Keyboards!

If keyboards excite you, you may want to go get a paper towel or two, because I’ve got some fun news for you. Everyone else, venture on at your own risk.

Last night, I checked out this post by Shawn Blanc on keyboards. It’s great. One think that has really bothered me about the chiclet-style keyboards that Apple uses is that my hands tend to slide around them. Especially since the F and J keys aren’t in their normal spot for me, this has proven to be quite the issue.

One of the keyboards that Shawn reviews is called the Das Keyboard Professional Model S. It’s an mechanical-action keyboard that has a nice clacking sound every time you press a key. You could be writing an email to your ex-girlfriend on it, but it sounds as if you’re banding out the masterwork of  the century. It’s great. Shawn also makes a great point about the importance of a keyboard:

“It never dawned on me until recently that a good keyboard could be equally as important as a good text editor.”

And it’s true. Why buy the best type of computer in the world and get a crappy keyboard? Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my Apple Extended Keyboard. But I may end up liking a mechanical action one better.

The current Geek-Item-of-Lust is this Ugly Betty: The Das Keyboard Model S Ultimate. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Check this out:

Look Ma, No keycaps!

That’s right. No Stickers. Now, I can already touch type pretty well, but it requires sheer amazingness to make this your keyboard of choice. But once you’ve mastered it, you can tackle anything.

“But Bo, why get this thing when they have a Mac version?” Good question, sport. You may not remember, but I type on a Dvorak layout. That makes looking at a QWERTY keyboard kind of nauseating. Now, I manually moved all of the letters around on my MacBook and my Apple keyboard, but I would try no such thing with a Das. Since they offer a keyboard without keycaps, I decided that that would be the best course of action.

Given that I don’t have $129 to spend on a keyboard right now, I’ve decided to take an economical approach and try out an old Dell keyboard to see if I like the feel of it more. It’s going to take a while to adjust (and get used to looking at a QWERTY keyboard, but I think that it’ll be a good experiment nonetheless. Suffice to say, this keyboard is UGLY:

Dell isn't known for making pretty products.

Part 5: Summary

Hey there, faithful readers! This is the final part of my Musical Investigation Series, so thanks for sticking around. This final post will simply serve as a recap of my previous articles and the reasoning for why I decided to go with this structure. Miss the series? Find the rest here

Regarding the structure of “Jesus and Mary” and “Marion”, both use strophic form throughout the piece. However, the structure of “Marion” is for accompaniment, and can be interpreted by the organist preforming the piece to suit the needs of the congregation or church. In contrast, the structure of “Jesus and Mary” is fixed, predetermined by Guster in this album. Both, however, tend to follow common song structures of their respective genres.

In the case of the melodies, the intent of the song dictates the amount of complexity required. “Jesus and Mary” has a more rhythmically complex vocal melody in the refrain than “Marion”; the vocal parts in the refrain of “Marion” are quite simple due to the need for non-musicians needing to read (or have a basic grasp) of how to sing the notes in time. Guster has no such restrictions on their music.

 

I decided to go with a multi-post blog format for this investigation because I wanted to be able to share some of the work that I do with my peers. Music is a communal and cultural event; it should be shared. I also know that few readers would take the time to read more than about 300 words at a time, and that on a multi-part series such as this, generally Internet articles are split up and are published in a series of articles that link to each other.

I hope that you’ve had the opportunity to learn a bit more about music!

 

Bibliography:

http://www.sheetmusicdigital.com/pdfopen.asp?ID=DL02000066

http://www.cyberhymnal.org/bio/m/e/messiter_ah.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Hayes_Plumptre

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guster

http://www.guster.com/

 

Discography:

“Jesus and Mary” — Guster [Easy Wonderful], 2010

“Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart (Marion)” — Edward Hayes Plumptre (Arthur Henry Messiter) [Hymn 556, Hymnal 1982]

Part 4: Structural Investigation

Hey there, faithful readers! Here we have Part 4 of my International Baccalaureate Musical Investigation, a comparison between the structure of Guster’s “Jesus and Mary” and Arthur Henry Messiter. You can get more information here

At a fundamental level, both the 21st century indie rock song and the 19th century hymn feature a very similar song structure: Verse-chorus. However, the reason for the song structures are different.  Melodically, the sung verses are very similar in their stepwise motion, while the two diverge on their approach to the refrain.

