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The Studio as an Instrument

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 9:02 pm on Saturday, October 30, 2010

Obviously, the most interesting part of this week’s reading was about The Beatles. I grew up listening to The Beatles, so I have basically been brainwashed by my father into loving them, and believing they were great. Everything my father said about them I was taught to believe. However, my father is very biased and subjective towards them. But, taking this course has taught me to really listen to them, and take into accout their music and their abilities, while listening critically. What I am trying to say, is I knew most of the things that were written in the part of Millard, but know when I read it means more to me. Having a superior opinion that is not just a fan that is my father, really enhanced my opinions on just how revolutionary and influential The Beatles were on the music industry. One of the things in this reading that ties in extremely well to my musical analysis project, my presentation, and my research paper, is the fact that the Beatles broke the boundaries in recording industry. They were the first band to take play a part in determining how their music was made.  The group worked closely with their producer George Martin in mixing their songs. This is where the band really grew. Through the advancements in recording like the 4 track it made re-recording much easier as well as adding more sounds and onto the tracks. This is where you hear a lot of orchestral arrangements in their songs, as well as any sounds that the band was fabricating in their heads ended up on their songs. For example in “Good Morning Good Morning” you hear animal sounds like cows, sheeps, horses, birds, and elephants. Before the 4 track this was not possible because the technology limited their creativity. The technology allowed them to re create any sound they imagined.

I wont go into to much detail about how the technology played a roll on their album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, because that is the basis of my presentation. So everyone will have to wait until Monday to hear my thoughts on that (Stay Tuned).

The Beatles and their Influence on Society

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 9:31 pm on Sunday, October 17, 2010

For my research topic, I will be studying the music and the artistic elements of the Beatles. Not only have The Beatles heavily influenced rock and roll music but, they have pioneered many sub genres as well.  Also, I would like to further study the impact the group has had on culture and society. Looking at the group as only a musical group they have influenced future genres and music way after their years. But, looking on their influence as a whole, they have influenced popular culture as well. For example their wardrobe, and their activism. I would like to further look into these ideas and find out what encouraged their choices as well as the ability to develop such a hardcore following not only in their music but their ideals as well. Most people realize the influence of  The Beatles during the Vietnam war, but i would like to study the reason why their influence was so heavily followed during this time. Again, not only are The Beatles true virtuosos but they are influencers in other parts of society as well, and that is what I would like to study. The “true” influence of the rock and roll group The Beatles, and their effects on society as a whole.

WWII and Technological Advancements in Sound Recording

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 3:22 pm on Sunday, October 17, 2010

High Fidelity at Last

Through out the years during the electrical era many new technologies were coming about to improve sound recording.  During the years  elapsing from the 1930s to the 1960s sound recording saw major improvements and basically revolutionized the recording industry. The exchanging of technologies between the “talking machines, radio, and talking pictures” and the very process of technology moving through out the world, the new advancement in recording were made.

The first major new technology that came about during this time frame was the dynamic loudspeaker. It divided sound up into three frequencies: high, middle, and low. Each frequency had its own transducer that was designed to work and bring out the best of the sound in their frequencies (low had a woofer for bass, middle had a mid-range driver, and high had a tiny tweeter for the treble).

The second major technology that revolutionized sound recording was the designing of the moving coil for the transcription process. This technology had many people and designed that helped produce the technology for the pre-recorded disc. As with any new technology, there is not one sole inventor and the technology builds on the previous inventions, the moving coil is no different. The moving coil along with the designing of the new pick ups and styli made for  lightweight product that was more sensitive to sound and improved many elements that needed improving from the prior phonograph and gramophone models.

The additioin of the LP-the  long player was revolutionary to the sound recording industry yet, the gene ral public was not interested in it. But, this idea pioneered future sound recordings because the LP was able to  record an extended the playing time for records. However, these technological advances did not necessarily bring about more consumers and sales, it was more of a technological revolution. Unfortunately, one would think that the sound recording industry was at the beginning of something monumental like this perceived “revolution”, but it all came to a halt at the beginning due to WWII.

