As I’ve recently been writing about musicals, I thought it might be beneficial to address something that I’ve run into when talking about movies and shows that incorporate musical numbers. I’ve had a tendency to label some of these high-quality musicals as Broadway, only to be told by music or Broadway buffs that it’s not accurate to label productions that haven’t been on Broadway as Broadway musicals. But if it’s exactly the same kind of music and show, then where’s the distinction? Let’s talk about it.
Through the centuries, there have been several famous large-scale musical works known as requiems. A requiem is essentially a prayer for the dead, but it’s not as creepy as all that. Requiems are typically religious works, with Latin phrases like “Requiem aeternam” which means “grant them rest”, or “Kyrie eleison”, which means “Lord have mercy”. But this particular Requiem has a musical aspect that absolutely fascinates me, so I thought I’d talk about it a little bit. So let’s jump into John Rutter’s Requiem.
I think I’ve mentioned this once before on this blog, but I grew up in a Christian home and have been a practicing Christian for my entire life. Even now, I’m attending a Christian college, and as such, I hear alot of Christian music being played constantly (even as I’m writing this in my dorm room, someone’s strumming a guitar and singing Christian music right now). However, I’m also a musician, and being aware of what makes up music, I’ve been openly critical of most forms of contemporary Christian music. The biggest issue, musically speaking (meaning, all spiritual problems aside), most of what I don’t like is the extreme repetition of the lyrics. But I love hymns, and they all have repeating choruses. So how can I be two-sided about this? That’s what I’m going to answer.
Not many truer things have been said than what Charles Schultz wrote above. Sometimes it takes Charlie Brown and Linus to get simple gems of wisdom across. But that’s another post for another day. Did you know that the banjo isn’t just a string instrument? It’s percussion as well. “Well, duh,” you may very well say, “the bottom half of the thing is a drum.” First of all, that’s not true: although the material is the same used to make drum heads, the body of a banjo cannot double as a drum. And besides, I’m not talking about the make-up of the instrument, I’m talking about the playing style. Just by playing the banjo, the banjoist is simultaneously playing strings and percussion. Let me explain…
Honestly, I had to get another post up, because as much as I like “Night at the Ballet“, I just couldn’t leave that picture as the first one people see on my blog. Anyway, on to the subject at hand. Maybe you’ve seen “Classical Music Mashup”. It was a YouTube video that went viral just over a year ago, by channel name grantwoolard. Woolard has posted several videos on his channel like the mashup, and he very recently uploaded a second classical mashup in the same style as his first one. But why am I talking about him? What makes his “mashups” so great? It’s all about the art of counterpoint, which Woolard, it seems, has mastered.
The picture that you’re looking at for this post is actually an entire piece of music. You can see that the piece has three movements, but only music buffs will know what the word “tacet” means. Essentially, it means “don’t play your instrument”. That piece of music was only written for one instrument, the piano, and it’s not part of some larger-scale orchestral piece that doesn’t need the piano for the first three movements. That one page is the entirety of the piece. That means that the entire piece of music revolves around the pianist not playing anything at all. How is this music, you might ask? Many have said that it isn’t, and the evidence is valid. But I would propose that it is, so without further ado, let’s look at this strange piece, known only as 4’33”.
In the vast history of music, the category of “novelty” music has always been of interest to me, especially considering that until very recently, virtually all non-bluegrass or country banjo music would have been considered “novelty”. Some novelty music is quite strange and nonsensical, and there’s quite a bit in which I get the sense that either the composer is just trying to be “different” and “unique” in order to garner attention for himself, or he’s trying to communicate an idea and oftentimes the listeners don’t understand what he’s trying to demonstrate. Sometimes, however, there is novelty music that is really quite ingenious and deserves a bit of recognition. So let’s look at one of my favourite novelty pieces, “The Typewriter”.
I know, I know. In my blog called One Man and His Banjo, I’ve not once even talked about the banjo save for an odd throwing out of the word here and there. You were probably wondering, dear reader, if I could even play banjo at all. I’m going to prove to you that I actually do. I’m not one of those guys who can strum two chords on the banjo and so goes around saying “I’m totally a banjo-player”. I have done my research on this instrument, believe you me. Do you not believe me? Below is something I dug up from a year ago, and it’s a summation of just part of my banjo research. So, for the banjo’s sake, here are some of my thoughts on the instrument. Warning: this post is really long.
Have you ever thought to yourself, “Gee, why is it that every time I turn on the radio or listen to Spotify, everything sounds like a different version of the same song?” If you haven’t, it might be worth a look into. Because although new songs are coming out all the time, gaining popularity and then being forgotten, most songs use the same structure as many other popular songs. What follows is something I wrote a while ago when I was really tired and thinking very strangely, but if it helps to understand music a bit better, then I’ll be glad I wrote it. It’s a story that explains how keys and chords work, and it’s quite basic and fundamental. Let me know what you think about it and if it’s understandable. Enjoy!
As a lifelong musician, I’ve had lots of opportunities to think through lots of different stuff regarding music. I know that up to now my blog has followed television and audio drama, but those are just side hobbies: I have no training in cinematography or audio production. Heck, I don’t even have training in writing, even though I’m writing a blog! But the one thing I do actually have extensive training in is music. In this series, I’m going to try and break down some interesting ideas about all different kinds of music and musical ideas. If you’re a musical person already and know a bunch of music theory, I hope I can at least introduce ideas and lead you to think about other possibilities with whatever I’m talking about. If you’re not super-musical or aren’t into music at all, these posts will attempt to break down the musical ideas to be easy enough for any blog-reader to grasp. Do you think I can do both of those things? I guess we’ll find out, won’t we? Welcome to Musical Musings. Let’s talk about perfect pitch.