Because the hymn is only an accompaniment, the structure can change depending on the proficiency of the organist playing the piece (and the musical prowess of the audience & choir). Generally, organists start out with an introduction of the piece to establish the melody and so that the congregation can recognize the hymn. Another common structural change from organists is to improvise in-between the penultimate and ultimate verses to provide emphasis and excite the congregation for the final verse. If the organist is proficient, a key change can occur in the verset between these verses.

In the case of “Jesus and Mary”, the strophic form present is very similar for an overwhelming amount of popular music: a brief introduction followed where [one of] the musical themes are stated, then a verse, a bridge into the refrain/chorus, restatement of the melody, verse two, bridge, chorus/refrain, modified verse/instrumental solo, refrain (sometimes transposed to a different key). Jesus and Mary is simply conforming to the standard structure of the time period. This is in contrast to some of the other songs on Easy Wonderful, such as “Well”, which is one extended verse that tells a story and has no strophic form.

Given that “Jesus and Mary” is not an accompaniment piece, the structure of the piece is not flexible as it is with “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”. Thus, the function of the music affects it structure as well. Melodically, both “Marion” and “Jesus and Mary” are very similar. Both feature mostly stepwise motion (more information available here and here) frequently in the verses. In the refrain, however, “Marion” is still conjunct:

Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart

But “Jesus and Mary” switches to B-flat major, and outlines the B-flat major chord in the opening notes. It then stays around notes in B-flat triad throughout the chorus before returning back to G minor. See below:

The refrain contains many leaps and skips, and is much more rhythmically complex.

Part 3: “Marion”, by Arthur Henry Messiter

Hey there, faithful readers! Here we have Part 3 of my International Baccalaureate Musical Investigation, a comparison between the structure of Guster’s “Jesus and Mary” and Arthur Henry Messiter. You can get more information here

The hymn tune “Marion” was composed by Arthur Henry Messiter, who was born on April 12, 1834 in Frome, Somersetshire, England. He moved to the United States 1863, and spent the rest of his life here. Messiter is not a famous hymn writer; in fact, “Marion” is his only truly famous work. He did publish some hymns and musical hymnals after me emigrated to the United States. These include:

  • Psalter (1889)
  • Choir Office Book (1891)
  • Hymnal with Music as used in Trinity Church (1893)
  • A History of the Choir and the Music of Trinity Church (1906)

Being a church hymn, the music is relatively simple in structure. The hymn is in common time. “Marion” has two bars, each with two short 8-beat phrases. The refrain sung at the end of the hymn is four measures long (with an anacrusis). It features seven verses, which is not an uncommon number for such a short hymn. The easy song structure makes it easy for many members of the congregation at all ages to sing along, and jump in at the refrain if they lost themselves in a verse.

The melody is mostly conjunct in nature, with mostly stepwise motion (except for the common leap of a fifth in the anacrusis {a partial measure pick-up} into the opening measure). Below is a copy of the first two phrases of the hymn. We can see that other than a skip of a third beat in each phrase, all motion is stepwise. Again, the mostly stepwise motion makes singing the hymn much simpler for non-musicians who may be singing.

Here, you can se the conjunct nature of the hymn.

Here’s a link to the piece on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ttJJSamNsQ

Part 2: “Jesus and Mary”, from the album Easy Wonderful, by Guster

Hey there, faithful readers! Here we have Part 2 of my International Baccalaureate Musical Investigation, a comparison between the structure of Guster’s “Jesus and Mary” and Arthur Henry Messiter. You can get more information here.

