Christina M. Christodoulou        [A–     JMS]                                                   Music and Formal Analysis

Nov. 1, 2009                                                                                                           Professor Saslow

People around the world consider music to be a special and meaningful thing. Everyone enjoys hearing his or her favorite songs. They create a certain feeling within the listener or can have a special meaning that the listener finds important. But how do songs accomplish this? Songs are more complex than most people realize. There are many aspects such as type of music, texture, melody, rhythm, harmony, counterpoint, tempo, and dynamics, which are considered in making songs. The way these elements are arranged create a certain mood and can be essential in expressing a certain theme or message to the audience.

I had a chance to consider these aspects of music when I went to see a rock concert featuring the band Blink-182. The concert took place earlier this month at Madison Square Garden and it was one of the final few of their reunion tour. The audience consisted of young people between the ages of about 13 and 29. The concert was very informal and relaxed; people wore jeans and t-shirts. The general mood of the audience was excitement to see the band that had not performed in concert for over four years.

The band played many different songs, which for the most part had to do with partying and having a good time. Their songs were typically loud and fast. However, one of the songs they played in particular stuck out to me, it was called “I miss you.” I thought that this song was very unique because it was a sad and emotional while it was able to stay within the genre of punk rock that Blink-182 is known for.

The song would be considered program music because it had text, which told the audience a story. Just from the title of the song, “I miss you” it is pretty clear that the message of the song will be about having lost someone you care about. The singer addresses the song to the girl that is gone and tries to get her to come back by first talking about how great things could be if they were together again and then describing how the loneliness is haunting him. The piece was in song form. The chorus repeated softly in the background “I miss you” while the verses beckoned his love back to him by talking about doing things that she would like, “we’ll have Halloween on Christmas, and in the night we’ll wish this never ends.” He also says that without her he cannot sleep and the sadness has almost turned him into something not human, “I counted the webs from all the spiders, catching things and eating their insides.”

In my opinion, the texture was the most important aspect of the song. It created a sad and beautiful feeling while maintaining the punk-rock sound. The instruments they used were guitar, bass, drums, cello, piano, and some bells or chimes. The song starts with a pretty upbeat rhythm on drums like most other rock songs. Then the melody comes in which is a soft acoustic guitar. The rhythm of the guitar is slower and almost relaxing compared to the drums, which play in the background throughout. The piano also comes in and gently plays a more high-pitched melody. At this point the mood that has been created is a peaceful one. Then the vocals begin in a very low pitch, which make them seem somber, sad, and dark. And then suddenly a different person is singing and he comes in much louder, officially breaking the mood of peace and creating a tension even though the instrumental parts hardly change throughout. In the end the vocals drop out leaving the instruments to create that heavenly, peaceful mood again.

The instrument playing the melody changes throughout the piece and the quality of the melody changes with each instrument. In the beginning the melody is carried by the guitar and then the piano. Both of these instruments have smooth legato qualities and play in major keys. After a few measures the melody changes to the vocal parts. The quality of the melody then is staccato and choppy and in a minor key. Throughout the melody switches back and forth between the higher pitched instruments and the vocal parts. Overall the melody was contemplative, at times expressing the happiness that could exist and at other times reflecting on the darkness that does exist.

The beat in this song was fast and syncopated and it was constant throughout the song. This is what best most resembled a typical rock song. The harmony was very rich and complex because there were so many instruments. Although those instruments are not usually seen playing together the harmony was consonant and pleasing. Counterpoint in this song was also an interesting feature because although there were times that the lines of music did overlap creating complex sounds the piano did not play any chords only single notes and there were many solos in which the individual sounds were isolated offering clarity.

Tempo and dynamics played a big role in this piece. The tempo was slow and constant throughout the song. This helped to create the restful, heavenly feeling previously described. On the other hand the dynamics varied significantly. The song began with the instruments playing softly and the then vocals also entering at a mezzo piano voice. The voice dropped out and instruments crescendoed. When the voice reentered it was suddenly louder. Throughout the second verse the sound grew significantly for both parts. Then the vocal dropped out again and the instruments became softer this time. When the vocals came in for the last time both were at a forte. Finally the vocals dropped out and the music stayed strong for a while until very gradually fading away to nothing. The dynamics are very telling of the overall message of the song. At first there is optimism that his love will return and things will work out. Over time however, emotions build up especially loneliness and this leads to fear anger. These very intense feelings are complimented by the crescendos. Finally at the end the singer is back to where he started. There is nothing more he can do but hope that she comes back and until then live with the loneliness. This is conveyed by the decrescendo at the end of the piece.

In my opinion, the writer of this piece used the elements of music very effectively to convey his message. Everything from the many different instruments that were used to create the texture, to the varying dynamics, came together to create feeling of peace and a feeling of intense emotion all in one song. Having always loved listening to music like many other people, I never before considered all the complex aspects that go into the creation of a short four-minute song. Now when I listen to other songs, I considering the how the elements are changed a why a composer might have chosen to write the piece that way. This gives me a better understanding of what the general message and theme of the work is. I believe that all people should consider the elements at work when they listen to any type of music from a performance at Carnegie Hall to simply a song on the radio.