Navigation Bar

The Birthday CD: Musical Review of Tracks 21-30

21) New York Birthday

    Although the melody to "New York, New York" is not actually played in this rendition, this piece uses some of the essential musical elements from "New York, New York." Besides having a similar chord progression, this piece uses the familiar "New York, New York" introductory melodic lick in various sections of the arrangement, including the introduction.

    At 08 seconds the saxes enter playing the "Happy Birthday" melody, while muted trumpets play some punches and melodic fills. The brass take over at 22 seconds and play bmp3 while the saxes intersperse some melodic fills. At 32 seconds, the brass play a portion of bmp4 (the portion that corresponds to the words "Happy birthday" from the phrase "Happy birthday to you" from bmp 4). They repeat that same portion at 35 seconds, and again at 39 seconds.

    At 44 seconds the brass complete bmp4 by playing the two notes that correspond to the words "to you" from bmp4. This is followed immediately by the piano playing the familiar introductory "New York, New York" melodic lick. The brass repeat the same last portion of bmp4 at 48 seconds as the piece ends with some ascending and descending runs by the strings and saxes.

22) Bach Birthday

    "Bach Birthday" is performed on a harpsichord. The harpsichord is a keyboard instrument, precursor of the piano, in which the strings are plucked by leather or quill points connected with the keys, in common use from the 16th to the 18th century, and revived in the 20th . During Bach's time, the organ and harpsichord were the most popular keyboard instruments.

    The "Happy Birthday" melody begins right away and is played by the right hand (stereo right). Bmp1 starts at 00 seconds, and bmp2 follows immediately. At 04 seconds bmp3 and bmp4 are played, but half as fast as the normal playing speed. At 10 seconds, a trill is played on the note that corresponds to the word "to " in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" in bmp4.

    After a short interlude, the "Happy Birthday" melody begins again at 16 seconds, but is played by the left hand this time in a minor key (stereo left). Bmp1 and bmp2 are played half as fast as the normal playing speed. At 23 seconds a very highly ornamented bmp3 is played, and at 28 seconds that same ornamented bmp3 is played again, but in a higher major key.

    At 33 seconds, a very fragmented rendition of bmp4 begins. The first three notes of bmp4 (the notes that correspond to the words "Happy birth-" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you") are followed by a short arpeggiated phrase. At 34 seconds, the note that corresponds to the word "-day" of bmp4 is played and is followed by an equally short arpeggiated phrase. At 36 seconds, the note that corresponds to the word "to" in bmp4 is played, but is followed by an extended arpeggiated phrase that leads to the note that corresponds to the final word "you" of bmp4 (40 seconds).
At 41 seconds, the piece is tagged with bmp2 (so far, all the tags in the previous pieces have used bmp4, or bmp3 and 4) and ends with a slight ritard.

    "Bach Birthday" is written in three, as is the original "Happy Birthday" melody. However, it feels different from the original, because with the exception of the first two phrases of this piece, the notes in the remaining phrases are held for twice as many beats (on average), so that each phrase takes twice as long to complete.

23) Flamenco Birthday

    Flamenco is a style of dancing, characteristic of the Andalusian Gypsies, that is strongly rhythmic and involves vigorous actions, such as the clapping of hands and the stamping of feet. The music that accompanies Flamenco dancing originated in southern Spain as far back as the fourteenth century. This music is intensely rhythmic and passionate, with an improvisatory nature.

    Flamenco music features guitar and percussion, so the introduction to "Flamenco Birthday" appropriately features an arpeggiated guitar figure, with a splash of castanets and maracas. There is also a panned cymbal roll to add atmosphere.

    The "Happy Birthday" melody begins at 07 seconds and is played by the flute. The sounds of bells join the flute on the last two notes of each of the four birthday melodic phrases (their first entrance occurs at 10 seconds). In the background you can hear the winds blowing across the Spanish plains, starting at 11 seconds.

    Instead of deriving its notes from the major scale, the "Flamenco Birthday" melody is taken from the notes of what is often called the "Spanish scale". This consists of a harmonic minor scale, with the fifth degree of the scale acting as the key center. This helps give the melody a more arresting quality.

    At 33 seconds, the piece becomes much more rhythmic, as the castanets enter and are soon followed by some conga drums and cymbal hits. At 36 seconds, the piano plays a phrase reminiscent of a passage from the famous composition "Granada." As the figure is played a second time, more percussion are added, and the piece kicks into high gear at 42 seconds, with the addition of a fretless bass and full drum set. (The lack of frets on an electric bass allow for unhampered slides and glissandos - listen for bass glissandos at 44 and 57 seconds).

