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The Goldberg Variations consist of an aria and 30 variations written by Johann Sebastian Bach. The work was published in 1741, and they were named after Johann Gottlieb Goldberg who is said to have been the first performer of the work. This is again a very known piece of music that was originally written for harpsichord, but it is now standard for piano.

In 1955, a very talented Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, recorded the piece for Columbia records. Gould had become very famous for his unique take on these pieces, and its success was the beginning of his career as an artist. The aria of the first variation features Gould’s quick fingers, as he seems to play an allegro style with ease. His left hand, on the bass clef, accents staccato notes while his right hand contrasts with a legato melody. Throughout the piece you can hear very noticeable crescendo and decrescendo swelling. The speed and accuracy of his performance truly demonstrates his skill, and it is no wonder why this album eventually ended up selling over two million copies by the 2000’s.

 

Gould eventually recorded the variations again in 1981, but with slightly different interpretations. In the aria of the first variation, he plays the piece much slower and rubato, but his dynamics are more noticeable. His style is much more marcato in this version. The down beat notes in his left hand are much more heavily accented than his first recording. His right hand also contrasts his previous recording with notes more broken apart in the melody instead of all legato phrasing. His dynamic crescendos and decrescendos are also more present than the 1955 recording. There is definitely a large switch in his playing style. I feel it may have been intentional. Why would he want to record the same songs in the same way? I think he wanted to do something different from the fast finger motions he was initially known for, so he decided to take a more artistic approach, focusing more on dynamics and phrasing differences.

 

Here are clips of both recordings. I try and hear the differences in his left hand dynamics, right hand phrasing, and tempo changes between the two recordings.

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Johann Sebastian Bach composed the six suites for unaccompanied cello between 1717 and 1723, and they are some of the most recognized pieces for solo cello. Their popularity didn’t arise until after 1900 when many musicians performed and transcribed these pieces.

Pablo Casals, a cellist from Barcelona, Spain, discovered the suites and began studying them when he was thirteen. He didn’t record them, however, until 1936 when he was sixty years old. Suite No. 2 in D Minor specifically showed his incredible skills of his interpretation in the recording. He gives the piece vast amounts of movement with drastic dynamic swells in each phrase and held note. He is very skilled with his phrase articulation, playing legato lines with stops at each phrase end. This fits very nicely with his rubato timing because each phrase end gives him time to pause and build emotional suspense. He also shows emotion with a mild vibrato on his harmonies. The sound of his instrument is very dry, with subtle string screeches and scratches, but some of the tone may be accredited to the recording technology of the time.

 

Another recording of this piece was done by Maurice Gendron in 1964, and shows a different interpretation that may grab listener’s attention more easily. Immediately, his faster, heavier vibrato shows a more solemn emotion to the audience as compared to Casals’ performance. When midrange notes make quick interval changes to lower notes, Gendron plays them more gentle than Casals, so it seems to give the piece a better sense of control. Every sustained note went somewhere, as many of them started with a sforzando and finished with a swelling crescendo. These differences in Gendron’s interpretation and Casals’ interpretation, however subtle they may be, seem to display a more emotional caliber of musicality coming from Gendron that more easily captivates the audience.

 

Here are clips of both tracks. Pay close attention to the different dynamic swells, crescendos, decrescendos, thickness in vibrato, and accents on large note intervals to discover which interpretation you find more emotionally stimulating.

http://www.4shared.com/mp3/NPiZhXWk/bach_cello_suite_-_no2_in_d_mi.htm

Jazz has been a prominent genre for nearly 100 years, with its sounds influencing vast arrays of artists to this day. Jazz itself has shifted its style throughout its development, emerging from work songs of enslaved Africans in early America.

 

In the 1620’s the first shipments of African slaves were sent to the Americas. It is important to realize that these were the people responsible for the roots of Jazz. Working labor, they would sing work songs to distract from the harsh reality of their position. The rhythmic tribal style of these Africans would fuse with sounds of traditional hymns and musical instrument available to slaves. These sounds would be foundation of the musical style ragtime. In 1892, Tommy Turpin wrote the first known ragtime composition, “Harlem Rag,” in St. Louis, Missouri.

Ragtime was the inspiration of many well-known pioneers of jazz in the early 1900’s.  Louis Armstrong was born in 1901 and grew up listening to ragtime and Dixieland music style. People like Eubie Blake, a famous rag pianist, wrote rags during the 1900’s. This was certainly the decade when the ragtime genre became particularly popular among African Americans.

 

Between the 1910’s and 1920’s there was a lot of progression of Dixieland and ragtime style jazz especially in New Orleans. In 1917 the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (an all-white member group) released what is considered by many to be the first jazz album to be recorded.

