Month: January 2014

Cultural Insider Vs. Cultural Outsider

Since its release in 2008, New Age/electronic  group Enigma’s, Seven Lives Many Faces has been an album of personal comfort. The very first time I heard the artistry within “The Same Parents”, I noticed a sense of primordial awareness stirring in my soul. Through the lyrics, I felt in-tune with the message and intention of the song. Through my own inner sense of being, I feel that everyone and everything is naturally interwoven through the same breath of life. As a human, I feel I have a lot of responsibility to treat the planet [and it’s respective inhabitants] with great reverence.

For centuries upon end, humans have fought one-another in order to have their tribes and villages come out on-top biologically. There are plenty of differing causes for people not having the conscientious ability to peacefully coincide with one-another. Perhaps they were neighboring villages, or two civilizations so racially similar, it was threatening, or unclear who was ‘right’ and who was ‘wrong’ in their respective belief systems.

Romanian-German musician and producer, Michael Cretu, spreads an important message still very much needed in today’s day in age. Cultural genocides, racial obliteration, and massive destruction through war has slaughtered more than just human-beings…and in the end, for what?

The human ego seeks control.

Instrumentally, the piece fades in with a plucked (pizzicato) guitar melody line. A child speaks with (what in my opinion) sounds both sad and aware, “In the beginning, We all had the same parents, Many million years ago, Why can’t we live in freedom? Without hunger, with no war.”

A violin saturated with reverb holds the base-line, while a series of strings gracefully plays on-top, assisting in compositional development.

When the percussion comes in, the beat is seemingly very simple, though many various samples and drum-elements are used along side the young singer to create a rather enchanted sound…it almost begs people to think outside themselves for the 3:32 it plays.

At the beginning we all had one mother and one father. That’s where we’re descending from. Attention, I don’t, I don’t understand, Why so much hate? Attention Between races and religions. It’s mad, insane, I don’t understand. Amazing, Why it has to be like that? Incredible experience. We all had the same parents, Many million years ago. Why can’t we live in freedom?Without hunger, with no war. Attention, I don’t, I don’t understand, Why so much hate? Amazing, Between races and religions, Incredible experience, etc.”

…..Now on the flip side, I must present a piece of music (or style) that makes me extremely uncomfortable for whatever reason, be it musical or the message it stands for. I can appreciate the skill one must acquire to snort like a pig and scream like a banshee- but I just don’t find this “sub-genre” of metal appealing to listen to for more than a couple seconds at a time. This is simply because it fatigues my ears and is often-times very shrill, over-compressed, and rather deafening.

There is so much going on at once: the guitars are intentionally out-of-tune, and the music is arranged in an unexpected, uncomfortable manner. Instrumentally there’s very little headroom in the mix, giving it next to no space to breathe. I can respect the skill it takes for double-kick bass drum pedal techniques, and having 16th notes, grouped in two, spread across two feet. This is a genre that takes an insane amount of practice and skill to withstand its blood-thirsty fans.

While I can’t directly understand the lyrics, the artist inaudibly screams “Your eyes silently scream astonishing grief. The satisfaction I devour is not retribution. Your sorrow’s my devotion. I’ll be rewarded with your degradation. Nourished by bitter passions, My hunger for human deprivation will be quenched. No retribution. Your sorrow’s my devotion.”

Now that I just decided to slit my wrists, let’s all hold hands and dance around a rainbow! Maybe this is just my own form of ethnocentrism, as I’m just not in a death-metal state of mind.

**SOURCES

“Furtive Monologue Lyrics – Despised Icon.” FURTIVE MONOLOGUE LYRICS. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Furtive-Monologue-lyrics-Despised-Icon/D87D02695F27CE43482572CA000BC229>.

“Enigma Seven Lives, Many Faces.” Enigma. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://www.sputnikmusic.com/review/27739/Enigma-Seven-Lives,-Many-Faces/>.

“A Metal State of Mind.” A Metal State of Mind. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://ametalstateofmind.com/tag/pig-metal/>.