For me it was not interesting, but more of a realization that WWII placed these barriars on the sound recording industry. As the war had did to every other medium, WWII basically monopolized all technology uses for the war. So the recording technology was used for transcribers and code breakers to record messages from the enemies, but the armed forces need more durable and more portable products for this. So the war time economy provided the catalyst for the new technologies to emerge once again. Longer playing discs that were lighter and more durable because they were now made of a copolymer of vinyl chloride and vinyl acetate that made it virtually unbreakable and withstand up to moisture in humid conditions. Along with the magnetic tape recorder.  “3M” magenetic tape was a redodoxide formulation on a plastic base, all came about because of the war. It is the fact that in a war time era so many technological advancements can occur at such a rapid pace, yet with out the war and devastation the technologies would take forever to come about. This is mainly because in the wartime era everything is done for the country and especially in WWII patriotism was at a high so things were done for one purpose with one gain and that gain was defeating the opposite side. Where as in  the rest of the period in the electrical era, technological advancements were made by companies or bought by big companies for monetary advancements.

The fact that the technology was there during this era to advance the sound recording industry but,  was not really formulated until WWII just shows once again like popular music being carefully manipulated by big business, how the technologies can also be manipulated by big business, and we evidently see that through the course of the technological advancements in sound recording.

“A Day in the Life” – The Beatles (1967)

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 2:25 am on Monday, October 4, 2010

