Adventure Monday: PROG

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Adventure Monday: PROG

I'm currently in the middle of a debate with my roommate. For now, he wishes to remain anonymous, but let's just refer to him as Brett. You remember, Brett, right? The guy with me in the picture above. Not Sam. The guy who is about to be set on fire. Yeah, that guy. We're not arguing; we're debating. The debate has to do with progressive rock, and what it actually is. I have not written a post in a while, so I feel like this is a great way for me to express my opinion on progressive rock. Here we go!

Before we get into what I think progressive rock, AKA Prog Rock, actually is, let's talk about what the debate my roommate known as Brett are in.

Pink Floyd: Prog Rock or Nah?

Now, you might be asking yourself: what is progressive rock? Well, I'm glad you asked. Last.fm has a really good definition and explanation of progressive rock. They state that progressive rock "is a form of rock music that evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s as part of a "mostly British attempt to elevate rock music to new levels of artistic credibility.

Progressive rock bands pushed "rock's technical and compositional boundaries" by going beyond the standard rock or popular verse-chorus based song structures. Additionally, the arrangements often incorporate elements drawn from classical, jazz, and avant-garde music. Instrumental songs are more common, and songs with lyrics are sometimes conceptual, abstract, or based in fantasy. Progressive rock bands sometimes used "concept albums that made unified statements, usually telling an epic story or tackling a grand overarching theme."

This is a massive giant we're about to take down, so let's get started with the first point in their definition: pushing rock's form and compositional boundaries. To explore these concepts, I will be referencing Techniques of the Contemporary Composer by David Cope. Cope has a chapter on Musique Concrète, and he states that musique concrète results from manipulation--usually by editing--of tape-recorded natural sounds. These natural sounds can literally be anything, as long as it follows three basic stages: locating, recording, and manipulation. Composers like Varèse and Stockhausen have used musique concrète with human voices, jet planes, gunfire, radio static, etc. Pink Floyd also uses this technique of musique concrète in their album in songs like Time (alarm clocks) and Money (cash registers).

There are two pieces advanced compositional techniques that Pink Floyd uses in On The Run. These two concepts are known as Electronic Music and Post-Minimalism. Let's talk about the aspect of electronic music first. I know that this guy is probably the first person to come to your head when you hear the term "electronic music", right? Well, let's talk about when electronic music was first becoming a thing instead.

Cope states that electronic music is defined as sounds created by either analog or digital synthesizers; the latter is sometimes referred to as computer music. Listen to On The Run by Pink Floyd. The song is entirely consisting of musique concrète, along with being performed using an EMS synthesizer (Synthi AKS). On top of being a piece constructed around electronic music, it has heavy elements of postminimalistic composing in it. (Tangent: postminimalism is music with a few key structural elements -- steady pulse continuing throughout, diatonic pitch language, general evenness of dynamics, and an avoidance of obvious linear/formal design). If I picked out the synthesizer line of On The Run properly, this is what the synth plays the entire time. (Forgive me, David Gilmour & Roger Waters if I butchered this).

virtuoso
noun vir·tu·o·so \-ˈō-(ˌ)sō, -(ˌ)zō\

: a person who does something in a very skillful way; especially : a very skillful musician

Full Definition of VIRTUOSO
1: an experimenter or investigator especially in the arts and sciences : savant

2: one skilled in or having a taste for the fine arts

3: one who excels in the technique of an art; especially : a highly skilled musical performer (as on the violin)

4: a person who has great skill at some endeavor
— Merriam-Webster

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Adventure Monday: Halo

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Adventure Monday: Halo

I know I said I was going to talk about the Beethoven symphonies, but something came up, and those can wait. It's not like the symphonies are going anywhere anytime soon. Anyways, you know what we're actually going to talk about today? We're going to talk about the guys you can see in the pictures next to and above this paragraph -- Marty O'Donnell & Master Chief.

What is it about these two people that are so important? Glad you asked. Most of you probably already know who Master Chief is. He's the main character dude in that video game series called Halo. I recently got an Xbox One, and it came with the Halo: Master Chief Collection. You can imagine my childhood nostalgia that kicked in when I got this, so I've started playing through the Halo games again, and it has made me realize two very important things.

A: How bad I am at Halo.

2: How awesome the music is in Halo, and this is where Marty O'Donnell comes in.

You might be asking, why is Marty so important? That's because Marty wrote the music for the wonderful game franchise. Not only did he write the music, but he made the music so astounding and uses so many different pieces of music theory and history to influence the soundtrack that it's pure genius.

