Music Analysis Project (Corrected)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25th, 2010 by brian morrissey

Nirvana was arguably the most famous grunge band, and was credited as being the face of the entire grunge/alternative music movement; specifically front man and chief songwriter Kurt Cobain. This image was forever cemented when the band released their 2nd album Nevermind in 1991. The album itself received an immense amount of attention via constant airplay or radio, but most notably through constant rotation on MTV who would frequently air their first singles’ music video on it. That single of course was “Smells like teen spirit” and would forever change the music industry, as well as many social scenes from there on out. The song itself is a very high fidelity, yet still raw in its feelings. It had similar characteristics of punk, although with a more syncopated rhythm (one of the cornerstones of the later baptized Alternative Music). It was a great departure from the hard rock and metal bands that dominated the 80’s. It also inspired a new wave of fashion that was meant to embody the description of the music itself – dirty, raw, stripped down, and anything but pretty. The grunge style dominated the early 90’s culture and began finding its ways into more and more cities. It went from an isolated Seattle trend to a nationwide cultural phenomenon.

“Teen spirit” resonated mostly with teenagers and people under 30. It did this because of the inherent stresses and frustrations that already follow those age groups. Philosophically, it focused on otherwise negative emotions (envy, depression, self-loathing, anger, confusion) were put out in the open within this song. It was a more honest composition, albeit brutally honest, but still it was something that listeners got behind and was considered more believable than most of the heavily produced engineered sentiments of its musical predecessors. Production wise, the entire album Nevermind was recorded on the DGC label and was produced by Butch Vig. From the very beginning, Vig’s main goal was to move away from the otherwise Low fidelity sound of the band’s previous album Bleach. Vig did this through the incorporations of overdubs and vocal double-tracking (recording more than one vocal track and playing them simultaneously). This was a complete different process to their previous debut Bleach which was from what I believe to have been recorded for roughly $600. The goal on Bleach was to capture what the band was attempting to achieve musically. The underground, low-fi sound quality was definitely one of if not the biggest characteristic of giving Nirvana that different new sound, contrasting against the engineered perfection of the majority of the mainstream 80’s metal/hard rock recordings. This stripped down sound help conveyed a sense of talent and grit through which audiences became excited about and infatuated with. However with a strong base established, and a motivated and talented producer behind them; Nirvana was now i n the big leagues and making more intricate recordings with song like “Teen Spirit”. Significantly bigger budget, more intuitive, redundant, and saturated recording techniques brought big changes to the bands production values, all the while trying to continue on the original rawness and grit of their freshman outing. “Teen Spirit” had constant airplay on the then cultural phenomenon of MTV was an effective one two punch that took the masses by storm, catapulting Nevermind into being one of the most successfully albums of the last 20 years, and is widely considered to be Nirvana’s Magnum Opus.

Socially “Smells like teen spirit” created an outlet for individuals whose angst hadn’t an outlet previously. Instead of a song telling them how they should feel, it was no a soul individual merely stating how he himself was feeling and finding like-minded individuals. Within the lyrics of the song, many various sources of angst and turmoil are cited as sort of a teenage check list of things that potentially affect them. In the chorus of the song, Cobain states “A Mulatto, an Albino, a mosquito, My Libido”. All these classifications can be taken as metaphorical in some instances where an individual can feel insignificant like an insect. Additionally he states certain disillusions with identity by being a particular racial/ethnic classification. Directly before that portion Cobain states “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous” citing then often time people find solitude within the dark of their own bedrooms or naturally feel more comfortable alone in dark environments. This feeling makes perfect sense when the bands original sound on bleach was described as being negative and claustrophobic.

Musically, the song is based on the key of F minor. This is evident within the songs chord progression (F Bb G# C#) as well as melody line both falls within these parameters. The playing of each pair or chords that are the same interval (a 4th in this case) helps convey a feeling of gears shifting up and those giving us a sense of musical closure with each full progression. The movement of positioning from the F up to the G# position in another characteristic on the minor scale being that it’s a minor 3rd interval, one of the more prominent progressions in rock music (hard rock & Metal).One thing I always like about this song was the vocal melody line is later in the song mirrored by the guitar playing the same notes. I feel the most unique aspect about this song musical arrangement comes from it drummer, future foo fighters front man Dave Grohl. Grohl helped define the alternative genre by his highly syncopated, off meter rhythmic style that was very uncharacteristic of the mainstreams music of the day that would be primarily either 4/4 timing, or the occasional3/4 but would almost always be straightforward in terms of accents and be played primarily on the downbeat. “Teen spirit” itself is in common 4/4 timing, but the more complex alternating (perhaps where the genre got its namesake) inflections on different up and down beats kind of throws you off and makes you listen to it more closely creating this initial deception of timing, much like how jazz probably threw people off who were used to traditional marches and other traditionally rigid structured timing patterns.

