Music has the ability to pull a game together or rip it apart.

 

Game Audio is a crucial part to any video game. Yes, some games may not have an abundant amount of audio but what is implemented (hopefully in a constructive way) adds more than we sometimes recognize.

Today I am going to look at a game that I have seen emerge from its first beta and continued to follow. I got the game when there was no audio, and was just a basic strategy simulation. It was fun and entertaining but it became dull because there was zero sound (I still liked it though). Months later, the sound had been implemented and the merriment of sound design and music was one. I like to think of all sound as having musical traits and vice versa. The more you listen, the more the barriers fall as to what is “noise.” These elements for me personally give the game it’s all. It is the icing on the cake to say the least.

Today the game audio I will be reviewing is from the game, Mini Metro. The game was developed by Dinosaur Polo Club and the music was done by Disasterpeace, aka Rich Vreeland.

The game is pretty straight forward. I will describe it briefly. The player is presented with maps of cities and your job is to build subway/metro routes from stations that pop up over time. As each level progresses the map gets larger and more stations need to be connected. Each station is meant to house a particular traveler and if they do not get to the correct station the one they’re in overcrowds and you lose.

What took this game above and beyond was the audio implementation. (Trust me, I love the layout and overall aesthetic too!) Besides from having expected train and passenger sounds, the music is generated in real time with input from the user. I really enjoy games that do this. It involves taking a technique like vertical layering/mixing, and then adding a set of random variables. It seems that each area has it’s own harmonic, melodic and rhythmic patterns but that each time you play, move a route, or a station is created, the order is shifted or an element is transitioned.

Overall, the implementation in this game allows for a different soundtrack every time the game is played. Yes there a finite set of possibilities for how these sounds can be played but you would have to play this game for millions of hours before exhausting each one. Each passenger and station and train line add an element to an evolving sound track. This is great because it keeps the music fresh for each play through and one is not stuck hearing a theme repeat and loop over and over.

I also enjoy the fact that the tempo ramps up and down with the fast play button. The music is ambient/electronic/minimalistic in style but it creates a beautiful contrast to the often hectic and stressful gameplay that one may encounter. Essentially you are always against the clock and threat of overcrowding a station. You must create a network that moves passengers quickly and effectively. The audio is a major character in this as it is both enhancing this fast pace top-view of a transit map, but sonically it is keeping you focused and calm.

Overall I really enjoy this game, and the audio that goes with it. Future game and audio designers can learn a lot from this game. I hope to see more game music done in this style.

Game Soundtrack of the Week

(You need to actually play the game to experience the full quality of the music)

Star Trek Beyond! Soundtrack Analysis.

I recently went to see the new Star Trek movie and I was grinning ear to ear from start to finish. I must note that I am a Trekkie and an avid science fiction fan. I am also a huge follower and listener to Michael Giacchino, whom in my opinion delivered his best performance in the Star Trek Saga yet. This article will feature which were my favorite tracks and why, from the latest epic in the Star Trek universe.

Logo and Prosper: (I absolutely love how Michael names his cues btw.)

The opening track completely fulfills its duty as a main title should. It gives us the main theme that we have to come to know and (I) love. The tone and mood here is more sombre and darker than the past openers. We are then hinted with the strings and building choir that is also familiar. I also enjoyed the hints at T.O.S. theme throughout this whole film.

Thank Your Lucky Star Date:I do not get tired of a theme if it is well written and fitting. Here we open with our main theme again and then delves into a romantic piano interlude featuring an arpeggiated version of this theme. The reverb swell on this piano is perfect. The strings with the counter melody that sweeps in keeps the listener’s ears tuned in to the film and in return are following the music closely for the next cue in direction.

Night on the York Town:I will just say straight forward this is my favorite cue for this film. This may be my new favorite cue from Michael Giacchino period. The development of theme, dynamic range, orchestration, and of course the mixing and performance all glue together in a way that is beyond phenomenal. We start off with mark tree and that haunting piano from earlier. We are treated with a growing string part that is humbling and nostalgic in unity. The minor turn around into our new theme is in good taste. We know the piece is modulating but into what? The staccato strings and horns and bells are light and almost playful. The mood here is welcoming as we see the new star base for the first time. You can not help yourself but be filled with wonder. The soaring melody for this scene and dramatic choir knock this one out of the park for me. I have been listing to Michael’s music since he scored the original Medal of honor games in the early 2000s. This piece reminds me very much of the music form those war games. It is welcoming, heroic and yet heavy with thought and feeling. I think this is one of the movies best themes and a great one that I wish I heard more of. It is not easy to write an anthem for humanity and what we can achieve. This is one of those moments for me. It is something I find very few composers can do, but has been done by James Horner, Jerry Goldsmith, and John Williams. In my opinion Michael Giacchino has made that leap with this one cue. Even the rest of the cue, which is darker and more subdue is still perfectly in tune with the picture. We can hear all the elements from before and are wrapped in an emotional blanket all the way through.

