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My Musical Autobiography

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My Musical Auto-Biography
Music 103
Giovanni Classen
BMCC
Dr. Bethany Reeves

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To me, composers paint a thousand pictures through melody, rhythm, and artistic lyrical ability. As I’ve grown, music has been a major part of my life; whether through culture and getting together with family, grabbing an instrument (I played the “Güiro”, a Latin instrument, in which I grabbed a metal object which resembled a comb and brushed it against an object with notches in it creating a ratchet like sound.), and just playing into the night. When I was younger, I was also a member of the choir where I attended church and catholic school, being an alto until puberty kicked in. So whether I was conscious of it or not, music has always found its way into my life. I like to say that music is in my blood. My father plays the guitar and sings in nightclubs occasionally throughout the city. I have a cousin in Puerto Rico who plays the Cuatro, a Latin 10 string instrument resembling a guitar; he also sings, performs, and sells his music. Two brothers of mine along with myself are also heavily involved with music. Coming from a poverty stricken neighborhood riddled with drugs, violence, and death, we used Hip-Hop as a tool for expression, giving voice to the issues while at the same time painting a picture for others to see what it’s like within our world. A musical event that I would like to write about would be my first mixtape release party and debut of “The World Uplifted”. The date was May 20, 2012 and this event was the culmination of years of hardwork, determination, and internal struggles. I was, at the time, signed as a Hip-Hop recording artist with an independent record label called So Phenomenal Ent., LLC. My project “The World Uplifted” was an idea that through the power of my music, I can touch listeners’ lives and uplift them in ways unknown.
The event was particularly special because it was the day I took this idea of mine and made it a reality in other peoples’ lives. I chose four songs from the project to perform that day. The first song was “World on Fire”, a song stating that the Hip-Hop industry had become oversaturated with commercialism and it was up to independent artists such as myself to become lyrical messiahs, bringing the truth and the message back to the music. The second was “Blind to the Facts”, a song that bluntly called out the negative aspects of living in a poverty stricken neighborhood. We also touched on how our (my friend’s and my) eyes were open while others were blind. The third was “Identity Crisis”. This song touched on the concept of individuality and how the focus on commercialism was taking away from the originality and uniqueness of Hip-Hop artists today. It also sent the message that you should always be yourself, regardless of what others may think of you or say. The fourth and final song performed was “I’ll Shine”, a song whose message is that no matter what darkness lies ahead, I shall serve as the light for others and as a beacon of positivity; as a source of motivation and inspiration. They were performed at the Yippie! Café in the East Village; unfortunately, Yippie! Café has closed down since then. The reason I wanted to highlight this event and the message of each song is because it was the response of the crowd that made it so special for me. This night was my night, and the feeling of having a room overcrowded with people cheering for me and supporting my music is unforgettable. Before I stray away from this topic, I just wanted to say one last thing. The title song for the mixtape, “The World Uplifted”, is a song about how my son came into my life and changed it immeasurably in a profound way. Furthermore, it expresses my desire to take this feeling and use it to uplift others the way my life has been uplifted.