Through out the course of history, there have been many elements that have influenced popular culture and society significantly. One phenomena that has greatly influenced popular culture over time is the music industry. Society turns to music for relief of their tumultuous lives, and has become a major keystone for influencing the public. One band their has influenced many different areas of society and culture were The Beatles. Not only were they creatively brilliant musicians, they were truly virtuosos. The song “A Day in the Life” on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band for me was on of the most significant songs in the music industry for its creativity, genius, and influence on both the music industry and society.
“A Day in the Life” on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney and produced by Sir George Martin. It was recorded at the Abbey Road Studios in London, England on January 19th through January 20th and  February 3rd and February 10th 1967.  It was originally recorded on EMI records and released to the public on June 1st 1967 with a runtime of 5:05. The song is in the keys of G major and E major and has a 4/4 meter time through out the song. The song starts out with a brief guitar instrumental beginning and then followed by three verses (0:13), an orchestral crescendo, a 24 bar “orchestral climax; an orgasm of sound” (1:45), a middle section (2:16), an orchestral bridge (2:49), the final verse (3:19), second orchestral crescendo (3:50), and the infamous final piano chord (4:21-5:05).  (Martin 50)
The song can basically be thought of as a mini operetta, with orchestral bridges in between each “act”. The “first act” of “A Day in the life” can be split up into three verses. The first verse is John Lennon’s vocals accompanied by piano (Paul McCartney), guitar (John Lennon), and maracas (George Harrison), and eventually adding drums (Ringo Starr) in the second and third verses. The lyrics were taken mainly from a newspaper, but it was Lennon’s poetic genius and true love of words that takes the news headlines and creates a powerful melody. The lyrics are about a car crash yet partnered with Lennon’s chilling voice the first three verses create a feeling of melancholy almost creating a sort of delirium, or dream state where Lennon is recalling a memory. Also, giving the song a sense that recalling memory is personal. His voice has an eerie spine chilling feel that was created by adding a slight echo to his voice which gives the first three verses its mood.    The “second act” is Paul McCartney’s contribution. This section is more upbeat, with piano (McCartney) and drum set (Starr). His voice is sort of muffled, creating that muzzy, just woken up sounding voice. This was done by removing the treble and compressing McCartney’s voice. The lyrics in this section are still personal continuing with the theme from the first act. However, this is being described lyrically as a snapshot of a daily routine, grounded in a regiment until the end of the section which ends with “found my way upstairs and had smoke and somebody spoke and I fell into a dream”. Which then brings in Lennon‘s “ahs”, which exemplify the falling into a dream and then segueing back into the same mood, melody and theme of the dream state delirium in the first “act” bridging act two with act three.
Act three brings us back to Lennon, as said before with the same melody and theme, yet building on it. The mood no longer has a melancholy feel to it. It is more mundane, because the memories being recalled are not as tragic. However, even with a mundane mood, the section is more upbeat (not as much as Paul’s). It reflects feelings of knowing and truth, ending with the lyrics “I’d love to turn you on”, which during this time created quite a controversy. However the feelings of knowledge reflected in Lennon’s voice creates an atmosphere that whatever the is being turned on too, is true.
Now that the “acts” have been analyzed, the orchestral interludes need to be analyzed, as well. The first orchestral interlude bridges “act I” with “act II”. The first orchestral climax was done to fill the 24 bar silence between Lennon’s and McCartney’s parts . On the recording you can actually here The Beatles roadie Mal Evans counting the 24 bars. They used an alarm clock to time the silence, and as the 24 bar silence ends the alarm clock rings and that starts the second act where Paul’s part starts. Due to the lyrics of the first verse “woke up fell out of bed” the alarm clock ringing seemed to fit perfectly with Paul’s part it was kept in the song. The orchestra used was a 40 piece orchestra with the harp, violin, viola, clarinet, cello, double bass, bassoon, flute, french horn, trumpet, trombone, tuba, and timpani. Paul was quoted by George Martin (producer) as saying he wanted an orchestral climax; an “orgasm” of sound which Martin believed was nonsense, however, this became is next job. Paul wanted an avant-garde style of sound for the climax (Martin 56).
The orchestral climax spirals upward having the musicians play their lowest note and ending on their highest. The tune during this section is very charismatic, wavering between semitones. The string instruments gently trilled with portamento and gradually increased their frequency leading up the 24 bar entrance. It was done by having each musician play their lowest not as quietly as possible sliding up with certain distinct notes played and then, ending on the final bar with the playing the highest not as loud as possible (Martin 56). This became the famous orchestral climax bridging “A Day in the Life’s” act I to act II, and act II to act III.
The only difference between the two separate orchestral interludes between the acts, is the ending piano note. The ending note was a  gigantic piano chord played about 30 seconds by three different pianos and three different players: Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and John Lennon (Martin 56). The faders are tuned up so high, to achieve the resonance of sound played by the pianos. During this part you can hear papers shuffling, shoes squeaking, and a “whoosing” sound, due to the faders.
“A Day in the Life”  is so important to the history of recorded popular music history, because of the influence this song had on all of society. During this era, there mixing technology was no were near what it is today. So, in order to create every sound, the sounds were strategically placed on a four track master: track 1 had piano, guitar, maracas, and bongo drums, track 2 had vocals, complete with echo, and over dubbed voices, track 3 had drum set, tom-toms, and base guitar (McCartney), track 4 had piano and orchestra, that had three more tapes added in order to create the last piano chord sound (Martin 54). The creativity of The Beatles was so advanced that it did not keep of with the technology of their time.
Their creativity in making “A Day in the Life” paved the way for other bands such as MGMT(sound mixing and instrumentation), Vampire Weekend (orchestral interludes) Dave Matthew’s Band (musical arrangements) and Green Day (opera). It set a precedent of edginess in the or rock and roll genre and raised bar for creativity. It showed that rock music was not just guitar, bass guitar, and drums and pioneered the idea of such sub genres like “ska rock” to come into existence.
The song also heavily influenced politics and its worriment of society. Originally the BBC banned the song due to its underlining drug references, and had the FCC questioning censoring as well (Martin 52). The Beatles had millions of followers, so what was said in their music heavily influenced popular culture. John Lennon counts into the song by saying “sugar plum fairy, sugar plum fairy” which has an underlining drug reference meaning drug dealer. Other lyrics such as I’d love to turn you on”, “he blew his mind out in a car”, and “found my way upstairs and had a smoke” were said to have referred to marijuana cigarettes, getting high, and advocating drug use. With their mass following, the United Kingdom and the United States governments’ were threatened by the influence the band had on society. Thus, banning the song in the United Kingdom, and the United States almost banning the song as well.
The true beauty of the song “A Day in the Life” by The Beatles is the idea that it was so ahead of its time. The technology during that time, placed barriers for musicians but The Beatles were able to go around those barriers. The song has creativity that is untouchable.  The pairings of  beautiful rhythms, melodies, lyrics, and tunes together that leave an real effect on the listener. As well as, influencing future generations of musicians. “A Day in the Life” is truly one of the most important and influential songs for recorded popular music.