The Dance of the Nebula: This cue comes right in where we leave off at Yorktown. As the Enterprise approaches the unknown we are hinted with bits a the theme. Ominous string ostinatos and wailing instruments tell us of the danger that lies ahead. There are glimpses of hope and then strike the classic vibraphone and percussion heralding suspense. The suspense building here is spot on with what we see on screen with the nebulas and asteroids and so much floating around the enterprise.

A Swarm Reception:This scene is beyond intense. From a movie perspective this is a new type of enemy and attack on the Enterprise. The music is what sells this. There is so much sound going here with the sound effects but that is balanced well here with the music. The camera keeps jumping from in and out the ship and the music follows this dynamic well. The music let’s us know the enterprise is doomed and is going down long before it happens. Sonically we know the swarm has the upper hand. I love the string glissandos towards the end a lot. 

Hitting the Saucer a Little Hard:This piece picks up right where the swarm leaves off. The strings are working hard here. With tremolos, glissando, and ostinato, this is tense. One can also here woodwinds and percussion sharing lines much like in William’s work. The B section here reminds me again of Medal of Honor which is definitely a plus. It is war and the ship is going down, meanwhile the modulations are going up, just adding to the feelings of tension rising here. The percussion and strings here feel so in tuned with a William’s score but this is all original work here. Just as one can hear Stravinsky and Holst in William’s music, it is a sign that all composers listen to each other to enrich their vocabulary and write good music. It is a way to learn and is not a negative attribute by any means. I enjoyed the second half of this cue with the rich horns and choir. So sad as we see the Enterprise falling to her death. (Honestly we know they will build another.) This is the requiem and it’s a mighty fine one i will admit. In a movie one only has so much time in a scene to convey a feeling, idea, or mood. This cue is 6 minutes, but the sad ending starts at the 4 minute mark. So in 2 minutes, the music has to say this is the end of the Enterprise in an unforgettable fashion. Here this “requiem for the Enterprise” is not long at all but in a matter of seconds the whole audience is sharing the same feeling seeing the ship lost in battle. That is the job of the composer.

Star Trek Main Theme

I am always one of the last people out of the theater. I have to watch all the credits and see all the people that made this experience possible. If you’ve never done it, you will be shocked just how many people entertained you for 2 hours. Another thing to note about this is some of my favorite parts of a soundtrack are played for the credits. Many composers use the credits as a way to sum up the whole movie by the score. One will hear versions of main themes and characters’ themes all revisited here; all modulating and flowing into each other. I think it is something that all films should do. Michael Giacchino does not disappoint and has done that for each Star Trek movie. I love that you hear the original star trek theme at the end, because tradition is key in a story line like this one.

The Movie Musical Makes A Comeback!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of going to see LA LA LAND. I did my very best to not spoil anything for myself. I did not watch the trailer, read any reviews or unlock any secrets about the plot. I like going into a movie or theatrical performance knowing nothing. This way I haven’t already formed an opinion and can let the work speak for itself. In this case I was left speechless. I am biased towards musicals to a degree and love the old fashion movie-musical that reached it’s peak in the 50s and 60s. Nonetheless, this movie is a sign that the art of great cinematography, acting, and music composition to produce a truly unique type of motion picture is out there. There are parts which I may not have enjoyed but for this article, I am sticking to what sold it for me. I think that over all this musical hits some very key points on life, relationships, as well as the performance industry in general. If you have not seen it yet and do not wish to spoil anything that my opinions may say, then stop reading here.

1. The music!

I could go on forever with this one because what makes a musical good? You know the answer. Justin Hurwitz did an incredible job here. The music is catchy and lively the whole way through. It supports the story and also supports the cinematography. It also fits the characters quite well. While many people might not particularly care for their voices I like the naturalness of it. The music reflects that and gives a very open source feel to what we are seeing on screen. Movie musicals amplify source music to the top, that is music that we think to be coming from the characters environment on screen. The themes in this are as sweet as the characters. I am a sucker for singable piano love themes and I was not disappointed. I will be playing the main theme on my piano for many years to come.

