Songs

Discussions regarding actual culture and history of Earth.
Solarius
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Songs

Post by Solarius » Wed 25 Apr 2012, 18:45

How do songs vary from culture to culture?
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Lambuzhao
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Re: Songs

Post by Lambuzhao » Tue 07 Aug 2012, 09:42

Big difference is scales. What sorts of pitches make a scale for singing. Are there whole/half/quarter steps? Is there more than one scale used? Do particular scales have associations to certain events, emotions or moods evoked in songs? If so, what?

Are certain "songs" more like rhythmic, tonal recitations (recitatives), or are they quite melodic. Are embellishments like melismata and polyphony expected and appreciated, or is adherence to discipline and standard forms more valued?

Who does the singing? Depending on genre - does one person sing, does a group sing (choral), is there an exchange like call and response (antiphonal)? Are certain people allowed to sing, while others not (depending on genre/song type).

Is the song a capella or accompanied by instruments? If so, which are preferred? Why are others taboo?

Are there certain times, moments, occasions when singing is expected? Conversely, are there moments when singing should not happen?

That's a start
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Re: Songs

Post by Khemehekis » Mon 13 Aug 2012, 07:58

Difference in languages makes for different rhymes in songs. Each language with rhyming lyrics has its own cliché rhymes. In English, we have love/sky above, night/hold me tight, fire/desire and friends/fun never ends. English has a lot of songs that couple "the way you walk" with "the way you talk", because "walk" and "talk" rhyme in English. In Portuguese, conversely, the word for love rhymes with the word for guitar and the word for song, so you get a lot of songs about playing love songs on the guitar.
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Re: Songs

Post by CarpeMors » Wed 19 Sep 2012, 22:17

Solarius wrote:How do songs vary from culture to culture?

Lyrical content can be quite different, for one thing. I listen to a lot of music in languages other than my native tongue and the styles are quite different. E.g., Chinese tends to be more poetic in its lyrics than English does, while Finnish songs usually are pretty depressing and heartfelt than the average American bubblegum trash that Ms. Spears vomits out. :P

Instrumentation is really important. Music can sound really different if it is electronic or acoustic, if it is stringed instruments or woodwinds, or brass. One of the downsides of the current Western trend in club/dance music is that electronica and very accented beats and rhythms have choked out other styles from the mainstream.

I can't emphasise scales enough. What most people are used to hearing are what is known as the Ionian and Aeolian modes (named after Greek Isles) commonly called the Major and the Minor (although this is also a technical term in musicology about whether a scale has a flat third tone or a natural third tone). The major is generally "happy" sounding and the run of the mill blah. Minor is "sad" "mysterious" or "agitating" and is also quite common for sad songs, but also for more upbeat songs, usually in Rock, R & B, rap/hip-hop.

There are generally 12 tones in an octave in Western music (24 in some Eastern scales, and even more in others). Using those 12 tones, one can build 12 scales. Here's the kicker: within those 12 scales there are 7 modes a piece. A layman's way of saying this is:

Imagine a piano keyboard, and starting on Middle C. You can construct a (technical term) major or minor scale, using halfsteps and wholesteps (the black and white keys on the piano). Going from C to C will get you the Ionian, the one everyone knows, going from an A to an A will get you the Aeolian, the other popular one. The others are:

Dorian: D E F G A B C D
Phyrgian: E F G A B C D E
Mixolydian: F G A B C D E F
Lydian: G A B C D E F G
Locrian: B C D E F G A B (Locrian will sound downright Alien to your ears, guaranteed)

Music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Feudal Times, all the way back to the time of the Greeks used these scales, along with cultural associations of what sort of mood they were supposed to generate in the hearer.

If you are working with a scale that has quarter or semitones (which you could imagine as notes between the keys of the piano, that just don't exist to be played) then your scales could have differing patterns, and typically, due to some math stuffs will have 12 notes to their scales, not 8).