    A flugelhorn enters at 42 seconds playing the "Happy Birthday" melody in a more improvisatory fashion. This flugelhorn is played in a style that is a cross between Miles Davis (in "Flamenco Sketches" off of the "Kind of Blue" album recorded in 1959) and Chuck Mangione (in the "Children of Sanchez" title track recorded in 1978).

    At 1:05 seconds, bmp4 is tagged by the flugelhorn, and at 1:09 seconds the piano begins the "Granada"-like figure again. The strings join the piano at 1:12 seconds, and at 1:14 seconds the flugelhorn tags bmp4 a second time as the piece ends in dramatic fashion.

24) Jewish Birthday

    If you have ever attended a Jewish wedding, chances are the band you heard sounds something like the band on this track. Accordion, violin, clarinet, acoustic bass, and drums are standard instruments in a Jewish wedding band, or a klezmer band. (Klezmer is traditional eastern European Jewish music, usually featuring the clarinet).

    In "Jewish Birthday", the notes of the "Happy Birthday" melody are taken from a minor scale, which adds a tinge of solemnity to this otherwise festive rendition. In this version, the "Happy Birthday" melody is blended with the song "Tumbalalaika." It is a longtime Jewish favorite with its origins in Russia.

    After a brief introduction by the accordion, the "Happy Birthday" melody begins at 03 seconds, and is played by the accordion. However, bmp1 is not played in its entirety right away. Only the first four notes are played (the notes that correspond to the words "Happy birthday" from the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). This phrase is immediately followed by the same shortened phrase, which is then followed by the entire bmp1. The violin joins the accordion when the entire bmp1 is played at 05 seconds.

    At 07 seconds, bmp2 is played, in the same exact fragmented manner that bmp1 was. Listen for the flute (stereo left) playing short answer licks between the spaces in the fragmented bmp1 and bmp2.

    At 11 seconds, the flute and accordion play bmp3, and at 15 seconds they continue on to play bmp4. Each of the notes in bmp3 and bmp4 are lengthened so that they fit the chord progression of the song Tumbalalaika.

    At 19 seconds the accordion and flute play the same musical phrase that started the piece, which is followed by a brief drum roll and flute trill at 22 seconds. At 24 seconds the clarinet (stereo right) plays a descending musical passage which leads to the playing of the melody of "Tumbalalaika" starting at 25 seconds.

    Also at 25 seconds, the accordion and violin replay, in the same fragmented and drawn out manner, the "Happy Birthday" melody as a countermelody to "Tumbalalaika."

    At 42 seconds, the violin joins the accordion and flute in tagging bmp3 and bmp4. At the same time, the clarinet tags the final phrase of "Tumbalalaika, as the counterpoint continues.

    At 49 seconds the violin, clarinet, flute, and accordion play the introductory melody phrase to end the piece.

25) Indian Birthday

    This piece features the sitar, tamboura, and tabla, and most closely resembles the classical music of northern India. Unlike Western music, which has elaborated its secondary element, harmony, at the expense of the essentials of melody and rhythm, Indian music retains its roots in pure melody and rhythm, and the subtle and intricate interplay of these essentials is its essence.

    Raga expresses melodic structure. Ragas are groups of notes forming ratios with their tonic notes. In their numerical ratios they correspond with moods, colors, and hours of the day or night. Thanks to the "Happy Birthday" melody, the Raga for "Indian Birthday" is the same as the standard Western major scale.

    The form of Indian classical music begins with the Alap. This is a slow invocation in free rhythm, presenting the subtleties of the Raga in an expressive meditative style. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, the Alap section of "Indian Birthday" lasts a mere eleven seconds. The piece begins with the drone of the tamboura, along with the sprinkling of sounds of bells from India. At 6 seconds there is a downward glissando from the sitar, followed by the sitar playing bmp4 at 7 seconds.

    At 11 seconds the tabla drums enter and begin the rhythmic section of "Indian Birthday." In classical Indian music, the rhythmic section that follows the meditative slow section is called the Gat. Indian music calls its beats or time units "Matras." They group their Matras together to form Talas, much the same way we group our beats together to form measures. Talas may have as few as 3 or as many as 108 Matras. The most common Talas contain 16,14,10, 7, or 6 Matras.