The most significant thin about Nirvana’s “Smells like teen spirit” will always be its lasting legacy. Having been immersed in the alternative and post/grunge scene, I can attester to their musical, stylistic, and overall influence on music today. Bands and artists now predominately write their own songs based on their interests, feelings, and what have you instead of having selling images they are predetermined, engineered, and do not necessarily reflect the feelings and sentiments of the artist themselves. These sentiments lead to a rapid surge within younger people learning instruments, particularly the electric guitar, so they too can try and put their own stamp on music that they want to hear. A trend which many of today’s contemporary bands Seether, Three Days Grace, Evanescence, Shinedown, Godsmack, Chevelle, Sevendust and others have all benefitted from the initial alternative musical movement created when “Smells like teen spirit” hit the airwaves in 1991

Sources Used:
Butch Vig’s biography

Various Articles
Regarding “Nevermind” and “Smells like teen spirit”

Research Paper Proposal

Posted in Uncategorized on October 16th, 2010 by brian morrissey

The subject I want to research about for my paper is the effect that the “Big 4” (Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, & Anthrax) had on the then developing genre of heavy metal and how they contributed to the Metal music to comes decades later. These 4 bands are highly credited as establishing and developing early metal music within the United States, before all spreading their sound to a global audience. Each of them would end up influencing different genres of rock, metal, and other popular music forms as well as instituting new industry standards for recording, live performances, and marketing/advertising.

In addition to their commercial successes, I wish to discuss their song and albums musically. What made them so popular within fellow musicians and why are they frequently regarded (some of the 4 if not all) as influential artist, talked of more as if they were composers and musical geniuses rather than just popular musicians. Lastly, these 4 bands allowed America to put their stamp on a growing music trend which was typically a British institution, who upon the development done over the course of their careers would help set new standards for the entire genre as many of the English Metal band had done just years prior.

Blog Post #3

Posted in Uncategorized on October 15th, 2010 by brian morrissey

My previous post discussed how technology was growing during the 20’s and 30’s, playing recorded music simultaneously with video being played on the screen. This was a definite step forward in terms of having a well-synchronized finished product being shown in theaters; but more could be done with it. Enter the new technology of the 1940’s, that of a film that could hold sound. For the first time, pre-recorded music could be captured congruently as either the actual motion picture itself is being shot, or could be added later through post-production techniques. This shift came at a price though as movie houses all over the country had to now update and integrate new PA arrangements to accept this new industry turn. The cost of integrations resulted in the demise of many smaller privately owned theaters, forcing to sell their ownerships to larger companies with greater capitals who could finance the expensive start-up costs in order to keep themselves in business. It was an unforced obligation as it were, because theaters that did not join the trend were out of the popular loop and were unable to compete with others who did make the switch.

The interesting thing here is how this long sought after solution to audio and video synchronicity into one singular finished product would impact the music industry as great as it did. From this the music industry followed suit after the motion picture industry and learned that much money and influence could be gained via mass production techniques. Once movie theaters with talking pictures, “talkies” as they were commonly referred to, began taking huge amounts of business from the live theater spectacles of Broadway. Once they accomplished this, production companies soon realized that more people were leaving movie houses with the songs featured in the movies itself in their minds. This demand to hear songs featured in moves established a demand for the first ever movie soundtracks, offering movie goers for the first time the ability to hear something they have only heard in the movies. This paved the way for the movie industry today being that ever major motion picture release is soon followed by the original motion picture soundtrack release to compliment it.

Gender & Media Blog #1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 12th, 2010 by brian morrissey
I feel that Ki’s main argument is that there is a general
sense of non-acknowledgment of gay youths in America. Issues of homosexuality
and their relationships to society are often discussed when conflicts arise and
are given attention in the media; however, less considerations are given when
all be it different but just as important conflicts occur between adolescents.
We can completely find it feasible for much attention to be given to an adult
undergoing homosexual hazing or dealing with issues that may surround his or
her sexual preference. It is unfortunately less common place to have
interventions within children and youth who barrage their peers with anti-homosexual
slurs and bullying. This is at the heart of Kim’s argument, that homosexuality
is addressed barely if at all within our children and teenagers. Kim feels that
educators, politicians, and even parents alike at times would rather not deal
with small issues they may find to be pesky and annoying; opting to let things
work themselves out. The all too common place belief that homosexuality itself
is a phase, and one that can pass. This is a very narrow-minded and ill-placed
method of rationalizing a legitimate personal trait. Some people hope by
disregarding it, and paying it no mind, that it will simply go away. All this
does is add fuel to the fires of non-understanding and intolerance toward it as
those who don’t “grow out of it” are viewed as freaks and ostracized by those
who fail to comprehend it.

