Response Paper: Music – Form           [A–     JMS]

Sara Wong

On October 9, 2009, I went to Perch, a café in Park Slope, Brooklyn.  Perch is a fairly new restaurant on a busy avenue that attracts families, couples, locals, and young adults at all hours of the day and all days of the week.  It holds other music events such as “Open Mike Night” and on Monday nights, they play old LP records.  At all other times, the café is filled with contemporary alternative rock music, played from an employee’s IPOD.  Every Friday and Saturday night, the café hosts live music.  The artist performing was an unidentified young woman playing The Beatles songs, particularly songs written by John Lennon, as it was the anniversary of his birthday.  The lone performer had only her acoustic guitar and her voice on the small and barely elevated stage.  She played in the back area of the café, a quiet and dimly lit space filled with couches and chairs that face the stage.  The audience consisted of the singer’s friends and some patrons of the restaurant.  Most of them were white and in their 20’s or 30’s and most likely locals.  The event was lively and celebrated both John Lennon and the artist.  There was a great sense of nostalgia amongst the audience that only increased as the night continued.

The artist played famous acoustic songs written by John Lennon, such as “Dear Prudence” and “Imagine.”  Most of these songs were lyrical and soft and in traditional song form, with lyrics that included a chorus.  The melody varied from song to song.  Some pieces had long and lyrical melodies while others were short, fast, and agitated.  The melodies were generally repetitive and served as good support for the vocal element.  The melodies affected the emotional value of the songs.  The more irregular melodies conveyed a feeling of uneasiness and rebellion.  The gentler and softer songs brought a romantic and dreamy mood to the listeners.  Most of the music resulted in a worldly feeling, as if the Earth’s problems would disappear if everyone believed in the songs that were being played.

Most of the songs were played in a major scale, further developing the uplifting and inspirational feeling. The gentle and constant beats brought attention to the meaningful lyrics and quality of the singer’s voice.  The rhythm was regular, since the acoustic guitar and her voice in harmony created a smooth sound and did not frequently change the tempo, beat, or melody.  The harmony between voice and instrument was symphonic because even though there were only two separate sounds, they created a grand and wholesome sound when used in unison. The consonance was simple and pleasant.  The songs were clear; the guitar and her voice rarely competed for attention, but rather, worked together to bring attention to the notes both separate elements played.  In general, the music was intimate and soft.  It was not syncopated or dissonant and was not intended to cause feelings of chaos.  Instead, the music was peaceful and brought to mind quiet, but enthusiastic moments of one’s life.

However, some songs varied in certain aspects.  Some pieces had one line melodies while others had several, overlapping chords.  Tempo varied as well; some songs were fast, agitated, variable, and dissonant while others were slow, restful and constant.  Songs also differed in dynamics.  The majority of songs were soft, consistent, and increasing.  The notes increased and decreased in tone regularly and smoothly.  However, a few songs, either in entirety or for a few bars, were loud and contrasting.  These songs were more violent and intense and tried to bring emotions of revolt and a need for change through the irregular beats and rhythms.  The variation of musical elements from song to song only displayed the talent of the songwriters and the artist performing the music.

Overall, the music had a very smooth texture that reflected upon the instruments and the setting.  The full and rich sound of the acoustic guitar and the woman’s voice fit perfectly in the small atmosphere at the local café.  The artist played for about an hour, about fifteen songs.  The vast majority of these songs was soft and had regular, increasing melodies.  The performance suited the café, a small but busy place, and the audience, people who enjoy classic rock music and support local artists.  The artist was did not vary the original songs to a great extent and stayed true to the original art form.

It was truly music for the people, music to be played live in order to send its message.  The entire performance brought a feeling of community and definitely uplifted the entire mood of the café, whether one was listening a few feet away from the artist or from a table near the front of the building.  It was a very eloquent tribute to John Lennon that showed just how effective music could be in bringing people together.

I thoroughly enjoyed the performance because of the harmony between the great music and the wonderful atmosphere.  The artist and the music she played were extremely relevant to the date and the neighborhood.  Even though the music was not new, it was classic and timeless.  The artist’s renditions were soulful and complimented the original band.  The entire experience, from the music to the environment was a great experience.  It brought to life all of the elements of music that we had learned about in lecture.  Not only was I able to better understand the form of music, but I also learned more about the power of music and the role of the artist.  Musicians are responsible for bringing a clear message through the structure of their music.  Music can bring any emotion the artist desires and for another artist to perform the works of another, it takes complete understanding of an artist and his or her music to convey similar messages and evoke similar emotions.  Even though time brings many changes to society, music remains a constant throughout our culture.  Art, in any medium, is truly a form of communication.