As part of this unit you must submit written evidence of your research and the practical implications of your creation exercise and your performance adaptation
Maximum of 2400 words
Check out some of the examples below
The extract above also includes teacher corrections. This gives you an idea of the standard and detail required for this unit. This work was produced as a first draft in just term one from a year 12 student, whose main instrument is vocals, as well as guitar.
Exploring Music in Context
Section 1: Exploration of Diverse Music Material - page 2
Rhythm & Blues: ‘Twistin’ the Night Away’ Sam Cooke (0.00 – 1.05) - page 2
Techno: ’CHEETAH7b’ Aphex Twin (2.30 – 3.10) - page 3
Soca: ‘Doh Back Back’ Mighty Sparrow (0.00 – 1.13) - page 5
Section 2: Statement on Creation Exercise - page 6
Section 3: Statement on Performance Adaptation - page 9
Bibliography - page 10
Appendices - page 12
Section 1: Exploration of Diverse Music Material
Rhythm & Blues: ‘Twistin’ the Night Away’ Sam Cooke Track 1 – 0.00 – 0.40
‘Twistin’ the Night Away’ (see appendix, Track 1) is an example of classic rhythm and blues and can be used to highlight some of the style’s key features and show the links between R&B and its earlier influences/musical roots. Due to admiring this style I wanted to learn more about its stylistic origins.
Ripani (2006) defines rhythm and blues (R&B) as a style of popular music that originated during the 1940s in African American communities and is a fusion of European and African musical traditions. It was commonly known to combine elements of blues, jazz and gospel music to develop its sound, increasing in popularity and developing in style through immigration. As evidenced in some of Sam Cooke’s other songs like ‘A Change is Gonna Come’, classic R&B often used lyrics to speak out and express African American experiences, struggles and like most African American music of the time, became influential in bridging gaps between races during a period (1950s - 1960s) of segregation and strive for civil-rights, allowing all races to find common interests through the music they listened to. This gives R&B the purpose of being for political/socio cultural expression and for listening and performing for pleasure (its later primary purpose).
The section “R & B (Rhythm and Blues)” found in the Encyclopedia of African American Music (2010) goes into depth of its stylistic development and describes R&B’s origins to be derived from jazz and blues of the 1930s which can be heard throughout ‘Twistin’ the Night Away’, through the drummer’s use of ‘swing’ on the ride cymbal and the walking bass line (first introduced at 0.07) which are key attributes to these two styles. This walking bass line (see below) also highlights R&B’s later influence on styles like Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Throughout the piece the drummer adds in pauses and fills - using rolls - to vary and develop the piece’s rhythm whilst stressing the back-beats of two and four on the snare. The encyclopedia also states that many of the style’s originators took inspiration from big band jazz and used this to adapt R&B while using fewer players. This is evidenced through Sam Cooke’s use of a small horn section.
Keeping true to the nature of classic R&B and its jazz roots, each musician plays with stylistic individuality whilst paying attention to what each other is playing and reacts to any changes in dynamics or mood accordingly. This is made most obvious once the pianist joins (0.06) and differs their articulation, using staccato and sustained chords, and expression instead of sticking to how the piece is written (see below).
(Notation of Piano Introduction)
The horn section works together to emphasise key vocal phrases in chorus sections whilst playing in harmony with each other, building the texture and harmonic quality of the piece (0.30-0.40). To develop the texture of the chorus specifically, claps are introduced at 0.31 which reinforce the back-beat snare hits and enhance the togetherness of the band itself.
Techno: ’CHEETAH7b’ Aphex Twin Track 1 – 0.43 – 1.25
Techno music is a genre of electronic dance music (EDM) and is an example of ‘Music technology in the electronic and digital age’ with the primary purpose to make people dance. To highlight its key features I will reference the track ‘CHEETAH7b’ (see appendix, Track 2). As EDM is a style I do not come into contact with often I used this exploration to learn more about techno.
Techno originated in Detroit, Michigan during the 1980s and, as described by Wills Glasspiegel and Marlon Bishop in the 2011 article for NPR, Get Familiar With Detroit Techno: 10 Essential Songs, was where many young African Americans found themselves creating their own dance beats using any form of music technology they could get a hold of at the time. They often used techno to express their futurist ideals and the music they created became referred to as Detroit techno.