2. The Directing!

The art of storytelling is an old one but one that is rooted in the nature of humanity itself. It is one that we all share and do so in our own way. The interesting thing about storytelling is sometimes you are there and other times you are not. Damien Chazelle’s previous movie, Whiplash didn’t really connect with me. In this movie I was there with the characters. I felt glued to the screen and could not take my eyes away, I was connected to the characters’ emotions and actions. It all felt close and real. A lot of films play it safe and sometimes get rid of creative expression in order to do so. LA LA LAND does not do this. It is wide open, which is important. Some of the most memorable films over the years may not have the most complicated stories but they take risks in direction and narrative voice: that’s why they stick in your head. Even if you don’t like the plot to this movie, I would argue you could still enjoy how it was delivered.

3. The Cinematography!

The more I work on my own photography and study films in school, the more I have started noticing techniques and practices that set films apart. Cinematography is right up there with all the great ways to express art. It is something that is crafted and carefully worked on. Coupled with the music and direction, the look and shots inside this film are what make it. There are many scenes where the camera is telling the audience more than what the characters are saying or doing. The use of special effects both in lighting and in lense/shot work is phenomenal. I was surprised by how smooth many of the continuous shots worked. An audience that isn’t aware of how this works won’t notice, but the effect is you can’t take your eyes off screen. Linus Sandgren working with Chazelle is something that I think we need to see more of. There are scenes in here that are completely unique as well as many that tip their hat to that golden age of musicals in the 50s and 60s.

4. The Dancing!

There is a little bit of everything in here. If this were to be put on Broadway, there would probably be more dancing, but I like the variety used here. There are great moments in here where I feel that the dancing does not seem faked or super choreographed. I know that all musicals have strict choreography but the characters deliver it in a way that comes off as nonchalant. Spoiler alert…There is a tap number in here! Honestly, tap dancing needs a comeback. It is something I have noticed less and less people practicing over the years. While Ryan and Emma are no Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds, they do just fine. I also enjoy the large group numbers with the swing and full cast dancing. Fun fact, that intro scene on the cars and freeway was real. Those people were really dancing on cars on a freeway in LA. Those to me are what create the musical world that people love; so that it isn’t strange to just see the main characters breaking out in dance or song.

Why “Grapefruit” Save The Day

The album that has all the vibes.

There are bands that write songs and there are bands that write tunes. A tune is something that we all can jam out to. It is something that saves your soul when you’ve had a rough week. It is the quintessential vibe at the best party. This band is one that can write tunes. The band, Saves The Day, is not your average punk rock band. Their music, to put it frankly, has all the vibes. They have written enough tunes to be inducted into the hall of fame in my opinion. I came to know this band through my roommate Steve Knecht. He is undoubtedly to the best of my knowledge their biggest fan. He got me into their music and knows everything there is to know about the band.

The following is a song by song review of Saves The Day’s self titled album (commonly referred to as The Grapefruit Album).

Remember: Insert copious amounts of whammy (the essence of punk), along with the kick ass vocals and this tune is jamming. Besides the great guitar work here, you will be treated with one of the most memorable melodies of this album. Another point to note, the bass work and bowing going on makes the piece come together to create a lovely sonic image. This song is like the prologue for a novel that you know is going to pull on your heart strings. 

Blow it off let’s stay here just for the day

I remember

I remember you

I remember

I remember you

In the in Between: This here is by far my favorite song. It is memorable in both harmony and lyrics. The overall songwriting on this track is phenomenal mainly due to the perfect sync of melody and lyrical content. It uses a variety of rhyme and phrasing juxtaposition to keep it moving forward. It also utilizes refrain before the chorus which is something I really enjoy in songs. Despite a heavy subject it gets you going due to it’s upbeat rhythm. For me, this is a very personal song due to the lyrics. It tells of how relationships with people can ride a fine line between the love and the breakup;

Our luck is in the between of

Better days and never be okay

Our love is in the between of

Say my name and say you’ll go away

Beyond All of Time: This song may seem like a bunch of lyrical clichés but I can assure you it is not, and the delivery is anything but cliché. This song has heavy feels. How I interpret it is when you and the one you love spend time together you feel as though it can go on forever. You never want the love to end. The melody and harmony amongst the vocals and guitar is spot on in this song.

To know I love you beyond all of time

Together forever tonight

I’ll always be right by your side tonight

I love you beyond all of time

Ain’t No Kind of Love: This song is really sad for me at times. I love it dearly and it’s melody is one you need if you’re going through a rough time. The struggle of relationships is something we all deal with and pain from those kind of situations suck.

For right to now make it through the long day, is okay

Tomorrow, when anything can happen

Try again.

Until then keep on breathing

The love you long to know is within

Lucky Number: Another great tune here. I love the story in this one. This song has the potential to become a novel I think; that is if Chris decides to go into literature.

The letter with the words, never loved you at all

And if this is the end, I’ll be glad when you’re gone

My roommate Steve said,“The verses on this song, are my favorite. Arun’s guitar, (I think it’s him playing) sounds like Jesus. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks on the album.”