Guster, which I’m sure many of you at school have heard me fawn over, is a four-piece rock band that was originally formed in 1991 as three-piece band. The original members consist of: lead singer Adam Gardner (also guitar, piano, trumpet); background [and sometimes lead] singer Ryan Miller (also guitar, bass, piano, banjo, harmonica), and percussionist Brian Rosenworcel. Luke Reynolds was added in 2010 as a background singer, guitar, bass, piano, and keyboardist to replace Joe Pisapia’s seven year run starting in 2003 (multi-instrumentalist).

“Jesus and Mary” clocks in at three minutes and thirty-one seconds, and features lead guitar, trap set, rhythm guitar, and keyboard — fairly standard instrumentation for the band. Similar to most pop songs, the song structure is in standard strophic form: A-B-A-B-A’-B, where A represents a Verse and chorus, and B represents the chorus.

Below is the song structure:

:00–:11 — Intro

:11–:35 — Verse 1

:35–:45 — Bridge 1

:45–1:10 — Chorus

1:10–1:22 — Theme restatement

1:22–1:45 — Verse 2

1:45–1:56 — Bridge 2

1:57–2:20 — Chorus 2

2:20–2:44 — Theme restatement

2:44–2:55 — Bridge 3

2:55–End — Chorus 3

The song is primarily in G minor; notably on the introduction, verse, bridge, and outro. However, during the chorus, the key switches to G minor’s relative key: B-flat major. This is the primary way that the song is split structurally: through the key signature change.

The vocal melody in “Jesus and Mary” is a conjunct melody that moves in mostly stepwise motion on the verses. In the chorus, there are more skips and leaps (up to a sixth).  Some of the instrumental motifs are referenced in the vocal line, but not completely replicated  .

Below is a melodic transcription of the opening vocal line:

Drawn on UPAD Lite for iOS

Here’s a link to the song on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Id1v4xuf4Ck

Part 1: Overview of the Works

Hey there, faithful readers! Here we have Part 1 of my International Baccalaureate Musical Investigation, a comparison between the structure of Guster’s “Jesus and Mary” and Arthur Henry Messiter. You can get more information here

I decided to compare the structure between a hymn and an indie rock song because I wanted to find a way to link one of my favorite genres that some of my audience (teens and young adults) may be familiar with to a genre that I was familiar both performing and singing to in church.

Musical structure is one of the aspects of music that is the most universal; while key signatures, time signatures, scales, note patterns, and musical associations can change vastly throughout cultures and time periods, song structure is one of the aspects of music around the world that tends to be more similar. Vocal melodies, can differ greatly amongst genres and groups; thus I thought it to be beneficial to study both.

The first piece that I chose is a song by the band Guster. I discovered their music in the fall of 2009. As I acquired more of their music after that point, I fell more and more in love with their vocal harmonies, instrumentation, and song diversity. “Jesus and Mary” is my favorite track from their most recent full-length album, Easy Wonderful (2010).

In selecting a hymn, I wanted to make sure that the hymn that I chose was in a verse-refrain format. Most hymns tend to repeat the hymn for as many verses as there are set in a given edition. My organ teacher recommended “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart!” Hymn 556 (in the 1982 Hymnal), a popular hymn. The tune is “Marion”, by Arthur Henry Messiter (1834–1916).

Introduction to the Musical Investigation

Hello there, faithful readers!

I’ve got a special prize in store for you: an International Baccalaureate Musical Investigation paper! Fun, right? This assignment is a part of my International Baccalaureate (IB) Higher Level music course. One of the criterion for the Investigation is publishing the piece in a media format, be it as a radio script, interview, etc. I’ve decided to publish mine on my blog, The Office of the Doctor. The project will be split into 5 articles (don’t worry, links will be provided!):

I hope you guys enjoy, and certainly comment below for questions, comments, or accolades.