The only problem is that to your ears most of this will sounds strange. But you can learn to appreciate it, if you listen to stuff that uses it long enough. And if you want to work on conmusic, I suggest at least including some non-Western elements in it, so as to not make it generally lopsided.

Best,

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Chagen
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Re: Songs

Post by Chagen » Wed 19 Sep 2012, 23:30

Lyrical content can be quite different, for one thing. I listen to a lot of music in languages other than my native tongue and the styles are quite different. E.g., Chinese tends to be more poetic in its lyrics than English does, while Finnish songs usually are pretty depressing and heartfelt than the average American bubblegum trash that Ms. Spears vomits out. :P
Your comparison is flawed. I bet those Finnish songs are of a completely different genre and therefore lyrical content than Brittney Spear's songs.

Every language has its bubblegum trash, it's just that most outside of that language never hear it.
Nūdenku waga honji ma naku honyasi ne ika-ika ichamase!
female-appearance=despite boy-voice=PAT hold boy-youth=TOP very be.cute-3PL
Honyasi zō honyasi ma naidasu.
boy-youth=AGT boy-youth=PAT love.romantically-3S
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Re: Songs

Post by mbrsart » Thu 20 Sep 2012, 04:31

You'd think that as somebody freaking studying music, I'd have a buttload to write. But sadly, I'm a theoretician, composer, and performer. Not a historian; I barely passed that effing class.

I tend to base my concultures' music off of various human cultures' music. The hra'vakh musical tradition is based on Western music on Earth, except that chant is used as the exclusive liturgical music. The xarisan musical tradition is based on Tuvan throat singing. But that's pretty much all I've worked on thus far.

One interesting thing I found is overtone singing, which one of my concultures uses for all their liturgical chants. Tuvan throat singing is probably the best example of cultural overtone singing. (I've put a bunch of links at the end.) If you've never heard of it, it consists of manipulating the vocal tract to produce different overtones, which are based on the harmonic series. You can do this by singing a note and slowly changing the vowel from /i/ to /o/ to /u/. I myself can perform the Khoomei, Sygyt and Dag Kargyraa styles.
Spoiler:
Seven styles of Tuvan throat singing - I used a similar style to the last one, Chylandyyk, for my bird-people, the xarisans, which I pretty much created with the Chozo in mind.
Three Rare Styles of Overtone Singing - Another video from the same guy. Of note is the last featured style, Khoor kargyraa, which combines ancient incantations with the subharmonics of kargyraa.
Huun-Huur-Tu live, an entire 78-minute concert demonstrating diverse Tuvan styles of singing as well as their instruments. Highly recommended.
Kargyraa singing technique - this style is the hardest to figure out, but once you do, it's awesome. I use it to augment the bass section in choir when I don't want to wreck my voice by dipping into Strohbass for extended periods of time.
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Xonen
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Re: Songs

Post by Xonen » Thu 20 Sep 2012, 11:56

CarpeMors wrote:while Finnish songs usually are pretty depressing and heartfelt than the average American bubblegum trash that Ms. Spears vomits out. :P
Yeah, right. :roll:

IOW, what Chagen said. And that's just using pretty mainstream examples; digging a bit deeper into American music would probably reveal poets a lot better than James Hetfield (and conversely, if I knew more about Finnish bubblegum pop than the thankfully minimal amount that I've failed to avoid being exposed to, I could probably name even more abominable excuses for lyric writing than this).
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Re: Songs

Post by Systemzwang » Thu 20 Sep 2012, 15:08

CarpeMors wrote: I can't emphasise scales enough. What most people are used to hearing are what is known as the Ionian and Aeolian modes (named after Greek Isles) commonly called the Major and the Minor (although this is also a technical term in musicology about whether a scale has a flat third tone or a natural third tone). The major is generally "happy" sounding and the run of the mill blah. Minor is "sad" "mysterious" or "agitating" and is also quite common for sad songs, but also for more upbeat songs, usually in Rock, R & B, rap/hip-hop.