    Talas normally contain the same number of Matras throughout the performance, but for compositional reasons, 'Indian Birthday" starts with a Tala of eight Matras at 11 seconds, followed by four Talas of twelve Matras each. These four Talas start at 17, 24, 31, and 38 seconds respectively, and correspond to the playing of bmp1-4.

    The Sitar plays the entire "Happy Birthday" melody starting at 16 seconds. Bmp1 is answered by an Eastern sounding lick played by an Indian reed instrument at 20 seconds. At 23 seconds, bmp2 is played and is answered at 27 seconds by a violin playing a different Eastern sounding lick. At 30 seconds, bmp3 is played and is answered at 35 seconds by the violin and reed playing yet another Eastern sounding lick.

    At 37 seconds, bmp4 is played, and is followed by a flourish on the tablas, a sitar glissando, and some Indian bells. At 45 seconds bmp4 is tagged three times by the sitar. It is accompanied by the tabla playing the same rhythmic phrase three times, which ends on the final beat of the song. This thrice-played rhythmic phrase is called a Tihai. A piece that ends with a Tihai is called a Chakkradar. A final sitar glissando punctuates the ending.

26) Disco Birthday

    The introduction features the brass (trumpets and trombones) playing bmp1 and bmp2. At the same time, the strings are playing a countermelody made up of cliché disco string licks. Underneath this, the bass drum is hitting on every beat in typical disco fashion. At 07 seconds, a descending synthesized tom-tom fill begins leading to the entrance of the entire rhythm section at 09 seconds.

    The rhythm section (drums, bass, guitar, clavinet, and electric piano) plays the same figures that were used in the famous disco piece "Boogie-oogie-oogie." "Disco Birthday" also uses the same chord progression as "Boogie-oogie-oogie," but does not use any of the melody from that piece. Instead, the "Happy Birthday" melody is superimposed over the backing track of "Boogie-oogie-oogie."

    In order to fit the chord progression and tenor of this piece, the "Happy Birthday" melody uses the notes of a minor scale, instead of the usual major scale. The melodic phrases of the "Happy Birthday" melody are fragmented and repeated a number of times, so as to mimic the disco style.

    At 13 seconds bmp1 is played by a bell sound, and at 21 seconds, the same bell sound plays bmp2. At 26 seconds, bmp1 is played again by a synth sound. However, this time two extra notes are added at the beginning of the phrase for musical reasons, so that the phrase would be sung "happy, happy birthday - to you." At 34 seconds, bmp2 is played by the same synth sound, and two extra notes are also added to the beginning of this phrase.

    At 40 seconds, the piece begins the chord progression to the chorus of "Boogie-oogie-oogie" (Where the repetitive phrase "Get down, boogie-oogie-oogie" is normally sung). Also at 40 seconds, bmp3 is played three times by a string synth sound. At 52 seconds, the same string synth sound plays bmp4.

    At 56 seconds the string synth sound duplicates what it did at 40 seconds (playing bmp3 three times followed by bmp4 once). Also at 56 seconds, a penetrating, twangy synth sound plays bmp3 and bmp4, but at half the normal playing speed. At 1:12 seconds bmp4 is tagged at half the normal playing speed by the string synth, the twangy synth, and bell sound.

    The piece then ends with some brass punches, an ascending string line, and a descending processed tom-tom fill.

27) Melancholy Birthday

    "Melancholy Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with the piece "Trois Gymnopedies" written by the French Impressionist composer Erik Satie. "Trois Gymnopedies is a reflective moody piece to begin with, so "Melancholy Birthday" seemed to be the appropriate title for this rendition. The piece features electric piano and strings, and is written in three, as is the original "Happy Birthday" melody. 

    The piece begins with the repetitive piano left-hand background figure from the original "Trois Gymnopedies." The entire "Happy Birthday" melody is played over this figure starting at 07 seconds. At 23 seconds the "Happy Birthday" melody is played by the electric piano again, but this time an octave higher. Also at 23 seconds, the strings play a melodic phrase taken from "Trois Gymnopedies."

    At 38 seconds bmp3 is tagged over the background chord progression of "Trois Gymnopedies." At 42 seconds, bmp4 is tagged, but at half the normal playing speed. At 58 seconds, bmp4 is tagged again at half the normal playing speed. At 1:01, seconds the strings enter playing another melodic phrase from "Trois Gymnopedies," as the piece grinds to a depressing halt.

28) Mexican Birthday

    "Mexican Birthday" features the sound of a mariachi band. A mariachi band is a group of musicians dressed in colorful uniforms, who play Mexican folk music. The band is usually made up of guitars, trumpets and violins.

