DECONSTRUCTING POP

For some bands, music is more than just a formula. Take a look at how three 21st century artists are inspired by elements of classical music.

BON IVER

"Babys"

In the 1960s, composers in downtown New York City such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass began writing a new kind of classical music. It was consonant and repetitive with a steady pulse, gradually transforming motifs and musical fragments. It was called minimal music.

Some of the consonant, repetitive and contemplative music of contemporary musical artists like David Bowie, Sigur Ros and Bon Iver is inspired by the techniques used by minimalist composers.



Bon Iver’s song, “Babys,” directly models Steve Reich’s monumental composition, “Music For 18 Musicians,” using gradual changes and waves of sound to put the listener in a trance-like state. Listen to "Babys" and then to "Music For 18 Musicians" in order to notice the striking similarities.

SAN FERMIN

“Daedalus
(What We Have)”

The Brooklyn based band, San Fermin, released their first studio album in 2013. The band layers its unique instrumentation to create a lush and beautiful tonal foundation.

The standard symphony orchestra has four main sections: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion. San Fermin’s eight-member ensemble has at least one musician in each of these categories.

The result is a stunning, orchestral soundscape. “Daedalus (What We Have)” opens with chords played by brass instruments, andstring instruments accompany the verses. Listen to how San Fermin strategically uses these instruments to elicit timbral colors throughout the song.

SUFJAN STEVENS

"Come on!
Feel the Illinoise!"

Sufjan Stevens is known for his poetic and deeply symbolic music. But Stevens didn’t major in poetry--he majored in oboe. Stevens’ music has rich orchestrations and mixed meters. Listen to the unique sound of the oboe. Now listen to how Stevens layers many sounds and instruments to create his music.

One another interesting aspect of Stevens' music is his use of rhythmic complexity.



An example of the oboe

Most popular music is written using patterns of four, such as Katy Perry’s hit song, “Firework.” But Stevens uses patterns of five, six and seven in his music illustrating his musical prowess and ability to communicate unique and complex musical ideas.

SO WHAT?

Does this mean you should stop listening to Katy Perry?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

But here’s to hoping that next time when you listen to a new song or artists, you think about what types of sounds you are hearing. Sometimes the different layers that make up the song are just as interesting as the final result. Now go out there and listen to some music!