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For concert paper
After learning about ways to talk about music in formal terms and weeks’ worth of listening to music, it’s time for you to see some *live* music! Please write about your concert experience. Consider the following:
What was the venue? How were the other concert-goers? Did you feel at ease or like you had to be on a certain behavior?
What type of music/band/genre was it? Did any of the music they played resonate with you in any way? Had you heard the music before?
Please explain the music in some of the terms that we have learned this semester. Could any of the music we listened to be considered ‘ancestors’ of the music you heard live?
How did you feel when listening to the music?
I will grade your submission based on clarity of writing and grammar and the use of applied music terms from class. Length should be 1.5-2 pages. Please include a copy of the concert program or ticket.
For music playlist
Please pick a favorite artist or band and tell me more about them. Where did you hear about them? What is the genre and makeup of the band? Post several links to songs that represent their style and talk about them using terms and vocabulary from this semester, as well as explaining why you like the song or have a connection to it. Can you draw any comparisons or connections to music we have learned about this semester?
I’m looking for quality of writing and thoughtful content, as well as new music to listen to! : Example of music playlist
Example Pick: The Punch Brothers/Chris Thile
The first time I saw the Punch Brothers was about 15 years ago. I was a student at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado and they were a newly formed band that came to town for a small chamber recital. I knew that bandleader Chris Thile was a virtuosic mandolin player from his previous band that I had followed for years, Nickel Creek. I went into the concert not knowing what to expect and left feeling a crazy musical high and with a new favorite group. Since then I have seen them countless times – basically whenever they are within a 150 mile radius. I was thrilled to see them outdoors in Indianapolis a few weeks ago – my first live concert post-pandemic!
The Punch Brothers are a hard band to describe, which is one of the many reasons I enjoy their music. They operate in many ways like a classical chamber group but present themselves on instruments that are more traditionally seen as American bluegrass instruments; mandolin, fiddle, bass, guitar and banjo. Each instrument plays their own role in the group and it’s fascinating to watch them communicate wordlessly on stage. While they have many traditional folk and bluegrass tunes in their discography, they have also arranged versions of classical pieces, covered jazz and pop and written eclectic originals as well. Here’s a very cool video of Chris Thile talking about genres.
Genre Hopping with Chris Thile (Links to an external site.)
Here’s part of their 4 movement, completely notated piece called The Blind Leaving the Blind. Although it may sound improvised, and certainly each of these musicians are adept at improvising, this piece is completely notated and then memorized by each of the musicians. Composer Chris Thile is drawing on influence from classical composers and western compositional techniques like the multi movement form and thematic return. Even though each instrument is playing very technically demanding lines (very sophisticated polyphony), they can be independently heard.
The Blind Leaving the Blind (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
This has become one of the group’s most popular songs to play at concerts and is one of the most fun to see them play. It is AABA in form, typical subject matter of early bluegrass music and also very predictable, following harmonies typical in traditional bluegrass music. I’ve been lucky enough to see some really incredible live music concerts of all genres, and yet this group has become my favorite live act for their energy and sheer virtuosity that I get to witness, every time.
Rye Whiskey (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
The Punch Brothers also arrange already composed classical or rock music. They do a neat arrangement of a Debussy piano piece, where, even though the music is written for solo piano, they separate out the melodic material among the 5 of them and the piece is transformed. Their cover of Radiohead’s “Kid A” is another example of their reimagination of a great piece, and it’s also great to hear live. They are creating effects with acoustic instruments that are otherwise done digitally.
Kid A (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
Chris Thile, along with leading the Punch Brothers, also collaborates with the best of the best in all other areas of music, such as cellist Yo Yo Ma, jazz pianist Brad Mehldau and bassist Edgar Meyer. He has won the MacArther Genius Grant for his contributions to music. He’s also in his second seasons of hosting an NPR music variety show, “Live From Here” on Saturday nights. It’s on these shows that he has started the tradition of writing a new song each week. This has resulted in an enormous output of music that reminds me of court composers in the patronage system that wrote for routine social functions or weekly masses. One of my favorites of these weekly songs is called “Calvin and the Gnostics.”
From the very beginning, the piece gives me a sense of excitement. Non-traditional harmonies and consistent bass drum beats keep the music moving forward until the texture fills out with full drum kit and vocal harmonies. After the first verse ends, Thile takes a solo and the violin leads back to another repeat of the first section.
The B section is helmed by Rachael Price – the lead singer of Lake Street Dive, another great band to check out. The song no longer feels filled with frenetic energy and instead grooves to a backbeat. The A section later returns with slightly altered lyrics, changing the timeline in Thile’s story. One of the biggest reasons I like this song, and most of Thile’s songs, are his brilliant lyrics. In this case, he’s singing about his son, Calvin, and what fall feels like when you’re seeing it through the eyes of a little kid. Maybe it’s because I am raising two young children, myself, but this song really resonates with me.
Calvin and the Ghosties (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)
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