The issue of gender and sexuality plays a pivotal role
within the Clementi case being that he was a young homosexual male. From what
is shown in the media, it is apparent to me that homosexual males generally receive
more volatile/violent of bullying varieties than do lesbians. Whereas both can
receive incredible amounts of animosity from public opinions, I feel being a
gay male carries certain connotations and sensitivities along with it.
Religiously most cultures out write reject the image of two men being sexually
involved with one another, being the basis for a lot of non-acceptance and
disdain toward them. Secondly, there is generally a certain sense of emasculation
within gay males (taking on what’s perceived to be more feminine traits).
Through these emasculations does the individual themselves feel like a stranger
to their own selves and how they view their own self. Furthermore, this
emasculation is often met with aggressive and at times violent reception from
other males, viewing them as weaker, different, or wrong. It is difficult to
say if Tyler Clementi was born a woman and seen having a lesbian experience would
the end result have been the same or not, perhaps if he was born a female the
perpetrators who posted the video would not have even felt the need to post the video
online. However I feel ultimately it was the issue of him being a male and
having a homosexual experience that Ravi and Wei thought so wrong they needed
to expose this poor man’s secret.

The issue of a streaming video versus a still picture is simple in the fact that
pictures can often be taken out of context when isolated from a whole. Videos on
the other hand are much more powerful; they convey emotion, intimacy, and are
essentially the “whole” in terms of visual imagery. Even if it were devoid of
sound, neither party involved could ever deny their involvement within the video,
what they were doing, or why they were doing it. I feel it was for this reason why
Ravi and Wei posted the actual video itself and not still images, clips or whatever
alternative. They did it out of pure malice to expose behavior which they found

Blog Post #2

Posted in Uncategorized on October 8th, 2010 by brian morrissey

The invention of radio in the very early 20th century helped revolutionize the art of broadcasting forever. The name borrowed from how farmers would “cast” out seeds into fertile soils in order to plant them, the term broadcast was originally. With this idea in mind, early engineers felt that ideas and information could act as seeing, being cast out to a fertile listening audience. Radio, or Electrical Recording as it was first
called, was intended to be the death of the institution of recorded music.
Inventor of the gramophone Thomas Edison was quick to discredit this new
technology, even resorting to publicizing a comic series mocking it, attempting
to discredit it in the public eye. This attempt was none too successful, and
once radio began recording via microphone technology instead of Edison sound
hole technology; even Edison couldn’t large that radio was the way of the
future and even began investing much time into research and development so that
he too might find a way into this new field.


Ironically though, the future of cinema would rely, as least for the time being, on the existence of the record player. In the early 1920’s it was considered that movies, which up to this point were silent or with live musical accompaniment, could be synchronized with pre-recorded records that played for 10 minutes at a time on discs that would be swapped throughout the duration of the film. Before the advent of film that could retain audio this would e the revolutionary development that cinema
needed to grow and adapt into how we know it today. It would later be the radio Company of America (RCA) who would develop the first film media that could retain sound as well as video, elminating the ever elusive issue of syncronization within cinema.

Blog Post #1

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1st, 2010 by brian morrissey
I found it very interesting how recorded sound came about, and all that went in to developing what has now become a highly engineered and prevalent industry.  It’s hard to think that initially, the concept of its industry potential wasn’t even thought that far ahead. Instead the emphasis was getting the best possible quality. It was quickly noticed that given the simplistic and primitive technology that some instruments recording better than others. The fact that drums were way too dynamic to be captured by the narrow capturing range of the early sound recorders was intriguing and explains why it wasn’t until the decades later that we would begin to hear drum kits played in setting more than just live performances.
What I found most interesting was how 2 part, short songs with a vocalist with piano accompaniment evolved. When we think of lounge acts or jazz singers in clubs, we often picture the image of a sexy girl in a nice dress sitting or lying on a grand piano singing a sometimes morose/melancholy smooth jazz piece. After reading chapter 4 /I realized that this came from the fact that simple piano tunes with a singer were early recording engineers’ favorites to capture. They were simplistic enough logistically to accurately record, as well as being robust and rich enough acoustically. MTV during the 90’s brought the values and appreciation of acoustically inclined instrumentation to the popular culture with their extensive “Unplugged” series of popular bands. Far removed from the big elaborate production the artists themselves were typically accustom to, were now removed and shown in there purest musical forms, and not surprisingly people loved it. The advancement of an idea instituted back in the early jazz eras of the 1930’s and 1940’s.
The limitations of early recording technology would also affect the future music industry of the future by establishing standard song durations which were significantly shorter than what some live performances were being formatted around. The 2-3 minute standard for songs was instituted during the during this era and would persist all the way through to the present day seemingly looking on punk music, pop music, and rock & hip hop. Granted with the technological advancement throughout the years, we are capable to capture seemingly as much as we’d want; it’s still set the premise for the need of a 3-minute long song which still dominates the industry even today.

Spam prevention powered by Akismet

Skip to toolbar