Now, I will choose a song whose message resonates with me deeply on many different levels and do a song analysis with it. The name of the song is “Path of Destruction”. It was written and sung by Candace Cottrell. The instrumental was created by Cam Marino. Both were mixed and mastered by Timothy “Septembers1st” Williams. I will begin with a brief subjective response. I really like this song because of the emotions it stirs within me. It creates a feeling of progress made; of being triumphant over struggles and hardships. It also reminds me that no matter how bad things are, they will get better. Another feeling that comes to mind is that of redemption, of making amends with one’s own past and beginning the journey towards better days. To put it succinctly, I enjoy it because it makes me feel good. Listening to the piece objectively, first I would like to touch on the rhythm of the song. It is a soulful song, thus it feels as if between “adagio” and “andante”. It has a steady, clear beat being carried by kick and snare drums. There is a clear meter that sounds like a duple to me. The instrumental is strong along with the vocals which I feel affects my subjective response by casting a sad undertone along with hope for the future. This song uses contrasting timbres in an excellent way. The singer is a female with a rich, full, and powerful voice. She maintains a relatively dark pitch throughout the song. Her beautiful singing voice is one of the main reasons why I really like this song. She covers a relatively low range. The instrumental behind her voice provides some unique timbres as well; which I feel add to the greatness of the song. There is a consistent kick and snare drum which carry the rhythm for the song. There is a spacey sounding-keyboard in the background which adds an excellent feeling to the song overall. If I had to relate the timbres to a genre I would say it sounds like Soul or Jazz. There are not too many instruments being played simultaneously, which reduces the density of the song and puts a spotlight on the vocals. There are changes in density, usually when the chorus comes in; the effect of it is that it adds to the power behind what is being sung as well as puts an emphasis on it. The singer using multiple tracks in the chorus contributes to the density, which does affect the dynamics of the song.
This song does not have a very wide dynamic range. It is consistent throughout with the exception of the chorus; which, due to the multiple tracks, adds to the overall density of this piece. There are subtle gradations in the dynamics of the piece as it tends to “crescendo” towards the end of the verse; which seems to ease the transition between verse and chorus. This is not one of those songs that need to be “blasting” in order to feel the desired effect. On the contrary, too much volume would distort the song and reduce listenability.
Many people who hear this song would probably like it because of its easygoing melody. If I had to describe the shape of the melody, I would have to say it looks like a sine wave, flowing forward, up and down in an unceasing motion. The melody does tend to sweep upward towards the end of the verse. The melody is present, but I do not feel it is a major feature of this song.
One of my favorite elements of this song is its harmony. It is very interesting because it sounds like the instrumental is in a major mode while the vocals are in a minor mode; which is in itself a greater form of harmony. The primary mode of the piece, however, would have to be a major mode.
The form of this song is pretty simple, as it follows an A, B, A, B, structure. A (music, chorus), B (different music, verse), A, B, etc.
The text is another one of the main reasons why I like and selected this song. The text in the verses are set in way that almost feels as if the singer is speaking to me. The chorus is memorable and the catchy melody that gets stuck in your head. All the words are clearly understood and are melismatic.
I used to believe the most important function of music was therapy; a tool to be used to assist in overcoming hardships and struggles. To me, it all stems down to the power of music and its ability to empower individuals by allowing them to express themselves freely, without restriction or restraint. I want to put an emphasis on the power of music because its function is not a unilateral one. Music is especially powerful because its function is one that changed to suit the individual and need in a given moment. I will give a few examples. Some people listen to fast-paced music to “get pumped” and work out. Others like to listen to party music to have a good time. I use music in a plethora of different ways. One way I use music is that I like to listen to baroque music during study because it is scientifically proven to improve the brain’s ability to learn and retain information. I also enjoy listening to binaural beats and isochronic tones on occasion because they assist in establishing specific brainwaves during my meditations. So let us return to the root of the question. What is the most important function of music? I believe the most important function of music is not concrete, but abstract. The most important function of music is that it gives us the power to create. It gives us the power to create in our lives the moods, emotions, and situations which we wish to experience. A Casanova would play soft romantic music accompanied by candle-light to create a mood of love prior to his proposal. The oppressed and downtrodden listen to music and songs of better days and a brighter future, in order to create hope in their lives to give them strength to continue onward. It is evident how powerful music truly is, and amazing how the same music can provide unique experiences to each of us as individuals. Some might ask: if you were a composer, what type of music would you create? Well, I am proud to say that I am a composer and song-writer of my own music. I’ve gone through several major transitions as an artist in my quest for self-discovery and actualization. But now, I am proud of how far I have come. The music I create and specialize in now is that of positivity. But not simply positivity. This music has magical powers behind it in that just by listening one’s life, thoughts, and energetic vibration can be uplifted. This is life changing music; and I am proud to be a part of a group of world changers coming together and uniting for a positive cause. Our motto is “A Collective Collaboration in Musical Consciousness”. My personal priority as to audience is for everyone to benefit from this music. I no longer have a desire for a commercial career as an artist or to “make it big and get rich”. No, my desires transcend such materialism. My priority is personal expression along with empowering the listener, opening their eyes to unseen truths. Looking back, music has played a near unimaginable role in my life; it was in writing this paper that I truly realize the significance of music in my life. Now that I think of it, I never truly discovered who I was until I baptized myself in music and reemerged created anew from the waves. With this feeling of empowerment, I will go forth and create music of my own; with the intention of uplifting the world, one ear at a time.…...

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