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Blog Gultom 9

I really liked the second Music and Beauty presentation which showed that topics like body positivity and the concept of body images were prevalent in music and by making songs about them, artists bring a whole new awareness and understanding to the table. It’s feel-good music that’s supposed to encourage listeners to love their bodies and be comfortable in their own skin. The two entries in this playlist were “Beautiful” by Linda Perry and performed by Christina Aguilera, and “Scars to Your Beautiful” by Alessia Cara. The former came out at a time when Internet bullying and body shaming was rampant and the latter was performed at the “Life is Beautiful Fest” in remembrance of the girls who lost themselves within the ever-changing beauty standards of society and to remind them that they are perfect just the way they are.

If I had to write about this topic, I’d choose “Poor Unfortunate Souls” from the Little Mermaid (sung by Pat Carroll) and “21st Century Girl” by BTS. The songs in the actual presentation, while accurate to the topic, feel like common choices that cover the more positive aspects of body image and beauty. I wanted songs that felt like they could tie in altogether in some sort of “narrative.” “Poor Unfortunate Souls” is a great first example of a “villain” in this “narrative,” starting the playlist off with bad body standards and horrible stereotypes that typically plague women. Ursula tells Ariel that she’s helped people get thinner and become more beautiful in order to get their happy endings. Once she agrees to have Ursula’s assistance, Ariel is bombarded by “advice” that will help her keep the prince’s attention and that losing her voice is actually supposed to be helpful in the end. I also included “21st Century Girl” because unlike the others, this is a woman’s empowerment song sung by men! It isn’t that novel a concept, male artists singing about women’s beauty standards and how they suck, but this was the first one of these that I had heard of.

Blog 8 Gultom

(As the title and thumbnail suggests, this video contains all three Phobia themes sped up so that it becomes a coherent listening experience. They do not appear all together and/or at this speed in the actual game.)

“Good” music will always be a subjective topic and the answer will vary among person to person. This is probably why I also have a hard time answering the question of “what’s your favorite song?” I think they’re all good, you can’t make me choose a favorite! But for the sake of this blog, I chose another video game OST; the Phobia themes from Omori!

There was no way I could possibly discuss its music without spoiling the game, so here’s to hoping no one was planning on playing Omori. The plot of the game in the simplest terms is: you play as Omori who explores the world of Headspace with his friends Hero, Kel, and Aubrey. When not playing in Headspace, you play as a hikikomori (a person who avoids social contact) named Sunny who, depending on your choices, reveals the truth surrounding the death of his sister or takes it to his grave. While playing as Sunny, you have to literally fight his fears and that’s where these songs come in. The first fear is Acrophobia, the fear of heights. The music perfectly encapsulates the feeling of falling by having a continuous descending drone in the back. The second fear is Arachnophobia, the fear of spiders. I don’t know how this fear fits into the game’s storyline, but I do know that the scratchiness of the music is meant to represent the feeling of spiders crawling. Finally, Thalassophobia, or the fear of deep waters. Probably the most in your face of the three, the music showcases the feeling of being submerged underwater by muffling the audio and adding some sort of rippling reverb to it. Among all three songs, one thing remains the same; the continuous heartbeat that gets faster and faster before the video transitions into the next phobia.

The unit these songs would fit into would definitely be Stories Without Words. Aside from clearly not having any words, the songs use mimesis to convey their story. A simple explanation of what the phobias mean make the musical choices obvious. The songs themselves may not be commonplace motifs for their given topics, but anyone familiar with the game and anyone given the explanation (like previously) will come to understand what it means.

Blog 7 Gultom

I’ll be using Christianity as my religion of focus, seeing as tomorrow is Sunday and I’ll be singing spiritual songs of our own soon anyway! According to the textbook, Christianity was legalized in Europe in the 4th century and was thus the focus of most songs during the Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque periods (Resonances, pg. 393). As we know, Gregorian chant was first used in the church as a way to sing praise and memorize verses in the Bible, starting with the “Canonical Hours” that the textbook explains was an eight hour service that included a chanting of all 150 Psalms usually in Latin. As the Reformation takes hold and the church does what it can to preserve itself, Giovanni da Palestrina creates the “Mass Ordinary” that sets the precedent for our modern-day liturgy, containing five parts that must be sung or spoken in Latin during the service. In the Baroque era, Bach invents cantatas for the Lutheran church, a multi-part work for voice and instrumental accompaniment, which “reflected on the Biblical readings for the day, interpreted their meaning for the congregation, and prepared listeners to understand and appreciate the sermon.” (Resonances, pg. 414)

Perfectly enough, my boyfriend and I had been discussing a song we last heard a while ago on the K-Love radio station, one that specifically plays “Christian music,” that they haven’t played again since. I went to searching on YouTube and found it the same night!

