the different timbres of the woodwind section. Rising from lower woodwind and passing through higher woodwind creates a consistent build just from the pitch of the instruments. These scales expand through page 15 now throughout the entire woodwind section until page 16 where we hear the entrance of the singers.

To summarise my analysis of the introduction to “Das Rhein Gold” I would like to outline very simply some techniques that I feel can be learned from this fantastic work. Firstly, Wagner used the timbre of the instruments from the word go to build suspense. Wagner took a melodic phrase and built upon or diminished it in order to maintain the listeners interest and – he added, basically, arpeggios and scales to add to the suspense. However he did it in such a masterful way that whilst the music seemed familiar to us after 80 bars we where not bored of hearing it. This is not even the whole amount of time that Wagner remained in this key. In total Wagner remained in the key of Eb for a total of 186 bars. Wagner’s masterful understanding of the instruments of the orchestra and melodic expansion and subtraction made for an exciting and atmospheric introduction to “Das Rheingold”

Listening Log

Lux Aurumque – Eric Whitacre

Today, I listened to a mesmerising piece by Eric Whitacre which had me in a completely different dimension for 4 minutes of pure listening pleasure. After hearing this piece I wanted to try and work out what chords he used to produce such an enchanting listening experience. The following post is my analytical memoir of this beautiful music.

When Eric Whitacre was interviewed about this piece of music he so eloquently spoke of this piece as a “breathing exercise” and that is instantaneously relatable from bar one as the music crescendos and diminuendos or “expands and contracts” like ones breath in a state of meditation. You can feel the phrase begin down in the tenor and bass and the low register of the alto, to start with, as the breath comes up through the body, starting from the diaphragm before it is joined by the nose and throat opening up to inhale the oxygen that allows us all to breath. This most relatable composition mechanism occurs throughout the whole piece.

The harmony is so rich and beautiful. We open the piece we start with a C# minor chord that gently transitions in to a beautiful C#sus4 for the first 4 bars. I likened this to a breath of the most delicate tranquillity. It is because of so much tranquillity and tenderness that I had to create a new term “tranquilicious.” Lux just means “light”, the opening four bars can also be associated with delicate beams of light trickling through a forest canopy.

In bar 5 the Soprano Solo begins as if from no-where. Whitacre pulls the first two notes of the soprano melody, from the chords we heard in the intro. The top G# appears from the dark but somehow it doesn’t take us by surprise. A gentle introduction to the minimalistic melody. The phrase then sinks back in to the breaths. It’s the breath expanding even more before we sink in to the lower voices of bar 9 onwards. My meditation deepens. I have now sunk in to an enormous sense of personal well being. “Calida” means warm “light” and “warm” the sun is musically glowing on the listeners faces.

The chord remains the same but it has been voiced much deeper the Basses are voiced in thirds with the Tenors. They re-affirm the delicate higher tones from the soprano and alto C# becomes B7sus9/F#, and what a chord that is! The shivers gently caress my spine in pure majesty of the chord echoing and reverberating through the hall (or church).

we find this lovely contrast in bar 13 “Gravisque” which, in this particular instance, simply translates to “and” it’s the most gorgeous, possibly the longest “and” you will ever hear! Whitacre patiently descends out of the previous section as the poetic verse that inspired this piece changes its stanza. As we change, the choir starts with an inverted A minor chord, we travel through E major chord after a suspended 4th when the tenor and soprano sings thier G# on the fourth beat of bar 13. In bar 14 we eventually land on a G minor on the second beat before we descend again through an F#m /G#in bar 15 then an inverted C#minor in beats 3 and 4 of bar 15. Then in order to add contrast on the last “Gravisque” in bar 16 we ascend through from an A major through to a B major before the next section “pura”

