Beginnings: Exploring the Music of “Chicago”

In celebration of the New Year, here is Beginnings from the 1969 debut album of the rock band, Chicago. You might associate Chicago with 1980s ballads like You’re The Inspiration, produced during Peter Cetera’s tenure as lead singer. (That song, written by Cetera and David Foster, offers a fascinating study in continuous modulations built on third relationships). But for most of its history, Chicago has been rooted in a much different, uniquely jazz-inspired sound. From its inception, Chicago was a rock band built …

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Can You Hear Coldplay in Steve Reich?

Recently, as I was listening to the thrilling final four minutes of Steve Reich’s Double Sextet, I began to hear subtle echoes of Viva la Vida by the British alternative rock band, Coldplay. Take a moment and compare the pulsating rhythm and harmonic progressions in both examples and see if you agree. Interestingly, both pieces appear to have been written around the same time. (Viva la Vida was released on June 13, 2008 while the Double Sextet, written in …

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Musica Celestis: Three Pieces Inspired by the Harmony of the Spheres

It formed the ancient intersection of music, art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and mysticism. Originally developed by Pythagoras, the concept of the Harmony of the Spheres linked the movements of celestial bodies with universal vibrations. The sun, moon, and planets were believed to produce their own unique hum as they revolved around the earth. “Tones” of energy, expressed through mathematical relationships, manifested themselves in shapes and sounds. This supreme cosmic order was expressed in …

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Remembering Prince

Last Thursday, as news broke of the untimely death of Prince, we were all reminded of his enormous contributions, both as a cultural icon and as one of contemporary pop music’s most innovative songwriters. His work drew upon a wide variety of styles, including “funk, rock, rhythm and blues, soul, psychedelia, and pop.” In songs such as When Doves Cry, from the 1984 album Purple Rain, he turned the traditional structure of the pop song on its …

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David Bowie Meets Philip Glass

The groundbreaking work of David Bowie, who passed away earlier this week, left a profound mark on the world of rock music. But Bowie also influenced some of the twentieth century’s most important minimalist and experimental composers, and in some cases he was influenced by their work. In 1976, Bowie attended the European premiere of Steve Reich’s monumental Music for 18 Musicians. You can hear the circular, pulsating, mallet-driven patterns and rhythmic groove of Music …

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Clean Bandit’s Electronic-String Fusion

If you haven’t heard the British fusion band, Clean Bandit, take a moment and listen. Founded in 2009, the band has hit on an interesting blend of string quartet and electronic dance music. The group, which includes violinist Milan Neil Amin-Smith and cellist Grace Chatto, grew out of an undergraduate string quartet at Cambridge University. This article describes how Clean Bandit developed almost by accident-the result of experimentation with pre-recorded string quartet tracks. Dust Clears was released last June: …

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Pop Meets Classical

Recently, I ran across an interesting post by Kathryn Judd, a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra’s marketing team, called Rachmaninoff Goes Pop. It showcases famous Rachmaninoff melodies which were turned into pop songs.This got me thinking about how many other melodies from classical music have found their way into pop music. [typography font=”Cantarell” size=”28″ size_format=”px”]Stranger in Paradise[/typography] The first music to come to mind was the Polovtsian Dances from the opera Prince Igor by …

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