Volume 9 (2023)
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: A New Model for Sound-Alike Tunes”
Jeremy Orosz (University of Memphis)
Volume 9.6 (November 2023)
This video considers recent changes in the production of television “sound-alike tunes,” or musical cues that evoke familiar songs with the explicit goal of circumventing copyright law. Traditionally, most television sound-alikes conformed to a uniform set of principles: composers typically matched the instrumentation and rhythm of the source material while changing pitches and melodic contour. Composer Jeff Richmond’s sound-alike tunes on the 2017 third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt differ substantially in approach. Instead of using similar musical patterns to ensure recognition of the source, the numbers pair the sound with images based upon the music videos. When such visual cues are included, a sound-alike version can evoke the familiar tune through style or instrumentation, even when they have little musical material in common.
Keywords: television, copyright, Beyoncé, Sound-Alike Tunes, Netflix
“Poetry and Musical Organization in JIA Guoping’s The Wind Sounds in the Sky (2002)”
Yi-Cheng Daniel Wu (Soochow University School of Music)
Volume 9.5 (September 2023)
Instrumental music is often inspired by other art forms, such as poetry or painting; but what might a specifically Chinese manifestation of this practice sound like? JIA Guoping (b. 1963) presents one example in The Wind Sounds in the Sky (2002). This work participates in the tradition of instrumental works based on poetic texts. However, JIA provides a unique twist on this practice: he grounds his work on the orthography of a written Chinese script. He organizes the rhythmic structure according to strings of integers—which indicate durations—derived from the poem September (1986) written by the Chinese poet Haizi. My analysis focuses on Movement I.
The durational segment in each instrument is generated by one of the two numerical parameters derived from Haizi’s poem: 1) the number of Chinese characters in each verse; and 2) the number of strokes to write each Chinese character. The music unfolds an intricate texture woven by different layers of durational strings. The juxtaposition of these simultaneous strings not only articulates the structure of the bipartite form, but also musically engages with the sense of the eternal and rearward motion depicted in the poem. Examining how JIA integrates rhythms and forms sheds much light not only on the possible ways that instrumental works can interact with poetry, but also on methods by post-tonal practice that can be realized in a manner specifically Chinese in nature.
“Variations on a Theme by K. K. Slider: Memory and Play in Animal Crossing: New Horizons”
Nathaniel Mitchell (University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
Volume 9.4 (July 2023)
In Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020), players socialize, build, and explore an infectiously cartoony island community against a backdrop of equally infectious music. This backdrop consists of continuously looping tracks that change every hour, on the hour; producing a daily cycle of 24 compositions bound together through motivic cross-reference. In this video, I analyze the sonic materials of New Horizons’s hourly cycle against the compositional ethic of its music team, who “strove to create music that allows the listener’s own emotions and imagination to fill in the space between the sounds” (Ginsberg 2020). Motivic and topical references, I argue, act as triggers for space filling, inviting players to mentally link the sounds they are currently hearing to a network of meaning-laden memories. The musical cycle thereby becomes an open-ended musical sandbox, presenting players with a wealth of sonic materials to build into rich experiences.
“Interactions Between Music and Dance in Two Musical Theatre Tap Breaks”
Rachel Short (Shenandoah University)
Volume 9.3 (May 2023)
How do sounds made by dancers interact with rhythmic sounds in the music? When does the relationship between them change? Like music, dance has patterns, or “groupings,” that we can hear and see, particularly in tap dance, where the dancer’s feet intentionally create rhythmic sounds. Typically, choreography involves rhythmic groups that directly correspond to musical rhythms. But sometimes, movement patterns are at odds with musical patterns—non-alignments caused through metric displacement, groups with conflicting sizes, or asymmetrical patterns. The rhythmic complexity of these conflicts between music and dance can increase energy, and changing relationships between music and dance patterns can mark distinct sections. This video explores examples from two Broadway-style tap dance breaks (“I’ve Got Rhythm,” from Crazy for You, and the finale of Billy Elliot Live) to show how dancers’ on-stage movements and rhythmic tap sounds combine with musical rhythms and phrases to generate momentum and delineate formal structure.
Christine Boone (University of North Carolina, Asheville)
Volume 9.2 (March 2023)
This video essay describes a type of viral remix where someone takes a well-known song and alters it with a pre-defined process, or, an algorithm. I have called these tracks algorithmic remixes, and identify three sub-types. The first is the semi-algorithmic remix, where a human creator is necessary to apply an algorithm to a song effectively; for instance, there is a version of “Eleanor Rigby” by the Beatles where every pitch has been transposed to either an E or an F. The second type is the fully-algorithmic remix, where an algorithm could be applied to any song, and would produce the exact same result without a human creator making artistic decisions. An example is taking the song “Africa” by Toto and remixing it so that all of the lyrics are in alphabetical order. Finally, a song-specific algorithmic remix is based on a process that was designed for a specific song, and would not necessarily have the same effect on any song. For example, “Hey Ya!” by Outkast has been remixed so that the tempo gets faster every time André 3000 sings the words, “uh,” or, “alright.” These remixes serve to exaggerate a particular feature of a song, and can reveal something about that song through humor and irony.
Keywords: Remix, meme, viral, YouTube, music videos
“We are dancing, We are flying”: The Feeling of Flight in Dance Scenes from Recent Popular Film
Chelsea Oden (Adams State University)
Volume 9.1 (January 2023)
Flight is a popular visual metaphor in partner dance scenes, but what about these scenes evokes the feeling of flight? This video examines four partner dance scenes from recent popular film to explore how musical meter and timbre can cause even the most visually grounded dance to feel airborne. Drawing on theories of embodiment, I show how these scenes use triple and compound meters to create a sense of weightlessness through lilt and a sense of timelessness through lyric time. From a timbral perspective, I propose three sound envelopes—sparkling, lyrical, and buoyant—that reference embodied experiences to evoke starry skies, gliding flight paths, and a playful push and pull against gravity. Together, I argue, timbre and meter in partner dance scenes can sweep us off our feet, making tangible the famous words of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Prince and Cinderella: “We are dancing, We are flying.”