Music is, first and foremost, to be heard
Can you analyze music just by hearing it? Of course you can. You do it all the time.
We are analyzing when we listen to music and say "That's country" or "That's jazz."
We are analyzing the elements we hear to make those distinctions.
The mark of a scholar (that's you) is to be able to articulate what we hear.
I'm not talking about the stilted, boring type of analysis writing. The following paragraph is lifted from an article you will read next week, but is a good example of what I am NOT looking for:
|After that cadence, an abrupt modulation to the flat submediant is followed by an expanded twopart|
song form in A-flat major characterized by modal mixtures on the 3rd, 6th, and 7th scale
degrees. The first phrase is seven measures long with an expansion from second to fourth
measures and modulates from the flat submediant to the sharp subdominant after a short
transitory modulation in D-sharp minor, characterized by the usage of motive ‘x’ (but in its
inverted form, as described above) and contrapuntally melded into motive ‘y2’ in the flat
supertonic of the mediant, which is then treated sequentially (tonal sequences, of course) and
then the passage ends on the afterbeat of the third beat of the measure. Of course motive ‘y3’ is
heard throughout, while the viola is tacet for the following five measures but was probably
omitted due to a copyist’s error, and not in the original autograph or any of the earliest published
manuscripts, as witnessed in critical notes to the Barenreiter Critical Edition Vol. 346F.
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You may be familiar with Pandora. You pick a song or an artist and create a "station." Then based upon their analyses of thousands (millions by now?) of songs, they play similar songs for you.
Pandora won't share its 400 plus criteria that they use to analyze each song, but those criteria fall under some general categories.
The musicologists at Pandora listen for:
Here are a few of the more specific criteria that I ran across in researching Pandora:
interesting part writing
use of strings
heavy use of noise effects
altered vocal sound
middle eastern influence
dominant use of harmony
smooth jazz influences
well-articulated guitar solo
thru-composed melodic style
twelve-eight time signature
use of vocal counterpoint
block piano chords
west cost rap roots
world music influences
Brazilian jazz influences
flat-out funky grooves
breathy male vocal
tight kick sound
emotional male lead vocal
male lead vocalist
female lead vocalist
wide vocal range
narrow vocal range
triple note feel
acoustic rhythm guitars
electric guitar riffs
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
repetitive melodic phrasing
subtle use of vocal harmony
basic rock song structures
dominant bass riff
OK, you get the idea. Each song has many specific characteristics. This goes way beyond "That's country" or "That's jazz."
Think of it this way. If you had to describe a piece of music to someone who could not hear it, how could you accurately articulate that in writing? This is harder than you think. What if you you could not use any 'genre' terms, but could only describe the music using descriptors like those above. Would your reader be able to guess the genre?
Then there is the concept that your perception of the music is unique. In describing and drawing conclusions based entirely upon listening, you are creating a narrative that will be different from any other person's concept of that piece of music.
Your musicianship that leads you to experience the music and then articulate that experience is a creation in itself!
Created and maintained by Vicky V. Johnson