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AOS4

CapercaillieRag DeshKoko
AoS 4 explores music which takes influences from different cultures across the world. The first piece is from close to home, a song by the group Capercaille, Skye Waulking Song, from the 2000 album, Nadurra.

 

Capercaille – their musical style

Capercaille are a Scottish folk rock band. Their music mixes elements and instruments from both these musical styles to form a fusion of them.

By reading the profiles of each group member, it will give you an idea of the range of instruments the band play.

Task

  1. Find out more about the band by exploring their website. How did the band form? How many albums have they released?
  2. Have a listen to other songs from the album, Nadurra by clicking here. This should take you to Grooveshark. If not, open the Grooveshark page, and type in Nadurra in the search box, you’ll find it! Skye Waulking Song

What is this song about?
The word ‘waulking’ mean ‘working’ and this song would have been sung traditionally by women producing cloth. The song is a lament, taken from a Victorian collection of Scottish verses, sung by the wife of Seathan. Seathan was the son of the king of Ireland, and his life story is told in the lines of the song.

This song is very repetitive, so understanding the basic sound and parameters of the music is important:

Basic musical features

  • E minor mode
  • 12/8 time signature
  • Mixture of traditional folk instruments with Western pop instruments, and recording techniques
  • Pentatonic scale for the vocal line
  • Simple chord sequence
  • Use of heterophonic texture

Instrumentation
As mentioned above, there are two distinct categories of instruments, which you will be expected to know in the listening exam:

Trad folk: violin (fiddle), accordion, uillean pipes (like the bagpipes), vocals (sung in Gaelic), string bass (pizzicato), bouzouki (Greek acoustic guitar)

Western: Wurlitzer piano (earlier keyboard), drum kit, synth (with tremolo effect)

Make sure you can spot which is which, and know which category they both fall into.

Harmony and Tonality
E minor mode is the key, and the harmony is almost all diatonic, can be split into three distinct uses in the song:

  • Bar 1-24: Em – G alternating every bar
  • Bar 25-44: C – G – Em – G, one chord per bar
  • Bar 45-end: a little more variety – Am9 – Em9 – Em G before reverting to the previous pattern, and fading out using C – G alternating.

Melody
There is one basic vocal phrase, which is repeated over and over, with subtle variations, lasting four bars. The melodic scale is entire pentatonic. There are a variety of ‘improvised’ vocal ornaments added freely though out the song.

Rhythm and Metre
The song is in 12/8, with a lilting gentle rhythmic feel. There is some syncopation in the introduction. During the first eight bars, the meter isn’t established clearly. The bpm is about 60.

Texture
The texture is basically homophonic throughout, with a couple of small variants – in the opening section, there is a hint of dialogue and imitation between the Wurlitzer piano and bouzouki riffs, and the texture in the instrumental section is heterophonic – the pipes, violin and accordion all play slightly varied versions of the same melody over the top of each other, making it nearly, but not quite, monophonic – this is what heterophonic texture is.

Structure
There is no fixed traditional ‘verse – chorus’ structure used here, given the almost constant repetition of the vocal phrase. However, there are some distinctive sections, as mentioned above:

Bars 1-8: Introduction, in which the tonality and pulse of the music are ambiguous, before the voice enters.

Bars 9-24: Voice enters, with the song slowly building around more fixed patterns.

Bars 25-36: Full instrumentation, with kit playing a regular rhythmic pattern.

Bars 37-44: Instrumental section, similar in style to the previous section, with one-bar vocal break in bar 44.

Bar 45-end: Varied repetitions of the vocal riff, repeating to fade.

Notice each section is built in blocks of four bar units, formed from the length of the chord sequence and vocal phrase.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

The second piece in AoS 4 is Rag Desh, from India. There are three different versions of the piece to listen to and study.

Understanding How Indian Music Works

Indian music is in some respects built in the same way as Western music, but different terms are used to describe the musical elements. Hopefully this basic table below will set you going, and the more you study further down the page, the more detail we’ll go into.

Indian Term Western Term
Rag Scale
Taal/Tal Rhythm
Sargam Major
Sa Tonic
Alap Intro
Gat Main section
Tan Fast ornament
Meend/Mind Pitch bend

We are going to learn about the differences between all three, and the musical ideas which bind them together.

