Comparison Of Performers – Alex Ross “Listen To This” Essay Sample
Alex Ross is an American music critic who has become a worker of “The New Yorker” magazine in 1996. Alex is the author of the book “Listen To This” which was published in 2011 and contained his thoughts and contemplations about different genres of music, as well as the stories of the performers. Thus, Alex writes in his book that he does not perceive the classical music right because its name makes everybody think of it as of something old and out of fashion; due to this fact modern groups and performers do not have the possibility to create music with the elements of classics as it would fail to gain popularity among the young generations. In this regard, two compositions are compared with the purpose of making analysis of main aims of the songs, determining performers’ moods and motivations (Ross, 2010).
Radiohead is a British rock band which was formed in 1985 and consisted of five participants, each contributing by his playing or singing elements to the general sound: lead vocals, backing vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, drums, bass and other instruments. The band was formed from the students of Abingdon School; there are two brothers in the group too. The first album of the group called “Pablo Honey” was released in 1993, the main song of it “Creep” with its guitar distortion before the chorus became a widely popular and favorite hit; there were critics who compared musical style of the band’s first album with the grunge music and named the band “Nirvana-lite”. The compositions of the first album also contained heavy guitar elements and falsetto performance of Thom Yorke; the band basically gave the concerts in British Universities and colleges aiming at the young auditory. The musical group later gained popularity in the United States and travelled with the concerts between the states. The popularity of the band in England rose through the 1990s when the performers applied electronic music and jazz elements. A year later the band released their second album “The Bends” which became more popular among the listening public due to stronger use of keyboards in new compositions, the atmosphere created on the releases by the three guitarists and the dense riffs on which the compositions of the album have been based. The third album of “Radiohead” called “OK Computer” was released in July, 1997 and consisted of melodic rock songs basically; the album is popular for such compositions as “Karma Police” and “No Surprises” which were the most successful considering number of listeners (Capitol, 2008). The band gradually started retreating from heavy sound acts and performances and transferred to more lite and calm performance. Some people consider the music of the band to be depressing, others find calmness in it; this rather depends on the life situation and condition of each separate person. The Paste in 2011 defined the group as the third best British group of all times after two legendary and famous worldwide bands the Beatles and the Rolling Stones (Nowak, 2013).
Another musical performer under analysis is Rudolf Serkin (1903-1991), one of the greatest piano interpreters of Beethoven who was born in former Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Czech Republic). Having outstanding musical talent, Rudolf was sent to Vienna at the age of nine to study piano there, and at the age of twelve he already gave his first concert in Vienna Philharmonic. Later, Rudolf Serkin lived in Berlin and Switzerland where he escaped when the Hitler’s Nazi regime started. Great musician gave his first concert in the United States in Washington in 1939. That year was the starting one for critics to analyze his performances: they determined the interpreter as a highly talented musician who possessed special technique and delicacy in his performance; critics also mentioned his music as such that is tonally pure. In 1939 Serkin moved to the United States where he gave piano lessons to the students of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia; he later became a director of the Institute. Through these years, Rudolf Serkin had been giving concerts all over the country and made a large amount of recordings and continued his solo career until his illness in 1989 (Philips, 2001).
Both performers have been rather popular in their times, they attracted their listening auditory by their musical creations. The two musical performers are very different though, their compositions have similarities as well as differences. Let’s consider and analyze two works of the musical authors that reflect their essence, motivations, strivings, feelings and emotions the most.
For comparison of two compositions of different performers I would like to take “Piano Sonata No. 14” of Rudolf Serkin and “Karma police” from the third album of the band “Radiohead”. The first which can be mentioned in this regard, is absolute difference of the two compositions under comparison, they have something in common which was illustrated in the songs’ motivation and inspiration derived by the performers from their own life experiences, their vision of life in total and probably pending issues of the society.
Both Rudolf Serkin and “Radiohead” use listener’s emotions to attract his mind and soul to their creations. Analyzing these two songs, critics said they were depressing and very sad. My vision of them is that they are both rather calm but not depressing, it depends on the way person leads his life, on his life credos and emotions he uses through his existence.
Rudolf uses minor in his composition which makes the performance soft, smooth and determines its main aim which is to soothe the listener. Though, there are some moments in the middle of the composition which seem to accelerate the pace of the performance itself, the musician uses stronger and louder tones than in the previous segments of it. Every human listening to any kind of music, has different thoughts on the issues that are pending for him at the moment; he pictures himself situations he wants to happen or some grieves and problems; the feelings, emotions and dreams he experiences at the moment of listening depend only on the genre or tone of the music. Rudolf’s composition aims to make a human picture some calm and happy or calm and unhappy (again, it depends on a person) situation, the tonality is quiet in the very beginning of the piano composition, while it proceeds, the tone becomes louder and louder, in connection with this, a person can imagine the most touching moments within the happy and positive situation, or some tragedy of the negative situation; this moment is the pick of the composition and the beginning serves the introduction as prologue in a book, and the end of the Rudolf’s composition simply provokes thoughts after the event which equals to epilogue of a book, the so called contemplations of life and situation itself.
One the most popular Radiohead’s composition of the third album released in 1997 is “Karma Police”. Radiohead’s performance of the composition shares sad tones with the previous composition under analysis; the song starts with the calm and quiet melody which at the same time sets a person for a dancing mood by its rhythm. Unlike the Rudolf’s “Piano Sonata No.14” the “Karma Police” has words in its composition and a listener would imagine the world and emotions outlined in the song rather than he can choose from those arising in his mind when he would listen to the Serkin’s classical music with no words, only melody and tones.
The Radiohead’s song itself is aimed at the modern generation, young people of the high school age who are not children any more, but not adults yet. The teenagers always try to tear away from their parents as quick as possible and live their own lives; it is very frequent when such age and wills are accompanied by the will to struggle and criticize other people having other behavior, values of principles; teenagers don’t understand people older than they are they think everybody wants to teach them everything. The composition is meant for such age with its words about the karma police which should arrest people looking in another way they do.
Considering two different compositions of the performers, we came to a decision that the classical music of Rudolf Serkin and the Radiohead’s music have something in common, they have a lot of differences though, the most obvious of which is that these two performers made their music for people of different generations: while the Rudolf’s music is for older people, thought-provoking and calm, the Radiohead’s melody aims at younger auditory; it is challenging, brave and risky.
Nowak, Raphaël. "Radiohead and the Resistant Concept Album. How to Disappear Completely." IASPM@Journal (2013): 100-02. Print.
The Golden Age of the Piano. Philips, 2001. Film.
Ross, Alex. Listen to This. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010. Print.
Radiohead. Capitol, 2008. Film.
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