Back to Top
Chapter Two Reading Response

The second chapter of the book about tempo and rhythm I found to be a little less enjoyable than the first chapter and introduction of this book. There were still a lot of examples, but I found they were mostly composed of songs written out. I spent a lot of time either humming songs in my head trying to figure out where the author was going with the example, or looking up the songs online (if I was really interested in seeing his point). This is definitely a chapter where an accompanying CD would have been incredibly beneficial. If the rest of the book continues in this way, I think I will find it much less enjoyable than I had initially thought it would be.

Having said that, though, there are still a few points of interest that stood out to me as I was reading this chapter. The author mentions that different people have different perceptions of when you should be tapping your foot in a song, and I was struck by the image of that one person at a concert clapping opposite of most everyone else in the crowd. He goes on to say that most people find upbeat songs happy and slower songs sad, and this is something I find to be generally true and consistently interesting. I often find that I enjoy music that seems sad, but is actually very happy (if you listen to the lyrics or the progression of the song). I think these sorts of songs appeal to me because they are unusual. Another thing I find curious is that often times I don’t mind dark, depressing lyrics if the music is upbeat. It’s amazing how the key and the pace of the music can really affect my feeling about the overall mood of a song; it can make what would normally be somber sound instead ironic.

Another thing that the author touched on was how important loudness (or changes in relative loudness) can be to the emotional appeal of songs. Immediately as I read this I thought of several songs (a few of my favorites, in fact) that really move me specifically because of their sudden changes in volume. I’d always referred to this in the past as how a song builds, but I realize now that this is simply volume change. Another thing I find extremely powerful in songs is a key change, something also discussed briefly in this chapter.

Something also discussed in this chapter are time signatures, and this discussion reminded me that I was confused a little by two time signatures presented in class: 6/4 and 6/8. Since they both have six notes to a measure, I don’t really understand how having a quarter note vs. an eighth note having one beat makes a difference in the feeling of the music. I’d love to have some examples of music written in these time signatures; I think it would definitely clarify the difference. 

Finally, the mention that the average person can remember tempo remarkably well reminded me of this article I read a while back. It talks about the importance of doing CPR compressions quickly enough, and how the song, “Staying Alive” has the right tempo to do this successfully. People are now trained to do the compressions to this song, and because people can remember tempo it makes it easier for them to complete CPR at the proper speed. I also love the punchline of the article: 

Many popular tunes do have the appropriate beat. One suggested song has the right rhythm but the wrong message: It’s “Another One Bites the Dust,” by Queen.