Music Strand 02: Popular Music of the 20 th & 21 st Centuries

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1 Music Strand 02: Popular Music of the 20 th & 21 st Centuries Blues The blues is a style that was developed by the rural African American population in the southern states of America during the late 19 th and early 20 th centuries. The songs were often about hardship and deprivation. As the popularity of the blues grow, musicians moved away from the rural south to the cities and the music became more dance orientated. Blues has influenced other styles of popular music, including rock and roll, R n B and soul. Rhythm & Metre Usually in 4/4 Syncopation is common in the melody Swung rhythms and triplets in the accompaniment 12 bar blues pattern I I I I, IV IV I I, V IV I I Usually extended into 7 th chords Texture &Melody Melody can sound improvisatory in style Limited range of notes and sounds quite repetitive Four bar phrases are common Call and response in both instruments and vocals Melodies are based on the blues scale, a scale that includes notes flattened third, fifth and seventh C, Eb, F, Gb, G, Bb Texture is usually melody and accompaniment Slide technique vocals and instruments slide between notes Bent notes notes can be bent of tune, or bent to another note (often found on the guitar) Timbre A rough, growling style of singing Sometimes imitated by the brass section, guitar etc. Instruments voice, guitar, piano, double bass, drum kit, saxophone, trumpet, trombone and harmonica 12 bar blues pattern repeated throughout Each statement of the 12 bar sequence forms a verse A song may contain three or more verses with an instrumental solo replacing a verse Common for the lyrics of each verse to consist of three phrases (each lasting four bars) in AAB form

2 Popular Music of the 1960s The late 1950s were dominated by rock and roll and although popularity declined in the 1960s, it had a massive influence on British bands such as The Beatles, The Who and The Rolling Stones. Towards the end of the 1960s more experimental styles such as psychedelic rock were created which were influenced by the latest technological developments. Rhythm & Metre Usually in 4/4 with a strong sense of pulse The backbeats (2&4) are strongly accented Syncopation is common Most songs are based on simple diatonic harmonies, occasional 7 th chords Progressive bands used more adventurous harmonies, dissonances and modulations to unlikely keys The texture us usually melody and accompaniment with: The drum kit provides the beat The bass guitar plays the bass line The rhythm guitar strums chords The lead guitar plays countermelodies and solos The voice sings the main melody Melodies are often catchy and repetitive, in four bar phrases Tambourine is commonly used Instruments voice, backing singers, guitar, bass guitar, drum kit, horn section and the Hammond organ More experimental bands use less common instruments such as sitar or timpani Production effects such as chorus, reverb and distortion became more popular towards the end of the decade Compression is added to may recordings to even out dynamics Verse chorus structure is the most common form which is made up of: An intro (instrumental) Different verses A repeated chorus A bridge (contrasting) An outro

3 Rock Music Rock music developed in the 1960s out of rock and roll and rhythm and blues. Groups such as The Who started using more powerful amplifiers and a distorted guitar tone, coupled with a macho style of singing and over the top stage performances. Groups such as Led Zeppelin and Queen copied their sound and by the middle of the decade, live performances were filling enormous venues. There are many different types of rock music including heavy metal, progressive rock, punk rock and grunge. Rhythm & Metre Usually in 4/4 Often with heavy emphasis on all four back beats Frequently based around chords I, IV and V Power chords are chords (chords with just the root and fifth e.g. G major, with just G and D) Heavy metal uses some dissonant intervals such as tritones Often a melody and accompaniment texture with: Drums providing strong sense of pulse Bass guitar adding bass line Rhythm guitar playing chords Solo guitar providing countermelodies and solos Vocalist singing main melody The vocal melody is usually catchy and repetitive. Guitar solos often feature virtuoso playing with fast runs, pitch bends and special guitar techniques Much rock music is dominated by heavy electric guitar sound, which is often distorted Singers are almost always male In live concerts rock music is played at a very loud dynamic A verse chorus structure is common, with a guitar solo in the bridge

4 R n B This is a contemporary form of African American popular music that mixes elements of hip hop and funk with a soul influenced style of singing. It relies, like hip hop, on technology for most of its instrumental sounds. Although it may include rap, R n B is a much smoother and laid back style of music than hip hop. Rhythm & Metre Usually in 4/4 with a laid back tempo A tight, syncopated rhythmic backing is programmed using a drum machine or sequencer Mostly simple diatonic harmonies The melody and accompaniment texture is frequently made up of: a rhythmic backing track, a synthesised bass line, another instrument to fill the harmony and a vocal melody The vocal lines often use ornamentation and melisma Melodies are usually simple and catchy The instrument backing is usually made up from synthesised and sampled sounds Singers are often female and have a smooth style of singing influenced by soul Rapping will sometimes appear Songs usually have a verse chorus structure

