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The Birthday CD: Musical Review of Tracks 11-20

11) Techno-Dance Birthday

    The dictionary defines "techno" as a style of disco music characterized by fast synthesizer rhythms, heavy use of samples, and a lack of melody. All the sounds used in this track are samples of instruments that have been electronically processed to make them sound fresh and contemporary.

    The introduction begins with some synth "smears" over a pounding bass drum. At 08 seconds an electronically processed soprano saxophone enters playing a truncated version of the "Happy Birthday" melody. This is the melody you would come up with if you sang the "Happy Birthday" melody without the words "happy" and "dear." The notes remaining would correspond to the words: "Birthday to you - birthday to you - birthday Michael - birthday to you."

    At 16 seconds a synthesized bass enters playing the "Happy Birthday" melody, along with an electronic hi-hat playing on the offbeats. The melody is compressed, being played twice as fast as usual. It is functioning as a repetitive bass line here, rather than a melody. This melody repeats at 20 seconds as some electronic percussion is added.

    At 23 seconds the "Happy Birthday" melody enters at normal playing speed. It is being played in a mechanical fashion by a typical "techno" synth sound, as the repetitive bass line playing the "Happy Birthday" melody at double speed continues underneath. At 31 seconds the "Happy Birthday" melody is played again but this time a high pitched synth sound is added to the original synth sound, and a few extra processed snare drum hits are added as well.

    Note that since it's entrance at 16 seconds, the synthesized bass has played the "Happy Birthday" melody six times at double speed by the time the track is only 40 seconds old. Techno-Dance music has a penchant for repeating the same figure over and over ad nauseam; no doubt to help induce the dancers into a trance-like state out on the dance floor. Appropriately, "Techno-Dance Birthday" plays the "Happy Birthday" melody seventeen times by the time it is completed (including 3 playings of the truncated "Happy Birthday" melody.)

    At 40 seconds an interlude begins which features a truncated version of the "Happy Birthday" melody. It is played by a synth sound that has an echo effect added to it (stereo left), and has assorted percussive hits interspersed throughout.

    From 48 seconds to 1:03 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played twice more by the same synth sound that played it at 23 seconds. Concurrently, the electronically processed soprano saxophone (stereo left) plays a truncated version of the "Happy Birthday" melody at half the normal speed, so that it also finishes at 1:03 seconds. To add more confusion, the bass synthesizer continues its repetitive figure, and more synth smears appear (stereo right). At 57 seconds a hi-hat playing some cliché disco offbeats enters to add more drive.

    At 1:03 seconds the rhythm stops and bmp3 and bmp4 are tagged by the main synth sound. Two seconds later the processed saxophone joins the synth tagging bmp4. The piece ends as a many-noted processed drum fill joins the bmp4 tag.

12) Hawaiian Birthday

    If you think reggae music is laid back, Hawaiian music has been known to put its listeners in a semi-comatose state. This version starts peacefully enough with some soothing surf sounds, and at 04 seconds a pedal steel guitar begins to play the "Happy Birthday" melody. Notice that throughout the piece a different pedal steel guitar (stereo right) answers with fills between the spaces in the melody.

    Another inducement to relax is the gentle strumming of the ukulele throughout the piece, along with the mellow tones from the vibraphone (stereo left) providing fills along the way. Check out the vibraphone tremolos from 28 to 38 seconds, and from 57 to 1:06 seconds.

    The piece is kicked into low gear by the addition of the ride cymbal (stereo right) at 28 seconds. The pedal steel guitar tags bmp4 at 49 seconds and the piece ends with a cliché chromatic Hawaiian music lick, played together by the vibraphone and steel guitar starting at 57 seconds.

13) Italian Birthday

    The tarantella is a traditional Italian dance and is also the name of the music associated with that dance. So what more appropriate way to start off "Italian Birthday" than with an introduction featuring the tarantella. The tarantella melody is played by the accordion (stereo right) and pizzicato strings (stereo left).

    The "Happy Birthday" melody appears at 07 seconds and is played by the clarinet (stereo left) and the accordion (stereo right). The melody is ornamented to give the composition the flavor of an Italian wedding band. Note the fills played by the pizzicato strings at 09 and 13 seconds.

    At 20 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played again by the piano (stereo left) and the violin (stereo right). Notice that the violin melody is more highly ornamented than the piano's melody. At 34 seconds bmp4 is tagged by these same instruments.

    The tarantella melody is reintroduced at 37 seconds and is played by the trumpet. At 43 seconds after a modulation, the trumpet is joined by the violin (stereo right) playing a more ornamented version of the tarantella. At 50 seconds bmp4 is played to set up the ending - a short four note fanfare.

14) Boogie-woogie Birthday

    Boogie-woogie is a form of instrumental blues, especially for piano, using melodic variations over a constantly repeated bass figure. The piece begins with a bluesy lick and the "Happy Birthday" melody begins at 03 seconds and is played by the right hand on the piano (stereo right). The left hand (stereo left) plays a traditional repetitive bass line figure that follows the motion of the chord progression throughout the song.

