Sweet Trouble

Rants, raves, book reviews and one girl's thoughts on life, the universe and everything.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Musical Trends and Musical Instruments

Musical trends are interesting. Now I'm not talking hip-hop or boy-bands, I refer more to the way chorale music uses voices. My choir recently did a wonderful piece that began with no words. The first two pages or so were all "ooooh-oohs" and "ah-aahhs" that decrescendo-ed (grew softer) and crescendo (louder) for effect. With the orchestral accompaniment it was lovely and a little goose-bump inducing. Oddly enough it reminded me of the Lion King soundtrack. Not that the two pieces were that similar, perhaps just one chord was enough for my mind to make the connection. So, of course, I had to break out the Lion King and give it a listen again.

Sure enough, there are several spots where there are no real words, yet the chorus provides a great deal of the mood, along with the orchestra. In fact, even when there are words in the soundtrack (the other stuff, not the Elton John songs) they have a deliberate African flavor. Often the percussive sounds are provided by the choir instead of the rhythm section. It is a great soundtrack, and often overlooked in favor of the more famous pop songs that the music shares space with on the disk.

In my musings on the human voice as an instrument in an orchestral environment, not a chorale one, I was reminded of my first experience with hearing it. I was but a third or fourth grader seeing, and later listening to John Williams score for The Return of the Jedi. The battle in the Emperor's throne room captivated me. I would listen and listen and try to figure out just WHAT instrument was making that sound. Bagpipes? Some other reed instrument, or weird bass flutes? Thus a child misses the obvious. Williams had employed a chorus to achieve the sound he wanted. Even today, after three more Star Wars scores, and countless others (Williams has been nominated for 45 Oscars, two scores are up for the award this year alone!) Return of the Jedi remains one of my all time favorites.

In any case, if someone ever happens to ask you if you play a musical instrument the answer is YES. We all play one of the greatest, adaptable and mystifying instruments of all.


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