“Michael Cretu.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Jan. 2014. Web. 27 Jan. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Cretu>.

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The Sachs-Hornbostel System

In the field of Ethnomusicology, the Sachs-Hornbostel System had been arranged and published as a system of musical instrument classification in 1914. As the structure was originally presented in German through the Zeitschrift für Ethnologie publication, an English translation was announced through the Galpin Society Journal (GSJ) in 1960.

The Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, or “Journal of Ethnology” first appeared in 1869. Originally focusing on German ethnology, the journal branched out internationally, and still creates various publications on the subject.

Founded in 1946,The Galpin Society sought to research musical instruments based upon their history, construction, development, and overall use. Still today, the society welcomes those interested in studying musical instruments from all over the world. The society commemorates the name of Canon Francis W. Galpin (1858-1945) who studied, collected, and made his own musical instruments from scratch.

Here is a picture of Canon Galpin playing a “Tromba Marina” from his personal collection:

Galpin

As we will learn after reading this post, Galpin’s “Tromba Marina” appears to be a bowed lute in the chordophone category…

Looking back at the Sachs-Hornbostel System, Austrian scholar of music Eric Moritz Von Hornbostel, co-authored the instrumental arrangement with German Ethnomusicologist and modern Organologist, Curt Sachs. The systems intention was to organize musical instruments into four primary categories based on what part of the instrument vibrates to produce the sound. Regardless of there being several subcategories, the top four are:

Aerophones:

These instruments produce sound through the direct vibration of air. They are typically subdivided into three categories: Flutes, Reeds, and Trumpets.

Flutes:

When a column of air is set into vibration through breath, the air is split on an edge. It can be  made from a tube of metal, wood, or ebonite usually with  six holes at one end of the tube. With the end of the tube sealed with a cork,  the player is able to blow his/her lips across the embouchure (position of the lips in/on the mouthpiece) or hole. The air directed into the tube causes turbulence and vibrates within the tube.

R. Carlos Nakai’s serene Native American flute performance. [He plays a few different sizes and kinds of flutes throughout this video, and you will be able to decipher between the different timbral qualities between each flute.]

Reeds:

The end of the players’ mouth is not open to the outside air, so unlike the  flute, the air is not free to move in and out. Reeds have one or more small pieces of material like cane, bamboo, or metal that vibrates when air is blown over or through them into a tube.

Trumpets:

A performer must blow into instrument by vibrating their lips at high  speed. This force acts as the reed itself, and the vibration is harnessed to produce the sound. Trumpet players can modulate pitch by changing the  pressure on their lips and the force of air blown into the mouthpiece. They can  also change pitch by changing the length of the tubing through which air flows.

Duke Ellington with Cat Anderson [Trumpet Solo]

*For information about another amazing aerophone, the Cambodian M’baut/Chinese Hulusheng  (An intricate Mouth Organ found all over Southeast Asia), Please click this link! I created a detailed post a couple of months ago, and think you may like it!

Chordophones:

Defined as having one or more strings stretched between two points. Sound is produced when a string is able to vibrate. The shape/body of the instrument distinguishes the two basic types of chordophone (though there are many more subtypes!)

Lutes:

Generally plucked, the reverberant qualities fade away almost  immediately as each note subsides. When a lute is bowed, the string vibration  does not fade away until the bowing has subsided. Lutes can also be fretless (like a fretless bass or guitar), or they can have frets. Frets are straight bars of material (wood/bamboo/metal) that are carefully placed on the neck of a lute vertically, underneath the horizontal strings. When pressing the string to the fret, the player is guided in obtaining his/her desired pitch. Fretted lutes tend to be plucked, while fretless lutes are most commonly bowed.

John Playford with a fretted lute [plucked]

Fusani Tia & Muhammad Kusanii on the Fretless Talensi fiddle in Gana, Africa

 Zithers:

Plucked, bowed, or hammered (which tends to have more reverberant sound timbre than other types of chordophones.)

