Sound Module: Composition Basics

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Individual - Due Monday Nov. 10, 6pm:

Search one example of any of the items described at the first Composition reading from any music, sound creation or soundtrack, etc. you like different from the given examples.

You can find the reading at Salon "Please Attend to" section and at the following link https://www.dropbox.com/s/x88weo80bdvwsrz/1%20-%20Composition%20-%20Basics%20-%20From%20A%20Belkin%20Practical%20Guide%20to%20Composition.pdf?dl=0

The topics covered are: Foreground vs. background, Flow vs. break; continuity vs. surprise, Articulation and degrees of punctuation (like in texts!), Rate of presentation of information (light or dense), Stability vs. instability, Progression, Momentum (creating direction, i.e. moving to some point).

Give link (youtube, vimeo…), min and sec, and short explanation (1‐4 lines approximately).

Post it at Gallery as "Composition Project 1: Basics" [15 p].

Give critiques on others examples and explanations [5 p]

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Discussion 30
  • The Air Near My Fingers by The White Stripes
    Naomi Sternstein
    Naomi Sternstein Posted on 2014-11-14 09:36:22 -0500.

    I commented on Revolution, the three of us, and le tombeau

  • Revolution
    Naomi Sternstein
    Naomi Sternstein Posted on 2014-11-13 08:14:33 -0500.

    You really broke down all of the parts of this song, which was helpful in listening. One of my favorite parts of the song was the beginning. Usually in songs, we have a certain instrument start it off quietly and build up with other instruments being layers onto the song and then finally the vocals. This song was basically the opposite- the instrument that introduced us to the song was the vocals, which then stayed in the background while other instruments such as the percussion layered onto the foreground.

  • The Three of Us
    Naomi Sternstein
    Naomi Sternstein Posted on 2014-11-13 08:08:12 -0500.

    One thing that I noticed was that the rhythm that the voice started set us up for the same rhythm to be played by the instruments- they echoed off of one another. With all of the "jumping around" that was going on in the song, this really helped it flow better and didnt create too much dissonance.

  • Le Tombeau de Couperin Menuet
    Naomi Sternstein
    Naomi Sternstein Posted on 2014-11-13 07:59:56 -0500.

    This was a really good piece to show the interactions between different sounds and instruments switching between foreground and background. One of my favorite parts was about 1 minute in when it seemed like the leading instrument, the oboe, was alternating the pitch while repeating a similar melody, which was very interesting.

  • Lonely
    Ivan Wang
    Ivan Wang Posted on 2014-11-11 19:10:55 -0500.

    Good analysis! I was definitely surprised by the artificial tone of the female voice when the song started. However, as the song went on, I got accustomed to hearing the voice, as the repetition met my expectations.

  • Four Chords
    Ivan Wang
    Ivan Wang Posted on 2014-11-11 19:06:13 -0500.

    I agree with Amal in that the flow and transitions were quite smooth and tied the songs together very well. In addition, the song makes use of momentum very well: keeping the same rhythm and same four chords helps maintain audience expectations, while the different pitches of songs add novelty to make it interesting.

  • Too Many Cooks
    Ivan Wang
    Ivan Wang Posted on 2014-11-11 19:03:28 -0500.

    The switch between vocals adds to novelty as you mentioned, especially because the male and female voices are far apart in pitch. The repetition and tone make it a fun and lighthearted song indeed.

  • Bruno vs Background
    Dan Cheng
    Dan Cheng Posted on 2014-11-11 08:25:31 -0500.

    I agreed that compared to the background music, Bruno voice is a lot louder and has more variety, which grabs listener's attention. Also, the music is very stable, there is no abrupt change in melody. Listeners can predict the direction the music will go. There is continuity and no surprise break, which help the flow of the music and the emotion.

  • Girl by The Beatles
    Jeremy Sonpar
    Jeremy Sonpar Posted on 2014-11-10 23:58:42 -0500.

