Saturday, 28 April 2012

Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to my blog, which, as yet, does not have a proper title. Any suggestions would be warmly received.
A little bit about myself - I am a perennial student from New Zealand studying music. At the moment I am at the University of Waikato, having enjoyed a four-year stint at the bottom of the country in Dunedin. I have recently started my PhD in which I plan to analyse all of Queen's songs. Three years of listening to Mercury, May, Taylor, and Deacon; I could think of much worse things.
My musical interests have always lay in the analytical side of things. I have found over the last few years that there are plenty of different perspectives from which one can look at music - how and why different people listen to it in a culture, who listens to it, when is music heard (at home? sporting events? church? etc.). For me, however, my fascination with analysis stems from wanting to know a) why certain pieces sound the way they do, and b) trying to work out why a particular song/piece/moment may grab my attention or stir up the emotions.
These questions have been at the heart of my work in recent years. In 2010, I studied Chopin and Wagner because, having played some of the former's work, I wanted to understand the harmonies employed by both. Neither disappointed me. Last year, I studied all the New Zealand popular songs on the three Nature's Best albums, 100 in total. This time round, I wanted to find out what made popular music tick. I think I got close to answering that question; the doctorate is a chance to get closer. Plus I have liked Queen for a number of years now!
As for favourite artists, composers, and so forth, Bruce Springsteen would be near the top (more on him soon); as would AC/DC for their sheer energy; Janis Joplin has (had) quite simply one of the most remarkable voices ever. It sounds cliched but there would too many others to mention.
On the classical side, Beethoven probably sits atop the hierarchy. He is often regarded as the greatest composer because of his structural innovations (such as the development of sonata form); the trouble with this assessment is can be hard to hear the structure, per se. What Beethoven seemed to achieve, however, was mirroring the structure in the surface features. Thus, in his magnificent Appassionata Piano Sonata in F minor, the first movement is structurally remarkable for delaying the tonic key (don't worry if this sounds like a foreign language), but then when the home key is reached finally, the music explodes into pianistic fireworks spanning the entire keyboard. Even for the uninitiated or untrained, it is possible to grasp the importance of what we are hearing.
So what is this blog for? Mainly to record some of my ramblings on various music topics; sometimes, it may be a 'review' of whatever I've listened to; other times, I'll try something a little more polemic or issue-based; and other times again, I may try to elucidate my thoughts on works or songs that I admire or enjoy.
My aim is to provide as musical detail as possible. Here's the rub - I want readers to understand it as much as possible. The problem, as I see it, with much music writing is that it either gets bogged down in technicalities and loses its audience; or it is reduced to abstract generalizations and metaphors. Nowhere, I hope, shall you find the phrases, "this music really connects with me" or "it just has a vibe about it," on this blog. Some out there may have read Alex Ross' The Rest Is Noise - as a model for writing about music, there a few finer. If I can emulate him, I will consider this blog a success.

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