Marvin Toussaint    [B+   JMS]

Music is organized sound and the art form that is most enjoyed and recognized. Like other art forms, one may analyze music, both in the context within which it was created and the content of the music itself. To gain a first person experience with music, I attended a live musical performance at the Samuel J. and Ethel LeFrak Concert Hall within the Aaron Copland School of Music.  The performance I decided to attend was the Queens College New Music Group’s performance of new chamber music. The New Music Group at Queens College is a student run organization and its main goal is to give students a venue to play their music. The event took place on October 6, 2009. The reason I attended this event was because my roommate, Adam Kaufman, was performing his first original piece that night. The piece he composed, named “Goodbye”, is a jazz piece that he had developed the melody for. A friend of his wrote the lyrics, and he was able to get back-up singers and a band to help him perform the song. My other two roommates, some of our friends, and Adam’s mother and sister all went to support him.  Including us, there was probably about forty people in the audience. There was an upper level to the hall, but it was probably empty. The scenery itself was beautiful and I didn’t expect it. The entire stage area was made of wood. It was also larger than I expected. The mood of the room was light. Most of the people at the performance went to support a friend, as I did. They were there to see one performance, and didn’t have high standards for the rest of the show. The show as a whole was still good and most of the acts played quality music. Because I was there to support my roommate, I gave most of my attention to his song.

The song he performed, “Goodbye”, was program music. The lyrics of the song told the story of a man who suspects the woman he is in love with of wanting to leave him. He tells her that he would never leave her, but that he can tell that she wants to leave him. The song acts as his way of begging her to stay. The piece was in song form and consisted of three verses and a chorus in-between each verse. The melody was long, lyrical, and it repeated itself. Although the song sounded upbeat, the composer told me that the song was in a minor key. Most of the time, jazz music makes me think of strong emotion and passionate expression. “Goodbye” went along with this same pattern. I got the feeling that the singer was upset that his love was considering leaving him, and he was trying to sound confident as to convince her that she should stay. I would describe the changing rhythm as syncopated. The harmony was rich and complex. There were different sounds and instruments working together to produce the melody. There was some dissonance in the song where certain notes clashed with each other, which is normal in jazz music. The song had a constant tempo, which went at moderate speed. My roommate performed the song on a piano. On stage with him were three back-up singers, a gentlemen singing the lead, a percussionist, a guitarist, a bassist, and someone on a synthesizer. The piano produced the jazz elements of the song and was the most dominant instrument. The percussion, bass, and guitar were good, but weren’t as powerful or noticeable as the piano was. The lead singer was a tenor and I think he did a good job of delivering the lyrics. To me, the band was too loud and made it hard for me to hear all of the lyrics clearly. I could tell the singer had a strong voice, but had to concentrate to catch all of the lyrics. The rest of the band played well in my opinion, even though afterward my roommate told me that they had only practiced together once.  I was not sure if the back-up singers were necessary. I couldn’t really hear them, yet I still felt that the piece was being played well.

Another performance that caught my attention was “Four American Songs”, which featured a student by the name of Patrick Kelley as the pianist. He played the melody for the songs on the piano while two people sang the lyrics. He played four songs in total. His first singer, a male tenor, sang the first and third son. His female singer, a soprano, sang the second and fourth song.  The main reason that this performance stuck out to me was the lyrics to the first song. It was clearly meant for a musical and was very funny. The singer talks about the moral failings of boys, who daydream about sex and wanting to sleep with loose girls. I wasn’t expecting those types of lyrics, and as soon as the song began, I started laughing. This song’s melody was also long. To me, this song was in a major key. The piano sounded like pianos as I have heard them played in other musicals. I felt as if the singer was a dignified, older man who was disappointed with the behavior of the younger generation. The piano in this song added to the feeling of grandeur and maturity.

Overall, I was impressed with those two songs. My roommate’s song was a jazz song and it makes me think of strong emotion. I believe music is meant to create strong, complex emotion and I think “Goodbye” did a good job of portraying that emotion.  Also, I feel that music should try to be about real world experiences. Losing a girl is an experience many can relate to. The second song was funny. I have heard many songs from musical productions and thought that one was very entertaining. These two songs gave me a good impression of the entire show. Also, listening to the music and deciding what about the music gave me those feelings allowed me to appreciate it more.