Musical Aesthetics

In this blog post I will be evaluating the aesthetic differences between two songs by different artists and of different genres. The aesthetics of music greatly influence the impression a particular piece has on the listener and also the type of person who chooses to listen to it. For example, if an individual prefers to listen to the fast electric guitar and drum playing of an 80s thrash metal band one would assume they won’t be as into the ‘fun’ beats and synth sounds of one of today’s electro-pop bands. Though the two songs I’ve chosen to analyse for this piece aren’t of drastically different genres, they are very different aesthetically and I believe the intended listener of each would not be the same.

Deep Sea Divers

Artist: Darwin Deez

Album: Darwin Deez

Release Details: Released in 2010 by Pod

Genre: Alternative/Indie-pop

This appears to be quite a simple, consistent song with its 122BPM and simple, constant drumbeat. The initial electric guitar plays a strumming pattern similar to the drumbeat leaving short silences between each strum/beat when the vocal isn’t present. The introduction of the electric guitar riff in the second verse adds to the intended aesthetic of the song. This aspect of the song has perfectly achieved the metaphorical lyrics’ proposed aesthetic of deep sea diving. The electric guitar’s reverb is really what makes it, giving off that feeling of being under the ocean. The deep sea diving being spoken of is representative of the fragile and failing nature of the relationship being described in the song.

Sailing

Artist: Christopher Cross

Album: Christopher Cross

Release Details: Released in 1979 by Warner Bros Records Inc.

Genre: Soft-Rock/Yacht-Rock

This song features a short orchestral introduction leading into a very mellow verse. At 75BPM the whole song is quite slow and drifting, giving an actual feeling of sailing. This is mostly achieved through a slow and simple drumbeat and a constant, reverberant electric guitar riff. The reverb applied to the vocal positions it further back in the mix for most of the song. Chimes are also a feature; being played and panned from side to side each time they’re ‘struck’. Though there are many other instrumental aspects to this song, for example the various percussive elements (shakers, bells etc.), keys, bass guitar and strings, the aforementioned instrumental and technical features are the main contributors to the song’s dreamy, sailing aesthetic. Christopher Cross actually wrote this song about a time when he’d go sailing with a friend to “get away from the trials and tribulations of being a teenager”. He’s greatly achieved the aesthetic of his lyrics through the rest of the song’s musical aspects.

Comparison

The instrumentation of Sailing is the most obvious contributor to its aesthetic. The transitional layering of instruments makes the song more complex than Deep Sea Divers. Reverb is another defining aspect of both songs, being applied where necessary to add to the effect of each song, most notably on the electric guitars. Another notable element is Cross’ vocal being further back in the mix with quite a heavy application of reverb. The vocal in Deep Sea Divers is very dry and present in the mix; a technique quite typical of the indie-pop genre it belongs to. Most of the instruments are very present compared to those of Sailing, which are very layered, with those layers alternating occasionally throughout the song. Being smooth, mellow and actually featuring lyrics about sailing, Sailing is the definitive yacht-rock song. The song is highly polished with a smooth aesthetic as most yacht-rock songs are. Deep Sea Divers, on the other hand, is of a slightly lesser production value. The term ‘Indie’ came about as artists under this name were produced and released by independent record labels, not bigger commercial labels. These independent labels obviously don’t have as much money to spend on the production of music so of course the records they release aren’t going to be at as high a standard as the bigger labels e.g. Warner Bros. Records who released Sailing.

Whether it was intended or not, Sailing is a yacht-rock song. This genre was widely adopted by wealthy folk who, we can picture in our minds, enjoyed the music whilst relaxing on their yachts, drinking champagne. Deep Sea Divers is an indie pop song, made for the fun-loving youth of today who appreciate Darwin’s honest vocal, simple instrumentation and poppy beats. The instrumental and technical aspects of Sailing and Deep Sea Divers are the biggest contributors to their aesthetic qualities making them perfect examples of their given genres.

References

About Yacht Rock. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.reallysmoothmusic.com/about-yacht-rock/

Common Questions. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.christophercross.com/christopherCrossFaq.html

Darwin Deez Lyrics. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/darwindeez/deepseadivers.html

Gracyk, T. (n. d.). The Aesthetics of Popular Music. Retrieved from http://www.iep.utm.edu/music-po/

Hann, M. (2010). Darwin Deez: Darwin Deez. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/music/2010/apr/08/darwin-deez-cd-review

Indie. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indie

iTunes Preview: Christopher Cross, Christopher Cross. (n. d.). Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/christopher-cross/id343437126

iTunes Preview: Darwin Deez, Darwin Deez. (n. d.). Retrieved from https://itunes.apple.com/au/album/darwin-deez/id367316524

Roberts, J. (2010). Darwin Deez. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/darwin-deez-20100422-tf5k.html

Rodriguez, M. (2011). Darwin Deez – Darwin Deez. Retrieved from http://whywouldyoulistentothat.com/2011/05/23/darwin-deez-darwin-deez/

Sailing by Christopher Cross. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=4897

Schlansky, E. (2011). Writer of the Week: Darwin Deez. Retrieved from http://www.americansongwriter.com/2011/02/writer-of-the-week-darwin-deez/

Tempo Tap. (n. d.). Retrieved from http://www.tempotap.com/

White, P. (2012). Vocal Production: Contemporary Mixing & Processing Techniques. Retrieved from http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb12/articles/vocal-production.htm

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