Bowed Zither duet with Harp

Plucked Chinese Guzheng 

Hammered Zither in Central Park NYC [Celtic]

The timbral qualities will also be deciphered based upon whether or not the lute or zither is plucked with a finger or plectrum, which is thin flat piece of plastic, tortoise-shell, or flexible material held or worn on the fingers and used to pluck the strings of for example, a guitar, or the Chinese Guzheng (which can be played with both fingers and a plectrum.)

Tortoise Shell Picks

Lyres and Harps also technically fall under the category of Chordophones due to their construction. An open frame suspends the strings vertically on both of these instruments. This design allows the player to pluck each string. While it may be difficult to distinguish the auditory different between a lyre and a harp, the construction of the instruments is quite recognizable.

Alemannic Warrior Lyre/Trossingen Lyre (6th Century Germanic Lyre) 

Harp + Vocal/ Förgätmigej: The Flower of Magherally

Idiophones:

Create sound through actual vibrations within the instrument itself. The vibrations compress and rarefy the surrounding air to create sound which travels to our ears in the form of longitudinal waves. Examples of Idiophones are xylophones, hi-hats, bells, rattles, and cymbals. Even slamming doors are idiophones!

Struck:

Gongs, bells, wood blocks/Claves, (anything that can be struck to produce  various sound qualities. These instruments are normally categorized timbrally by their sharp attack once they’ve been stricken.

Balinese Gamelan Ensemble

Plucked:

Small plucked idiophones are called “lamellophones” meaning they   have a tongue or prong that is flexed and then released. This action creates a  crisp short sound before the vibrating prong (lamella) desists.

Mbira + Vocal

There are also single plucked prongs (lamella) that can be amplified by the mouth cavity. These are called Jaw or Jew Harps (coming from the French word Jeu, meaning “Game”) Just about every culture has their own version of this instrument, and naturally, it has a different name in every country. This would fall under the category of a plucked idiophone.

How to play the Jaw/Jew Harp

Shaken:

rattles, shakers, or anything hollowed out and filled with pebbles, seeds, or sand. When the particles bounce against the outer shell of the instrument, vibration occurs causing a crisp sound in the upper register. Another instrument called the “Shekere” has a woven net of beads and shells on loosely attached    to the outside of a gourd.

Caribbean style Maracas 

Yosvany Terry on the Shekere

Membranophones:

are most commonly percussion instruments. They usually consist of a hollow cylinder with a vibrating membrane stretched across each end. Traditionally, the membrane was made of animal skin, but today they are manufactured in mass quantities with synthetic membranes instead. Drums are categorized by body shape, and whether or not they are single or double headed. Most drums are struck with a hand or stick with different shapes/materials. Smaller drums usually have a higher, tighter sound, while larger drums naturally have more space inside the instrument. For this reason, big drums are louder with deeper tones.

Eric Piza on Bongos

Japanese Taiko Drums by Kodo

As technology has become a large part of contemporary society, Electrophones have also become the fifth category we consider. Any instrument that is generated by electrical means is considered an Electrophone.

Presenting… the Seaboard Grand by Roli:

**Sources:

Miller, Terry E., and Andrew Shahriari. World Music: A Global Journey. New York, NY: Routledge, 2012. Print.

“Sachs–Hornbostel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Sept. 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sachs–Hornbostel>.

“Erich Moritz Von Hornbostel.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 19 June 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erich_Moritz_von_Hornbostel>.

“Organology.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Aug. 2013. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organology>.

“Galpin Society For the Study of Musical Instruments.” Galpin Society – Home. N.p., 2012. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.galpinsociety.org/>.

“Zeitschrift Für Ethnologie.” Home –. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.zeitschrift-fuer-ethnologie.de/>.

“How Does the Flute Work?” How Does the Flute Work. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.ask.com/question/how-does-the-flute-work>.

” How Do Woodwind Instruments Work? .” How Do Woodwind Instruments Work?N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/woodwind.html>.

“How Does a Trumpet Produce Sound?” – Ask.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.ask.com/question/how-does-a-trumpet-produce-sound>.