There are generally 12 tones in an octave in Western music (24 in some Eastern scales, and even more in others). Using those 12 tones, one can build 12 scales. Here's the kicker: within those 12 scales there are 7 modes a piece. A layman's way of saying this is:
You can build way more than just 12 scales * 7 modes. You've, for instance, excluded the harmonic minor and its modes.
For non-musicians here, that relates to the "normal" aeolian mode like this:
A_BC_D_EF_G_A
A_BC_D_EF__G#A

then there's the melodic ascending minor
A_BC_D_E_F#_G#A
A_BC_D_EF_G_A <- natural minor

the melodic ascending minor can also be compared with the major scale:
A_B_C#D_E_F#_G#A <- major
A_BC_D_E_F#_G#A <- minor melodic ascending

Both of these have similar modes, so by combining the three of these, you have 21 distinct modes already.
And these are not theoretical things someone's come up with: they're in actual use in loads of ethnic music in eastern europe, and in arabic music as well. The ones starting at the fifth of these two:

E F# G#A BCb Db E are common in flamenco and in Jewish music:
EF G#A BCb Db E

In addition, there's hexatonal scales of a variety of kinds, some of which were in rich use in various eras or are in rich use in various musical styles. (One common such is the blues scale, A c d d# e g a, heard by anyone who's ever listened to blues. Another is the wholetone scale, features in the Simpson's theme and in many of Debussy's compositions), then you have octatonic scales (such as the dim scales, but also any number of other scales - the bebop ascending and bebop descending scales, for instance),...

Then there's the double harmonic ones, such as
A_BC__ D#EF__G#a
which also is used by actual musicians.

Music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Feudal Times, all the way back to the time of the Greeks used these scales, along with cultural associations of what sort of mood they were supposed to generate in the hearer.
But we also know the ancient Greeks used quartertones in some scales, and we know that early medieval music was purely pythagorean (hence, a wolf fifth had to occur, and its major thirds were so sharp as to be dissonant), we know renaissance music pretty quickly went into "meantone" (where you detune the fifth more than we do, so as to get a stack of four fifths add up to an almost perfect just intonation major third), but at times also into a temperament-style that seems to lack a name: having ten fourths add up to the major third. (C -> F(-2c) -> Bb(-4c) -> Eb(-6c) -> Ab(-8c) -> Db(-10c) -> Gb(-12c) -> Cb(-14c) -> E(-16c), the two-cent difference between our "fourth" and the fourth used in this system adds up, and the (-x) I give is the number of hundredths of a semitone that the tones differ from our standard tuning), which is pretty close to a perfect third, without having to alter the size of the fifths and fourths at all, but functionally a bit awkward, as the third is far off along the circle of fifths. Later, well-temperament - a compromise between pythagorean and meantone was used, and later, the well-temperament distribution of errors was equally distributed all over the scale and you got 12 tone equal temperament.

Also, there's some rather convincing arguments that the names of the modes, altho' names that did occur in greek antiquity for a number of modes, have been misapplied by medieval scholars ignorant of how Greek music worked. In part this is due to Pythagoras gaining too much popularity later on, whereas ancient philosophers that studied music empirically (unlike Pythagoras, who was mostly interested in some kind of mysticism of numbers) gave rather different scales.
If you are working with a scale that has quarter or semitones (which you could imagine as notes between the keys of the piano, that just don't exist to be played) then your scales could have differing patterns, and typically, due to some math stuffs will have 12 notes to their scales, not 8).
Uh, ... this is wrong. Most cultures that have a 20+ tone temperament tend to use scales of about 7 tones to them. Our scales use 7, not 8 tones as well (because the eighth tone is a repeated one). There's no "math stuffs" that will make a culture with a 24-tone temperament use 12-tone subscales prominently.