Xenophobic Blind Left Hook: Cue that catchy indie rock major-chord progression transitioning to minor. I love that! The title of this song is enough to make most people hit skip but, alas, we must never judge a book by it’s cover. For anyone who wants a new song to hit replay on, and just jam out over and over to; your prayers have been answered. This song is my second favorite on the album purely for harmonic and melodic reasons. I grew up on classic rock and those chord progressions and guitar riffs is what got me into playing guitar. When I hear this song, I am reminded of the rock from my youth. Sonically speaking, the tone of the guitars and ambient drones in the background is solid in mix and placement.

The Tide of Our Times: Like the rest of this album, for me every song could be a hit; especially this one. The work that Chris does on creating unforgettable melodies to deliver his meaningful lyrics is something that you don’t see a single person or band doing much anymore. I have a lot of respect for this kind of songwriting and I love it when there is a political song on an album.

Supernova: The vibes man. This piece is dope. Don’t listen to this song if you’re feeling depressed. I’m just kidding. But actually, the feelings of darkness and despair from missing your lover are tough as f***. If you have not gone through a bad breakup, than this song will be hard for you to understand. But actually though, this song has got really great writing in it’s hook. It is not easy to take words like obliterated, supernova, oblivion, and decimated, then put them into a working thought that is both deep and musical. Probably one of my favorite hooks on this album.

Like a supernova

A welcomed coma, a blackout blow up

The world to hell

A decimated, obliterated, oblivion

Gone for good, farewell

When all is well

Verona: The number one thing about this track is the solid drum performance here. Dude, Claudio is a hammer! Such incredible work here. Also I love the heavy, “atomic” guitar going on thought the song. That is what i’m talking about. That’s what gets the crowds going.

Ring Pop: Another bar meet? Noticing a theme? I’m joking. I wish I heard this song years ago. This song I feel is really underrated on their album and from their online playlists as well. This song lyrically again hits straight for the heart. It is really beautiful to think about a future with someone when you both fall in love. The act of singing a song with someone you care about seems like something out of a fantasy but if you know that you are going to be with someone in the end then why not share a song now. Even if it ends suddenly, you will always have that song. My favorite lyric part is the imagery created when I hear/read:

Knowing in 20 years we would not be alone

Might have made us a pair of zen-like two-year-olds

With a couple of ring pops no need to propose

Before we live forever say

Together we can be okay

If it’s the last thing that we do

I wanna sing along with you

Stand in the Stars: Right off the bat, the descending guitar riff tells the listeners that this is the ending song. The words run right into one another making you focus in on what is happening. The guitar solo/melody supplies a great harmony throughout the entire piece, something that is reminiscent of more classic rock, and is a big plus in my book. In my opinion, this song is a bit opposite from the others on this album. It is more upbeat and optimistic in lyrics to me than a lot of the album. I really dig the imagery expressed in this piece, because it is basically what one’s mind says while we’re thinking/talking about someone we care about.

We’ll stand in the stars.

Spinning in a circle sideways.

Silhouetted by a hundred million burning constellations.

I’m Orion upside down,

In my arms you’re Artemis, 

Our love so out of control.

Wow, so many great feelings there. This band is remarkable in their songwriting in both the music theory aspect as well as how each song is communicated. Each album in general is diverse and keeps the listener engaged in the message. I never considered myself to be an avid listener of pop punk until I roomed with a pop punk artist. Out of all the hours of music Steve played, this band stood out and above the rest. Everything about their music is real; the feeling, the delivery, the musicianship, etc. So right now, I recommend you go to the nearest record store or internet capable machine and just plug in to Saves. This band’s music has #allthevibes.

Band of the Week

An in-depth review of Brian Eno's legendary album.

Brian Eno is one of the most essential artists to shape the music industry both in terms of artistry and production. Eno has helped pioneer the genre of Ambient and Generative music. He has played a crucial part in producing albums for other bands such as U2 and Coldplay. Eno does not consider himself to be a musician but more of an experimenter and someone who explores theories in making art.

Throughout the 1970s, Eno pioneered new ideas in rock music through experimentation with effects and writing styles. Some of his best known work from this time was with Robert Fripp from King Crimson. These new techniques and trials lead to a series of ambient albums a few years down the road that were produced and majority written by Eno. One of the most popular of these albums, and the one that gets a lot of recognition was Music for Airports (Ambient 1).

The following is a song by song review of Music for Airports.