A vast amount of the development of jazz took place in the northeastern part of the states. Many families traveled had traveled north in pursuit of better lives. Because of this, the “Harlem Renaissance” came about, signifying the fast development in African American art culture. In 1922 Race records was created, and it categorized music by race in the industry. Alcohol was also prohibited in America in 1920, which played a huge part in some developments in jazz during this time. There were tremendous amounts of private house parties where jazz was the main music being played. There was also a large emergence of different jazz icons like Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong and Jelly Roll Morton. All of these artists and more began recording and performing, as the popularity of jazz music grew rapidly.

In the 1930’s, America was feeling the struggles of the great depression. Many successful artists from the previous decade could not sustain careers as musicians because of these hard times; however, many artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington continued profitable careers writing and performing jazz music later categorized as “swing.” Big bands were playing in clubs with large dancing audiences. Count Basie was the leader of a very successful big band in Kansas City, proving that jazz was quickly migrating to more regions in the States. In his compositions, he featured soloists like Lester Young on the saxophone. Big bands often featured solo leads in their performances, and some speculate this could be the early seed of bebop. Many artists began to develop individual skills and form smaller ensembles featuring mainly improvisation by the end of the 1930’s. This contrasted big bands’ large amount of instruments and comparatively more structured music.

Im pretty sure this clip is a commercial, but I like how it features a lot of song samples and pictures. Hopefully it gets the point across a bit better!

In the early 1940’s, some of big band’s leaders, like Count Basie and Duke Ellington, continued their successful leadership of their large groups. In 1941, bepop began to take root in the Minton’s Playhouse jam sessions, where artists like Charlie Parker on saxophone and Jay McShann’s band collaborated. Other bebop artists like trumpeter Miles Davis and drummer Dizzy Gillespie brought the spotlight away from “swing.” Dizzy Gillespie brought attention to other forms of jazz like “afro-Cuban,” with songs like, “Manteca” in 1946. By 1949, what is now known as “cool jazz” had taken over the scene, and artists Miles Davis and Gil Evans were recording the iconic album “Birth of the Cool” album. The bebop style, however, was much less industry-driven, and was more for musical expansion. Other artists that contributed to this style include saxophonist John Coltrane, drummer Max Roach, saxophonist Thelonius Monk, and pianist Hank Jones. The bebop and cool jazz styles continued to stay very prominent in the jazz community throughout the 1960’s.

In the 1960’s and 70’s more sub genres began to develop. Free jazz was an unconventional style featuring little or no structure, relying strictly on the musicians’ improvisation.  Saxophonist Ornet Coleman and drummer Max roach were some leading artists in this style. Fusion bands like Weather Report and Return to Forever were being formed by keyboardists Chic Corea and Joe Zawinul during this time.

Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” is an abstract piece that was too progressive for the time is was written. Luckily, there are composers like Solti and Bernstein to resurrect this menacingly beautiful ballet from 1913.

Stravinsky-Igor-09 This is Stravinsky

The Introduction of the first act, “The Adoration of Earth,” directed by Bernstein, establishes the strong reoccurring theme played on bassoon. The sound of the recording is clear; however, there are some quiet sniffles and page ruffles from members of the orchestra or possible audience. This happens every time the orchestra abruptly switches from loud to soft, or during the beginning of the intro, when the musicians are playing very quietly. This recording also offers a very clear stereo image of where the instruments are placed. During the pizzicato section, all of the plucking is heard in the left. This makes it somewhat easier to pick out the different instruments’ parts, especially when there is a marching melody played by a woodwind with the rest of it’s section and family members, filling the space with abstract ascending and descending arpeggios and trills.

The first thing noticed while listening to the Solti recording is the crackle of the record it was sampled from. However, immediately after this fact is dismissed, the dynamic qualities of the bassoon soloist pop out. You can hear intentional, prominent accents coming from the soloists, and the arpeggios and runs of the crescendos and decrescendos of supporting instruments, often the strings or flutes, are much stronger than the Bernstein recording. This may have something to do with the two conductors different styles of conducting.

Here is a video of both conducting to possible see what they may contribute to the musicians’ performance.

The album, Thelonius Monk and Sonny Rollins, was engineered and remastered by Rudy Van Gelder. This album features composer and pianist, Thelonius Monk, and saxophonist, Sonny Rollins. Gelder recorded the album from 1953-1954, and it was released on the Prestige label, featuring an array of artists Gelder also recorded during this time period.