(K-Love put this back on your playlist track challenge)

It was just so different from the other songs that the radio station had on repeat that I instantly found it one of the best (and I don’t usually indulge in songs that dig into the religion all that much.) My favorite part is most definitely at 1:02, where the singer lets his falsetto lead into a small pause until the chorus swells with a crescendo to the namesake of the song. I don’t know what key this would be called, but it’s in that space between major and minor that just makes a song sound so powerful and motivating! Clearly, as the title and lyrics could tell you, the song is all about praising God and finding salvation/a new life through him. The style of this song isn’t exactly what you’d hear at a more traditional church, but you could probably catch it at a more contemporary setting.

And as an extra throw-in for the theater lovers, my favorite Sight and Sound track to date!

(This and the Queen Esther soundtrack are my favorites so far!)

Just to rant for my own personal fun, Sight and Sound has got to be the most exciting Christian-related thing I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. It’s as if Broadway turned to the Bible for inspiration and brought it to the stage. The stage itself is built wall-to-wall, so instead of just one straight ahead of the audience, curtains reveal an extension of it to the left and right! Live animals are used in productions! Set pieces are moved in real time and, in the case of “David,” gigantic props are used. Goliath was made life-sized and he moved without looking like it took a lot of effort! My congregation went to go watch the David show as a part of our yearly summer outing, making this the eighth Sight and Sound show we’ve watched (wow!) The scene with this track, “Bathsheba,” in particular stuck with me the whole ride back to our hotel just for how ethereal the vocals were.

Blog 6 Gultom

(Now, I didn’t exactly go to this concert myself, but my sister did and she has all the video footage to prove it! It’s a pretty good showcase of how the audience looked at the concert since she sat so high, and the POV makes it feel like I’m actually there!)

My sister went to go watch the K-pop group Seventeen perform at the UBS Arena in Elmont, right here in Long Island, NY. The group had become one of her favorites in recent memory, and she was offered to go by some family friends of ours who also got tickets. The prices weren’t all that bad, and this was the only chance to finally see them live as far as she was concerned. (We had watched a documentary/concert type of film about the boys a few weeks beforehand, so we all urged her to take the chance to go to an actual concert before she regrets it later!)

When we picked her and my mother up from the concert, they inevitably had videos to show us. Recording during K-pop concerts is nothing new and anyone could look up a specific concert of a specific group if they wanted to on YouTube, down to the exact day (in case FOMO hits). Arguably, the most important thing to bring to a K-pop concert is the group’s corresponding lightstick. Lightsticks are exactly what they sound like, sticks that the fans hold up and wave around during the performance. But don’t get it confused; these aren’t just any ordinary glow wand. They are specially designed to mimic the on-stage lighting, from its color to how much it flashes. As for performer/audience interaction, my sister remembered their “Snap Shoot” performance, where the gimmick is that the boys will pick out someone in the crowd and ask them to dance. Whatever dance they do, the boys will copy!

(The interaction is best seen around the 4:50 mark when they call out “Muscle Man.” You can see the lightsticks pretty clear in this video. Also normally seen: banners made by fans for fans that they hold, usually containing a sweet message for the idols!)

I think it’d only be fair to compare this concert to the Khalid Coachella concert we saw in class. Both concerts had people recording, singing along, shouting/screaming in their excitement, and yet, they’re both still different. Popular concerts like Khalid’s were more of what we know; an artist on stage accompanied by a band or some dancers, big screens, stage lights, and a lot of pointing/laughing/vibing with the audience. With K-pop concerts, there seems to be a lot more of an emphasis on the branding, for lack of a better phrase. A usual occurrence at K-pop concert venues is the sheer amount of fans giving out freebies before the event. It’s everything from photocard trading, to free wristbands, free banners, and sometimes fun activities that fans can participate in (an example that comes to mind is the “random dance challenge” a friend of mine participated in while waiting for the BTS concert a while back). There’s the lightsticks that are unique to every group, the “ments” section where the idols get to talk about how thankful they are to have fans like you, etc. You don’t exactly see this kind of behavior at any Western concerts, which is interesting.