In a New York Times article (Letter of Recommendation: Detroit Techno, 2017), Shuja Haider highlights how technology has played a huge role in how techno and other EDM styles developed their sound, and that developments of the Roland Corporation in particular, were primarily important. For example, the TR-808 Rhythm Composer and the TB-303 Bass Line Synthesiser were pieces of equipment that musicians could use within their home to programme their own drum beats and bass lines. They were created to replicate the sounds of acoustic drum kits and synthesise bass guitars. Soon many D.J.s got their hands on this technology and were able to produce sounds unlike any musical instrument had before.
The Encyclopedia of African American Music (2010) also mentions that, as techno is a form of dance music, it shares many of its features with other dance music genres like; disco and house. Disco in particular was influential to the development of dance music, as it was the first style with the primary purpose to be used in dance clubs and was key to the creation of continuous dance tracks, through the use of remixing and combining multiple songs together (meaning tracks could now flow from one song to the next without interruption). Many key features of disco have also been found in other dance genres, including techno. The most noticeable is the four-on-the-floor kick drum rhythm which can be heard in ’CHEETAH7b’. Other typical characteristics of techno include: a tempo ranging between 130 and 140 beats per minute, the use of synthesisers, futuristic and distorted timbres, sequencers, drum machines, repetitive patterns and a focus on timbre and rhythm instead of melody. Techno in particular rarely uses lyrics.
Although slower than typical techno tracks (around 99 bpm), ’CHEETAH7b’ can be used to highlight some of techno’s other features. Starting in the middle of the track at 2.30 the four-on-the-floor kick drum rhythm has already been established alongside claps on beats two and four. Furthermore, Aphex Twin uses additional pad sounds that fill out and build up the texture of the piece alongside using de-tuning (a technique most achievable in this style of music). An example of these pad sounds would be the low ‘spacey’ bass patch playing a repetitive ascending motif and the higher pitched slow attack synth strings. The extract then builds further as a snare joins (2.45), reinforcing the claps on beats two and four - a common drum rhythm in dance music.
As a whole ‘CHEETA7b’ does not have a specific melody or structure; instead different sections are defined by the removal and introduction of new complementary parts over the top of pre-existing layers of the piece (the kick and bass line) that remain continuous throughout. An example of this is the introduction of a completely new patch at 3.05 just before the extract ends, playing in unison with another track and adding a different timbre to the piece, drawing more attention to the seven note pattern being played. Overall, Twin’s techno track highlights the use of multi-tracking, layering, catchy repetitive patterns and bathes a lot of his patches in special effects, making the piece sound futuristic, experimental and authentic to its style.
Soca: ‘Doh Back Back’ Mighty Sparrow Track 1 - 1.28 – 2.41
‘Doh back back’ (see appendix, Track 3) is an example of one of Calypso's sub-genres, soca and fits into a global context. Both calypso and soca fall under the area of inquiry 'music for listening and performance' alongside area of inquiry 1 as they preserve social and cultural traditions.
Calypso is a type of folk music that originated in Trinidad among African slaves which later spread throughout other eastern and southern Caribbean islands. Characterised by its humorous and sometimes flirtatious lyrics, calypso tends to speak of social and political issues whilst using a mocking tone. In this song Sparrow showcases this use of witty and flirtatious lyrics, using phrases like “yuh look so pretty” and “Darlin’, doh do dat to me!”.
Other key features of calypso include its 4/4 time signature, syncopated rhythms (evidenced below) and use of call and response.
(Annotation of typical soca drum beat)
The instruments used most often consist of Latin percussion (e.g. maracas and bongos), a drum kit, electric or acoustic guitars, brass (trumpets, trombones), saxophones and multiple vocalists. Similar to calypso, soca uses these features but differs in its faster tempo, use of more synthesised sounds and use at carnivals and fetes.
