Musical Space

Did you ever notice that “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” has the same tune as the “Alphabet Song?” It’s also the same as Baa, Baa Black Sheep, and, slowed down, it becomes "What a Wonderful World."

A song with new lyrics given to an existing song is called a “Contrafactum.” This is a great way to express a new perspective, even if it’s just satire, like singing “Batman Smells” to the tune of “Jingle Bells.”

Aconcagua / Wikimedia Commons

Bo Diddley left a huge legacy for American pop music. He was one of the main links in the evolution from the blues to rock and roll. There is even a beat named after him, the one that goes chank-a-chank, a-chank, a-chank-chank. It comes from the caribean music that had an influence on the American south where he grew up, and it became a souvenir he took with him in his family’s move to the south side of Chicago, where he fused it with the blues.

Bella Union Records

Market forces have made it hard for musical innovators to succeed. And then there are The Flaming Lips, who have been able to thrive in the post-digital landscape while creating and delivering music completely on their own terms.

“Shave and a Haircut” is a ditty that has been a part of American culture for more than a hundred years; a sort of musical meme that worked its way deeply into our collective brain. You’ve heard it a million times.

Its ubiquity comes partly from its characteristic rhythm, which is related to the famous clave or “Bo Diddley beat” from the Caribbean by way of New Orleans.

Ryan Hendrix

One of the most important expressions of local musical culture happens every third week in September, when thousands become willing refugees from the city and head south to live in a shanty town founded on bluegrass. It's called the Walnut Valley Festival, but the regulars just call it “Winfield.”

Wikimedia Commons

Four on the floor is certain style of drum beat where the bass drum is hit with a steady quarter-note pulse; four equal stomps on the foot-pedal per measure. It’s very different from older pop beats where the bass drum typically hits beats 1 and 3. It really came into prominence with disco in the seventies, a real departure from rock and funk. Four on the floor is popular now as the driving force of many kinds of electronic dance music.

Wikimedia Commons

The drum machine is the most culturally important new musical instrument since the electric guitar.

Electronic drums have been around for generations, and the early ones sounded like the cheesy rhythm attachments on home organs.

Courtesy photo

When it first appeared on the market in the early 1980s the Roland TR-808 could be purchased at about a quarter the price of competing brands. Imitation drums sounded cheap, too.

These were not digital samples, but simple analog circuits. The bass drum sound was a strange, deep, ringing thud; the snare was a high, papery snap; the cowbell was an obnoxious clank.

Playing music is a skill that can be exercised and enjoyed for an entire lifetime. In other words, music is the ideal hobby.

Musical Space: Hip Hop

Jun 25, 2013

Sampling in Hip-Hop reached its height in the late 80s and early 90s. The legality of using samples from someone else’s song was vague; a lot of djs risked being sued, and ended up doing amazing things by putting together quotations of wildly different familiar music.

Four examples of samples that ended up being used by the band De La Soul: