Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Here is the view from my window seat on United Airlines flight 162:

I have loved flying since I was a child - the view of the terrain and bodies of water and what look like crop circles are a big part of that. But, that is not all. Ther are other things - more fleeting and less palpable - that endear me to flight.

I haven't a clue what all of them are, but I know them when I encounter them. It could be the gentle rumble of turbulence or the anticipation of take-off, but those are easy to spot. It could also be the amazing nature of it all. A massive machine of metal filled with people and things leaping through the air only to land 3000 miles away. It's just stunning.

Anyway, as a musician I am, of course, traveling with 60 GB's of audio. For a five day trip. Yeah, overkill. Anyway, I brought with me a massive cross-section of music. On the drive the LAX I listened to Duncan Sheik, and a mix of other rock/pop music. I was terribly tired and that drive at 4:30 AM was painful.

Then when I arrived at the terminal, after the dance with the ticket counter and security, I opened up a book that I have been neglecting for 18 months now - The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross. I am about 100 pages into the book that chronicles 20th century music in a way only Ross can, and I decided to listen to the pieces he was discussing as I read.

Six Orchestral Pieces by Webern, various Bartok, and others. It is stunning music and so well constructed that I can discern structure as it comes. It is pristine in that way. The composers between 1880 and 1930 really looked inward AND outward to find what their heart drove them towards. That single focusedness is to be commended. That bravery to leap off the deep end and create new sounds is astonishing.

So my question to my Theory students at CSUB - who are required to read this blog while I travel to Boston for the premier of my new piece - Duplicitous Encpunter - is this:

What music stirs your soul and why? What do you respond to musically?

As you answer these questions, listen to a favorite song this evening for homework and listen to the harmonies and describe them as well as you can. Tell me the name of the song and the artist/composer so that I might go to YouTube to hear myself.

Be sure that you post something before 12 midnight on Wednesday (CA time)

Gonna go back to listening...

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


methtical9857 said...

Well Jim I guess I'm the first to read and reply to this. It's hard to narrow down ONE song but here is what comes to mind.

John Coltrane & Duke Ellington - In a sentimental mood

Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (especially the voice harmonies)

Django Reinhardt - Djangology (I mean it swings and dude played like he did with just TWO fingers! Oh and hearing the violin swing like that is awesome!)

Baggins_54 said...

What stirs my soul is live music. The most inspiring thing to me is watching a musician take ownership of the stage, and everyone's attention. The most intense feeling of this I've had was at a Jason Mraz concert in Santa Cruz on April 4, 2008, specifically when he performed “You and I Both”. The focus in the room was totally undivided bringing us all together, just as if he had placed a warm blanket over everyone with his song( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xPgFTCt6Dro).
The song is in G-Major and the progression is; I-I7-vi7-iii7-IV6/9-some kind of vii-I. Hearing the top part of the IV6/9 chord on the radio in 2004 was at that point the coolest sound I had ever heard (back then I had no idea what a chord was, which speaks for the impact that that sound had on me). That said, his music is the sole reason behind my choice to learn how to play the guitar.
Musical freedom is what I admire in any musician, because it allows for the appropriate emotions to be conveyed instantly and honestly. What I love about his performances are his ability to be seemingly free of any musical restraints becoming totally enveloped in the moment. In conveying emotion I believe vocalists have a corner on the market, and the only instrumentalist I have heard who is able to rival such strong emotion is Derek Trucks (probably because his way of playing slide guitar sounds like human voice to me). Not to say that he is the only one with that ability, I have just not heard enough music yet. Another thing I have noticed that drives me crazy is when Re' is bent up at just the right moment...that's a blue note if I'm not mistaken...

P.S. Listening to music for homework when other people are stressed out doing math problems is one reason I love being a music major.

crs251 said...

So the first thing that came to mind after reading your question is the song that inspired me to play the sax. That would be "Delta City Blues" by Michael Brecker. It is a standard jazz blues form but what makes it amazing is how Brecker demonstrates mastery of the saxophone as he pops out those over tones of the harmonic series like nobody's business
The only thing I'm thinkin after this solo is "holy crap..."

I actually recently started listening to Brecker again and I had forgotten simply how incredible his music is. I will say his music is not for everyone and you sometimes have to be in a mood for it. When I was younger I couldn’t really "hear it." You have to be able to hear certain types of music, or just "get it" before you really start to see, you know what I mean? Well anyway, after listening to so many things and growing as a musician, I've come back to it and now it just blows my frikin mind. I can honestly say that he is one of the greatest sax players to ever live (I'm not exaggerating when I say this). Besides his technique, he is a master of creating tension and release. Its quite hard to describe without hearing it, but Brecker is able to create atmospheres in which you can get immersed. His horn is not just an instrument but an extension of himself. And he doesn't just play notes, he speaks through the horn as if were alive. The first instrument ever was the human voice thus it is the archetype for all instruments. I think all instruments were basically created in essence of mimicking the human voice. For a musician to achieve being able to "speak" through his instrument is the epitome of being a musician. Thats why we remember Miles Davis, Trane, Bird, etc
I dont know. Maybe I'm just stupid and I don't know what I'm talking about.

Anyway, also check out "Timbuktu" and everything else with the Michael Brecker Quindectet to get a feel of the tension thing I was talking about. The fact that he plays with a Quindectet is awesome initself
This is split into 3 videos. By the middle of the 3rd one you’re at the edge of your chair. There is also a woman shredding on a violin

Baggins_54 said...

Just to correct my earlier post, what I had said was a iii chord is actually a ii7, and when I said 2004 I really ment something more like 2001...
Oh, and that first Michael Brecker was awsome! When his band came in at around 2 or 3 minutes I was hooked!

Jim Scully - aka jimmuscomp said...

Very cool everyone.

Please leave your name in your post so I know who is who!

methical is Michael Dandy; Baggins is Johnny; and I think crs is Chris. Am I right?

Thanks guys.

Elia said...

I respond to adventure in music. Music that can tell me a story all on its own with no actual pictures. I figure that's why I enjoy score music from films so much: like from Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings. Even without knowing the story line of the film, the music lets you know when there's a war going on, or when the hero and his love are FINALLY able to be together.

I came across "August's Rhapsody" from the movie August Rush in my music library. I had forgotten all about it until last week. I remember when I first saw this movie, the entirety of its musical content amazed me. But nothing moved me more than the final song. I was absolutely awestruck. Just by listening to the song, you're told the story line of the film.

I don't really know how to describe how this song makes me feel, especially not with technical terms such as chord progressions or key changes. It just has so many moments and moves from emotion to emotion, that by the very end, when it ends so sweetly as if its dropping you off after an epic adventure, you're left with a sense of... completion.

It portrays the excitement of being on the city streets for the first time, or finally, FINALLY, having an outlet for all of the music you hear inside your mind.

Gah. I'm rambling. But I just love this song. Once you get me going, its hard to stop.

But here's a video:

pollylicious said...
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Pretty In Ink said...

Ok I'm kind of angry right now. I had written out my entire response and then when I clicked to submit my answer it went to a blank screen and said bad request....so here I go again I suppose :/
I agree with Baggins 54. Live music is a huge inspiration. Watching people create art from sound is simply amazing to me. When I hear great musicians perform, it makes me strive to want to become a better musician. It makes my passion for music grow stronger. To think that music pretty much started with chants, it is astonishing what music has grown to be. The chants were the seed to music, now it has grown into a flower. Creation doesn't have a limit music keeps growing and continues to amaze me with what people create. I love when music is expressed as a story or emotion. When words fail, music speaks is what I say. It seems to bring the music more to life. I love mysterious, dark pieces, preferably in minor keys. I’m not sure why but music in minor keys and that are more depressing and dark just stand out to me.
I am a huge fan of Tim Burton, so of course I love Danny Elfman. Danny Elfman is the reason I wanted to start composing. I love his work and his creativeness. Some of my favorite songs from Danny Elfman are from Burton’s movies The Nightmare Before Christmas, and The Corpse Bride. One of my favorite songs from The Corpse Bride is ‘Victor’s piano solo’. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJ7-SdG9lKQ ) This song is just so beautiful to me. I also love ‘This is Halloween’ from The Nightmare Before Christmas. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hqotjvlvhd8 ) and the remake from Marilyn Manson is just amazing. Anytime I feel like giving up, I just listen to Elfman and my passion is back. Elfman is such an inspiration to me. He is the reason I wanted to compose, and is still the reason I want to continue and get better at it. He is one of the main reasons I got into music. As a kid I grew up on Burton’s films and each time I feel in the with Elfman’s music.
Everyone has a different reason as to why they are inspired, this is mine.

-Pauline :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jim for sending me on a music-listening tangent for like 2 hours haha. I chose a couple different songs. the first is "Mirrors" by Between the Buried and Me.
I really like the guitar part throughout the whole song. The progression it plays in the beginning is pretty awesome. It plays it a couple times then the bass and drums come in and they jam out on the relative major for a while before going back to the progression. I grabbed my guitar and was messing around playing it and I like how at the end it almost sounds like a V-I cadence in the relative major but does a III, iidim, then to i. Another song I picked out is from another band called The Fall of Troy. I love how this band can pull off some abrupt shifts in their sound. One minute everything sounds chaotic and crazy and then the next everything sounds catchy and song-like. I chose a video of them playing live w/ just instruments because it was the best quality video of them playing live I could find.

-Michael Dandy

Baggins_54 said...

I'm confused. If Dandy is Incorpeal then who is Methtical??

perpetualfool said...

I think what really stirs my soul in music is when it communicates exactly what it wants to-- when it articulates so well what it's trying to describe that you just know. This may be really nerdy, but I especially enjoy the soundtracks of the Lord of the Rings movies, because not only does each character and setting get a theme, but the themes introduce the characters, and the settings, and it's as if you know what's going on even before the actors speak. My favorite of them all would have to be from the Two Towers, called The King of the Golden Hall. Not only is there an amazing part on violin, but throughout you can hear the intertwining of themes in and out of this section. Um, as for not symphonic music though I'd have to say I'm really stirred by anything really down to earth, and soulful? I went to this blues concert awhile back, and the main band was just brilliant, and just really down to earth. The lead singer was a woman who did the best performance with blues guitar parts that I've seen since. Anyway, that is what I think.
--Kristen Falls

Mike said...

Mike Donnelly

One of my favorite songs of all time is "La Almeja Pequena" by Gordon Goodwind. The song itself just grooves really well. The Trombone solo that Andy Martin plays is one of my favorites. The trumpet solo is amazing as well. When I hear this song I can't help but smile and nod to it.

My second favorite song is Maynard Ferguson's version of "Birdland". The rhythmic break that he does halfway through the song is really funky, I love it. The drummer on the recording was way ahead of his time too.

Laura said...

(This is Laura). I am enlightened by everyone's posts. Glad to be reminded of the beauty of creating music and understanding how it affects people, mainly because I can't explain exactly WHY it makes people
Edit Laura said... FEEL the way they do from it. That's mysterious and exciting all in itself.
Film music and solo artists are my favorite.
I'm not very original to say that
I would like to meet John T. Williams. Here's a recording NBC Nightly News Beat: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7kIgcYgIQk
As sad as it is, I just realized that he composed the music for 90% of my favorite movies. I particularly love "Hedwig's Theme" for Harry Potter, Home Alone Theme, and the Indiana Jones. I know these songs drive some people crazy, but the action and drama packed into his music alone is so amazing. He is one of my inspirations to someday be able to compose my own music for a film. (You'll all know someday if that dream actually happens) :)
A fun song my husband shared with me is by a group called the Squirrel Nut Zippers, "Ghost of Stephen Foster." I love the variety of instruments and the fun, bouncy rhythm. The vocal harmonies are really cool. I can't figure out the intervals. There's a lot of chromaticism in it, so I have troubles trying to mimic the background vocalists. Heres the youtube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJzWGkgFcTU

michael said...

Right now I am trying to get this Rachmaninoff prelude in my insides, the whole prelude is about phrasing everything to the final climax, but there are phrases inside of phrases that just drives me crazy, La Sol Do throughout the entire piece, which must be brought out as if it were a separate instrument.

But music for me is anything that is trying to convey a serious message to your insides, Here is Muse before they sold out completely (The lead singer Matt Bellamy plays guitar and piano and actually played that Rachmaninoff Prelude in one of his concerts) :)


michael m.

eman_31 said...

The first kind of music that moves my soul is marching band music. Some might not like marching band music, but to me it means something because of how much fun I had with it in high school. I love everytime marching season would come each year. And now I still go out to my old high school to help out with the marching band. Because of marching band, it has inspired me to be a music ed major and hopefully be the next music teacher at my high school. Marching band music has that intensity and energy it gives off when played. When I watch it from the stands and listen to the music the students play, I can see a story being made from it. You don’t know what you are going to expect musically and visually from the performances.

The second kind of music that I can never get tired from are movie film scores as well! There are many great composers who have composed great pieces of music for movies. These composers include, Hans Zimmer who composed music for Pirates of the Carribean and Dark knight, Michael Giacchino who composed music for the Disney movies UP and The Incredibles, Steve Jablonsky for Transformers, and Danny Elfman for Spider-Man and Beetlejuice and other music composed for Tim Burton films. And I agree with Elia that this kind of music does represent a story when you are listening to it. You just know that something is gonna happen when there are feelings of suspense musically and can also feel the action and energy from the music being played. The music in movies also makes it more dramatic when music with great build up and intensity is being played like in Transformers. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4H0JDomv8ac

I like the kind of music that an energetic beginning or music that starts out slow and builds up in the middle of the song. The build ups that music creates is a great way of expression from the musician because they are playing what they feel in them and project it through their instruments. Here is a song by Hillsong called what the world cant take away http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xuPPtzEzQ5A

and another called Ready Now by Desperation Band http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LYTUwcFH62Y

It is great just listening to this kind of music that just relaxes you and the musics going through your mind. its great what composers and other musicians think of and project it wonderfully through their instruments.


Jim Scully - aka jimmuscomp said...

Manny Beltran is methical. My bad.

Jim Scully - aka jimmuscomp said...

Thanks everyone. Keep 'em coming! So nice to get to hear you talk about music that excites you!

methtical9857 said...
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