In this piece, Sparrow demonstrates the use of typical soca instruments by using Latin percussion (like the wood block heard in the background throughout), brass and synthesisers with electronic timbres that can be heard playing in unison with vocal phrases (at 1.58 on the phrase “...steel pan, blaziin’ a jam” and 2.20 starting with “dancin’ with you…”). Sparrow also uses multiple vocalists, emphasising phrases like “doh back back on me…” in the chorus and singing in 3-part harmony with the main singer. The overall use of guitars, adding extra riffs over the top of other instruments (most obvious from 1.29-1.50 and in between chorus vocals) are fundamental in enhancing the piece’s rhythmic groove that makes it ideal for dancing to. This groove is also developed through the bass, using repetitive quaver beat patterns that change depending on the section of the song (typically following the melodic line), and the synthesiser that fills in the gaps between chorus vocal phrases. Alongside these, there are also many stylistic touches where all instruments work together to create dynamic shifts. For example in the pre-chorus (2.05) where all instruments stop and break before rejoining after a drum crash. This song follows a verse-chorus structure typically found in soca and includes an introductory instrumental that exposes listeners to soca’s fast tempo and lively syncopated rhythms.
Section 2: Statement on Creation Exercise
For my creation exercise (see appendix, Track 4) I have produced a short techno extract highlighting some of the key features of techno music I learnt more about in Section 1. Including; the use of common time (4/4), a continuous four-on-the-floor kick drum rhythm, looping, layering, use of snare or claps on beats 2 and 4 and a hi-hat played on every 16th beat. Alongside the use of step sequencing, synthesisers/synthesised sounds, sound effects and drum machines.
Before creating my exercise, I had to consider how I do not have experience creating electronic dance music, and that I lack access to professional digital audio workstations (DAW) due to their cost, like the Roland TR-808 Rhythm Composer and TB-303 Bassline Synthesiser mentioned previously, that would be more authentic to techno music production. To combat this, I chose to use an IOS app on my Iphone as a free alternative to more expensive equipment. By using this method, the quality and range of synthesised sounds I could use were limited. However, having a mobile music studio as an app makes it easy to use and still allows access to the type of synthesisers and drum machines I need.
By familiarising myself with the typical features of techno music, like the importance of loop-based composition, I focussed on creating each part of my exercise with the ability to be looped seamlessly and combined with multiple layers without clashing to create a fluid track where, like most techno pieces, different parts join and leave interchangeably. By doing so this meant the structure of my exercise is mainly defined by the introduction and removal of different layers instead of a verse-chorus structure more commonly used in other dance music. I also added effects to certain tracks of my creation to emphasise electronic production techniques further. These being distortion, resonance, filter and reverb. An example would be adjusting the filter on my main chord sequence whilst recording so it sounds like it fades in and out.
(Screenshots of the app Groovebox below)
Process of creation:
Section 3: Performance Adaptation
For my performance adaptation (Appendix, Track 5) I have replicated a piece of calypso music: ‘Sugar Bum Bum’ by Lord Kitchener. I have performed this piece amongst a band of three other members where we collectively play drums, electric guitar, bass, synthesiser, strings and brass. I specifically am reproducing the introductory strings, synthesiser and brass sections heard throughout the piece. As I am a keyboard player and am unable to play strings and brass myself, I recreated them using brass and string patches on the synth I was using.
Through learning about this style it is clear that attention to groove and overlapping syncopated rhythms are fundamental in making a piece sound authentic to the calypso style. For me this meant playing multiple sections at the same time (see Appendix, Figure 1.) either on separate keyboards, using a split function where different sounds can be played on each half of the keyboard or by switching sounds on one. Multitasking in this way and ensuring each sound came in when it was supposed to was quite a challenge for me to get used to. I also needed to pay attention to the articulation of each sound I was producing, especially the brass, as they often accent certain beats, use slides between notes that are hard to replicate on keyboard and are fundamental for developing the feel of the piece. This posed another challenge for me as to authentically recreate these parts I needed to adjust the strength of my playing depending on the patch being used.