Thelonious Monk & Sonny Rollins Thelonious+Monk++Sonny+Rollins

When I listened through this album, I was amazed at the quality of the recording sound. There is such a sense of space that I feel I may as well be sitting in the same room as the musicians. It is a very honest-sounding recording that was ahead of the curve along with Gelder’s other recordings at that time. I remember reading how Gelder was renowned for his cutting edge style of microphone placement and recording technics at that time period. He was very particular about the sort of microphones used during the session, and you can immediately tell as soon as you hear the sizzle of the ride that each mic was picked specifically to match their sound sources. This makes me realize how far ahead of the game Gelder really was. Each song was so perfectly transparent that it is almost a shock it was released in the 50’s. He certainly must have done tons of experimenting with so many different mics, some of which were probably new to the industry. Each instrument can be picked out without taking away anything from the lead at the time. Of course, a lot of this is because of the musician’s talents, but Gelder was the expert of choosing the right tools to capture that talent. These tools were microphones.

large183This is a Neumann u47 mic. Gelder was one of the first to ever receive this mic from the manufacturer. Neumann condensers are given some credit as to why Gelder’s recordings sound so warm and true.

I found it interesting when I discovered so many acclaimed musicians at the time helped collaborate on the album as members of the rhythm section. Many of them, like Art Blakely who filled on the drums for the songs “Work” and “Nutty,” were also clients of Gelder.

I also discovered that the song “Friday the 13th” was written in the studio during a session. It is over ten minutes and even features Julian Watkins on French horn. Apparently, they wrote it to fill out the rest of the album’s running time. Another sign of proof that Gelder worked with some truly talented musicians.

This is the first track on the album. Also, my favorite.

The documentary, “Reincarnated,” released in 2012 follows former artist, Snoop Dogg, on his journey to Jamaica where he immerses himself in the Rastafarian culture and religion. The purpose of his journey mentioned in the movie’s description, is to “reflect on his past career, including his failures, loves, regrets and losses.” (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2312602/) During the movie, Snoop visits with many big names in the hip-hop and reggae industry like Dr. Dre, Diplo, Damien Marley, and interestingly, Buddy Wailer, one of the original founders of The Wailers (along with Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh).  Another aspect of this movie includes the completion of a new album, a reggae album, and the emergence of a new alias, Snoop Lion.

 

How are others in the industry looking at this transformation? Is it really a surprise that Snoop Dogg switched to Snoop Lion, where he can still write just as much music about smoking weed? Buddy Wailer, even though he himself is in the movie, later criticized Snoop for his unwillingness to commit to the Rastafarian faith.

 

“Speaking to TMZ in January, Wailer said Snoop was guilty of “outright fraudulent use of Rastafari community’s personalities and symbolism” and had failed to fulfil his “contractual, moral and verbal commitments” to the faith.”

(http://www.theguardian.com/music/2013/apr/25/snoop-lion-bunny-wailer-rastafarianism)

 

If one of Snoop Lion’s own co-workers in his own documentary is criticizing him of this negative appropriation, it certainly should make his fans curious if he has lost his authenticity. Snoop Lion grew up in Long Beach, and other areas in California. His earlier music was certainly relatable, and I believe he had actual experience in the topics his lyrics covered. Is Snoop Lion’s true purpose in his future albums to spread the word of Rastafarian culture? Or, is it just the means for a middle-aged man, whose new music isn’t as popular as his oldies, to exploit a misinterpreted religion for his own fiscal gain? I don’t know! But I do wonder how sincere Snoop Dogg… Lion… is about this new image. I’m unsure if he really is trying to shape up his act, or just experiment with a new music that he loves.

 

I read an article in dailynew.com (http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/music-arts/snoop-dogg-evolves-snoop-lion-claims-bob-marley-reincarnated-video-article-1.1126235) that has some of Snoop’s thoughts on the new sound. He declares that he was “born again” when he visited Jamaica, but he hardly mentions in what way. His spiritual journey is still a bit fuzzy to me, as I’m sure it is to some more of his fans. He does mention that he is an artist, wanting to make music that will appeal to his children and grandchildren. There is nothing wrong with wanting to experiment with new genres. He mentions that he is, “a wise man in the music industry, “ so maybe this whole reggae ordeal is a phase in which he wants to pursue new artistic abilities of songwriting and still see some form of profit throughout.

 

I encourage you all to read the articles yourselves and form your opinions, especially if you are fans. Is he in it for the money? Or is he really trying to clean up his act? I think a little of both.

