Open Your Ears and Catch These Tunes In Them!
What we're listening to and cool things therein
Everybody has a reason that they play music, and usually that reason involves a piece or song by someone else that they love. The music that we like to listen to is a big part of who we end up being as musicians. Bearing that in mind, we thought that we would share some of the music we're enjoying at the moment with you, as well as giving the reasons why we like it so much. Hopefully you enjoy listening to something unfamiliar, and you might even find your new favourite piece here!
Once you've heard all of our pieces, why not write about your own favourite piece of music. There are some templates at the bottom of the page to help you get started.
Altenberg Leider - Alban Berg (1911/12)
Alban Berg's Altenberg Leider is a song cycle (basically an album before albums were a thing) based on 5 postcards by the writer Peter Altenberg. It was the first thing that Berg ever wrote for orchestra, and it really demonstrates the way in which he was able to combine lush, romantic aspects (listen to the dramatic vocal lines) with very modern dissonant harmony (forget your nice three note C major chords here, this is very crunchy stuff!) I love the way that Berg uses more dissonant chords to express certain feelings. A quiet 12 note cluster shows sadness much more fully than just a simple minor chord for me. At its premier in Vienna in 1913, the audience were so shocked by the sounds Berg had written that they started a riot and the performance had to be abandoned!
Listen out for...
At the beginning of the third song, there is a chord that uses all twelve notes of the chromatic scale! However, while you might expect this chord to sound horrible, Berg managed to spread it out around the orchestra so that while still very expressive, it doesn't make us want to scream and run away (unless you're Viennese and from 1913 of course.)
Its a good job this piece isn't for
piano, as I don't have that many fingers!
The video below is of the third song, which has this chord at the beginning. All five songs can be found at this link.
Since I've Been Lovin' You - Led Zeppelin (1970)
Since I've Been Loving You is on the album Led Zeppelin III and has been called 'a perfect example of taking a blues structure and striking out on your own' (adding your own twist to it) by guitarist Joe Satriani. I love the use of tension and release in this song, the band make great use of dynamics throughout and it makes for some pretty dramatic listening! John Bonham is one of my all-time favourite drummers, listen to the sound of his drum kit and to how solid his playing is.
He also partly inspired this legendary drummer!
Listen out for...
If you listen very carefully you’ll be able to hear the bass drum pedal squeaking. This song is infamous amongst drummers because of that squeak. Do you think the band knew about it or not when recording? Either way, it really draws you in as a listener and makes you feel as though you’re in the room with the band. So, turn your speakers up to eleven, let your hair down and rock out for a whole seven minutes and twenty four seconds!
One Day More, from Les Miserables - Claude-Michel Schönberg
One Day More is one of the most famous songs from the musical Les Miserables with music by Claude-Michel Schönberg. It arrives at the end of Act 1, just as every character comes to a crucial turning point in their story. To convey the idea of lots of different stories coming together to form a larger whole, the composer uses one iconic technique - counterpoint.
Counterpoint is when two independent melodies are played or sung together at the same time, and is used to great effect here. For the first half of the song you hear each vocal entry for each character/s on their own, reintroducing the melodic motifs (themes) for those characters from points within the show so far. We then get this fantastic moment when we hear all of these melodies being sung at the same time with around 7 separate tunes interacting simultaneously.
Not only does this demonstrate amazing foresight by the composer to include all these tunes early on and attach them clearly to characters and themes, but to then manipulate them in such a way they can work alongside each other and then come together right at the end for the line "Tomorrow, we'll discover what our God in Heaven has in store!" as they prepare for what destiny awaits them in Act 2. A true goosebump moment if there ever was one!
You liked these themes on their own, now enjoy them ALL AT THE SAME TIME!
Listen Out For...
First of all, pay attention to each character's theme as it enters at the start. Here we get a chance to listen to each one individually. Then at 2:39 in the video, everyone is back in, each theme & melody overlapping. See if you can pick out each individual theme while everyone is singing together, and try to pay attention to how they relate to each other. Then rewind and just enjoy it!
Krusty the Clown is on the wrong side of history.
Change Your Mind - The Killers (2004)
Change Your Mind was released in 2004 on the album Hot Fuss by The Killers. I really like this whole album, as it's got a cool rock sound but also has big poppy melodies that stay in your head for months on end. This song in particular has been bouncing around my head for about 10 years, so hopefully by writing about it here I have passed the curse on to you!
Listen Out For...
Make sure you listen to this on headphones. In the introduction, each instrument comes in at a different time. Listen to how panning (the balance between left and right speaker) is used for effect when each instrument is introduced and how this affects the texture (is it thicker or thinner?). In this song it’s easy to hear how each part of the band is playing something different to create the whole, like a big audible jigsaw.
This is the song The Killers sang to themselves
while writing Change Your Mind.
Lost On You - LP (2016)
I’ll admit, I got quite excited when this blog idea came about. I’ve recently discovered an artist who’s been around for a really long time and I was absolutely blown away when I first saw her perform. Her vocal range is phenomenal and her style mixes genres within all of her songs. In the live version of ‘Lost On You’, you can really see these genres mixing together- especially after the first guitar solo. I hope you enjoy the song as much as I do, and I’d definitely recommend checking out more of her work!
Listen Out For...
Despite this song having a strong ‘pop’ feel, listen out for the operatic section in the second half of the song. This is an amazing example of how you can mix all sorts of musical influences together. Remember, when writing your own music, you can do whatever you want, there are no rules!
Is the world ready for post-bluesy-folk-grind-pop?
There's only one way to find out!
Now that you've read about some of our favourite music, why not write about your own! Try to think about what specific things you like about the music so that we can listen out for them. It could be a big thing like a massive contrapuntal chorus (contrapuntal is how we describe something that uses counterpoint), or it could be something as small as a squeaky bass drum pedal.
You can use the templates below to help you get started. When you've finished, you can email your writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we'd love to read them! Make sure you include a link for us to listen to the piece.
Much like this baby elephant, we're all ears.