What is a Rag?
A rag is the Indian classical music equivalent of a scale. However, unlike a ‘normal’ scale, it doesn’t have to move by step, doesn’t have a set number of pitches in it, and is sometimes played differently, depending on whether you are going to go up or down in pitch.

There are hundreds of different types of raga, most of which have some sort of cultural, ceremonial or spiritual reference, possibly to do with the time of year or day, an important occasion such as a religious event or a personal one, like a wedding.

Rag Desh
Rag Desh is a specific type of rag, used to compose a piece of music for the monsoon season, which looks like this in traditional notation:
Snip20140228_1

Notice it does’t move by step on the way up, and is slightly different on the way back down.

The key note or tonic in Indian music is called the sa, and the tonal system (a bit like major or minor) is the sargam.

The three pieces that we have to study are all based on Rag Desh.

What is the tal?
Tala are rhythm patterns. There are several that we need to remember:

Rupak (3+2+2=7)

Keherwa (2+2+2+2=8)

Jhaptal (2+3+2+3=10)

Ektal (2+2+2+2+2+2=12)

Tintal/Teental (4+4+4+4=16)

They are a bit like time signatures, and most Indian pieces change tal at least once in the piece.

In addition to these, there are occasional tihai patterns used, which are specific syncopated, repeated rhythm patterns. They sometimes signify the end of a section.

Structure
There is a set pattern to the structure of an Indian classical piece:

Alap – slow, no pulse, improvised using the rag

Jhor – second section, slightly faster

Jhalla – third section, slightly faster again

Gat (Instrumental only)/Bandish (with vocals) – main section, split into shorter sections, when the tal changes.

None of the Rag Desh versions have a jhor or jhalla, but EDEXCEL still expect you to know these terms.

Instrumentation
For pictures of all the instruments listed below, click here to find them all.

The tabla are a pair of drums, which sit on a little ‘donut’ on the floor. One drum is slightly larger than the other.

The sitar is a stringed instrument with frets, plucked. It also has a layer of sympathetic strings, which vibrate, creating a drone in the background.

The sarod is similar to the sitar, but has no frets and is smaller. Despite this, it is lower in pitch.

The sarangi is a bowed instrument, higher in pitch than the sitar, a bit like a violin.

The esraj is also bowed, like a violin.

The bansuri is an Indian flute.

The tambura is a drone instrument, with four strings.

The pakhawaj is a double-headed drum.

Other Musical Elements
A tihai is a syncopated riff, often repeated at section endings.

A tan is a fast-moving scale passage (don’t mix this word up with tal).

Rag Desh Version 1

This is the simplest of the three, scored for sitar and tabla drums.

The piece starts with a free alap, before progressing into a lively gat.

The alap has no metre (regular beat). The sitar plays freely, improvising around the rag.

The gat is a fixed, ‘prearranged’ section, which has a Jhaptal rhythm pattern for most of it, switching to a tintal towards the very end.

For detail of what happens throughout this, use your score – to write it all again wouldn’t provide any extra insight.

Rag Desh Version 2

This version, Mhara janam maran, is a bhajan (song). It is written for voice, sarangi, sarod, pakhawaj, cymbals and tabla.

The alap contains a freely metered section based loosely on the chorus of the song.

The bandish has a regular structured pattern to it, alternating between a vocal verse and chorus, followed by an instrumental solo, using either the sarod or sarangi. This pattern is repeated three times. The tal is a fast keherwa tal.

For detail of what happens throughout this, use your score – to write it all again wouldn’t provide any extra insight.

Rag Desh Version 3

This is the longest of the three, and the most complex. It is written for bansuri, esraj, tambura and tabla.

The piece starts again with an alap. This is a significantly longer section than in the previous two versions. It starts with a drone on the tambura, and the bansuri then starts a series of elaborate improvisations, building ideas from short motifs based on the rag. The melody is quite fragmented at the start, but becomes more continuous as the section develops.

The gat is split into two, each with a different tal. The first gat is a slow one, with a rupak tal. The tabla and the bansuri take it in turns to play some elaborate improvisations against a simpler part on the other instrument. Tihais are used to mark the end of sections.