5 Hip Hop Hip hop is a style of black popular music that has its origins in the street culture of 1970s New York. Its main feature is rapping. Hip hop was different from rock music because it relied on technology instead of live instrumentalists. Early forms of hip hop consisted of rapping over a backing provided by DJs mixing and scratching records. This backing part was replaced by drum machines, samplers and sequencers as technology advanced. Rhythm & Metre Usually in 4/4 The rap is often quick and syncopated, creating cross rhythms with the backing track. This contrasts with a usually sung chorus with simpler rhythms. Hip hop frequently uses backbeat rhythms: samples of drum solos from funk or jazz music Complex but repetitive rhythmic patterns are produced by layers of sampled and looped sounds As the music is often based on just a rhythmic rap over a drum loop, there may be little use of harmony in some songs, the emphasis being on the rhythm When harmony appears, it will probably be a simple, looped chord pattern Layered textures are built from loops The chorus of a hip hop song is often based on a very simple, repetitive melody The instrumental backing is made up of synthesised and sampled sounds Over a rap there may be other vocal sounds such as shouts or singing from a backing group Songs usually have a verse chorus structure, or a structure built up from layers of loops like dance music

6 Musical Theatre The modern musical, which developed in the 1920s, grew out of operetta and variety shows. Early musicals were collections of popular songs linked together by acted scenes to make a story. Over time, the acted and sung elements became more successfully integrated and the stories more weighty, with musicals such as Porgy and Bess and West Side Story addressing themes such as racial segregation and gang violence. The music became more sophisticated too with composers drawing on rhythms and harmonies of 20 th Century classical music and jazz. Musicals usually consist of alternating sections of spoken dialogue and songs They tend to contain a variety of different types of song, such as ballads (slow and emotional), patter songs (fast and comic) and production numbers (involving most of the cast) Songs are often sung in a theatrical way. The accents of the characters are preserved and recorded performances often sound like they are being acted out Musicals are performed by actors rather than classically trained singers Songs can be for different combinations of singers, from solo songs and duets to trios and up to whole cast numbers! The music depicts and complements the on stage drama, often expressing the mood and feelings of the character singing the song The accompaniment is usually played by a band or small orchestra The music is nearly always in a popular style, sometimes influenced by jazz or rock The harmony is usually diatonic, but richer than in pop music Contrasts of key and modulation are common Melodies are designed to be memorable and catchy and contain lots of repetition Singers often use rubato to make words as expressive as possible 32 bar song form is very common in musicals in which a short verse is followed by a 32 bar chorus made up of four eight bar phrases in the order AABA

7 Film Music The first films were silent with a pianist, organist or small orchestra to complement the action to create more of an atmosphere for the audience. In 1927, the talkies started and allowed a recorded soundtrack to be added to the film. Rather than make do with existing pieces, directors started to use especially composed scores, often written for full orchestra by European born classical composers such as Erich Korngold and Max Steiner. They brought with them their knowledge of programme music, operatic techniques and dazzling orchestration, producing lavish and sophisticated orchestral scores of the sort that you can still hear today in the music of John Williams. As film has developed, so have many different approaches to writing soundtracks. Today you can find soundtracks in all sorts of jazz, popular and classical music styles. Contemporary film composers: John Williams (Star Wars, Harry Potter and Indiana Jones) Hans Zimmer (Pirates of the Caribbean and The Simpsons Movie) Thomas Newman (WALL E, American Beauty and Erin Brokovich) To Listen For A mood or emotion (love, sadness, fear or excitement) Someone s character (evil, kind, funny, strong) An event (race, battle, storm) A general atmosphere (birdsong like music for a scene in the country, military sounding music for an army waiting to attack) A certain place (French National Anthem for a scene set in Paris) A particular time in history (Baroque for 17 th Century) Main characters often have their own separate musical themes. The musical arrangement of the theme is often changed to depict what the character is feeling or experiencing. One famous example is Darth Vader s theme in the Star Wars films, which can be heard whenever he enters on screen.

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