Alongside this, as a band we needed to make sure we were replicating key features of the original like the repetitive quaver rhythm bassline, drum beat and overlapping brass parts. The main differences between this adaptation and the original is that we didn’t use a main vocalist and focussed mainly on the instrumental aspects of the track. In addition to this we structured our performance in a way that shortens the piece but still highlights its key sections (e.g. the chorus where myself and two other band members replicated the backing vocals heard in the original).
Ripani, Richard J. (2006) The New Blue Music: Changes in Rhythm & Blues, 1950–1999, Jackson: University Press of Mississippi.
Jordan, Chris. 2014, USA Today, Struggle for equality was set to music, https://eu.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2014/02/25/black-history-civil-rights-music/5815065/ [Accessed 7 November 2020]
Henry, Shawn. 2018, TUC, The Evolution of R&B, https://www.tucmag.net/music/the-evolution-of-rb/ [Accessed 11 December 2020]
Puryear, Mark. 2016, Smithsonian Folklife, Tell It Like It Is: A History of Rhythm and Blues, https://folklife.si.edu/magazine/freedom-sounds-tell-it-like-it-is-a-history-of-rhythm-and-blues [Accessed 12 December 2020]
Glasspiegel, Wills and Bishop, Marlon. 2011, NPR, Get Familiar With Detroit Techno: 10 Essential Songs, https://www.npr.org/2011/05/27/136655438/get-familiar-with-detroit-techno-10-essential-songs#:~:text=Although%20widely%20associated%20with%20Europe,and%20a%20predilection%20for%20Kraftwerk [Accessed 19 December 2020]
Boilen, Bob. 2020, NPR, Kraftwerk’s Remarkable Journey – And Where It Took Us, https://www.npr.org/2020/05/13/855786131/kraftwerks-remarkable-journey-and-where-it-took-us [Accessed 19 December 2020]
Rubin, Mike. 2009, The New York Times, Who Knew That Robots Were Funky? https://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/06/arts/music/06kraftwerk.html [Accessed 19 December 2020]
Reynolds, Simon C. W. Britannica, 2017, Techno, https://www.britannica.com/art/techno [Accessed 22 December 2020]
Haider, Shuja. 2017, The New York Times, Letter of Recommendation: Detroit Techno, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/13/magazine/letter-of-recommendation-detroit-techno.html?searchResultPosition=2 [Accessed 2 January 2021]
1A, The New Rhythm Of Rhythm And Blues (2019), The New Rhythm Of Rhythm And Blues [Podcast]. 15th October 2019. https://www.npr.org/2019/10/15/770371404/the-new-rhythm-of-rhythm-and-blues. [Accessed 4 January 2021]
Price III, Emmet G. Kernodle, Tammy L. Maxile, Jr. Horace J. (2010) ‘R & B (Rhythm and Blues)’, in the Encyclopedia of African American Music, Greenwood: London.
Price III, Emmet G. Kernodle, Tammy L. Maxile, Jr. Horace J. (2010) ‘Techno’, in the Encyclopedia of African American Music, Greenwood: London.
Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Calypso". Encyclopedia Britannica, 26 Mar. 2020, https://www.britannica.com/art/calypso-music. [Accessed 14 October 2021].
MasterClass staff (2021). Calypso Music Guide: A Brief History of Calypso Music. [online] www.masterclass.com. Available at: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/calypso-music-guide#4-characteristics-of-calypso-music [Accessed 22 Nov. 2021].
Dudley, S. (2016). Soca | Music | Britannica. [online] www.britannica.com. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/soca-music#ref1119273 [Accessed 22 Nov. 2021].
Track 1. ‘Twistin’ the Night Away’ - Sam Cooke (0.00 – 0.40)
Track 1. ’CHEETAH7b’ - Aphex Twin (0.43 – 1.25)
Track 1. ‘Doh Back Back’ - Mighty Sparrow (1.28 - 2.41)
Track 2. Creation Exercise - Techno creation example. (0.00 – 0.57)
Track 2. Performance adaptation. ‘Sugar Bum Bum’ (0.58 – 2.33)
Track 2. Stimulus for Performance adaptation (2.39 – 3.42)
Figure 1. Score of Lord Kitchener’s ‘Sugar Bum Bum’ - Synth, Brass and String parts. Author’s own source. Created through Musescore.