Saturday, October 18, 2008

Zippy Zildjians

A composer is a guy who goes around
forcing his will on unsuspecting air molecules.

Frank Zappa


I fell in love with classical music at a young age. I thought composers were the grandest possible human beings ever. As I grew and studied music I became even more enamored and fascinated by it and am still to this day. In some ways it's the most important thing in my life.

HARMONY: I found the whole process of chord progressions a difficult but very rewarding study. I learned how chords were made from basically three tones in a scale, how they related to each other and how they defined the movement of a piece of music. That's why it's called "harmonic progression." I learned how a serious piece of music will modulate from one key to another by finding a common chord. And how a piece will go from one key to a totally unrelated key by modulating to a different key and from there to the new one. (I hope that makes sense.) Most popular music keeps it's modulations down to a minimum.

COUNTERPOINT: I learned how a melody can have a counter melody playing in harmony but with a different rhythm. I learned how those two melodic lines relate to each other, rhythmically and harmonically. I learned two, part, three part and fiendish four part counterpoint (which, unless you're Bach or Beethoven, will keep you awake at night). There is very little counterpoint in popular music, but quite a bit in Jazz and some show music. If you want to know what counterpoint is listen to a Bach fugue and try to fallow all the parts at once.

RHYTHM: I learned to distinguish one type of beat from another Basically rhythm comes in 2/4, 3/4 or 4/4 time. All music scores are divided up into measures and each measure has a number of beats: 2, 3 or 4. In the early 18th Century some composers wrote with 12 beats to the measure. That's rare today, but what isn't rare is switching from one count to another, i. e. going from measures of 4/4 time to 3/4 time and back again. It happens all the time in concert music these days but not so much in popular music, although the Bee Gees did it. Another innovation in rhythm is the use of 5/4, 7/4 and even 11/4 measures. There are three fairly famous cases of the use of 5/4: the Second Movement of Tchaikovsky Symphony #6, Dave Brubeck's Take Five and a song called Sensitivity from the Broadway musical Once Upon A Mattress.

FORM: When most people think of music they think of songs. But songs are more about lyrics than tones, harmonies or rhythms. In Rap Music the music has practically disappeared. But there is a rich catalogue of musical forms that have delighted listeners and tantalized composers through the years, too many to name.

Okay, what's a Zildjian you ask? In the early 17th Century an Armenian alchemist while attempting to make gold, mixed a special combination of metals that produced something that had a particularly clear and beautiful ring to it. So he started manufacturing cymbals, those round metal things that sing, ting, ring and crash. The recipe for making the cymbals has passed down through 14 generations of Zildjians. It is a closely guarded secret. The Zildjians quickly set up shop in America. They are officially the oldest family-owned business in America. The Zildjian heirs are still producing their cymbals according to the original secret recipe and their cymbals are all over the world. No respectable percussionist, whether in a symphony orchestra, a jazz group or a rock band, would ever go on the stage without Zildjian cymbals. And that's a fact. The next time you see a drummer with a rock or jazz band, or an orchestra performance where the guy bangs the cymbals together and holds them up, you can bet all the money you've got on you they are Zildjians.

DB - Vagabond Journeys


krissy knox said...

Thanks for increasing my vocabulary, DB! Now I know what a Zildjian is!

I played percussion in junior highschool, in the school band, and took my turn at the cymbals. I never checked to see if they were Zildjians, though. Perhaps I held famous cymbals without even knowing it!

Are you still awake like me?

Krissy :)

Beth said...

I actually know about Zildjians. In most rock mags, you'll see lots of ads with various drummers saying that they use Zildjians. However, I didn't know the history behind them, so thanks for the additional information!


a corgi said...

I enjoyed reading about the chord progressions; my hubby being a musician has explained this to me before in the past


Stuart said...

excellent thank you.
Not heard that quote from Zappa before

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

Thanks for sharing the information about the oldest american family owned company, that is very interesting.

Joyce said...

As usual, very informative. I like most kinds of music, classical among them. Nice to learn what Zildjians are.
Hugs, Joyce

Leigh said...

A very educational entry. I've always loved music, just don't have the talent or the patience and memory to play it.
:) Leigh

Rose~* said...

Fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing, DB -