When we get to the new section in bar 17 we have a similar effect – as the very beginning with the expansion and contraction of the chords as they suspend and resolve and suspend again. In bar 18, we experience an inverted F# minor travel in to either an F#m sus4, sus 6 or a D sus6, sus9 We then settle back in to an F# minor for bar 20 before another suspension in bar 21. Until bar 23 we are at a pleasant and quite bold Mezzo-Forte in bar 23. One of the mechanisms I adore is the crunching D# and E suspension in the soprano line. However odd a semitone chord should sound, in this instance, it is as beautiful as Eric introduces the start of the next chord in the fourth beat of the bar. Whitacre then treats us to another very gradual resolution through the chords as the orchestra sing “canunt” which means “they sing” This is the angels singing about the birth of Jesus the descending tones as the angels fly down to deliver thier message to us on earth. The message is the word of God and it starts in the heavens before it descends and trickles down to earth and those on earth start to deliver the word. This is only one possible interpretation of this particular section.

In bar 29 we hear one of only a few solid resolutions. This is a simple F# major Whitacre settles this divine major chord when he finishes the word “Angels” a tiers de piccady. The angles are the stars of the song. We start to wind back down in bar 30. The breathing returns, we are gently brought back in to the room. We still hear echos of those suspensions so we can meditate upon the message of this beautiful music. The soprano holds a beautiful suspension even in to the change of key in to C# major to uplift us. Or maybe it is a reference to the new-born baby as a new era begun on that night,

Eric Whitacre based this meditation on this beautiful verse

Lux,
calida gravisque pura velut aurum
et canunt angeli molliter
modo natum.

Light,

warm and heavy as pure gold

and the angels sing softly

to the new-born baby.

Edward Esch

In writing this piece Eric kept true to the message of this verse and added his own genuine beauty to it. I hope this music becomes as immortal as the message it carries and I thank Eric Whitacre for sharing this beautiful meditation with us. I don’t just listen to this piece, I experience it.

Listening Log

First Construction – John Cage

John Cage was one of the 20th Centuries most innovative experimental composers who’s genius bought through such compositions as 4 minutes 33 and his “Constructions” one of Cages favourite compositional mechanisms was the prepared piano. Long before the first synthesisers he explored the possibilities of electronic sound sources using turntables and oscillators, pushing the boundaries of what many people might interpret music to be. It is for this reason that to this day, even after his death, John Cage remains a highly controversial figure in the world of Music.

In this blog I am going to do a quick write up of what I discovered from listening to his “First Construction in Metal” composed in 1939. I could not find a score online so what little that I picked op on is from watching a score on youtube as the music was being performed. With my memory, that causes limitations in itself!

In John Cages first construction I hear a certain theme played on the strings of a piano. After 4 bars the Oxem bells join in. The thunder sheet is struck at the very beginning just to capture our attention. After 8 bars we get two bars of break from the melody played on brake drums, Turkish cymbals and orchestral bells. We then hear the phrase or melody come back and joined by the muted gongs John Cage has added a bar on to the phrase with the muted gongs. At letter A we hear a different and augmented phrase with the use of quintuplets which lasts for four bars. The main line then returns in the fifth bar of A. The phrases are always four bars long and I can make out about 16 different motifs. John Cage has taken a mathematical approach usings phrases and groups of phrases to form the structure of his music each section is about 16 bars in length and is built using 4 bar motifs.

at C John Cage has produced a fantastic effect by lowering a gong in to water. This achieves a warping effect on the gong sound that provides an eerie feel. Something I would like to explore in my composing as a representative of wind or something spooky a mind twists and turns out of focus in to something dark and un-settling.

During Section C there is a very un-settling feeling of something wrong happening and on the 5th bar of D there is a slide on the piano strings, a spooky glissando of chaos. This is the kind of thing I wouldn’t be surprised to hear on a horror programme! the fact that John Cage can produce that effect with such “instruments” is a testament to his genius. Before H we hear a refrain of the original phrase and the unsettled feeling has eased. Business as usual, perhaps? the chaos of the human brain. 16 bars before M I really like. It has a driving feeling almost like a preparing for battle. I think this is due to the well placed accents and driving beats played on the other instruments at the first of the bar. The piece finished with a diminuendo and down to a halt. It’s almost like the end of a nightmare. The morendo and diminuendo at the end settles the mind and it’s back to the silence.