Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Dei'ah V'dibbur - Part Deux

Here's Part 2 of the Dei'ah veDibur series on Jewish music. I blogged about earlier here and here.

I'll post my comments soon, but thought that this "critique" of Avraham Fried's song "Mi Ma" by a Rabbi D. Blaser raised some good points.
An Example
"Mi Ma" begins with a typical big band concert intro. In the body of "Mi Ma," every device is cleverly used to create a full use of the two brief snatches of actual tune. The composer and arranger is trapped because this style of music really has very few options. Pop music has no scope.
Sections of Mi-Ma
In "Mi Ma", we first hear the lower melody. Now, to build up to a semi-climax, we have a bridge section using answering phrases. The first time this appears, it is soloist and chorus. On later repetitions, it is solo and brass, trumpets and saxes, rhythm and chorus etc. The notes go up as do our expectations and pulses.
The reason for this buildup is that the "big sell" of this number is the "Mi Ma" bit, the second section: high, impassioned and catchy. Now both the arranger and the singer do their utmost to make the most of the situation. The soloist puts enormous energy and effort into enlivening the melodic line. He slides dramatically into new sections, and swells and molds the shape of notes in the best traditions of the pop singer. Much thought has gone into this performance, as into, I am sure, all his work.
The Accompaniment
The arranger uses every attempt to expand his brief. He has the chorus singing a short counter melody; answering with a slightly risque "Wo-ho-ho"; using a hint of "teeny-bop" voice affectation in the "NA-na-na-na-NAH-na" build up sections; he alternates the use of instrumentation as far as possible.
In summary, within their genre, the Mi-Ma performers have done a really professional job for a pop tape. They would not pretend, I feel, that they are creating masterpieces, but rather good value for money entertainment.
The Jungle Beat
"Mi Ma" relies very heavily on its persistent, rock beat. Imagine it without the drums. Impossible! Without drums the tape would sound utterly empty. Thus rather than adding to and supporting the melody, we find that the percussion is a crutch. In this "Mi Ma" is no different from thousands of similar pop tunes.
He does have a point about much of this music. The part of "Mi Ma" that most irritates me is the insertion of the schoolyard taunting "Na, na, na, na,na" into the bridge. I've always thought it sounded silly.