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By Mr. Richard “Nick” Noble, ’76, Communications Department
What is Folk Music?
Editor’s Note: This article was previously published at WICN.org.
Essays with questions for titles can be annoying. They are often an excuse for the author to preach his or her opinion with passionate, proselytizing vehemence as if picking a fight with potential readers genuinely curious about the answer. I hope this won’t be one of those, but quite honestly I can make no guarantees. If I had a dollar for every time I have been asked this question in the twelve-plus years I have been hosting THE FOLK REVIVAL, I would have retired a rich man long ago. For a long time, I stopped trying to answer the question “What is Folk Music?” because when I did, it invariably started an argument. People, it seemed, almost always asked the question having their answer already in mind. And their answers—strongly held opinions and beliefs—were often quite disparate.
Go ahead: Google it. Even everyone’s go-to, Wikipedia, can’t make up its mind. The very first line of its “Folk Music” entry has to equivocate:
This article is about traditional, non-commercial folk music. For the 20th-century style associated with a wide variety of subgenres, see Contemporary folk music. “Folk Songs” and “Folksinger” redirect here. For other uses, see Folk Songs (disambiguation) and Folksinger (disambiguation). (Wikipedia)(more…)
By Stephanie Moon, VI Form
Charity Concert for Zambia
The pads of my fingers were pressed against hard coils of wire, the Achilles heels of my feet were scruffed from the constant wear of dress shoes, and the lobules of my ears were vibrating to the waves of different pitches. My friends and sister were also going through the same experience; we were all performing Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite in front of a moderate-sized crowd at a chamber ensemble concert that we had directed and executed ourselves.
How was this so?
It all went back to the middle of my junior year when I received the Class of ‘68 Fellowship Grant in the early spring. I was planning on running an entire production by myself in the summer to provide donations to a religious youth institution. This organization is dedicated to expanding the fundamental right of access to healthcare. With an ambitious mindset to perform with at least eight people and do repertoires such as the Prokofiev Sonata and Mendelssohn Octet, I was more than thrilled to have this all organized. I first contacted a good friend who was also a cellist that played with me in the Phoenix Strings Orchestra back in Korea and told him about my tentative plan. Assenting, we grew to contact other talented musicians, ranging from violinists to cellists. We discussed over the phone about our tentative program, the concert venue, and budget. Between then and June 9th, we planned out what pieces we would perform, who the ensemble members would be, when we would practice, and how to divide up the passion, work, and money. (more…)
When I was five years old, my parents signed me up for my first music lesson. “Lesson” was a far-cry statement – it was a teacher with four five-year-olds sitting in a circle creating a ruckus with the various instruments in the room. Despite what the lesson actually was, that was when my music career began. Nine months later, I would begin taking private piano lessons – one thirty-minute-lesson every week – with my parents urging me to practice during the hours in between. I did not enjoy practicing. I guess my attention span was not long enough, or I just did not have the discipline to practice. About a year later, I tried to learn the guitar, but it did not work too well for me. In the end, I decided to just stick with the piano.
Like most third-graders I knew, I was required to play the recorder for music class. I had a unique liking to the instrument – something about it was just so appealing. As a result, I was one of the better players in my class. In fifth grade, I had the option to join the band program. I hesitated, and missed my chance to join. Luckily, the band teacher still let me join two weeks later after my constant pleading. I chose to play the saxophone – it was similar to the recorder, and I was able to pick it up very quickly. Had it not been for my band teacher, who would eventually become my saxophone teacher, I would have never thought about learning how to play the saxophone. (more…)
By Helynna Lin, VI Form
Counterculture & The Graduate and Its Soundtrack by “Simon & Garfunkel”
The term Counterculture refers to a set of movements, ideal, and practices that emerged in the American culture between the 1960s and the 1970s. The counterculture was largely a response to the Cold War’s effects on the American society, and there were four core beliefs. First, advocates for counterculture rejected capitalism, for they believed that western corporates used Cold War politics to expand their markets worldwide and gain a larger profit. Second, in response to the rise of uniformity, counterculture rejected conformism and encouraged individuals to break the shackles of society’s expectations. Third, the rise of individualism caused an emergence of sexual liberation and experimentation as a movement against the traditional family model. Finally, the counterculture was mainly supported by the teenage generation, who came up with the slogan “don’t trust people over 30”. 
Mike Nichol’s The Graduate (1967) is a bildungsroman that illustrates the transition from teenage years to adulthood of the protagonist, Benjamin Braddock. The movie’s soundtrack features many songs by “Simon & Garfunkel”, a folk-rock duo formed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel. (more…)
By Riya Shankar, VI Form
Getting LOST in Michael Giacchino’s Soundtrack Compositions
I’ve always loved exploring music. I can sometimes get lost on YouTube listening to classical music and finding those hidden gems that go on my music bucket list. A piece of classical music is something so deeply intricate and complex. Unraveling the melodies and harmonies by listening is sometimes just as exciting as playing the piece itself. The way a composer writes a piece (instrumentation, volume markings, tempo markings) often tells more of a story than the notes. By getting lost in the mind of a composer, you can discover more about the music than you expected.
When Mr. Camp asked me to listen to a few pieces that are on the LOST soundtrack and give my opinion as a “musician,” I was thrilled. While being in the class, this unique opportunity combined my love for music with my work in school. When considering classical music, although some pieces have a general storyline, I have never listened to or played music that is specifically written for a television plot line. Knowing that this music was composed for the show gave me a deeper perspective to try and understand what the music aims to convey. The melodies and instruments that composer Michael Giacchino employed to create the soundtrack are so different than what I am used to but somehow also feel so familiar because of my classical music background. Having taken some music theory, I used my knowledge in that area to give insight into how the mechanics of the composition are used to create a mood. Going further, I used what I’ve learned over my years playing ensemble music to understand how specific instruments were used to make the audience feel certain emotions. Classical music has much depth, and each part of a composition is uniquely important and intentional. I wrote a small description for each of four pieces from the LOST soundtrack.
“Life and Death” (Season 1) click here to listen: The changing keys in the chord progression throughout the entire beginning stand out. The switch from major to minor (commonly made by changing just one note!) really evokes emotion because the striking change should hit the audience in (more…)
By Grace Darko, VI Form
On Spoken Word Poetry
Spoken word poetry is the lovechild of rap and free verse. She definitely had an identity crisis and couldn’t decide whether she should speak in verse or in prose. But, it turns out her audience is multilingual, so she never really had to choose. She instead takes from both parents, honoring them by presenting the best of both worlds.
I was introduced to spoken word in my later years of elementary school. My brother had recordings of performances from the show called Def Poetry Jam, hosted by rapper Mos Def. Each episode of Def Poetry Jam was an oral anthology of poems with no particular order, and the show includes poetic performances from popular singers and rappers. It was amazing to hear some of the performances. Up until middle school, I never saw the video recordings because I only listened through my brother’s mp3 player. Yet, when I finally looked at the tape, the experience was even better than just the music. (more…)
By Simon Zlystra, Reed Andary, Shep Greene, John Hart, Nick Harrison, and George Littlefield, VI Form
Original Songwriting and Recording
Editor’s Note: These reflections and recordings come from the winter St. Mark’s Saturdays course, “Songwriting and Recording.” The course, taught by Mr. Jason Eslick, covers songwriting and composition in electronic and acoustic mediums while getting students started with the art of recording and production. Students worked to come up with a recorded, mixed, and mastered final project.
George Littlefield: (more…)