Martin, George. “19 January 1967: ‘Well I just had to laugh…'” With a Little Help from     My Friends The Making of Sgt. Pepper. Boston, New York, Toronto, London:     Little, Brown and Company, 1994. 50-62. Print.

Millard 8,9,13

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 3:41 pm on Friday, September 24, 2010

Millard 8,9,13

Empires of sound

When reading through this chapter, what I found most interesting was how the media during this era were all specifically linked together. I never realized or even thought for that matter, that the top media studios/giants today came out of the “Empires of Sound”. They set up the foundation for what we have today, and it is mind blowing when you think about what technology they had to set it up. I think of it basically like this: the companies basically had a monopoly on the media. As said in the chapter the companies became “ huge empires of  sound: huge, integrated business organizations.”

During the depression we see the beginning of the recording industry surfacing. With radio becoming a major medium, artists began promoting their music through the airwaves. However, the state of the economy affected record sales greatly, cutting down recording time to the bare minimum with companies only allowing artists to fulfill their contracts. This is where we see juke boxes emerge because this is how most of society received their musical entertainment. It was easier to choose from a whole catalogue of records, rather then build up your own personal catalogue of records, which how society received their musical entertainment.

Swing and the mass audience

Reading this chapter, I fell in love with the “crooners” of the 1930s. There was nothing like listening to Bing Crosby’s voice over and over again. Before reading this passage, I listened to Bing Crosby during Christmas time because his songs “White Christmas,” “Mele Kalikimaka,” “The Drummer Boy” were my family’s favorite. But I never realized how much I liked it until I was reading and wanted to hear more. The way Millard described the music and the crooning, I wanted to hear more, and I actually fell in love with this era’s music.

What I didn’t like was how the technology limited the types of artists to be recorded. Only specific voice ranges were opportune to record because it sounded clear or picking the types of music to control what became “popular” music. Not that the music was good or bad, it was the fact that corporations controlled what was deemed good, and then those artists were recorded.  At this time “Swing” was deemed popular and covered a broad range of musical styles, starting on end of the spectrum being “hot” (fast and rowdy) and at the other end was “sweet” ( softer and more melodious). “Swing” became the first real type of popular music.

The studio

We see in this section the development of the studio, and what is now the recording studio. With sound technology getting better we see formatting becoming more ideal for the music industry and the different entertainment industries. In Hollywood, “dubbing” was integrated in to motion pictures, which revolutionized the movie industry. The process allowed for re-recording sounds, voices and music and placing them on different tracks. This new technology set up the multi tracking system of the music industry today.

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — skkoumou at 12:37 pm on Monday, September 20, 2010

Hi, I’m Sara Koumou. I’m a senior obviously majoring in Media Studies concentrating on Marketing, Advertising, and PR. I minor in BALA and also am a student athlete on the softball team. I love almost all types of music but my favorite genre is Rock. I listen to most sub genres of rock, so if anyone knows and good bands I’m always  looking to hear new stuff.


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