A1 Listening Assignment

  1. John Cage Williams Mix: This piece defies my expectation of music as it lacks a clear-cut rhythms and tempo, which are criteria that I expected to consider something as music. But looking at the composer’s intention, which is to produce and organize short jumps of a wide range of tape sounds ranging from city, country,… to wind sounds, I can see the work’s influence on the modern music production, which now widely incorporates short samples of sounds layered on top of one another and repeated in a certain pattern. As strange as it may sound, while listening to the song, I can imagine myself as someone who just loses memory and suddenly remembers short flashes of memory. It was a goosebumps-inducing and a bit uncomfortable piece for me.
  2. Stockhausen “Gesang der Junglinge” (Voices of Children): This piece totally sounds like a cacophony to me from start to finish as the vocals seems to be  randomly interspersed with some computer-generated sounds. I keep expecting for it to have some kind of climax or dynamics somewhere in the song for it is a bit long, but the energy seems to not fluctuate a lot. Without its context, I would not consider this piece as music at all. Knowing its context and author’s intention, which is to “integrate electronic sounds with the human voice by means of matching voice resonances with pitch and creating sounds of phonemes electronically”, I can appreciate the fact that there is a relationship between the human vocals and the electronic sounds even though I couldn’t figure that out just by my own hearing. This piece gives me the feeling that I gained the magical power of seeing ghosts. Overall, to me it was a creepy-sounding piece.
  3. Luciano Berio Ommagio (homage) a Joyce: Even though I’m a bit uncomfortable listening to the piece at first, I like how the woman’s voice is at times sped up, at times slowed down and layered. It was closer to what I expect from hearing music, especially electronic music or remixes by DJs, where sounds are often mixed, sped up and slowed down in some parts while maintaining a coherency. The piece, which classified the recorded words included in the poem “Sirens” according to their resonance colors, in relation to the resonance point of the vocal apparatus”, is used to study the relationships between different European languages and pure vocalism from several points of view. While it serves such an interesting academic purpose, the piece, to my untrained ears, sounds like a cassette tape of an audio book which is sometimes fast-forwarded or slowed down.
  4. Milton Babbitt Ensembles for Synthesizer: Surprisingly, these pieces of music have certain melodies and rhythms that I can follow, and are just really entertaining to hear. Since the author focused in the rhythmic precision he could achieve using the Mark II synthesizer rather than producing new timbres, the piece sounds diverse but coherent. These pieces remind me of video games tunes.
  5. Morton Subotnick Silver Apples of the Moon:  This piece has dynamics and builds up gradually to a climax towards the end, which is what I usually expect from music, and there are also a lot of cool effects that are nice to hear. There are even parts that sounds funky and rhythmic.It gives me the feeling that aliens and spaceships are descending to earth and soon destroying human kind. The fact that this piece is composed in a way that included “sections with metric rhythms” at a time when “rhythm might be an afterthought or of no consequence, and simple patterned structures were largely avoided” elevated its value further.
  6. Alvin Lucier I am Sitting in a Room: I think this is a physics experiment that unintentionally becomes music over time. Certain frequencies are emphasized as they resonate in the rooms with different characteristic resonance frequencies until words become tunes. I don’t think the author meant for this to become a musical composition but to test how sounds are picked up by sound-generating machine (loudspeaker) and manipulated in different settings/medium.
  7. Terry Riley A Rainbow in Curved Air: This piece’s use of overdubbing of various instruments like electric organ, harpsichords, dumbec and tambourine gives itself a rich feeling. The drums towards the third section of the piece were the highlight for me. Overall, this piece gives me a happy and therapeutic feeling.
  8. Steve Reich Come Out: The fragment “come out to show them” was played in unison and then slip out of sync to produce a phase shifting effect, then gradually only become a reverberation. This technique used in this piece reminds me of the technique a DJ uses to remix a song to play in an electronic music festival.
  9. Brian Eno Atmospheres: The music has a relaxing and chill vibe. Ambient music’s purpose is “to modify the listener’s perception of the surrounding environment”. I think it achieves its purpose quite well, as ambient music makes me feel at peace with my surroundings and help me focus on whatever I’m doing at the moment.
  10. Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows (1966): The electronic ‘skrr’ (?) sound effects and the introspective lyrics add so much spice to the otherwise repetitive piece of music. It’s probably the closest piece that I would consider music in today’s context. I’m quite surprised that the Beatles actually had these kinds of songs where they can go full-on experimental like this.
  11. Afrika Bambaataa Looking for the Perfect Beat: The beat starts out simple and layers of different instruments and vocals come later to form a great harmony, becoming the “near-perfect homage to digital-era technology”. This piece is so fun to listen and dance to.

One Reply to “A1 Listening Assignment”

  1. I am responding to your MMWC blog. You might be receiving this also in your inbox. You can change this setting in the dashboard if you want to keep the comments confined to the blog.

    Thanks for your good and careful listening to these pieces. I hope it opened your ears a little bit to what’s possible in the world of experimental electronic sound! More in-class listening to come, from the more recent era.

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