1/1: Probably the most memorable song as well as the most known from this collection. This piece is undoubtedly my favorite from the album. It’s melody is very simple yet, through careful orchestration and mixing, it seem to evolve over time as the piece goes on. The “B” section, as one may call it, of this piece provides the listener with a great counter melody to the one that started the piece. It echoes an air of completeness like the complimentary phrase found in a classical/romantic piece centuries earlier. This piece will always be the first thing in my mind when I think of ambient music or recommend to a friend some ambient works they need to check out.

2/1: The haunting choir sounds in this piece may seem fake or synthesized, but to me their generation through electronic devices and pathways lends to a sound that with careful listening does sound organic in it’s own right. Choral music has an incredible history and is always changing and embracing new frontiers. It may seem that new music and techniques often are found on the voice or through vocal performance and then manifest in other forms of music later. The opposite is also true however. In this case it is hard to say what the influence is here, and whom this piece may have influenced. One obvious answer is countless musicians before and after respectively. The melody and chords in this piece give an ethereal feel and airy tone to this piece. I would rank this among some of the great choral works of modern classical as well as renaissance works because it is a first of it’s kind. A completely generated choir that is musical and moves the listener the same way a real choir would.

½: This song artistically blends the two main elements from the first two movements (if you’ll let me call them that) into one work. It features piano and choir. Each exchanging phrases like falling leaves into a brook. This is my rainy day song. I’m kind of kidding but it is so mellow that it brings one’s mood to a more relaxed state. The back and forth of the piano and choral melody compliment each other perfectly that you want to hear the other when only one is playing. It leaves one’s ears longing for more. The whole piece features variations in all the same melodic parts, but where they enter and exit as well as the timbre changes as the piece goes on. It is really unique. I love meditating to this piece and highly recommend that you do as well if you enjoy meditating to music.

2/2: When the last movement comes on you know in your heart it is the ending. The melody and movement of phrases heralds that this is the concluding statement. I absolutely adore the synth orchestra sounds. The drone notes throughout the piece is a characteristic so indicative of ambient music nowadays I can only imagine hearing that for the first time. I used to think of this piece as a “synth song.” Now, after studying orchestration and music theory while in college, I hear this as piece as something akin to the ending of a symphony. I hear the voices of the instruments trading amongst an orchestra. The lines and phrases moving from player to player. I hear a theme that is both hopefully with just a tinge of nostalgia. This piece is one that has the most potential to grow on a listener. It features sections just as any song or classical tune would. It makes use of various instruments and sections in an orchestra. I mean instruments as in terms of tonal and timbral range in this case. As I had mentioned earlier, these are synthetic sounds. However, I find it really easy to look past this conception and just hear this as with the rest of the music as natural and pure. It is so round and smooth in sonority that it is easy to lose oneself in the sound. If there is one pice on this entire album that speaks for the history of all music before it, this is the one.

When all is said and done, you need to go out and listen to these four pieces on your own. I do not want to sway your opinions as everything I have written is of course up to debate. This is merely how I feel about this work. You have every right to disagree and have your own opinions because that is what music is all about!

I almost always listen to this album in order but I feel as though this music lends itself to non-linearity. I have no doubt this set of music can be played in any order. Get creative! For me, this music will be timeless. It is meant to exist in the background but I have played it for sleep, homework, studying, and just enjoyment. It lends itself to be what ever you want it to be. There are very few composers out there that I can think of that have the ability to express an idea in this way. So, if you have not dived into this world of ambient music, I can recommend that this album is a great way to start.

Designing Your Own Samples

The benefits of creating your own professional sounds.

It is definitely a plus as a composer to be able to record and manage your own set of instruments. Everyone has access to the same sample libraries and often, at some point, people will use the same sounds as more and more works are created. By investing the time and knowledge into creating your own, you have the ability to make something new, and to stand out. No one else owns that sound but you.

Sound design is not just sound effects that you can pull from a library. It involves both synthesizing sounds and going out and capturing them from the real world and then manipulating them, if you so choose. It can help to be aware of the tonal centers of your music and sounds in case there are clashes from something that is pitched.

Synthesis is the concept of taking a sound generator and building upon it’s basic waveform to create something more complex. With synthesis, whether an analog hardware synth or a digital plugin, one has complete control over all aspects of the end result wave. This involves pitch, envelope, ADSR and any other parameter you can think of. In my personal experience, the best way to really understand how this works is to just play with a synth of any sorts. Be aware of what you are manipulating and how that is making things change. Envelopes change the shape of a waveform while the filters change what frequencies and resonances are apparent to the listener.

In a related area, audio signal or digital signal processing is another option a composer has to make their own sounds. These can be anything from standard effects to synth like engines that one can use to alter pre existing audio data. You can think of your initial data like your waveform. As you apply effects to it and process it, you sculpt it into something more complex, just like with the synths. I enjoy putting the two concepts together when I have a project. I will generally make my own synth pads or drone sounds in Reason or Massive. If I need a more complex sound I may start with a pre-existing piece of audio or sample something and then add DSP on top of it to create something entirely different.