 

harry_smith

 

Harry Smith was an experimental film maker from Portland Oregon, who compiled a collection of early American folk music from 1927 to 1932 called the Anthology of American Folk music. It was all brought together from his enormous collection of 78 rpm records, and it was compacted onto a three record set. Apparently, he carefully selected each song as to best represent a timeline from the years the records were actually recorded and released. Smith is said to have played a huge role in the folk and blues revival in the States during the 50′ and 60’s due to this release in 1952.

Smith’s habits of collecting these records were not typical in America at the time. However, he still was very interested in keeping them preserved. After Twenty years of collection, Smith finally released the album through Folkway Records, even though many of the original records the songs were ripped from were released by Columbia and Paramount.

Most of the songs on the record did not exist outside of Smith’s ownership, and many of the artists featured were forgotten from 1927, the earliest recorded song on the album, to the 1950’s, when it was released. Many artists like Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, and John Fahey used this album as a standard in researching, recording and creating more folk songs. The Anthology was released during a time where social reforms were being made in America. Many give credit to The Anthology for some social changes during the 60’s. The Anthology is also given some credit for helping shape rock and roll because of the impact it had on so many artists.

This album was re-released on disk in 1997 by Smithsonian Folkways Recording.

Here is a song selected from the third album, “Songs”

The first recording device was called the phonautograph invented by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville in 1857. It couldn’t actually play back sound, because it was meant to just visually represent sound waves. Once pressure would act upon the diaphragm, a stylus hooked up to various levers would draw a representation of a sound pressure wave on a soot-covered piece of paper rotating on a cylinder.

743px-Phonautograph_1859

From the phonautograph came the phonograph, eventually perfected by Thomas Edison in 1878. It was another cylinder based design in which waves would interact with the diaphragm, and in turn manipulate a stylus to dip into the cylinder typically made of wax, lead or foil. The main difference between the phonautograph and the phonograph is that the phonograph could play back audio by running a needle through the cylinder medium and amplifying. The design was then adjusted to record to a large disk called a “gramophone record” rather than a cylinder.

EdisonPhonograph tlc0260

This eventually evolved into what we know as the record player today. Records were eventually a medium used by industry and mass produced releasing all sorts of different genres like folk, gospel, classical, and jazz.

Eventually recording into the diaphragm of one of these machines was no longer used, and electrical recording became the standard for most labels by the end of the 1920’s. Electrical recording made it possible to use microphones. This greatly improved sound quality of recording, but everything was still recorded directly to the same medium at this point. This means bands would perform live in the studio, together, and if someone messed up, the recording was tossed.

People began to realize that you could record a performance while another recording was playing at the same time to the same medium. This was eventually called overdubbing, and it wasn’t really mastered until tape recording was invented.The concepts of magnetic recording and playback were first experimented with in the 1920’s by Valdemar Poulsen and his creation of the telegraphone. Magnetic recording involves a continuous movement of a magnetic medium across a recording head that produces an analog electrical signal. This signal alters the magnetic field on the medium, and those alterations are picked up by a playback  head and turned into an electrical signal.

During the 1940’s 1950’s developments with magnetic tape recording really flourished. Tape recording became the desired recording medium and open the doors to multi-track recording. Previously recorded tapes would sum into one master tape. This method was used in most recording and was eventually distributed to the public as compact tape cassettes and 8-tracks in the 1960’s and beyond.

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Digital recording began to emerge in the 1970’s using reel-to-reel recording called PCM. Digital audio tape (DAT) became too difficult to distribute to the public for its price, so the main form of distribution became digital compact cassettes (DCC).audio_cassette_1395880c

Eventually audio files could be stored digitally on hard disks by the 1990’s. This was also around the same time various audio files were indroduced, like WAV, MP3, and FLAC files.

Today there are multiple ways to access audio media. One can still by older formats, like records, tapes and CDs. Now you can stream music over the internet and download digital albums from various softwares and websites.

Jaw Harp

 

            It is called the jaw harp, an Ozark harp, a Jew harp, or a mouth harp. It is an instrument made of flexible metal or bamboo. A thin strip of this material is attached to a thicker surrounding frame. The frame is placed in the performers mouth, and the flexible strip is plucked to produce a note resonating in the mouth. The performer can change the shape of his or her mouth and create overtones, making the instrument resonate different notes.

            This instrument would fall under the category of plucked idiophone, because the sound is produced through vibration without using strings or membranes. It can be heard in some modern world music, but is still a bit unconventional in most western music. Different forms of the jaw harp are heard in other styles like Carnatic music (in South India), Filipino music, and Turkic music. One song that features the jaw harp is “Join Together” by The Who. It plays throughout most of the intro, and you can hear different mouth shapes changing the tone of the instrument.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HDMCCLlGl4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IoQgb9nhTsQ

 

Jew's_harp