Other approaches, that start with numbers of tones that 12 can't divide also exist: five equal tones per octave, seven, 9, 12, 17, 19 and 31 have all been attested in human cultures. The Turks, Arabs and Indians did not use equal temperaments until relatively recently, but Just Intonation systems of various kinds where the distance from one tone to the next isn't necessarily evenly sized, but the frequencies form pleasing ratios.
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Re: Songs

Post by Tomos » Sat 14 Dec 2013, 21:39

I know that Japanese music focuses more on the melody whereas American focuses more on the singer. For years now I've always listened to far more Japanese music than any other type, which not everyone understands. I think with Japan you're either in or out, you need to be a certain type of person, which is why people I meet don't really fully embrace it.

Welsh music doesn't seem to have many fast-paced songs. It took a long time to find Welsh songs that were really what I wanted to hear seeing as Cerys Matthews' Welsh-language songs are non-existent on YouTube and at my age a folk song isn't really your cup of tea. Luckily I found the Welsh music blog.
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Re: Songs

Post by Ànradh » Sun 15 Dec 2013, 11:10

Studying Blues music might be a good starting point; it's interesting in that it attempted to reconcile various styles of rhythm based music using the natural harmonic series with the Western tradition of melody based music using the diatonic modes of twelve-tone equal temperament.
This starts to give a basic idea of how strangely rigid and wide-spread our music tradition's rules are, and how many ways they're 'violated' across the world.
(Plus, it's a great excuse to listen to Blues music. :D)
Edit: System's got some good stuff in there too.
Also, Carpe, metal musicians (such as myself) tend to use Locrian mode quite frequently, often alongside Phrygian (Well, assuming we're bothering to use a diatonic key at all, of course).
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Re: Songs

Post by Pirka » Tue 17 Dec 2013, 10:09

Tomos wrote:[A]t my age a folk song isn't really your cup of tea.
Mm.. since when is age the single determining factor for liking a certain kind of music?
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Re: Songs

Post by Ànradh » Tue 17 Dec 2013, 11:08

Pirka wrote:Mm.. since when is age the single determining factor for liking a certain kind of music?
I don't really have time to find it right now, but I do remember reading something about children preferring certain qualities in music; I'll look it up sometime between tonight and Thursday.
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Re: Songs

Post by Pirka » Wed 18 Dec 2013, 07:18

I know that the younger a human being is, the more tolerant he or she is to sounds and noises, which is why children are cool with banging pots with spoons all day, and their parents aren't as cool with it, so that might have something to do with it.

But I still think that Tomos' statement is sweeping and inaccurate. It can't be the only factor.

Ever since I started finding and listening to music on my own (that was about when I was ten), I always preferred world folk music to everything else.
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Re: Songs

Post by Tomos » Wed 18 Dec 2013, 14:06

I was just saying I couldn't find the type of music I wanted to listen to.
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Re: Songs

Post by Pirka » Wed 18 Dec 2013, 18:56

But what does age have to do with it?
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Re: Songs

Post by Tomos » Wed 18 Dec 2013, 23:39

Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I don't want an argument.
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Re: Songs

Post by Squall » Wed 25 Dec 2013, 01:03

In my culture, the singer is only an instrument. The glory belongs to the composer.
The voices are classified by type.
When there is a presentation of music, an orchestra is organized and any singer with the required type of voice can be chosen to sing.
English is not my native language. Sorry for any mistakes or lack of knowledge when I discuss this language.
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Re: Songs

Post by Creyeditor » Wed 25 Dec 2013, 01:16

I use a combination of pentatonic, twelve-tone and polyrythmic music in my conworld. There is no heptatonic music.
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Re: Songs

Post by Shemtov » Fri 05 Dec 2014, 10:56

It should also be noted that a lot of culture's folk songs are lyricless, instead using meaningless nonliguistic sounds, like Sami joiks or Jewish Nigguns.
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Re: Songs

Post by gach » Fri 05 Dec 2014, 21:07

It's not accurate to describe joiks as lacking lexically meaningful lyrics. They have a lot of non-linguistic material but they also use a fair share of lyrics in totally regular language. The commercially recorded material underrepresents this type of lyrics as it's intended for consumption both inside and outside the Saami speaking communities.
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