Back to what I mentioned earlier, your own recorded and synthesized samples are what you will end up using the most once you start collecting and establishing a bunch of sounds. You can record yourself even, or record other live players. Then you can manipulate and change the sounds to however you need to fix them. In some instances, the wackier and messed up the sound is, the better it will fit the context you’re using it for. Taking what you know from synthesis and DSP you can take and completely invent new material and then sample those back in and rework them some more. I took a bass drum hit once and added lots of reverb and saved that super massive hit sound. Later on, I took that new sample, and added delay and a pitch shifter and a new reverb and made a pitched percussive sound that did not sound like any known piece of percussion. What mattered was that it worked in the context of the project I used it for.

What it comes down to is experimenting and finding what works for you and what does not. There really is no right or wrong way to create sound design, just what works for that project. You may make the coolest sound, but if it does not fit then it’s going to sound bad. What’s great, though, is you can save it and it will just live on a hard drive until it is needed.

Timeless music for any day.

Claude Debussy, the definition of man, myth, and legend. This great French composer was part of a movement (the impressionists) that both he and his contemporaries didn’t like the name of. Their music was more than that. It was a shift in classical and contemporary composition; not of the visual sense, as the impressionist movement was coined to, but of sonic exploration. Harmony, and melody, had finally reached a new frontier. The jazz and 20th century composers from all over the world would build off of the this new step in music. Most of you may not know his music straight off the bat, but if you have watched any movies from the last 100 years, especially Disney ones cough cough, you have heard his music somewhere in there. Besides the sometimes cliché placement of his amazing work, this music is not a cliché. This music is a doorway into a timelessness.

1. Claire de Lune. I know this one is the most played and most cliché but I do not care! If I ever get the chance to go to space, this will be what I have playing as I watch the Earth. Everything about this piece has an air of magic to it. It is one of those that one does not forget easily and pretty much sums of the progression of contemporary composition from that short place in time. My favorite section is when the arpeggiating piano comes, washing over everything like moon beams on a clear night. The counter melody soaring yet riding with the twinkle of the keys to mimic the love of a summer’s eve.

2. The first song to the Suite Bergamasque, Prélude is a close second to the fourth movement, Claire de Lune. This piece hold a more traditional style to it in its form. I love the way each section contrasts and compliments the one before it. This introduction tot he other pieces of the suite barely scrape the surface of the wonder in store. This piece showcases the essence of dynamics in the work of Debussy. Looking past beauty scripted melodies and counterpoint, the dynamic range in his works are outstanding. Listening only to the subtle volume changes present in this piece you will be amazed how subtleness creates grandiose.

3. La Mer- De l'aube à midi sur la mer - This three part symphonic set of sketches may be one of the greatest “short” multipart orchestral pieces ever composed. When listening to this, one is there along the coast. The waters are loud and salt air fresh. The instrumentation reminds me of an epic film score form the golden era of film. It is no doubt that the great film composers of yesterday looked to many of the impressionist writers. The building of phrases in this piece is something that takes multiple listenings to analyze.

The listener is never dulled but always engaged actively by the music. In every aspect, the sea and all it stands fro is personified in beauty, greatness, and wonder. The chords in this piece as well as their progression and shifting tonal centers is something that would take foot more and more in the emerging contemporary music of the day. I won’t spoil my absolutely favorite part of this piece because if you listen the whole thing, you will certainly know.

4. From his book of Préludes for piano, There are so many countless favorites in there. Each one of those pieces should be in this list. I will pick a few. The first of those is Les collines d'Anacapri. This song is really cool for a multiple or reasons. To someone who has never heard it, I would imagine it would sound like virtuosic piano classical piano with some jazz harmony thrown in or something. For me, this piece’s rapid lyrical melody and tonality brings me to this beautiful Mediterranean land. So much of this song personifies the music of Italian composer’s and paints the picture of a care-free seaside with mountains and wine.

5. La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin - Another masterpiece from this piano preludes book. A song of love for sure. I Simply adore everything about the setting this creates. I can imagine myself sitting outside on pleasantly mild day, and there across the way an innocent girl playing in the spring breezes. The mixture of diatonic and modal harmony puts us in a setting other than France. There are no doubt, worldly hints of Grieg in this piece as well as the the previous one.

6. Rêverie- In english this translates to daydream and if such a concept could be captured sonically, Claude has managed that. The way the melody builds though the modulating harmony is in essence the way ones thoughts build and wander when stuck daydreaming. The dreams become optimistic and hopeful and then just like seeds in the wind are whisked away and a new thought develops. This in turn develops another and the thoughts run and scamper like children playing about the grass. The repetition in the melody and rhythm works to the advantage of this piece and I can guarantee you will be singing it in your head all day.