    Hey we found a four chord song. But yeah the background comping was pretty repetitive during the chorus. The vocal line was very melodic and soothing, keeping a consistent style while varying it enough to keep it fresh. I think its interesting that at the 1 minute mark the background vocals went into staccato "doos" that in my opinion didn't really fit with the style of the piece, so I'm curious as to why they would take that approach.

  • Four Chords
    Amal Sahay
    Amal Sahay Posted on 2014-11-10 22:01:34 -0500.

    Even outside of foreground/background I like the way this uses flow to actually obscure the music - the transitions are so smooth! Just another way to use flow, akin to the subversions we talked about with Guernica at the start of the class.

  • Soundtrack layering
    Amal Sahay
    Amal Sahay Posted on 2014-11-10 21:59:29 -0500.

    Aww, not L's Theme A? But this theme does do the complexity very well. I also like the explanation you give, which makes it even simpler to follow!

  • The Three of Us
    Jeremy Sonpar
    Jeremy Sonpar Posted on 2014-11-10 21:11:32 -0500.

    Oh yeah I don't think I was very clear. I don't think you can classify either the vocals or the band as strictly foreground or background because they are constantly trading off. I think that it makes the music a lot more interesting that way because you aren't just hearing the same voice (not in a vocal sense, in a more general sense, including instruments) for an extended period of time can get kind of boring.

  • The Three of Us
    Amanda Marano
    Amanda Marano Posted on 2014-11-10 20:39:36 -0500.

    I agree with your interpretation of the song, but what musical topics that were covered in the reading are most evident here, because you didn't really talk about that? What do you consider the foreground or background? There are points where both the vocals and the instrumental parts are fast changing and interesting, so there is an argument for both. What do you think?

  • Revolution
    Amanda Marano
    Amanda Marano Posted on 2014-11-10 20:35:54 -0500.

    I think your interpretation makes sense, although for the background and foreground interpretation, wouldn't it make more sense that you label the instrumental portion as the foreground because it draws the listener's attention more? Whatever draws the attention of the listener the most should be the foreground, even if that is the instrumentals instead of the vocal part. I think in that sense maybe you're a little bit backwards, but you're right about the constant changes and evolution of the song, so maybe there is an argument for both being the foreground/background at different points.

  • Bruno vs Background
    Amanda Marano
    Amanda Marano Posted on 2014-11-10 20:32:38 -0500.

    Interesting take on this song! I think your interpretation makes sense, the piano is pretty unvarying throughout the song, except during short breaks, which immediately pushes the piano into the background. Bruno has some pretty serious tone shifts during the song between the chorus and the verses, which also adds to novelty.

  • Four Chords
    Jeremy Sonpar
    Jeremy Sonpar Posted on 2014-11-10 18:27:35 -0500.

    I love this video for making a mockery of the classical four chord progression that has been around for a very long time. Its so simple but effective, good analysis.

  • Allegretto - Beethoven
    Amber Jones
    Amber Jones Posted on 2014-11-10 16:35:28 -0500.

    Hey, I've played this piece before! I love it. It's definitely a great example of progression. Beethoven creates a great sense of progression through the adding of instruments (like Eric said) while the higher register instruments are added later on as the orchestra crescendos (until around 2:39, where the development starts). The same can be said about transition about the recapitulation of the main theme around 5:00-5:25.

  • Salamander Jack
    Amber Jones
    Amber Jones Posted on 2014-11-10 16:09:13 -0500.

    This song is a great example of foreground and background. The background is very consistent and the verses that the singer's sing are very similar to each other. The accompanying instruments are very simple and serve as rhythm and bass for the singers to sing over. Our ears catch higher frequencies so the foreground/background technique definitely works out in this case.

  • Le Tombeau de Couperin Menuet
    Brian Walsh
    Brian Walsh Posted on 2014-11-10 16:04:41 -0500.

    At the beginning, a foreground with the oboe is very strong. I agree that it is most likely due to the oboe's higher pitch, which makes it really nice to know why the oboe is a leading instrument in the woodwind section, much like the violin in the string section.

