Monday, May 9, 2016

Erstes Quartet: Mozart's K80 String Quartet

Mozart's First String Quartet

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You've heard of him?  That classical composer? He's been a household name for centuries, often referred to a prodigy or mastermind. Even sometimes as the founder of the (ill-name) classical era.
But why? Why is his music, almost 3 centuries later, still held as a pinnacle for genius?  It is apparent in his first string quartet, written at the ripe age of only 14 years.....and if that's not impressive enough....written in a single day. His first string quartet! At the age of 14! In a single day! Imagine the potential! Even before the wisdom of puberty this young man created beauty in a way that had never been heard before!

The year is 1770.  Bach has been dead for only 20 years. Weary from traveling, young Mozart and his father find themselves in the busy city of Lodi in northern Italy, known for its beautiful churches and baroque architecture. As a talented youth, Wolfgang's father Leopold Mozart pushed his child to unlock his potential, much like that of Michael Jackson.

Let's delve into the notes.

The piece consists of four parts: Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola and Cello.  Mozart places us in G Major, using a pulsing bass and viola part to prolong the tonality while the 1st Violin begins with a sweet melody, while the second violin stays silent. From Bach's point of view, this is unusual. You've got four instruments! You're paying them all! Why isn't the 2nd violin playing anything?!
In the third measure, as the first phrase ends in the 1st Violin, the 2nd Violin joins in with a soft high D(m. 3-4). Again, Bach is rolling in his grave! How can the 2nd Violin part be higher than the 1st!? What is going on here?!

When we play a triad on a piano, some extra strings also ring, even though they have not been struck by the hammers of the piano. These overlying harmonies (think harmonics) are called 'sympathetic resonance'. Like a true friend, they cry out softly when they hear their kindred spirits hammered. Mozart is using this idea outside the piano, having the 2nd Violin ring a sweet sympathetic harmony above the 1st Violin. What an inspired concept! Taking natural sounds and applying them in a new setting! We have our first evidence of genius thus far!

As we continue, we cadence with a suspension to the V or D major chord. (sigh) ahhhh. Finally, something Bach would be comfortable with. Mozart however, doesn't give Bach much satisfaction. Instead of returning to the tonic of G Major, Mozart continues to prolong the V chord, using linear motion in the bass and viola parts.  Again, we hear a sympathetic high D in the 2nd violin (m.11-12).  This time, however, we hear the soft D above the V chord, giving us a totally different taste than the previous sympathetic high D above the tonic or G Major chord.
In measure 13, we hear a sixteenth run and allow the 2nd Violin to show off, much like a side-note, until we land on the V chord.

What a badass!

If Ye Love Me - Thomas Tallis

Score Study Project

Keelan Freitag


Thomas Tallis was a 16th century English Renaissance composer under King Edward the Sixth, who controlled his harmonic choices very carefully.  Despite this Tallis became cherished composer by creating simplistic and harmonically safe choral motets. Tallis adhered to the Kings rules, however leaned more toward a Catholic belief system. He worked in Dover Priory in England as an organist and composer for most of his life and died in 1585 at the age of 80 years old.  Fun fact: his family name 'Tallis' is derived from the French word for thicket and  Thomas spelled it differently than it is remembered: 'Tallys'.

This hymn style motet, If Ye Love Me, is among his most famous.  Tallis composed this piece in for four voices: two countertenors, a tenor and bass. He set the text from the biblical verse John 14:15-17. It should be noted that he sets the text in English, rather than Latin, at was King Edwards insistence.The piece is syllabic and uses strophic form.  Each voice stays within a single octave and at no point the voices cross. The piece emits a relaxing and calm nature, making the listener comfortable while preaching the love and truth of God. 
Fun fact, this piece is also often recorded on classical guitar.

Score Analysis


Meter: 4/4 cut time

Tempo: slow andante; about 75 bpm

Key: C maj.

Harmony: 4-part male chorus
Lyrics : If ye love me, 
keep my commandments, 
and I will pray the Father,
and he shall give you another comforter, 
that he may bide with you for ever, 
ev’n the spirit of truth,
ev’n the spirit of truth.

(John 14: 15-17)


mm. 1-4 All four voices begin with a C maj chord establishing the tonic
First phrase begins
Pass through vi to get to V - I in mm. 2 with two half notes
Then a quarter note sequence in mm. 3 landing on a IV - I in mm. 4
mm. 5-8 Round begins on second beat of mm. 5 in the sopranos
Main motif starts on E; jumps a minor third before using passing motion back down over 3 measures
Response by Tenors 2 beats later
Tenors response also begins on an E but jumps a fourth before returning down
Altos sing motif in mm. 7
Basses sing response on beat 2 of mm. 7

mm. 9-13 Second part of round
Soprano and Alto begin on beat two of mm. 9 with quarter notes moving 
into a IV and then jumping a fifth
I chord at mm. 11
mm. 12 beat 2 we hear a V chord before a weak cadence on I in mm. 13

mm. 14-19 Start B section
Also in round
Tenors start with pickup on sol to do before falling along the scale in quarter notes
Other voices have similar rhythmic idea but start on do, jump a fourth and then fall in quarter notes
Half cadence on V7 at mm. 18

mm. 19-23 Second line of the round, begins in alto
Dropping a fifth then back, outlining the V chord, alto tenor and bass begin one beat apart
Passing to I chord at mm. 21 where the soprano joins in
Also outline I chord by jumping down a 5th then back, creating gravity
Quarter note passing motion in sopranos to IV chord at the end of mm. 23

mm. 24-26 Final motif
Similar to mm. 19-23 harmonically, however we start on a I chord
Prolong the I chord to mm. 26
Repeat markings back to mm. 14