“Membranophones.” The Free Dictionary. Farlex, n.d. Web. 21 Jan. 2014. <http://www.thefreedictionary.com/membranophones>.

The Music and Acting in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory of 1971 Vs. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of 2005

In 1972, Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was nominated for an Oscar for having the Best Music, Scoring Adaptation, and Original Song Score. Again during that same year, the star of the film, Gene Wilder, was nominated for a Golden Globe as the Best Motion Picture Actor. These nominations are to be carefully examined and compared to the more recent Willy Wonka adaption; Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of 2005. From 2005 to 2006, this film was nominated for thirty-three nominations, and won twelve awards, most of which related to the impeccable acting of Johnny Depp. Though kids and teens judged many of these award categories, The Phoenix Film Critics Society awarded Burton’s adaption with the Best Original Score. Whether or not one can judge the quality of both film productions based on awards alone, it is important to note that since the ‘70s, the film industry has created many more categories that one can be nominated for.

Mr. Mel Stuart

By the time that director Mel Stuart’s ten-year-old daughter had read Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator a multitude of times, she pleaded with her father to make a film. Prior to the creation of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971, Producer David Wolper had been previously responsible for eighty-five television series, documentaries, and films, in which he received an immense amount of attention. After first being nominated for an Academy Award in 1959 for his documentary The Race for Space, Wolper managed to finally win the award in 1971 for conceiving and directing his documentary, The Hellstrom Chronicle. When Stuart asked Wolper to direct Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, he was incredibly intrigued by the proposal. At the time, Wolper was in the process of making a deal with Quaker Oats Company to introduce a new candy bar from their Chicago-based Breaker Confections subsidiary, since renamed “The Willy Wonka Candy Company,” and sold to Nestle. With persuasion, Wolper managed to convince Quaker Oats to buy the rights to the book and finance the picture for the purpose of promoting a new Quaker Oats Wonka Bar.

The original intention was to honor Roald Dahl’s book by turning the film into a children’s musical, but Wolper preferred the film to be a straight dramatic piece. The plan was to have Dahl himself write the screenplay; however, there were more parties involved with heavy influence on direction. Due to the monetary involvement of the Quaker Oats Company, the film title was changed to “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” which would promote their new candy bar. This title change took the focus off of Charlie Bucket as the star of the show, and now highlighted a more mysterious Mr. Willy Wonka. This quite upset Roald Dahl as he felt the children’s story was already changing without his full consent. Both Stuart and Wolper agreed that the film would not be a full-blown musical, though the lyrical content would help emphasize the story’s key moments and become identifiable all throughout the film.

Holding the rights to the Wonka film production, the auditioning process was quite agonizing for Mr. Dahl. His first choice to play Willy Wonka was Irish playwright and comedian, Spike Milligan, who quickly turned down the role. Dahl’s next choice was British actor Ron Moody, who also turned down the role for personal reasons. Next, Dahl thought that maybe English actor Jon Pertwee would shine in the role as Willy Wonka, but he was too busy with his involvement in Doctor Who at the time. When American Broadway star Joel Grey was turned down due to his small physical stature, the production team announced that they would be holding auditions in New York to find the perfect Willy Wonka to represent the writing of Roald Dahl. Once the production team saw the sheer talent of Gene Wilder, he was immediately awarded the role. He was the perfect embodiment of Willy Wonka, and the team realized that they had found who they were looking for all along. That is, with the exception of skeptical Dahl who still harped on Spike Milligan playing Wonka’s role. Unnerved about previous business deals, he felt control of the film’s direction slipping through his fingertips. Since then, the production team held further auditions that were held in New York, London, and Munich to fill the parts of the children and their parents.

