Musical Space

Commentary
5:30 am
Tue January 8, 2013

Musical Space: John Cage

John Cage was one of the most influential and revolutionary composers of the 20th Century.

John Cage, one of the most influential and revolutionary composers of the 20th Century, was born almost exactly 100 years ago. He was very well schooled as a composer, but it seems as though his mission was to reject nearly every compositional technique he was taught, and instead push the boundaries, even the very definition of music. His results were, to say the least, interesting.

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Commentary
6:50 am
Tue December 25, 2012

Musical Space: Raymond Scott

American musician Raymond Scott, one of the most important composers of the Twentieth Century.

American musician Raymond Scott was one of the most important composers of the Twentieth Century because had a knack for constant innovation and writing music for emerging media. I can’t think of any other composer who was so ahead of his time while also being so recognizable.

In the 1930s the Raymond Scott Quintette played original novelty pop tunes that combined experimental textures, frenetic tempos and appropriated jazz riffs. He played regularly on radio and film; selling a lot of records in the process.

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Commentary
7:59 am
Tue December 11, 2012

Musical Space: Old and New Standards

As jazz continues to evolve, what becomes a standard in the jazz repertoire has also changed.

One of the most remarkable things about jazz in '40s and '50s was how musicians could appropriate a popular song and turn it into a jazz composition. It was a beautiful artistic juxtaposition - someone could hear a song sung in a film or on a Broadway stage, and then the same night hear that song turned into a bebop tour-de-force in an after-hours jazz club.

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Commentary
5:00 am
Tue November 27, 2012

Musical Space: Amateurs

A Rick Vito signature model Reverend guitar.
Credit Reverend Guitars

I'm told that a century ago the average American could sing 300 folk songs. Not too surprising, since back then, if you wanted music, you probably had to make it yourself.

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Commentary
8:35 am
Tue November 13, 2012

Musical Space: Reading Music

Credit Marcin Wichary / flickr

For a thousand years, there has been a division between musicians who could read music and those who played by ear. Both skills are essential, and so the music industry has become a strange world in which the literate and illiterate coexist.

Music reading is useful because it is so efficient. When the music is written down, composers don’t have to take the time teach their music to the musicians, and musicians don’t have to rely on memory to play their parts.

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Commentary
7:52 am
Tue October 30, 2012

Musical Space: Auto-Tune

Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell

Auto-tune first appeared in the late 1990s and quickly took hold of pop music with its use in Cher’s 1998 hit, “Believe.” She, and other artists, such as T-Pain were responsible for its popularity, its synthetic voice effect in electronic dance music and hip-hop.

Scary, though, is the more subtle use of auto-tune to correct the performance of a less-than pitch perfect singer. A great vocal performance can be accurate and expressive; electronics can often get in the way.

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Commentary
11:35 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Musical Space: Suspension (repeat)

One way musicians create tension in a melody or chord progression is through use of a suspension.

Here’s a little music theory for you: the suspension. A suspension is a note that clashes with the harmony and needs to move to another note to resolve the tension. For instance, the fourth note above the root of a chord is dissonant, and likes to move to the third note, which is consonant. Here’s a 4-3 suspension on a piano; the tension in this C chord is resolved when the dissonant F moves to the consonant E:

Example 1: 4 3 suspension.piano

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Commentary
11:38 am
Tue October 2, 2012

Musical Space: BPM

The metronome was invented by a friend of Beethoven’s, Johann Maelzel, in 1815.

Whether Beethoven or beat boxers, musicians have come to rely on one tool to help them keep time.

The metronome was invented by a friend of Beethoven’s, Johann Maelzel, in 1815. It is used in music to set a tempo, measured in Beats Per Minute, and traditionally has a range of 40 - 208 BPM, roughly the extremes of the human heart-rate. BPM correlates to the human body in other ways, too.

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Commentary
9:28 am
Tue September 18, 2012

Musical Space: Math Rock

Cover of King Crimson's <>Larks Tongues In Aspic

Mark Foley explores the relationship between math, meter, and music.

Music is almost always arranged in a repeating pattern of beats; the pattern, or “meter,” usually corresponds with a rhythm that is easy to dance to, so the meter of a song is usually a simple group of 2, 3, or 4 beats. There is, however, a history of composers making things more complicated. “Money,” from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, has a strange, lop-sided groove because it is in an undanceable seven-beat meter.

Example 1: “Money”

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Commentary
11:30 am
Tue September 4, 2012

Musical Space: Suspension

One way musicians create tension in a melody or chord progression is through use of a suspension.

Here’s a little music theory for you: the suspension. A suspension is a note that clashes with the harmony and needs to move to another note to resolve the tension. For instance, the fourth note above the root of a chord is dissonant, and likes to move to the third note, which is consonant. Here’s a 4-3 suspension on a piano; the tension in this C chord is resolved when the dissonant F moves to the consonant E:

Example 1: 4 3 suspension.piano

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