    This piece begins with a strumming guitar and assorted latin percussion instruments. At 03 seconds, the trumpets play a highly ornamented version of the first four notes of bmp1 (corresponding to the words "Happy birthday" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). This truncated phrase is played three times in a row and then is followed by an entire (ornamented) bmp1 at 06 seconds. Also at 06 seconds, the marimba and vibraphone play a non-ornamented rendition of bmp1 along with the trumpets.

    At 11 seconds, the trumpets play a highly ornamented version of the first four notes of bmp2. This truncated phrase is played three times in row and then is followed by an entire (ornamented) bmp2 at 14 seconds. Also at 14 seconds, the marimba and vibraphone play a non-ornamented rendition of bmp2 along with the trumpets.

    At 20 seconds, the vibraphone and strings play a melodic phrase from the famous Mexican folk song "Cielito Lindo." (This phrase corresponds to the part of that song that goes - "Ay, ay, ay ,ay - etc.). At 28 seconds, the trumpets play bmp3 and bmp4.

    At 37 seconds, the trumpets play an ornamented version of bmp1 similar to the one they played at 03 seconds, except one on the truncated phrases is left out. At 43 seconds, the trumpets play an ornamented version of bmp2 similar to the one the played at 11 seconds, except one of the truncated phrases is left out. 
Also at 37 seconds, the vibraphone and marimba play a portion of the "Mexican Hat Dance" while the trumpets are playing bmp1 and bmp2.

    At 48 seconds, the trumpets play their extended versions of bmp1 and bmp2 again. Also at 48 seconds, the vibraphone, marimba, bass guitar, and strings play the same portion of the "Mexican Hat Dance." At 54 seconds the vibraphone, marimba, bass guitar, and strings tag bmp4, as the piece ends. 

29) Country Birthday

    "Country Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with the melody and chord progression of that all-time favorite country classic "The Tennessee Waltz."

    Right from the beginning, both melodies are played simultaneously. The pedal steel guitar (stereo right) begins playing the melody of "The Tennessee Waltz" (corresponding to the words "I was dancing with my darlin' etc.") At the same time the piano begins playing the "Happy Birthday" melody in the style of the legendary country pianist Floyd Cramer. To help induce that laid-back country feel, both melodies are drawn out and played at half the normal speed.

    At 29 seconds both melodies are re-stated again. This time the "Happy Birthday" melody is played plaintively by the harmonica (stereo left), summoning up visions of cowboys around a late night campfire. The melody to "The Tennessee Waltz" is played by the pedal steel guitar once again. Since the pedal steel guitar is a staple of much of country music, I decided to feature it throughout the whole piece. Also at 29 seconds, an acoustic guitar starts playing a background arpeggiated figure to help add some motion to the piece.

30) Bluegrass Birthday

    Bluegrass is a style of upbeat country music that features fast finger-pickin'. The instruments that are usually found in a bluegrass band are the banjo, mandolin, guitar, fiddle, and bass. All the instruments are acoustic, unamplified stringed instruments.

    The introduction features the banjo playing a rapid passage that starts with the first four notes of bmp4 (the notes that correspond to the words 'Happy birthday" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). This truncated phrase is played three more times, each time down one octave lower. These three repetitions are followed by a downward scale lick, as the intro comes to a sudden stop at 02 seconds.

    At 03 seconds, the fiddle (stereo right) plays the "Happy Birthday" melody. The banjo (stereo left) also plays the "Happy Birthday" melody, but in an arpeggiated manner. The strumming mandolin and plucked bass give background support.

    At 15 seconds, the banjo (stereo left) and the mandolin (stereo right) take over and play the "Happy Birthday" melody as a duet. They play the melody in arpeggiated fashion with the banjo playing the melody, and the mandolin playing a harmony part. The strumming guitar and bass give background support.

    At 26 seconds the fiddle takes over again. As the banjo plays the "Happy Birthday" melody in a highly arpeggiated and ornamented way, the fiddle freely improvises over the melody. The strumming mandolin and plucked bass have frequent stops and starts throughout this section of the piece, in order to highlight the fiddle and banjo.

    At 38 seconds bmp4 is tagged in a highly ornamented and arpeggiated manner by the banjo and fiddle, as the piece screeches to a halt.


Detailed Notes on Tracks 31-40

***Click here to download The Birthday CD MP3 Edition for only $9.95***
(you can also listen to 30-second audio samples of ALL 50 tracks on
The Birthday CD MP3 Edition here)