31 October 2008

Music Theory via "Blowin' in the Wind"

This handout was designed for the course "Learning from the Great Songwriters, 1963-2007". Click each page to enlarge.

14 October 2008

To my Mother-In-Law on her 90th Birthday

Women like you are not bothered by trifles,
Raised as you were by aunties with rifles --
Deep in the woods of the forty-ninth state,
Which lately has fostered one brash running mate.
Drawn, as you were, to those with strong feelin',
You found yourself nursing one ornery Sicilian.
Settling together as post-war consumers,
Not knowing your kids would become known as 'boomers',
You bought a big house on a New England farm
And brought up four girls, who lived in the barn.
For holiday meals, you let them inside.
"For sure you will spoil them," the neighbors deride.
But when the girls staged their theatric ambitions
Their parents were charged a double admission.
And though he started with best of intentions,
Your husband was shortly consumed by inventions.
So to bring the family some stabilization
You got into nursing home administration.
Grand-parenting may have been more than you bargained;
As you were there for my step-sons before divine jargon
Would say that this daughter's intended life mate
Was to be spared diapers and be showing up late.
And for that favor I was in your debt,
that is, till we traveled abroad somewhat wet.
How blest we are now that you're here to this day
And for quite a few more, if God has his way.
To think that you date from the Great War's conclusion!
A life lived long and well need not be illusion.