7. Deux Arabesques (No. 1) - Starting and ending with both standard Debussy pieces? I don’t care. I would never tire of hearing either tune. There is a reason why I feel these piece are timeless. They will be remembered with the other greats for many years to come. The first movement of Deux Arabesques is an incredible showcase of story telling on the piano. The second movement is equal in full regard as well. To be honest one should play both, bot just one or the other.

Focusing however, on the first, the juxtaposition of melody and harmony seem to meld into one. Debussy marries them as one quite seamlessly so that one does not always notice the counterpoint and contrast going on. As with previous pieces, the nuances of very precise articulations sculpt and contour the melody into something like a movie. Great music should paint a picture in the same way a great picture sings to the audience. If you find a Debussy piece that does not adhere to this, I will be shocked.

The Songs of Ouroboros

The songs of “Ouroboros.” Music is one of the most powerful qualities of the universe. It has the power to motivate people across time, just like any of the arts. It transcend the ages and is only forgotten by those who forget. It is limitless. It can inspire people and forge ideas across generations. This past year, I had recently started listening to an artist who I had not played in quite some time. I was online and I heard a new track from Ray LaMontagne. I was like “I love his music” and clicked urgently. I listened and I was taken away with rock guitar, a smooth beat and his soothing breathy vocals. I was sold. I waited restlessly, like a child on Christmas eve waits for gifts, for his album to come out. The following article is a personal review of his album and the effect it had on me. His newest album, “Ouroboros,” is to me a powerful album in both content and in name. A little history lesson now, Ouroboros is by definition “an ancient mythical serpent used to symbolizeperpetuity.” It is akin to the idea of a phoenix, in the sense that a being is in a cycle of life and rebirth. A never ending cycle. In a sense so much of our universe models this theory. Even in our lifetimes, we go through “phases” or “times” and we remark about them and say “oh that felt like another time.” In a sense it was though, it was. Everyday is unique and will never repeat. As far as we know it is never ending; moving over and over, going on to a new day. This album explores this idea, subtly remarking about what is this life we are living and what does it mean? Where are we going? What does our past mean? The very first track, Homecoming, states [I don’ t recall all the “why” or the “where” or “who was there.] At the end of the day it does not matter what you do. It does not matter who you are. What matters is how you feel and how you make others feel. The number one goal is for you to be content with yourself. Getting back to the point of last week’s article was, to love yourself first! That is most important.  [Anything you want your life to mean it can mean This life is full of give and take (hey, no pressure) Be careful of each step you take (hey, no pressure) It doesn’t matter lose or win (hey, no pressure, hey, no pressure) It’s all an illusion in the end (hey, no pressure, hey, no pressure)] "No Pressure,” the song that grabbed my attention that night, to me is this idea of a never ending cycle. The song has killer guitar playing, and just the perfect vibes of folk and classic rock. It also hits on some of the most common existential questions we all ask ourselves. Is life just an illusion? What does it matter where you’ve been? What is winning and what is losing? The voice in the head saying no pressure is the sense of doubt we all carry about ourselves and what we do. It is so easy to be your worse critic and create a sense of negativity and pressures that are all in your head. “While It Still Beats" is such a heavy song (In a good way). Again, the instrumentation and the arrangements are spot on. The message that I hear is, "let’s take a step back from the cynical world and works of society and just let me face what I want to face.” Maybe that is completely wrong, who knows. Songs are meant to be interpreted by the individual. Anyway, the ethereal chorus outro is incredible and will be stuck in your head for sure. “In My Own Way,” is my favorite song on the album. The sweeping piano glissando and vibey melody have this song set on repeat for me. I love how chill it is and then the guitar riffs are the icing on the cake. [All the plans, That were made Let them die! Let them fade… I’ll spend the day, In my own way…] This song perpetuating the idea of the self and individuality to me. One has to let go of the old plans and ideas and just do you. Again, this is just my opinion and I don’t want to analyze too much of this song because I don’t want to ruin the individual experience. Music is all about the experience of emotions and those are meant to be personal. The last song, “Wouldn’t It Make A Lovely Photograph,” is in essence, the most powerful song on the album and serves its purpose as the final chapter. I would even go so far as to call it the epilogue of a classic novel . (Please note that I mean this in the highest most positive regard.) The last song of an album will usually wrap up the story and but this track does so in the most poetic way. [Never gonna hear this song on the radio… But wouldn’t it make a lovely photograph] This song hits home for me and leaves me thinking about so much. I think about my life as a musician and where I am headed with all of it. I think about my friends, my family, and my future. I think about all the photos I have taken of the sky, or the girl I want to ask out. It leaves me feeling complete in a sense of nostalgia but harmonically along side the melody, I feel like I’m left hanging with some of my questions unanswered. It is that reason why I love this album. One can not answer all of life’s questions. (Remember my article about existential questions) One has to be comfortable with the past, present and future. This album is a sonic journey exploring all these facets of time in an unending cycle.

