Dust — it’s everywhere!
First I clean it up and then pow! — a week later I’m cleaning all over again. Yeah I’m a neat-freak, so what?!?
Luckily for the the Dust Brothers, their music was just as prevalent throughout the 1990s. They started with several hits for Tone Loc and Young MC that featured heavy sampled drums, gritty electric riffs, and simple to the point raps. However, they really made their name with the Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique — a meticulously through-composed work that ranks as one of the best produced albums of all time.
There’s nothing like getting a raucous scare from music. Unless it’s doubled with a good scare in a movie. For me it really hasn’t gotten much creepier than The Shining‘s opening scene. And it all starts with the incredibly sinister music of the brilliant Wendy Carlos. An otherwise lovely scenic drive through the mountains is made ominous with Wendy’s creeeeepy score, instantly foretelling the nightmare that will descend in the next few hours. This post is about scary music in drama, all of which can be heard on the jarring classical mixtape “Haunt Your House“, created by Russell Johnson and me here at Pandora …
From Weird to Creepy: Switched From Bach
Analog synth sounds are famous for being weird, so it’s barely a skip over to ‘creepy’ for them. Wendy Carlos had already created a smorgasbord of curious Moog synth sounds on her landmark, genre-bending album Switched-on Bach. Apparently back in ’68, classical had to be Mooged in order to really sell: An all-Moog Bach album, it was the first classical LP to go platinum. Bach’s style is often dominated by counterpoint: the compositional technique of having 2 or more melodic lines going at once. If instruments were voices, a Bach fugue would sound like 2-5 people blabbering away at the same time. So hearing a gaggle of funky Moog sounds executing a contrapuntal Bach piece makes for some very entertaining, often silly musical conversations. She also Mooged Beethoven in A Clockwork Orange.
From there it was just a hop over to full-blown creepland:
When I think about my connection with music, I think about three impulses: the impulse to discover, the impulse to buy, and the impulse to share. Here at Pandora we’ve had the discover and buy bits covered for some time, but it’s been frustrating to use Pandora to share the music you’re encountering with your friends. You could send an email or embed a widget on MySpace, but in the age of Twitter and Facebook our offering has been pretty spartan. That all changed tonight.
With our new release we’ve added a sharing toolbar above the player so you’re always just a click away from sharing a song or a station with your friends on Facebook and Twitter. The first time you share on one of these networks, you’ll have to go through a series of pages that will connect your Pandora account with your Twitter or Facebook account. After that, it’s a just a simple click to share. When you post songs to Facebook your friends will be able to listen to samples right in their news feed. On Twitter we’ll post a shortened link to a page featuring just the song or station you shared.
This release also brings our station gifting feature to the foreground for the first time. Click the little present icon in the sharing toolbar and we’ll take you to a page where you can create an entirely new station to “give” to a friend. We’ll send it along to them in a fancy email, kind of like an electronic greeting card — or maybe more precisely, like a modern version of the mixtape.
Have fun playing with these new sharing features. Can’t wait to see what you discover…
PS: want to see what other people are finding and posting to Twitter? Try using this Twitter search link.
Just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, our resident Scare Queen (and senior classical music analyst) Michelle Alexander looks at some of the scariest music ever written, ranging from the ominous organ music of Bach and Beethoven’s stormy symphonic pieces through Liszt’s violent piano hammering and then into the creeping atonality of 20th Century composers like George Crumb and Gyorgy Ligeti. She thrusts her hands into the muck of musical fright and dredges up the dissonance and challenged expectations that make for aural horror. (9 mins.)
For the full story, check out the musical samples and a mixtape made especially for trick-or-treaters.
The Best Music EVER
In the comments to my previous post, a commenter wrote (in a long and very well-reasoned comment) that the craft of popular music from Tin Pan Alley and the American songbook “remains unquestionably the model to which all future song writing must be compared.”
Believe it or not, this made me think about punk rock. Here’s how.
Let’s Not Talk About Forever
The idea that any kind of song writing will ever be “unquestionably the model to which all future song writing must be compared” is hyperbolic. Forever is a long time, and to say that people in 200 years, or 2,000 years, or 12,000 years will look ONLY to Tin Pan Alley for the ultimate in song writing standards is at best impossible to confirm.
At worst, it projects our beliefs onto the people of the future, presuming that they will not only understand everything better than we do, but that they will select what we value and confirm its ultimate superiority. In other words, it’s a fantasy.
Congratulations to the winners of the 3rd Annual Pandora Poster Contest! Once again we were blown away by the variety and quality of your submissions.
The Grand Prize winner will receive $500, the Runner-up will receive $250, and the Editor’s Choice winner will receive $500.
Thanks so much to everyone who participated in the contest, and an extra congratulations to the winners.
|Grand Prize Winner
Artist: Amanda Tafuro
Artist: Jason Wyatt
Artist: Luis Medel
Donate now to one of our Global Giving projects to get a poster. With a minimum $10 donation, you can select which poster to receive. Donate at least $20 and receive all three.
Here’s part two of our Improv show, in which we explore directed improvisation and how musicians support each other when they’re out on the sea of spontaneity: Guitarist Lebo from ALO (a.k.a. Animal Liberation Orchestra), pianist Trevor Garrod from Tea Leaf Green (pictured here), and guitarist Jeremy Korpas from Big Light.
Electronic/dance music is largely based on musical conventions. Whether it is the use of the amen break, as a sample and dominant rhythmic pattern in drum & bass, the repetitive pounding of a kick drum sound in house & techno, or the low, rumbling, electro-bass of breakbeat – there are certain things a listener can expect from a particular sub-genre within EDM (electronic dance music). These conventions, or standard musical elements are fairly easy to extract and then combine (or mash-up) with a dominant element from another sub-genre, creating a new musical form.
In simple terms this is the foundation of the mash-up, a technique that has been at work in popular music ever since DJs starting blending & manipulating records in the 1970′s. It has certainly become a popular sub genre of it’s own.
While it is endlessly entertaining to explore ways to combine rock, rap, 80′s synth pop, swing, jazz, r&b, dancehall, bhangra…I would like to dig a little deeper into how the mash-up of musical conventions within electronic/dance is creating some compelling new sub-genres. Let’s start with dubstep.
Q: Did Music Discover Emotion? And What Does that Have to Do with Song Lyrics?
A: “God Only Knows”
The Problem with Song Lyrics
As a songwriter, I think of song lyrics as a specialization within creative writing. Unlike other kinds of creative writing, song lyrics can be excellent even when the writing (taken on its own) isn’t particularly good. It’s a feel you have to have, it’s a sort of creative half-writing. It’s leaving things out. It’s a kind of writing which in some ways is more like conversation than literature.
This is pretty apparent when you take a lyric out of the context of its song. On the page or read out loud, a song lyric will rarely work. The music, too, generally depends on the presence of the lyric to have its full effect.
Separated from each other, the elements of a song usually fall shy of what we consider true literature or music.
Now obviously, I believe that songs are the equal of any other art form. I write them, after all. But exactly how such excellence is fashioned from such humble materials – the alchemical quality of songs – is hard to see. It is perhaps the central mystery and attraction of songwriting, and it is of perennial fascination to me.
It’s not essential to understand these things in order to do them well, and it’s surely not possible to ever fully understand them, but it can’t hurt to try; and yesterday I came across a quote that may just offer a missing piece of the puzzle. It’s from What is Music: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Music,” by Philip Alperson, and it says:
“”emotion” can, in effect, be defined as what music articulates, much as “reality” can be best defined as that which the concepts and grammars of languages can capture.”