This leads into the second gat, in ektal time. Lots of fast moving bansuri passages provide the main ideas. This includes using tans several times. Again, tihais are used at the end of the piece.

For detail of what happens throughout this, use your score – to write it all again wouldn’t provide any extra insight.

Help!

Because these pieces are completely different from everything else we’ve studied, it needs a slightly different approach. What you need to be able to do is apply the information above to the specific part of the piece that you are played in the exam. This will take practice and time, but it is necessary to answer the questions well.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document document should help you with the process.

The final piece of the whole course is Yiri, by the group Koko, who are from Burkino Faso.

Features of African Music

Although this is a bit of a generalisation, there are two distinct styles of African music: the sound of north African music is heavily influenced by the Middle East, whereas music south of the Sahara desert has a totally different sound. It is this sound that is explored in this piece by the percussion and vocal group, Koko.

The following are typical features of sub-Saharan African music, and are all present our Set Work:

All of this music is passed down from generation to generation using an oral tradition (as is the case with Rag Desh). Much of the music is associated with different tribes, and would be used to mark different occasions during the year, or during people’s lives – anything from rainy season to weddings.

  • Rhythmic ostinatos, which loop in the drum parts over and over.
  • These patterns often interlock, with the impression of a continuous rhythm being created by joining together two or three distinct patterns.
  • Syncopation is common in the rhythm patterns.
  • The drummers are led by a master drummer (a bit like a conductor would lead an orchestra).
  • The music is tonal – although their system of notation wouldn’t rely on them writing melodic patterns down – music is passed on using an oral tradition. Older generations teach younger generations.
  • Singing uses a call and response texture/melodic pattern – a solo singer sings a short phrase, which is then imitated by a group of voices, singing homophony (chords) or monophony – a single unison response. All of the responses in this Set Work are in unison (therefore monophonic).
  • Sometimes other melodic instruments are used to create further short ostinatos over the top of the rhythmic patterns. Again these are tonal.

Musical Features of Yiri

Instrumentation

Yiri uses the following instruments:

Untuned percussion: djembe – shaped like a wine goblet, with a skin on top; donno – hourglass ‘talking drum’; dundun – double headed drum with a skin on either end.

Playing Techniques

This is a very common question on the listening paper, but is relatively easy. The djembe and donno are both played with the hand, whereas the dundun is played using curved sticks.

The image on this webpage shows djembes and a donno, and also has some good background information about African drumming in general.

Tuned percussion: the balaphon is the only tuned instrument that appears in this piece. It is the central African version of a xylophone. They are made in different sizes so they can play in different octaves.

Playing Techniques

It is played using two sticks. It is a melodic instrument, and not often used to play chords. As the instrument can’t create a long sustained sounds, you perform long notes by playing a roll. You can hear this really clearly at the start.

Voices: in this piece, all the voices are male. There is one lead singer which calls, and all the other voices respond in unison. The response is usually an exact copy of the call.

Melody/Tonality
Sub-Saharan African music is tonal, and this piece is built on a series of diatonic melodies. All of the balaphon music and vocal lines are diatonic. They move mainly by step. There is no harmony at all in this piece.

Rhythm and Tempo
The music has a strong, regular and fast pulse, after the slow introduction. The drums have interlocking and syncopated rhythmic patterns, which are all repeated ostinato patterns. Once the drum patterns start, they don’t break at all until the final section of the piece in the last few bars.

Texture
There are two different aspects to the texture:

The drum texture is polyrhythmic – lots of different interlocking rhythms over the top of each other.

The melodic lines are a mixture of monophonic and heterophonic textures. (Heterophonic texture is where two or more parts perform slightly different versions of the same melody at the same time – this applies to the balafon parts, and not the singing.)

Structure
There is no set structure as such, in terms of an order of letters, but this diagram below gives a good indication of the varying lengths of sections and a brief description of the music within them.

Blue boxes – balafons
Green boxes – vocals
Red boxes – drums
Black boxes – time line

Snip20140323_1

If the image is too small to read, then try clickinghere to download it as a Word document – you could print it out then and use it in your revision.

To practice and improve your understanding of the piece, you should try choosing a section of the music and, using DR G SMITH, try to make at least one comment for each of the significant musical ideas in the piece.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with this process.

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