Final Exam: Music Web

Throughout this class, one of the hardest things to me has been the listening logs. I have struggled the most regarding with these as I often feel as If I am being too lengthy, have too many things to say, or sometimes, not enough things to say. On top of that, even though I have musical background, I still sometimes struggle with picking out particular elements in certain music as I often struggle to find the words to describe what I am hearing. However, as the class has went on, I have found it easier to write these music logs as I’ve gained more confidence in my ear and ability to analyze.

Maple Leaf Rag was one song in this class that has stuck out to me the most. Having appeared multiple times throughout the semester (we’ve focused on it twice: both in Module 1 and Module 6), this piece of music is one that keeps coming back. As I’ve discussed my thoughts lenghtly on it before, I won’t take the time to rehash it, besides some key elements. I now am able to pay a lot more attention to the switch in keys and chords, from major to minor, and how the switch is used to create tension in the song. It makes sense that the resolve and switch back to the major chords happens in order to create a feeling of happiness and completeness in order to end the piece in the manner that it started. In terms of musical streams, I feel as if this piece fits in most with the ragtime genre but also the jazz genre/era as ragtime is one of the basis for Jazz music. This piece has the most connection with the marches from Sousa, particularly The Washington Post March we listened to. The strains in the song match up, both having a start, a feud/trio section, and a resoultion at the end. A beautiful performance of Maple Leaf Rag that I really enjoyed can be found below.

Amazing Grace was also one of the pieces that stuck with me the most due to the unique version we listened to in the book. The version of Amazing Grace we listened to had musical elements like line-out and chants, something I’ve never heard in this piece as I’ve typically heard it performed as a simple, solo or quartet piece with unison parts. This piece definitely fits the most along the web of spiritual music, particularly due to the religious nature of the song. The line outs have a way of reminding me of popular music, while the chants remind me more of different spiritual/sacred music such as the Butterfly Dance from the Native American traditional music. While both pieces contain Chants to their respective gods (Butterfly Dance being Native American, Amazing Grace being primarily Christian), the chants in Butterfly Dance are used as a call to agricultural gods for assistance and successful growth of their corn crops, while the chants in Amazing Grace are used as a praise for God for saving their life and giving them a chance to live. One of the unique things about Amazing Grace is how it’s globally known and renowned, therefore there are many unique versions and performances out there to be heard. The performance featured below is a version performed by the Celtic Women.

Chester is still a very prominent piece of music to me as I have memories of playing this as an intonation group warm-up piece in both middle school and high school band. Chester is also the very first piece of music I played as a round in middle school (through a method book, of course.) As I listen to this piece, I still notice the strophic form the most as the tune in the piece does not change as it moves forward. This piece is most commonly reffered to as a patriotic anthem as it was written during the Revoultionary war. This track identifies most with ballads and pslams as both of these genres typically contain strophic form. An example of a piece that matches up with this strophic form is Ainsworth Psalter of 1612.

The Banshee would still happen to be one of the weirdest pieces of music I have listened to in this class. Since I first listened to it, I have listened to it a few more times — primarily to show it to some of my friends in order to see their reactions. My mind is still blown by the noises Henry Cowell was able to make with the manipulation of a piano string. This piece most definitely fits in the contemporary/Modernism and new-age genre of music as this is much more experimental and freeform than any other piece of music that came before it. If compared to another piece/section of music, I would most likely compare it to Cowell’s other piece “The Tides of Manaunaun.” While the two don’t have the most similarities, the experimentalism in both pieces are common as Cowell does things with a piano that most before him had not — in this case, he hits the piano keys in large groups with his forearm in order to make dramatic notes. A video of The Banshee can be found below.

To draw my portfolio web to a close, I wanted to reflect back to a piece from the beginning. Barbara Allen was a ballad we listened to in Module 1 that had a lasting impact on me for the rest of the class. In terms of my own musical preferences, I tend to lean more towards favoring slower music and music that has deeper meaning (which often times, can be more sad music), with ballads being one of my favorite types of music. The very simple ballad meter and simple three chord, guitar makes for a piece of music that focuses more on the lyrics for emotions rather than the accompiant. This song definitely fits in the web of imported/international influences as this folk ballad comes from Scotland. If compared to another piece in this class, I’d compare it to the folk music of Bob Dylan. This type of music is the precursor to artists like Bob Dylan as the simple guitar accompaniment can often be found in contemporary folk music. This ballad still has relevant to this day with many folk singers, an example of which is provided below. Below is a video of singer Art Garfunkel singing a rendition of the ballad.

Overall, the connections between the music in my post is rather jumbled and has to be thought out in order to recognize. The ties start at Amazing Grace and it’s theme of American music that is primarily vocal heavy, which connects it with Chester. Chester then connects with Barbara Allen due to their strophic forms. Barbara Allen connects to Maple Leaf Rag as both of these pieces were the basis of two common themes of music: Folk and Jazz, respectively. Maple Leaf Rag can then be connected with The Banshee due to their piano heavy nature, even though The Banshee is very experimental in nature. One thing this class has taught me is all music has a historical background and origin, it just has to be properly traced which can sometimes be tricky. Connections in music are everywhere.

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