    The melody is played straight through until 13 seconds, where it is interrupted one note shy of its completion (bmp4 is cut short at "Happy Birthday to -"). What follows is an extended fill leading to the final chord sounding at 22 seconds, which corresponds to the final "You" in the "Happy Birthday" melody. At 23 seconds a brief arpeggio is sounded to extend the ending.

15) Christmas Birthday

    This rendition is an extended musical fantasy that covers a number of different moods in a short period of time. It begins with some church bells chiming bmp1 and bmp2 of the "Happy Birthday" melody. The sound of sleigh bells emerge at 03 seconds. At 10 seconds a choir begins "White Christmas" (the first note, which corresponds to the word "I'm" of the lyric, is held from 10 seconds to 16 seconds, at which point the rest of the melody continues on - the part of the melody which corresponds to "dreaming of a white Christmas etc.")

    At 13 seconds the flute (stereo right) and the oboe (stereo) left enter playing the "Happy Birthday" melody, while the choir is still holding the first note of "White Christmas." These melodies continue on with interjections of harp glissandos and triangle hits, until 40 seconds.

    At 40 seconds the drums and bass enter to add some rhythm to the arrangement. At 43 seconds a brass sound enters playing "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer" Also at 43 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played by some pizzicato strings (stereo right) and a marimba (stereo left). The melody is fragmented here. It begins with a partial playing of bmp1 - corresponding to the lyric "Happy Birthday," without the "to you." Then at 47 seconds, the entire bmp1 is played. In like manner, at 50 seconds, a partial playing of bmp2 occurs, and at 55 seconds the entire bmp2 is played.

    At 57 seconds, the rhythm stops and bmp3 is played by the bell chimes and the choir. At 1:08 seconds, on the last note of bmp3, the sleigh bells re-enter, and at 1:11 seconds the melody of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas enters, and is played by pizzicato strings. The flute joins the pizzicato strings at 1:13 seconds and the oboe is added 2 seconds later.

At 1:18 seconds, the pizzicato strings play the final phrase of "We Wish You Merry Christmas," while at the same time the bell chimes, flute, and oboe superimpose bmp4 over the final phrase of "We Wish You Merry Christmas."

16) Adventurous Birthday

    If you are looking for adventure and intrigue, why not become an international spy? So for an "adventurous birthday," what better song to mix with the "Happy Birthday" melody than the Theme from "Mission Impossible." Since the "Mission Impossible Theme was written in five, so is this version. If you are tapping your foot, tap a little harder on the first of every five beats, and you will be able to count yourself through this song.

    The piece starts with some anxiety filled percussion sounds, and at 04 seconds the bass plays a portion of the bass line so identified with the "Mission Impossible" Theme. More percussion follows, and at 12 seconds a repetitive, funky, guitar riff (stereo left) begins, as the bass figure starts up again.

    At 15 seconds, an agitated vocal choir begins the "Happy Birthday" melody in a minor key to give the piece a more mysterious quality (the original "Happy Birthday" melody is written in a major key, which is very happy sounding, but not at all intriguing). A high-pitched synth sound (stereo right) plays snippets from the "Mission Impossible" Theme in between the phrases of the "Happy Birthday" melody, starting at 19 seconds.

    The rhythmic placement of the "Happy Birthday" melody feels a little awkward and disjointed throughout this piece, because I had to fit it into the framework of measures containing five beats.

    At 45 seconds bmp4 is tagged, and at 52 seconds the last two notes of bmp4 (corresponding to the final words "to you" in the "Happy Birthday" melody) are re-tagged. The piece ends with some more arousing percussive sounds as your adventurous birthday fantasy ends in a puff of smoke.

17) Elegant Birthday

    There have been many attempts at mixing the elements of jazz and classical music over the years. My first exposure to this blend was in the 1950's when a vocal group called the "Swingle Singers" sang the melodies and countermelodies of Bach over swing-jazz rhythms.

    In this version, I have mixed the "Happy Birthday" melody with Bach's "Air in D Major," and added some swing drums and acoustic bass to supply some pizzazz.

    The "Happy Birthday" melody starts playing right at the beginning of the piece, and is accompanied by the countermelodies and bass line from Bach's "Air", continuously until the end of the composition.

    The flute begins by playing bmp1 while the clarinet (stereo right) and the cello (stereo left) play countermelodies from "Air." At 08 seconds the flute starts bmp2 as the countermelodies continue.

    At 24 seconds the piece builds in excitement as the instrumentation changes. Bmp3 is played by a flugelhorn, and the countermelodies are played by a soprano saxophone (stereo right) and a trombone (stereo left). Also to add to the excitement, the drums become a bit more agitated.

    At 32 seconds, the flugelhorn plays a portion of bmp4 (the notes corresponding to "Happy Birthday" in the lyric "Happy Birthday to You"). At 36 seconds the flugelhorn repeats that same portion of bmp4, and then plays the entire bmp4 at 40 seconds.