08 October 2008

Draft course syllabus: Learning from the Great Songwriters, 1963-2007

  1. DYLAN 1: Poetic Folk with a Rock attitude
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. song structure
      2. pitch, rhythm
      3. meter
      4. pentatonic
      5. diatonic
    2. Listening
      1. folk traditions inspiring Dylan
        1. Carter Family
        2. Leadbelly
        3. Woody Guthrie
        4. Hank Williams
      2. selected early Dylan
    3. Discussion
      1. Pick a song (by anyone) with which you feel a strong identification; what makes it alive for you?
      2. What gives a sung performance authenticity?
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Music knowledge assessment
      2. mapping out song structure on a grid
      3. melodic dictation on a grid
      4. Identifying scale degrees in “Blowin’ in the Wind”
      5. clapping note rhythms
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
      2. Identify the meter and map out the structure in three Dylan songs.
      3. Mark where the beats fall over the lyrics to a song of your choosing
      4. Prepare an analysis of lyrics to one song, assigned you by the instructor, that will take about 3 minutes to present to the class.
      5. Identify scale degrees in melody of "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right"
  2.   DYLAN 2
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. picking styles
      2. pentatonic minor scale
      3. melodic contour & range
      4. phrase length
    2. Listening
      1. later Dylan
      2. Donovan - “Starfish on the Toast”
    3. Discussion
      1. Mellers, Wilfrid (1981) God, Modality and Meaning in Some Recent Songs of Bob Dylan, Popular Music, Vol. 1, pp. 143-157.
      2. Hentoff, Nat (1963) liner notes to The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
      3. Students present lyric analyses and scale degree choices
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Identifying minor scale degrees in “Masters of War”
      2. rhythm/triad exercise
      3. Rhythmic dictation on grid
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to With the Beatles
      2. Identify meter & map out song structure to any three early Beatles songs
      3. Identify scale degrees in “All My Loving”
      4. Explore measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com and choose one point of interest to share next week
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. vocal/instrumental arrangement 
      2. subdivision of the beat
      3. grooves (rhythmic interlocking of instruments)
      4. notating rhythm
      5. accents
      6. triads
      7. basic chord progressions
      8. cadences
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. early Beatles - With the Beatles (1963)
      2. Beatles & Marvelettes performing “Please Mr Postman”
    3. Discussion
      1. Price, Charles Gower (1997) Sources of American Styles in the Music of the Beatles, American Music, Vol. 15, No. 2, pp. 208-232
      2. Panfile, Greg (1994) Boys will be girl group: The Beatles and the Girl Group Sound, Soundscapes, v.2, 9/99
      3. Students share interesting points from measureformeasure.blogs.nytimes.com
    4. Exercises/Worksheet
      1. Rhythmic dictation with eighth-notes 
      2. Mapping out song groove on a grid
      3. Hearing the root & mapping out chord progressions on a grid
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Map out structure for “It Won’t Be Long”
      2. Map out the rhythmic groove to a song assigned you by the instructor
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. blend of minor pentatonic & major diatonic
      2. secondary dominants
      3. subdominant minor
      4. voice leading
      5. common chord progressions
      6. chord & non-chord pitches in melody
      7. pitches on a staff
      8. 12/8 & 6/8 time
    2. Listening
      1. selected songs from 1965-68
    3. Discussion
      1. Excerpts from Mellers, Wilfrid (1973) The Twilight of the Gods, Viking, New York.
      2. Tillekens, Ger (2001) Words and chords: semantic shifts of the Beatles' chords, Beatlestudies 3, University of Jyväskylä (Department of Music, Research Reports 23), 2001, 97-111.
      3. Evaluate students’ groove & structure mappings
    4. Exercises
      1. “Checkerboard” rendering of scale & chord patterns
      2. Mapping out chord progressions on a grid.
      3. Chromatic descent (bridge to “It Won’t Be Long”)
      4. Pitch dictation on staff
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion 
      2. Prepare an analysis of lyrics to one song from the album, assigned you by the instructor, that will take about 3 minutes to present to the class.
      3. Identify the pitch sequence in “Painting Box”
      4. Outline some similarities between ISB’s lyrics and those of Dylan
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. dropped & added beats vs changing meter
      2. harmonic ambiguity
      3. vocal range & ornamentation
    2. Viewing/Listening
      1. TV Documentary
      2. “October Song”
      3. Amazigh music from Morocco video
      4. Selections from 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion (1967)
    3. Discussion
      1. Ford, Charles (1995) 'Gently Tender': The Incredible String Band's Early Albums, Popular Music, Vol. 14, No. 2, pp. 175-183
      2. Students present lyric analyses and compare “Painting Box” pitches
    4. Exercises
      1. Sensing the meter changes in “Little Cloud”
      2. Map out  chord changes
      3. notating synchopated 8ths: “Gently Tender”
      4. Studying “The Eyes of Fate”
    5. Homework
      1. Listen to the eight songs being discussed next class
      2. Find the meter changes in “Tinker’s Coin”
      3. Prepare to present a brief analysis of lyrics and melodic shape in a song assigned you by the instructor.
      4. Write lyrics for a potential song of your own (rough draft is fine)
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. simple innovations: the chords left out
      2. extra-musical expressive elements
      3. meter superimposition (McKennitt)
    2. Listening:
      1. Gillian Welch - “One Little Song”