Blog 5 Gultom

The ever infamous Rite of Spring riot. The author of The Verge’s article retells us the gist of what happens opening night at Paris’ Théâtre des Champs-Élysées. The story goes that on the night of its debut, The Rite of Spring was so jarring to the audience that people booed at the performance only a few notes in. As the ballet progressed, the crowd turned into a mob, going from jeering to throwing vegetables at the orchestra to rioting loud enough that the dancers couldn’t hear the music and had to listen to directions shouted at them by the ballet’s choreographer, Vaslav Nijinsky from backstage. It’s a memorable and exciting piece of music history that gets told in classes all the time.

In the blog post however, the author argues that the riot didn’t actually happen! I figured that this was going to be speculation, but there’s actually some evidence to back up this debate. In summary, the author argues that the riot was not actually a riot, but a big, strong argument between French aristocrats and middle class music lovers who saw The Rite as a historic look into the traditions of an exploited peoples who performed such rituals to the entertainment of their European colonizers. According to the essay the author is using to explain this, much of how we learn about this “riot” comes from firsthand accounts that watched the ballet from the balcony of the theater which was made of concrete. This means any sound, especially any sound that may have been assumed to be fighting, would’ve been exaggerated in volume because of the balcony’s architectural resonance. For all we know, the riot could’ve been a glorified scuffle between two or three people. Another piece of evidence that the author borrows is about the chronology of reviews about The Rite. No critics had used the word “riot” in any of their reviews until 1924, eleven years after the ballet’s debut, and even then, that review had only been about a later orchestra-only performance at Carnegie Hall.

I actually listened to this ballet for the first time in my high school music class and my teacher put up a performance of it with the dancers in bright red costumes. I went back to search for that version to really get back the feeling of watching it for the very first time, and although it isn’t the same, I do remember how I felt. It was definitely different, especially after listening to something like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. It didn’t bother me as much as it was hyped up to make me from the story about the riot, but I remember feeling like something was off. The dancing was the more jarring part rather than the music. Watching it back today, I am reminded of the movie “Midsommar,” which told a similar story about pagan traditions and a ritual sacrifice.

Blog 4 Gultom

(Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good,” 1965)
(Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good,” 2005)

The first song that came to mind for this blog was “Feeling Good!” It was originally written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse for a musical called “The Roar of the Greasepaint — The Smell of the Crowd” and was first performed by Cy Grant in 1964 on the show’s UK tour. It would later be performed on Broadway by Gilbert Price the following year, but the recording that really made the song famous was Nina Simone’s version. Simone was a singer, songwriter, and civil rights activist who took the song and enhanced it to spread a message of the fight for freedom ever present during the 60s in America. Bublé is a singer, songwriter, and producer whose version of “Feeling Good” oozes a sensual appeal fit for a James Bond movie trailer.

The lyrics aren’t all too different, so what changes the meaning behind the words is how the performer decides to, well, perform it. Right at the very beginning (0:00), a big difference in their instrumentation can be picked up on. While Nina Simone starts off acapella, Bublé’s version has quiet strings backing his vocals that will later move into mezzo forte and into a crescendo (sforzando?) when he finishes the chorus. Another difference comes in a little later at (0:27), where Simone vocalizes/scats throughout the chorus before the band comes in to round the section out. Bublé, of course, does not do this in his version, opting to just get on with it. For similarities, the one I found the most fun was at (1:12, Simone’s ver.) and (1:26-7, Bublé’s ver.) The band pauses and takes a beat before coming back in and letting the trumpet/cornet have a tiny solo. We also have the crescendo in the voice at (2:05, Simone’s) and (2:49, Bublé’s) that put an emphasis on the word “freedom,” segueing into our final note.

The difference in not only the music’s setting, but in the time it was sung and the performer who made it happen changes the story up a lot. You hear the determination and urge to get to said promised freedom when you hear Simone, a black woman in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement, sing the song. You feel the urge to beat up some bad guys in a suit and blackout shades when you listen to Bublé’s version (and the music video made sure of that!) It all depends on how one carries themselves within the lyrics of this highly-portrayed song.

