More Exercises for Music through the Ages Exploration

This is becoming more and more enjoyable as the days go by. I stumbled upon a new approach towards the end of the week for the Music through the Ages Exploration: comparing and contrasting the evolution of a genre through the decades.

Angie, a high school student, decided to explore pop at her lesson. She picked Kalafina, a Japanese band formed in 2007. She contrasted and compared that to ABBA, the 70s pop/disco group from Sweden. Finally, we came back to North America with Celine Dion, the pop sensation from the 80s - today. We had a great discussion about music texture, timbre and compared and contrasted pop not just from the 70s to today, but from one continent to the next.

Today, some of my students explored Bee Gees, ABBA, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Elise Estrada, UVERWorld, The Eagles, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus and Merle Haggard. Regardless whether it was young Mia or elementary student Emma, we were able to have intelligent conversations on:

  • instrumentation/timbre: My students dutifully reported that country music still uses primarily voice, guitar and percussion and that there are more crossover artists these days. Those crossover artists have more electronic music sounds and "sugar pop" drum grooves. They added that pop/rock has gone more electronic.
  • the development of the music videos: They express a great appreciation for Michael Jackson's and Madonna's pioneering contributions.
  • the evolution of dance in live performances: "They just stood there and sang in the 70s. There's more dancing and acting now."
  • the deterioration of melodic shape, dynamic contrast and rhythmic variance: Some were quick to notice that the melodies are getting flatter and that the rhythms are getting more basic. Ostinato seems to be the modus operandi. As for dynamics, "everything's louder", "it's just one level" and "they yell more" were popular comments.

As for me, I'm happy to report that I sill know the lyrics to Billie Jean, Material Girl, Dancing Queen and most of Desperado.

[October 29, 2009 update] My singing teacher recently said that today's country is yesterday's rock. Check this out:

Carrie Underwood's Cowboy Cassanova (intro)

compared to

Listen to the drum groove and the guitar rhythm and chords around the 0:48 mark. (c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.