    At 48 seconds the piece becomes more subdued, as the original instruments take over. The flute tags bmp3 and bmp4 over the Bach countermelodies, and the composition ends with a slight ritard starting at 58 seconds.

18) College Birthday

    College birthday features the sounds of instruments that make up a college marching band. The piece begins with a brass fanfare that is a skewed version of bmp3. The first three notes are an introductory arpeggio, which replace the first two notes of bmp3 (which correspond to the word "Happy"). The next five notes are the third through the seventh notes of bmp3 (corresponding to the words "Birthday dear Michael"). Each note is held twice the usual length, which makes the phrase more like a fanfare, but makes bmp3 a little harder to recognize.

    After a slight pause, the fanfare continues at 06 seconds with the playing of the first five notes of bmp4 (corresponding to the words "Happy Birthday to"). A tuba and a trombones play an arpeggiated figure underneath bmp4. At 10 seconds, when the note that corresponds to the word "to" in bmp4 is played, an old cliché introductory fanfare begins.

    At 13 seconds, the glockenspiel (stereo right) begins playing the "Happy Birthday" melody. At the same time, the clarinets (stereo left) play the "Notre Dame Victory March" as a countermelody.

    In a marching band, the tuba takes the function of the bass. The snare drum, besides playing the offbeats, plays various fills and rolls to add momentum to the piece. The trombones also play offbeats from 14 to 30 seconds. From 23 to 30 seconds, the piccolo plays some rapid arpeggiated figures.

    At 31 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played again by the clarinet (stereo right), while the trumpets and trombones play the "Notre Dame Victory March" again (stereo left). From 35 to 38 seconds, the saxophone (stereo right) plays a portion of "On Wisconsin" as a countermelody.

    After both melodies end at 48 seconds, the last phrase of the "Notre Dame Victory March" is tagged by the brass. In the middle of this tag, bmp4 is tagged at 52 seconds by the clarinet. During these tags, the piccolo plays even more rapid arpeggiated figures.

    The piece ends with a brass fanfare starting at 56 seconds, which is reminiscent of the "USC Fight Song" fanfare.

19) Romantic Birthday

    The introduction features bell and airy synth sounds, coupled with assorted percussion (tambourine, cabasa, and claves) containing lots of reverb. These are the typical sounds used in highly produced pop ballads in the 80's and 90's.

    At 16 seconds, the tenor saxophone enters playing the "Happy Birthday" melody (stereo left). The soprano saxophone (stereo right) plays melodic fills in the style of Kenny "G." When the tenor sax plays bmp4 at 39 seconds, the note that corresponds to the word "-day" in "Happy Birthday to You" of bmp4, is extended for emotional effect (42 seconds to 46 seconds).

    At 48 seconds the "Happy Birthday" melody finishes, and the music from the introduction is restated. Bmp4 is tagged by the soprano sax at 55 seconds, and is re-tagged by the soprano and tenor sax at 1:03 seconds, as the piece ends.

20) Arabian Birthday

    This piece begins with Arabic rhythms played by assorted percussion instruments from the Middle East. Interspersed amongst these rhythms, a cimbalom (a stringed instrument similar to a dulcimer) plays a repetitive drone-like figure that fades in and out through the first half of the piece.

    At 12 seconds, the oud (a stringed instrument similar to the mandolin) begins the "Happy Birthday" melody. The strings on an oud do not sustain for very long after they are plucked, so often the melody notes will be plucked several times each to give the melody a more drawn out sound. You can hear this effect as the oud plays the "Happy Birthday" melody.

    At 25 seconds the beat changes to Persian rhythms that have a time signature of 6/8. You will also hear ululations at 25 and 28 seconds. To ululate is to make a high wavering sound with the voice and tongue to express grief or joy. Many Persian women ululate during festive occasions such as weddings. Also, at 28 seconds you can hear finger cymbals make an entrance (stereo left). Finger cymbals are often used by belly dancers when they perform.

    At 29 seconds, the mizmar (a horn from the Middle East with an oboe-like timbre) begins a melodic phrase that is joined two seconds later by a santur playing bmp1 (stereo left). A santur is a Persian instrument similar to a dulcimer. The "Happy Birthday" melody is originally written in a major key using the notes from a major scale. However, the second half of Arabian Birthday uses the notes of a harmonic minor scale to play the "Happy Birthday" melody, which help give it a Middle Eastern flavor.

    At 35 seconds the mizmar begins another melodic phrase that is joined two seconds later by the santur playing bmp2. At 38 seconds, the mizmar plays bmp3 and bmp4 with some added embellishments using notes from the harmonic minor scale. At 46 seconds bmp3 and bmp4 are tagged by the santur and mizmar, and at 53 seconds the mizmar tags bmp4 again. The piece ends with the santur and mizmar tagging bmp4 once more amid several final ululations.

Detailed Notes on Tracks 21-30


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