      2. Bill Staines - “Coyote”
      3. Gordon Bok - “Brandy Tree”
      4. Patty Griffin - “Top of the World”
      5. Kate Wolf - “Unfinished Life”
      6. Bruce Springsteen “ “If I Should Fall Behind”
      7. Lui Collins - “Tinker’s Coin” (Jack Hardy)
      8. Loreena McKennitt - “The Old Ways”
    3. Discussion
      1. Students present analyses
      2. Compare meter change results
      3. Share original song lyrics
    4. Exercises
      1. Choosing chords to harmonize a melody
      2. Improvising notes for a vocal harmony
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Prepare a brief talk and a handout, incorporating the criteria used so far, on a recorded song of your choice.
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. Reinforcing/clarifying of concepts relevant to student song choices
    2. Listening
      1. Recordings brought in by students
    3. Discussion
      1. Students each present their talk and handout
    4. Homework (plus reading one of the two articles to be discussed next class)
      1. Listen to “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze”, “The Wind Cries Mary”, “Love or Confusion”, “Spanish Castle Magic”, “Little Wing”, “All Along the Watchtower”
      2. What specific songs/music possibly known to Hendrix do you hear reflected in his music?
      3. Where do you see Dylan’s influence in Hendrix’s lyrics? Other possible lyric influences?
    1. Musical concepts
      1. eschewing the triad
      2. riffs that evoke chords
      3. 16th, 32nd & triplet quarter notes
      4. Jazz, classical, blues, R&B influence
    2. Viewing/Listening
      1. Backing up the Isley Bros.
      2. “Spanish Castle Magic” at Woodstock
    3. Discussion
      1. Zak III, Albin J.(2004) Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix: Juxtaposition and Transformation "All along the Watchtower". Journal of the American Musicological Society, Vol. 57, No. 3, pp. 599-644
      2. Whiteley, Sheila (1990) Progressive Rock and Psychedelic Coding in the Work of Jimi Hendrix. Popular Music, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 37-60.
    4. Exercises
      1. pentatonic sight-singing exercise
      2. map groove to “Little Miss Lover”
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Write your own pentatonic melody
      2. Listen to “Georgia on my Mind”, “Get it While You Can” & “Golden Lady”
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. key modulation
      2. chord alterations
      3. lead sheets
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. Ray Charles
      2. JM & the Funky Divas of Gospel
      3. Howard Tate
      4. Stevie Wonder
      5. excerpts from “Standing in the Shadows of Motown” DVD
      6. Wonder at work in studio
    3. Discussion
      1. Mooney, H.F. (1968) Popular Music since the 1920s: The Significance of Shifting Taste. American Quarterly, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Spring, 1968), pp. 67-85
      2. Hughes, Timothy (2003) Groove and Flow: Six Analytical Essays on the Music of Stevie Wonder. Dissertation, U. of Washington, excerpts: pp 1-19 & 60-106.
    4. Exercises
      1. Sing & comment on student-composed melodies
      2. Figuring out chords to “Goin’ Up Yonder”
    5. Homework
      1. Read either the Whitesell or the Pepper Rogers articles to be discussed next class
      2. Read the Lauro Nyro bio from lauranyro.com
      3. Listen to
        1. “I Don’t Know Where I Stand”
        2. “Rainy Night House”
        3. “Blue”
        4. Eli & the Thirteenth Confession (1967)
      4. What might the narrative be to the story told in the 13 songs on Eli?
      5. Which songs (on Eli) make use of 6/8 time?
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. guitar-based vs keyboard-based composition
      2. alternate tunings
      3. modes
      4. song cycle
    2. Listening/Viewing
      1. Joni Mitchell, “Chelsea Morning” on TV
      2. Laura Nyro, “Save the People” on TV
    3. Discussion
      1. Whitesell, Lloyd (2002) Harmonic Palette in Early Joni Mitchell, Popular Music, Vol. 21, No. 2 (May, 2002), pp. 173-193
      2. Pepper Rogers, Jeffrey (1996), The Guitar Odyssey of Joni Mitchell & The Vocal & Lyrical Craft of J.M., Acoustic Guitar, 8/96 & 2/97.
      3. Comparing the two artists
      4. Artists they inspired
    4. Exercises
      1. “checkerboard” rendering of modes & chords
    5. Homework (plus reading to be discussed next class)
      1. Prepare Final Project Proposal (choose one)
        1. Your own original song
        2. Collaboration on original song
        3. Relevant research or analytical paper
      2. Listen to “Ojalá”, “Te Doy una Canción”, “La Gaviota”, “El Necio”, “Abracadabra”
    1. Musical concepts
      1. Further harmonic progressions and melodic ideas
    2. Additional Listening
      1. Victor Jara (Chile)
      2. Duo Guardabarranco (Nicaragua)
    3. Discussion
      1. Manabe, Noriko (2006) Lovers and Rulers, the Real and the Surreal: Harmonic Metaphors in Silvio Rodriguez’s Songs. Transcultural Musical Review, No. 10 (12/06), pp 1-7, 30-36, 52-60, 65-72
      2. Influence of the Beatles on Rodriguez
    4. Exercises
      1. notating rhythmic interplay in “Gaviota”
    5. Homework
      1. Listen to “American Tune”, “Same Old Lang Syne”, “How Long”, “The Last to Die” & other songs being discussed next class
      2. Submit project sketches for instructor review
    1. Musical Concepts
      1. Applying learned concepts to new innovations
      2. new instrumental textures
      3. Bach reworkings by Paul Simon and Jethro Tull
    2. Listening/Discussion may also include songs by
      1. Elton John
      2. David Bowie
      3. Talking Heads
      4. Bruce Springsteen
      5. Elvis Costello
      6. Kirsty McColl
      7. U2
      8. Iggy Pop
      9. Bruce Cockburn
      10. Dan Fogelberg
      11. Jackson Browne
    3. Exercise
      1. Notating the melody from Tull’s “Bouree”
      2. Notating the groove from McColl’s “Walking Down Madison”
    4. Homework
      1. complete final project
    1. Students either
      1. perform (or bring someone in to perform) their original song
      2. present a summary of their paper