Blog 3 Gultom

For my piece of music technology, I chose the Midi Fighter! According to the official Midi Fighter website, it is a “high performance line of controllers designed for serious DJs and musicians that need reliable instruments on stage and studio.” Hooking up the controller to the DJ’s laptop allows the buttons to be assigned a sound from the accompanying sound/drum kit. As far as I’m aware, there isn’t anyone out there that doesn’t already use it for its intended purpose, and I haven’t ever owned a Midi Fighter so I don’t have any experience with it.

The first name that naturally (almost instinctively) comes to mind when talking about the Midi Fighter is Shawn Wasabi, who is also featured prominently on the official website advertising the 64 version. He famously uses the Midi Fighter in his music videos, often only showcasing the controller and his hands as he creates the music on the spot. He has hooked up the buttons to be miscellaneous sounds, some which may be popular and easily-recognizable, to be remixed into the underlying track. Sometimes he has singers featured in the songs, like in his song “Otter Pop,” featuring Hollis. More often than not, Shawn’s music sounds electronic, which makes sense given the medium he’s working with. One of his songs that you may be familiar with is “i dip,” which has been used in a lot of Glade candle commercials recently!

(I’ve taken this video off of his “MIDI FIGHTER” playlist on Youtube which includes more originals and remixes like “Mac n’ Cheese” which I have to personally say is the most impressive one on the channel!)

Blog 2 Gultom

For my song, I chose the orchestral version of “Your Best Nightmare” from one of my favorite games, Undertale! Toby Fox, the creator of the game, also composed all the music for Undertale by simply taking a few motifs and reworking them into different songs by speeding them up, slowing them down, and adding new sounds. “Your Best Nightmare” is a reworking of the character Flowey’s motif, “Your Best Friend.” Only this time, he shows his true colors, which is why the former song is much more fitting of a boss fight. I’m not sure where this song would fit in a genre, but I would generally put it in whatever category “video game soundtrack” music goes in.

To try and pick just one musically interesting part of the song would mean leaving a whole lot of it behind since it all works together to reflect what happens in-game. “Your Best Nightmare” is a kind of variations form, where Flowey’s motif is changed ever so slightly whenever the orchestra transitions to the next version of the motif. We have an A section, the first grand notes (and heartbeat in the Percussion if you listen real close!) that precede the maniacal laughter, and then a variation on that section before we transition into the “Your Best Friend” motif. Upon closer listening, I noticed that the first three times we hear the motif (I call B, B’, and B”), the Woodwinds are the predominant instruments, but later on (B”’, B””, and B””’), the Strings take up the melody. As we go along listening to the melody change, we go from a major key (the “original” key from when Flowey is still lying to you, the player) and gradually grow into a dissonance where we get the sense that Flowey’s gone power crazy. Those spare piano transitions between B sections (I dub “C”) create a contrast that helps the next A section shock you, as well as reflect the in-game sequence of healing your character before going back into battle.

(This video only showcases “Your Best Nightmare” but as the thumbnail shows, this segment was a part of Undertale’s 5th Anniversary Concert, a whole three hours of the game’s soundtrack played by an orchestra!)

Blog 1 Gultom

It was interesting to me how the Renaissance, being a time of rebirth, went back in time to the ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans to influence their music and art. I had already known before jumping into the reading that instrumental music at the time wasn’t something composers were exploring with enthusiasm. The textbook describes the music of the Renaissance Era as mainly vocal, with the emergence of the four major voice parts: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass. There was a “new emphasis on harmonious sonorities” and “evolved… concepts of consonance and dissonance…” (Cohan, pg. 20)

I chose to listen to Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina because the reading said he was referred to as “The Prince of Music” (Cohen, pg. 22) and I wanted to know if that meant his music was regal-sounding. I listened to Palestrina’s “Missa Papae Marcelli” and upon hearing the words “Kyrie Eleison,” I ended up mixing it up with Josquin des Prés’ “Missa Pange Lingua,” a piece that I had already heard beforehand. So, it’s safe to say I came in expecting music that sounded like it would’ve been played during a church service.

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April 2024

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