    It's very interesting to choose symphonies, because while many display a very strong example of one sound basic, it may (like this one) have an overarching reach in its sound techniques. This complexity is very hard to keep track of, but your segmenting of the song helps keep the analysis well grounded! Good work.

  • Nils Frahm - Says
    Eric Terui
    Eric Terui Posted on 2014-11-10 16:03:56 -0500.

    I agree with Brian's observation of foreground instability. The unpredictable nature of the electric piano brought it to the foreground. However, I'd say the background was used more to give the piece drive and a sense of direction.

  • Soundtrack layering
    Eric Terui
    Eric Terui Posted on 2014-11-10 15:59:02 -0500.

    This is a great example of layering. Each individual part plays the same phrases mixed together, but the piece remains interesting by having presenting a new layer or taking away an old layer.

  • Girl by The Beatles
    Brian Walsh
    Brian Walsh Posted on 2014-11-10 15:57:54 -0500.

    I think that both the singer and the guitar follow a very continuous pattern, and you are correct in stating that many parts of the song seem abrupt. I believe that the most abrupt part is the monotonous "doo-doo-doo" from both the guitar and the vocals; it creates a sort of sense of unease, but it brings you back in with the comfortable continuity of the vocals.

  • Nils Frahm - Says
    Brian Walsh
    Brian Walsh Posted on 2014-11-10 15:54:02 -0500.

    This piece is very interesting in that it provides background progression with foreground instability. Frahm's playing of the electric piano was very unpredictable, while the background build suspense for what was to come next, and Frahm did an excellent job of blending it all together for a great crescendo.

  • Allegretto - Beethoven
    Eric Terui
    Eric Terui Posted on 2014-11-10 15:53:46 -0500.

    I really like this example. It reminds me of the Ravel Bolero example from the reading of how the composers layered instruments while using the same theme throughout the whole piece.

  • Soundtrack layering
    Mauricio Cano
    Mauricio Cano Posted on 2014-11-10 15:11:56 -0500.

    I like how the song gets progressively more complex as time goes on, with more sequences being added to the mix. The original repetitive sequence is the so prominent that it easily remains on the foreground despite the introduction of newer sequences which ought to change the focus (because they're new).

  • Ghost Love Score - The Transition!
    Mauricio Cano
    Mauricio Cano Posted on 2014-11-10 15:08:01 -0500.

    The swift change at 5:30 was so much fun to listen to. It's a great example of a change in flow.

  • Girl by The Beatles
    Mauricio Cano
    Mauricio Cano Posted on 2014-11-10 15:06:15 -0500.

    In this song, the singer's voice is a lot more varied than the background melody. The melody is composed of the same repeating pattern of chords which makes the voice more dynamic in comparison and consequently more interesting. This has the effect of making the melody the background and the voice the foreground.

  • The Air Near My Fingers by The White Stripes
    Eunice  Oh
    Eunice Oh Posted on 2014-11-10 00:32:01 -0500.

    The repetition of the few set of notes and vocals seems to be the main foundation of this song, but with different variations of it. There also seems to be a lot more dissonance with the instruments that are playing when the vocalist isn't singing. Going along with what Tonya said, this does makes the foreground more distinct from the background.

  • Soundtrack layering
    Tonya Sedgwick
    Tonya Sedgwick Posted on 2014-11-09 17:09:18 -0500.

    I thought it was interesting how the feeling of momentum speeds up as the song progresses, because it keeps adding new instruments with variations of the original melody.

  • The Air Near My Fingers by The White Stripes
    Tonya Sedgwick
    Tonya Sedgwick Posted on 2014-11-09 17:07:42 -0500.

    I also like how whenever the vocalist isn't singing, there are a lot of instruments, but when he is singing, there are only a few instruments, and they are only playing a simplified variation of what they had been playing. This makes the fore/backgrounds more obvious.