Final mm. Second ending
Cadence on I chord held with fermata

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Gramatik - Live in Times Square

The magic of Times Square at night.
The millions of lights.
The tourists with wide eyes.
The yellow cabs flying past.
This was the atmosphere waiting in line at the Best Buy Theater to see Gramatik, the best producer to come out of Slovenia since....well....ever.

After filling my lungs with city air, an exxxtra long escalator took me deep below the cityscape into the blue-lit depths of the Best Buy Theater.  After waiting in the coat check line for half a millennia (FIX THIS BEST BUY!), I finally made my way into the theater. Ornate glass chandeliers hung from the dark, open ceiling.  A general admission/standing area stretched 50 yards out from the stage, while the back end of the venue had movie theater style seating.

But you don't care about that.  You came here to read about the music. You wanna know about Gramatik.  How'd he do? How was the set?
Don't worry baby birdie. Daddy's gonna feed you... Imma feed ya some FUNK.

Opening artist Goldfish set the precedent.  The electronic duo hailing from South Africa took the electronic scene in a whole new direction, tossing in elements of jazz, funk, that 'big-band-swing' sound and even rock.  Dominic Peters set up his samples and looped them, only to come to the front of the stage and blare funky melodys on a baby alto sax.  Synth player David Poole added to the samples with jazzy solos and blues chords.  At the end of the set, Poole danced alongside an upright double bass and made the crowd scream as he played the bass line from "Play that Funky Music" by Wild Cherry and then "Seven Nation Army" by The White Stripes.

This left the crowd reeling in anticipation. Gramatik is up next....Finally! Gramatik is up next!

And then the moment came.

Accompanied by synth/ trumpet player Russ Liquid and "imaginary friend" Slow Magic, Gramatik laid down a dubstep-heavy set, somewhat to the disappointment of longtime fans hoping to hear funk and blues.  For those longtimers, Gramatik had something special lined up: a 20 minute rendition of Stevie Wonder's Superstition.  With Russ blaring Stevie's famous horn-line (with ease, might I add) Gramatik and Slow Magic turned the song from funk to a dance, then to a chill downtempo and then right back into a climactic funk feel.

This, however, was not the highlight of the show.  Gramatik introduced Mr.Tibble to the crowd, a thin man in a black vest and red button down, crowned with a black bowler hat. With no idea who this vocalist was, I stopped for a second of cynical judgment. But even my impossible standards were blown away.  Using a vocoder, Mr. Tibble 'auto-tuned' his voice to the solo he played on small synth, much like a voice-box for a guitar (popularized by back in the day by Peter Frampton).  His bluesy, electronic robot voice added a killer melody over the top of the lowtemp beats and jazzy chord changes.  Towards the end of the show, Mr. Tibble came back onstage to move his body in a way that made Chris Brown look amatuer.  Not only could this guy sing, not only could he bang out a bluesy solo, but damnnnn could he dance. Think Michael Jackson moonwalking into a hip-hop/ street performer/ b-boy danceoff.

Oh! And of course: Gramatik's rendition of Stairway to Heaven by Zeppelin was KILLER!

All in all a great set, although a little grimey and dubsteppy at points.  Check out the videos and thanks for reading.  See you at the next show!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Vaski Live At Toads 06/28/2014

On Friday, June 28th, Toads Place of New Haven CT opened its doors to a small, young audience.  Most standing in the crowd with me were not old enough to wear the house wristbands used to buy beers, and several even seemed young enough to have their parents waiting outside in the car.  Those of us who were old enough to know what an N64 is seemed to have never heard EDM music before. I found myself dancing alone and wondering if the admission price of $30 was worth it.

Vaski, an EDM DJ from Minnesota, played an eclectic mix of genres in a poor attempt to find the audiences' funny bone and shatter it.  He played songs as grimey and intense as Roll Da Beats by Rusko, followed by upbeat, pop-esque songs like IDGAFS by Dillion Francis.  It seemed that Vaski was unable to judge his audience, instead giving up and putting on his personal pandora account.  The 'covers' he 'performed' were even uncut, without the slightest 'Vaski styling'.  Anyone can make a playlist....anyone can press play on iTunes.  Where is the Vaski I saw last year that opened for Excision at the Oakdale? Where is the Vaski that melted my face with his progressive, grimy dubstep? Where is the artist that I became quickly obsessed with?  I guess I may have backed the wrong horse here. Or does the future hold more for this artist?  Time will tell.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Excision - Live At The Oakdale

        They told me to prepare for battle.  They told me to prepare for war.  But they underestimated Excision's Execution Tour.  We all did.