Dahl’s use of poetry hinted to the use of music from the very beginning. As quoted from the book, “How can you whip cream without whips? Whipped cream isn’t whipped cream at all unless it’s been whipped with whips. Just as a poached egg isn’t a poached egg unless it’s been stolen from the woods in the dead of night!” (Dahl 94). This particular use of poetic and creative language stirs-up a multitude of images in the minds eye. Particularly dark, it seems only natural that Dahl envisioned his 1964 children’s book to be rich with music. On the outside we are showered with candy, but the ulterior motives are rather mysterious.  One particularly popular song in the 1971 film titled “The Candy Man Can,” also had lyrics devoted to whipped cream. “Who can take tomorrow, and dip it in a dream, separate the sorrow, and collect up all the cream.
The candy man, oh the candy man can. The candy man can cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good.” The common message is that there is someone, (either Willy Wonka or the candy man) who is in charge of providing delicious candy to all the worthy children. However, we find that beneath the sweets the candy man is not giving candy to children out of the kindness of his own heart. His most important motivation is getting paid, while Willy Wonka searches for the perfect child to run his candy factory once he retires.

Wolper believed the actors could chant poems in the “manner of today’s rap, rather than perform them as songs. [He] was wary of adding musical numbers of any kind, thinking it would take away from the sense of reality [he] wanted to impart to the story” (Stuart 60). Regardless, the music written for the film by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newly has been entirely memorable almost forty-three years later. Wolper stated that his only reason for inserting a memorable sound-score had to do with money because “The Wizard of Oz made money [and] The Sound of Music was a blockbuster. Oliver was [also] a huge hit, [and] they all had songs in them” (Stuart 60). Though he fought the idea for quite a while, Mel Stuart finally gave in to having the film scored by English composer and lyricist, Leslie Bricusse. Partnering with songwriter Anthony Newley, the composers also worked with ten-time Oscar Nominee, Walter Scharf, who provided the musical direction. Though the soundtrack was first released by Paramount Records in 1971, in 1996, Hip-O Records (in conjunction with MCA Records) released the soundtrack on CD as a “25th Anniversary Edition.” The 1971 soundtrack is clearly a memorable one. It got me thinking…will there be a “25th Anniversary Edition” for the 2005 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or is it virtually unmemorable due to the somewhat underwhelming songs?

There are many mixed opinions about the 2005 film, though it is true that Tim Burton stayed true to his personal style of rather dark and mysterious directing. According to a harsh criticism by Washington Post writer Ann Hornaday, “The cumulative effect isn’t pretty. Nor is it kooky, funny, eccentric or even mildly interesting. Indeed, throughout his fey, simpering performance, Depp seems to be straining so hard for weirdness that the entire enterprise begins to feel like those excruciating occasions when your parents tried to be hip. If you have to try that hard, you just aren’t. Similarly, Burton, whose keen imagination has come up with an eye-popping palette and occasionally brilliant production design, has labored so hard to make Wonka his own — giving him a tedious back story, replete with daddy issues — that he has lost all the subtle humor and understatement that made Roald Dahl’s original story, and Mel Stuart’s 1971 adaptation, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” so charming in the first place” (Hornaday 1). While there are a lot of negative statements about the new adaptation expressed by Ann Hornaday, Lou Lumenick, a writer from the New York Post boasts that  “Like Roald Dahl’s book, Tim Burton’s splendidly imaginative and visually stunning – and often very dark and creepy – new version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is squarely aimed more at children than their parents (Lumenick 1). Though it was the intention of Dahl’s book to be for children, is this particular perspective something he would have appreciated? Dahl despised the 1971 film, but it is quite possible he would have agreed with the darker Tim Burton interpretation to reflect his writing.  Jami Bernard of New York Daily News said that “The eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) can’t feel pleasure, even though he’s surrounded by it, so it’s weirdly appropriate that the movie isn’t “fun,” even if it’s amazing to look at (Bernard 1). Truth be told, the film is widely appreciated as being visually stimulating, though each scene relays a ton of graphic information, hence, making it harder to relate with.   Burton’s use of color and computer graphics is completely relevant to movies produced in 2005.  Regardless of movie critics and audience members having such bipolar opinions of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, it is necessary to mention the wonderful working marriage between the cast and production team.

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