Elements Instructions

Assignment for Friday, 2/22: Elements Blog Entry on a song of your choice

Now that we’ve learned how to talk about music using the “seven elements” of music, it’s time to try describing a song or piece of music that you listen to using our new vocabulary and observational skills.

Directions:

  1. Choose a song that you enjoy listening to: it can be new, old, pop, classical, in English or another language. The only requirement is that there is a version of the song on YouTube.
  2. Create a new post (directions here) with a link to the YouTube video.
  3. Describe the music, focusing on its rhythm, melody, accompanying harmony, instrumentation/timbre, and form. Be as thorough as you can accurately be. Take some time with this: even if you know the song well, listen multiple times closely to really figure out what is happening in the song. Don’t worry about being overly technical, just share your findings.
  4. Feel free to use timings from the YouTube video (3:23, 0:47, etc.) or lyrics to help identify specific parts.
  5. After everybody posts, you will comment on 3 other people’s posts with additional observations that the original poster may have missed.¬†Be respectful and constructive. You can feel free to add anything to a post, or better yet, engage with questions for the original poster. This should be more than “I like how you pointed out that the chorus is in major key but the verses are in minor key.” Use the comments to create a dialogue, not just for praise.

To give you an idea, I’ve completed this assignment for a song that I really enjoyed from last year (despite being SEVERELY overplayed!). Obviously, I have provided much more information for this song than I would expect from you, so don’t be intimidated. Again, do as much as you can.


Gotye feat. Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”

This song is in a duple meter, with a moderate to fast tempo. The rhythm is grounded by a steady acoustic guitar part playing a low note on beats 1 and 3, and a short, staccato chord on beats 2 and 4.

The vocal melodies in this song are very different between the verses and the chorus. During the verse, Gotye sings with much lower pitches. Additionally, his melodic contour is relatively flat – he doesn’t move around a lot, and his dynamic is rather quiet. But during the chorus, he sings much higher pitches, and there is a large upward leap in every phrase. For the second verse, Kimbra mimics Gotye’s melody and dynamics for the first two lines. On the second half of her verse (“I don’t wanna live that way”), she varies the melody, singing louder and ascending her melody.

The verses are all made up of 4 lines, and each line is 4 measures long. The chorus is also 16 measures long, but is made up of 8 lines, each grouped in 2s, which means that it feels faster than the verses even though the tempo remains constant.

During the final few choruses (beginning at 3:02), the two singers intertwine melodies, with Gotye singing his previous chorus melody and Kimbra singing “ah”s and “oh”s as countermelodies.¬†Additionally, there’s a prominent xylophone melody, played at the very beginning of the song, and then recurring throughout, most prominently after the first chorus and then again during the final choruses.

The harmony is simple, just two chords alternating back and forth. During the chorus, a third chord is added, but the progression is still simple. The key is minor, and there is very little dissonance.

The accompaniment is very sparse at the beginning, starting with only the acoustic rhythm guitar and then the xylophone melody. There is very faint percussion in the background. At 0:48, a bass guitar enters, and a few notes are played on a synthesizer with an eerie, almost ethereal timbre. The drums become more active here too.

During the second verse, there’s an electric guitar playing faintly with heavy echo effects. The chorus has much fuller accompaniment, with the eerie synthesizer notes, more prominent drums and bass, and other instruments such as synthesized flutes and strings filling out the texture. Kimbra’s voice, when it enters at 2:32, is very light and breathy and fragile, but gains strength and power around 2:47.

One thought on “Elements Instructions

  1. hy

    How would we describe form of popular music? Since most songs have a chorus, and sometimes musicians change up elements in their verses. I saw you left it out in your example. I was just curious.

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