        Twenty-one hundred hours. March 13th, 2013.  We stood silently in our trenches in the dark venue, awaiting for the enemy to arrive.  We had been told at boot camp we were prepared; we had trained for this.  But no amount of training could have prepared us for the onslaught we were about to witness.
        I heard the first explosion about ten feet in front of me.  My rib cage shook.  Some of my men wanted to retreat.  There was a moment of shell-shock.  My ears defended and my vision blurred.  And this was just the first wave...just the opening act.  He called himself Vaski and his tracks blew me away.  His dubstep mixes combined grimy bass, the best of electronic dance and slight influences of prog rock. I managed to film a little of the assault.  The cacophony literally blew the microphone on my camera.


        As Vaski left the stage, he thanked us for being decent victims.  One last blast from the subwoofers and his blitz had ended.  There we were, back in our silent trenches.  Now our eyes had widened.  "I can handle another round," I thought to myself, stupidly.  Little did I know, Excision brought his secret weapon.
        As the house lights rose, a large white sheet dropped from the backdrop of the stage, revealing a massive tank covered in projector screens.  Two massive towers of subwoofers stood on either side, his main weapon for the impending death march.  I found myself covering a young girls ears and grimacing as the first drop shook my bones.  Now we were at war.  Now the beat had consumed us... and there was nothing else to do but join the slaughter.

     An unnamed soldier next to me actually dropped to the floor during a remix of Two Chainz 'I'm Different', only to have his body thrown above the crowd and passed around like a holy rag doll.  Another soldier cleared a small circle in the crowd during the slow build in the track 'Execute'.  Once the drop hit, he flipped his body into the air, completing a perfect backflip, landing squarely on his feet.  Immediately his body slammed against the beat while his fellow soldiers rushed in.  The open circle caved in and a light moshpit briefly formed.
     As the night ended it was evident that I was officially deaf.  My comrades seemed exhausted as they trudged back to the evacuation point.  "Best show I've seen at the Oakdale," I thought to myself, before laying down in the back seat of our transport, waiting to return to home base.  "Maybe even the best dubstep show I've seen in Connecticut."

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Neil Young with the Foo Fighters and The Black Keys - Live At Central Park

It was a grueling run from Central Station to the Park, but I had to run.  I would not let myself miss another second of the Global Citizen's Fest, a concert to combat global poverty that featured rock titans such as The Black Keys, Foo Fighters and Neil Young with Crazy Horse.  Rapper K'naan also performed with the support of a female keyboardist, while John Legend brought his smooth voice for an unexpected performance of John Lennon's "Imagine".

The highlight of the night was Young's last peice, "Rockin In the Free World," where Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters and Dan Auberbach from The Black Keys returned to the stage to sing the chorus alongside the aged rocker.  The song lasted about 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sublime (With Rome) Live at The Comcast Theatre

There was once an era we now call the 90s, when Radio 104 (out of Hartford, CT) played good music and held a daylong onslaught of the best bands from around the country.  This was onslaught was called 104fest.  In those days, Sublime was intact, with lead man Bradley Nowell writing ballads mixing reggae, punk and hip hop.
Sadly, those days are long gone.  In 1996, Bradley died from a heroin overdose, leaving a gaping hole in the music world.  Thus, the band known as Sublime fell apart.  In 2003, Radio104 sold out, flipping to R&B radio shows.  It seemed that all good things had come to an end.  

Having listened to Sublime as a young boy....having been to 104fest in the glory days... standing among a crowd of pumped up hippies at the old 104fest location... I felt like that boy again.  I felt the glory days coming back to life.  A fellow onlooker stopped after the opening song "Oh my god, he sounds just like Bradley." He was, of course, referring to Roman Ramirez, the new frontman for Sublime (now called Sublime with Rome.)  Although Roman cracked his voice during the first note on stage, naked and exposed for all of Hartford to cringe at, he quickly recovered and sent chills down the backs of every long-time Sublime fan.  Bradley's voice swept over crowd out of Rome's mouth, and every hippie there looked on with delight.  It was eerily unbelievable how similar his voice sounded, so much so that I have described Rome as the reincarnation of Bradley (even though Rome was alive when Bradley died....)


The show, even with Rome's beautiful tenor and the nostalgia of days past, was not as amazing at is could have been.  Bassist Eric Wilson dangled a cigarette out of his mouth throughout the entire show and seemed as if he'd rather be smoking something else, somewhere else.  He even taped down the keys of his synth (producing a deafening pitch) just before leaving the stage at the end of the set, until the tech crew rushed on to ensure the speakers wouldn't blow.

Here are a couple videos of the opening of the set and the song "Let's Go Get Stoned"

As a last thought,

Dear Large-Boned Guy in the middle of the moshpit,
First, it is not acceptable to mosh to reggae.
Second, a mosh is supposed to be a communal coming together to toss our bodies and feel primal, NOT a chance for you to beat up preteen girls who happen to be around you.