Culture Magazine

From Mahler to Meat Loaf

By Superconductor @ppelkonen
Rock's Roots in the 19th Century Art Song

From Mahler to Meat Loaf

A modern composer: Jim Steinman.


Today, the 19th century art song (lieder in German, chanson in French) is not as popular a form of so-called "classical" music as the opera or the symphony. Art songs are small and intimate, micro-pictures and stories that last from three to seven minutes...wait...doesn't that sound like a description of rock and roll radio?
These compact works by composers like Schubert, Schumann, Berlioz and Wolf are essential to an understanding of the development of Romantic music. But you could also look at them as ancestors of the modern rock song as developed in the last half a century. Like rock songwriters, composers of art songs were interested in breaking new ground, ignoring the constraints of form to create original musical settings that resonate today.

Schubert's "Der Erlkönig" which has some of the drive and drama of rock.Performed by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.For the last 50-odd years, the rock world has been blessed with a surfeit of good songwriters, from the Brill Building composers to the sandbox fantasias of Brian Wilson. Wilson also incorporated complex harmonies, orchestrations and oddball electronic instruments like the Theremin on his masterpiece "Good Vibrations."
The Beach Boys: 'Good Vibrations' from the aborted Smile project.The team of Lennon and McCartney, and occasionally Harrison, actually absorbed classical influences (largely through their producer, George Martin) and studio techniques that were originally created for the preservation of operas and symphonies on vinyl. By the way the idea for this song came from a circus poster.

The Beatles: "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite" from Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.Folk music developed in North America, where "folkies" like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger gave way to Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell. Those three artists also struck out in new and different directions: Dylan plugged in, Neil un-plugged and Joni worked with jazz bass god Jaco Pastorius. Like the composers a century before, songwriters put the importace of art over the happiness of their audiences or even commercial success:

Neil Young pushes the envelope. "Sample and Hold" from Trans © 1982
Like 19th century lieder, some rock songs are often based on poetry or literature. Heavy metal bands (Iron Maiden, for one) regularly raid the Oxford Book of English Verse, producing songs like "The Trooper", (Tennyson) and "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" (Coleridge):

Iron Maiden performing 'The Trooper' from Death on the Road.These poems get rewritten into elaborate musical arrangements of power and bombast, much like the orchestral songs of Berlioz or Mahler. And speaking of bombast, the songs of Jim Steinman combine Wagnerian chord progressions with the '50s songwriting sensibility of Lieber and Stoller. He even rewrote some of his songs for a German musical called Tanz der Vampire, which brings things full circle:

Jim Steinman's "Gott is tot" from the musical Tanz der Vampire.This song was originally in English and called "Original Sin."Today, the music of a century ago continues to influence what we put into our IPods. In between outfits, Lady Gaga has repeatedly demonstrated the influence of her own classical training. Metal has its share of heldentenors. And classical instrumentalists have even tried their hand at reworking pop songs, like these guys: 2Cellos, covering Michael Jackson.



You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • From the Archives: Solargraph

    From Archives: Solargraph

    This image shows three months in a photo (December 2009-March 2010). Perhaps the most amazing thing about it is that my mum let me stick two beer cans to her... Read more

    By  Carolineld
    CULTURE
  • Pictures from Sleeping Beauty

    Pictures from Sleeping Beauty

    (Aurora and her prince) (Me) (We get pretty crazy...) (Me) (Aaaaand the exhaustion hits) (Me on the right) (Me) (Haha... Me in the dark blue leotard...) (I'm... Read more

    By  Ballerinablogger
    CULTURE, DIARIES, FITNESS, LIFESTYLE
  • From Altschwabing to Manitoba

    From Altschwabing Manitoba

    Schwabing lay at the heart of Munich's artistic creativity in the years before and after WWI. In about two minutes one can walk past the former Schwabing... Read more

    By  Praymont
    CULTURE, PHILOSOPHY
  • Retiring from Bathroom Duty

    Retiring from Bathroom Duty

    One of my colleagues was asked during a recent presentation about when she should stop helping her son wipe himself after using the bathroom. When she asked... Read more

    By  Slattenk
    FAMILY, PARENTING
  • Notes from Cambodia

    Notes from Cambodia

    The smell is overwhelming, causing flashbacks to Thailand and nearly stunning me. Unique to Asian towns this smell is hard to describe and must be experienced. ... Read more

    By  Flemmingbo
    DESTINATIONS, TRAVEL
  • Learning from Baseball Photos

    Learning from Baseball Photos

    There are probably a thousand reason why this time of year is great for baseball fans, players, and coaches. One of the things I look forward to is all the grea... Read more

    By  Meachrm
    BASEBALL, LIFE COACH, SPORTS
  • Monday Musings from Dubai

    Monday Musings from Dubai

    TAKEAWAY: Monday February 28, not just another day for me. ALSO: Assorted items, the new WoodWing application, new font for La RepublicaAnother Peter Pan arrive... Read more

    By  Themarioblog
    GADGETS, MEDIA, TECH

Paperblog Hot Topics