Let's start with the main them, shall we? If you have ever played the game, or even just opened Halo up to the main menu screen, then you know this song. It's incredible. Let's look at the various pieces that make this song awesome. The first thing is CHANTING. Chant is a form of singing that dates all the way back to the renaissance times, and it was used in the church for various musical things. It's best described as a repeated rhythmic phrase sung by a single voice or a group of voices in unison. Just basically imagine monks singing, and that's what chant is. Hit play on that video, and you'll hear a group of men sing the line you can see notated below. Marty, forgive me if my notation is off.

Halo.png

It's so refreshing, right? So nostalgic. Everything about it is just so perfect, and it makes me all excited inside like a little kid who just got to play with a puppy. Unless you hate puppies. In which case, what's wrong with you? WHY DO YOU HATE PUPPIES?!

The next coolest thing you can hear in the piece is something amazing called counterpoint. Counterpoint is something that dates all the way back to the Baroque times of J.S. Bach. Yes, that's right. This guy. And yes, he's saying "DEAL WITH IT" because he's being compared to Halo. What of it?

Anyways, counterpoint is what happens when you have multiple voices or instruments, in music, singing different melodies at the same time. It is defined by my good friend, Merriam-Webster, as a combination of two or more melodies that are played together. So my definition is pretty much the same thing. Anyways, listen this piece right here, the Truth & Reconciliation Suite. You can hear the counterpoint happening between the cellos/basses (low sounding strings) and the violas/violins (high sounding strings) beginning around 1' 57" of the piece. You will hear the low strings come in with their first theme, and then you'll hear the violins start to play some harmonies in their parts. Finally, you'll hear the real counterpoint occur at 2' 28". The low strings go back to their first theme when the high strings being playing a counter melody on top of it. You can see it notated here. Again, I apologize for any bad notation, Marty.

Both of these two concepts are incredibly awesome, and there are so many more different things about this music I could go into and nerd out about, but there's one key thing about the music in the Halo games that goes above and beyond any cool music theory/history thing I can talk about. The best thing Marty O'Donnell did about the Halo music is he wrote extremely memorable music with incredible melody and harmony lines that even if the music wasn't so complex and incredible to sit down and analyze, he wrote music that was memorable, and it's going to get stuck in your head. You know the Halo themes by heart not because you played Halo for 30+ hours every week in your best friend's mom's basement, but because Marty did such a good job writing the music and creating something magical to help create a world that's unlike any other. It's because of Mary's music that I love going back and becoming Master Chief, because the music puts me so much into the game that it's magical.

School starts back soon, so the next post more than likely will be about the Beethoven symphonies, because my professor really wants me to write those.

Until next time, stay on your toes, my friends. You never know when the Flood will show up. And never go away. And more and more continue to show up and OH GOD, SAVE US ALL.


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Adventure Monday: A Walk With Beethoven

With so many thousands of hills in the world— at least a hundred per famous composer— why does every hill remind every writer of Ludwig van Beethoven?
— Leonard Bernstein, The Joy of Music

I took a few Music History courses this past year, and this image was taken straight from the middle of class. My accomplice in shenanigans over there and I would take goofy pictures in the middle of class in order to entertain ourselves (and our friends) a little bit more. In this image, we can be seen impersonating the hair of the man who I'll be discussing for the next few posts (9 or 10 to be roughly exact).

The man. The not-myth. The legend. Ludwig van Beethoven. To what do we owe the honor of discussing him? I have no idea, but this guy right here could possibly be one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Whether you believe that or not is up to you. Personally, it's very hard to pick one definitive composer as the greatest who has ever lived, so I'm just going to say he's one of the best. Leonard Bernstein has a book called The Joy of Music, in which he discusses with one of his comrades why they think Beethoven is the greatest composer who ever lived. It is a riveting chapter to read, and I would recommend it to all of you. I will be making reference to this discussion quite a bit in our journey through Beethoven's symphonies.

Before we look at his symphonies, let's look a little bit at who Beethoven was. Of course, he was a very talented composer and musician. Born in December of 1770, Beethoven held his first recital at age 7 and his first composition was premiered at age 12. It is rumored that he briefly studied with Mozart early on in his life, and it is known that he studied with Haydn as well. There are so many different highlights in his life that I have brushed over, but that would require an entire history lecture, and we don't want that right now. (Unless you do, in which case, sorry to disappoint).

Beethoven's first symphony is the first of his symphonic works that we will look at. Look for a post on that later this week. Go ahead and go listen to it to prepare yourself. Personally, I love the third movement with the Minuet & Trio. It's wonderfully exciting. I suggest the performance of Leonard Bernstein & New Your Philharmonic.

Until next time, prepare yourself for what's to come. All 9 Beethoven symphonies. Buckle up. It's going to be an awesome adventure.

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