Vienna's "best" song, from a technical standpoint

She's a helluva chef. Interpretation, praise, criticism ...

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Fred
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Postby Fred » Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:55 am

@Kalenabear I'm not sure there's a technical criterion for what a hook has to be. To the best of my knowledge it's a short piece of melody, harmony, timbre, dynamics, or rhythm, or some combination, that stands out from the overall composition and grabs the ear. What Brahms, if I recall correctly, dismissed contemptuously as "effekt"--he was on the anti-Wagner side of German music. And you are right, Eric's Song is rather short on hooks; the melody flows pretty seamlessly; great melody though. If anything, the major hook is what Vienna does vocally at the very end, after the lyrics finish, vocalizing without words. Coming after a long, slow build-up in the song, to me that's an amazing moment of release, sounding as if she simply could no longer find words great enough to express her emotion.

@aaparallel Vienna seemingly never does anything on just one level, and your feeling about black vs. white keys signifying the divide between life and death is quite reasonable, probably true. Not being a pianist I had no idea about the black vs. white keys until Vienna wrote about it, and when she did my mind immediately went to the racial divide in New Orleans that the Katrina disaster made so obvious.
Ain't praying for miracles, I'm just down on my knees
Listening for the song behind everything I think I know
And everything I think I know is just static on the radio.

Kalenabear
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Postby Kalenabear » Mon Jan 31, 2011 7:43 am

Fred wrote: @aaparallel Vienna seemingly never does anything on just one level, and your feeling about black vs. white keys signifying the divide between life and death is quite reasonable, probably true. Not being a pianist I had no idea about the black vs. white keys until Vienna wrote about it, and when she did my mind immediately went to the racial divide in New Orleans that the Katrina disaster made so obvious.


Ah, yes. That has to be it. Like Aaparallel, I thought of the lightness and darkness before and after Katrina. You're right in that Vienna writes on multiple levels. I wouldn't be surprised if the song is also about racial divide.

@Fred - hm, I'm going to have to put Eric's Song on repeat now and listen for those hooks, heh! :)

aaparallel
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Postby aaparallel » Mon Jan 31, 2011 8:40 am

Fred wrote:@aaparallel Vienna seemingly never does anything on just one level, and your feeling about black vs. white keys signifying the divide between life and death is quite reasonable, probably true. Not being a pianist I had no idea about the black vs. white keys until Vienna wrote about it, and when she did my mind immediately went to the racial divide in New Orleans that the Katrina disaster made so obvious.


I was going to say something about that interpretation of the black and white keys, but couldn't find the proper term. Yes, "racial divide" also fits with the imagery of the "line."
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Postby dbeattie » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:44 am

Despite the fact that my favorite Vienna album is Dreaming Through The Noise... (because it is so amazingly recorded, and has some incredible songs on it such as the already-mentioned Pontchartrain and Recessional)... for a single song, to "prove" her songwriting brilliance...

Here was my first reaction: Gravity.

Gravity is simultaneously melodic and rhythmic; simultaneously beautiful and dramatic; it makes excellent use of nearly two octaves of vocal range--the climax theme restates the opening theme an octave higher for example. The songwriting is perfectly suited to its non-traditional key signature of B major. It is upbeat, catchy, and thus grabs even the most casual listener immediately, but meanwhile its chord structure and rhythmic structure is non-trivial, so it will keep you coming back and doesn't really get old, so while it's not one of those mindblowingly experimental masterpieces such as Radio, St. Stephen's Cross, Harbor, or Pontchartrain, that cause music geeks to geek out,... I would argue that such masterpieces are better reserved for the already-initiated. Once you already love Vienna's music, because you're hooked by the simple stuff, you can geek out with the amazing stuff. :)

But on second thought, "Stray Italian Greyhound" has all of the above advantages (including the key of B... haha), but it's mildly more upbeat, makes better use of the orchestral instruments, has piano-only moments as well as drum-heavy moments, and it's a happy song! Whenever I hear it, involuntary seat-dancing occurs. :)

micro
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Postby micro » Tue Feb 15, 2011 4:44 am

Don't know anything about technical but thought that Recessional was the best last track on an album, that is, it was until IT came out and St. Stephen's Cross was on it - just the right blend of melancholy (ending of the cd, saying goodbye) and hopefulness (looking forward to the new beginning of the next cd, saying hello again)

Fred
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Postby Fred » Tue Feb 15, 2011 3:12 pm

micro wrote:Don't know anything about technical but thought that Recessional was the best last track on an album, that is, it was until IT came out and St. Stephen's Cross was on it - just the right blend of melancholy (ending of the cd, saying goodbye) and hopefulness (looking forward to the new beginning of the next cd, saying hello again)

Sequencing tracks on a CD will probably become a lost art someday as we go more and more into downloading individual tracks as a distribution mode (the final death rattle of the record companies, I suppose, but inevitable). It's already gotten simplified from LP days because CDs only have 1 side. Until then, however, yeah, gotta agree, these are two great closers. I can't choose one over the other--just like I can't choose these 2 CD's over each other, I just pick one to listen to by mood.
Ain't praying for miracles, I'm just down on my knees
Listening for the song behind everything I think I know
And everything I think I know is just static on the radio.


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