The songs of “Ouroboros.”

Music is one of the most powerful qualities of the universe. It has the power to motivate people across time, just like any of the arts. It transcend the ages and is only forgotten by those who forget. It is limitless. It can inspire people and forge ideas across generations.

This past year, I had recently started listening to an artist who I had not played in quite some time. I was online and I heard a new track from Ray LaMontagne. I was like “I love his music” and clicked urgently. I listened and I was taken away with rock guitar, a smooth beat and his soothing breathy vocals. I was sold. I waited restlessly, like a child on Christmas eve waits for gifts, for his album to come out. The following article is a personal review of his album and the effect it had on me.

His newest album, “Ouroboros,” is to me a powerful album in both content and in name. A little history lesson now, Ouroboros is by definition “an ancient mythical serpent used to symbolizeperpetuity.” It is akin to the idea of a phoenix, in the sense that a being is in a cycle of life and rebirth. A never ending cycle. In a sense so much of our universe models this theory. Even in our lifetimes, we go through “phases” or “times” and we remark about them and say “oh that felt like another time.” In a sense it was though, it was. Everyday is unique and will never repeat. As far as we know it is never ending; moving over and over, going on to a new day.

This album explores this idea, subtly remarking about what is this life we are living and what does it mean? Where are we going? What does our past mean? The very first track, Homecoming, states

[I don’ t recall all the “why” or the “where” or “who was there.]

At the end of the day it does not matter what you do. It does not matter who you are. What matters is how you feel and how you make others feel. The number one goal is for you to be content with yourself. Getting back to the point of last week’s article was, to love yourself first! That is most important. 

[Anything you want your life to mean it can mean
This life is full of give and take (hey, no pressure)
Be careful of each step you take (hey, no pressure)
It doesn’t matter lose or win (hey, no pressure, hey, no pressure)
It’s all an illusion in the end (hey, no pressure, hey, no pressure)]

"No Pressure,” the song that grabbed my attention that night, to me is this idea of a never ending cycle. The song has killer guitar playing, and just the perfect vibes of folk and classic rock. It also hits on some of the most common existential questions we all ask ourselves. Is life just an illusion? What does it matter where you’ve been? What is winning and what is losing? The voice in the head saying no pressure is the sense of doubt we all carry about ourselves and what we do. It is so easy to be your worse critic and create a sense of negativity and pressures that are all in your head.

“While It Still Beats" is such a heavy song (In a good way). Again, the instrumentation and the arrangements are spot on. The message that I hear is, "let’s take a step back from the cynical world and works of society and just let me face what I want to face.” Maybe that is completely wrong, who knows. Songs are meant to be interpreted by the individual. Anyway, the ethereal chorus outro is incredible and will be stuck in your head for sure.

“In My Own Way,” is my favorite song on the album. The sweeping piano glissando and vibey melody have this song set on repeat for me. I love how chill it is and then the guitar riffs are the icing on the cake.

[All the plans, That were made
Let them die! Let them fade…
I’ll spend the day, In my own way…]

This song perpetuating the idea of the self and individuality to me. One has to let go of the old plans and ideas and just do you. Again, this is just my opinion and I don’t want to analyze too much of this song because I don’t want to ruin the individual experience. Music is all about the experience of emotions and those are meant to be personal.

The last song, “Wouldn’t It Make A Lovely Photograph,” is in essence, the most powerful song on the album and serves its purpose as the final chapter. I would even go so far as to call it the epilogue of a classic novel . (Please note that I mean this in the highest most positive regard.) The last song of an album will usually wrap up the story and but this track does so in the most poetic way.

[Never gonna hear this song on the radio…

But wouldn’t it make a lovely photograph]

This song hits home for me and leaves me thinking about so much. I think about my life as a musician and where I am headed with all of it. I think about my friends, my family, and my future. I think about all the photos I have taken of the sky, or the girl I want to ask out. It leaves me feeling complete in a sense of nostalgia but harmonically along side the melody, I feel like I’m left hanging with some of my questions unanswered. It is that reason why I love this album. One can not answer all of life’s questions. (Remember my article about existential questions) One has to be comfortable with the past, present and future. This album is a sonic journey exploring all these facets of time in an unending cycle.