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The Birthday CD: Musical Review of Tracks 31-40

31) Tango Birthday

    "Tango Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with one of the most famous tango compositions of all time: "La Cumparsita." The intro begins with the accordion playing bmp4 with a "boom-boom" added on the end of it to fit the tango style. At 04 seconds, the rhythm section (guitar, bass and drums) enters playing one attack on each of the first three beats of each measure, and two attacks on the fourth beat of each measure, a typical tango rhythm.

    The "Happy Birthday" melody also starts at 04 seconds with the muted trumpets and flute (stereo left) playing bmp1. In the original "Happy Birthday" melody (and in most of the versions on this CD) the note that corresponds to the syllable "birth" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you," falls on the first downbeat of a measure. The notes that correspond to the word "Happy" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" act as pick up notes that come before the downbeat.

    In "Tango Birthday," bmp1 -bmp4 have the note that corresponds the syllable "Hap" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" fall on the downbeat. Also each of the syllables: "hap-py birth-day" get one beat. This phrasing would seem awkward on its own, but it suits the tango rhythm quite well.

    After the muted trumpets and flute play bmp1, the trombone (stereo right) and baritone sax (stereo left) play a portion of "La Cumparsita at 08 seconds. At 13 seconds, the muted trumpets and flute play bmp2, followed by the trombone and baritone sax playing another portion of "La Cumparsita, at 17 seconds.

    At 22 seconds the muted trumpets and flute play bmp3. The trombone and baritone sax play a Spanish sounding lick at 26 seconds, which enters between the next to last note and last note (between the sixth and seventh notes) of the bmp3 being played by the muted trumpets and flute.

    At 31 seconds, the muted trumpets and flute play bmp4. At 36 seconds the muted trumpets, flute, and bass play a cliché tango lick. This is followed by another cliché tango lick at 38 seconds. In this lick, the brass and vibraphone (stereo left) play an ascending line, and the bass plays descending line.

    At 40 seconds the brass and vibraphone tag bmp3 as the accordion plays some Spanish sounding countermelodies underneath. Bmp4 is tagged by the brass and vibraphone at 49 seconds, as some pizzicato strings are heard underneath (these same pizzicato strings can be heard at 13-15, 21-23, and 31-35 seconds).

    The piece ends with another tag of bmp4 at 54 seconds, similar to the phrase played in the introduction. This phrase is played by the brass, vibra-phone, bass, and baritone sax. It is followed by a final chord based on the dominant, in typical tango fashion (most songs end on a chord based on the tonic, which is the first degree of the scale. The dominant is the name for the fifth degree of the scale).


32) Swing-Jazz Birthday

    The intro starts with a chord progression and bass line that was made famous by "Killer Joe," a well-known jazz standard written by Benny Golson. The first six notes played by the right hand of the piano are bmp1. They are immediately followed by a few other short piano licks, which have no relation to the "Happy Birthday" melody. The chord progression, and harmonic structures used in "Swing-Jazz Birthday" may sound a bit foreign and discordant to the average listener, but hey, that's jazz!

    At 06 seconds, the saxes play bmp1. After a brief arpeggiated piano run, the saxes play bmp2 starting at 12 seconds. Bmp2 has a few extra notes tacked on the end of it to add hipness. At 19 seconds, the brass enter playing bmp3, using some highly dissonant chord structures. At 25 seconds, the saxes answer with there own interpretation of bmp4.

    After a brief transitional lick played by the trombones at 29 seconds, the brass enter at 32 seconds and tag bmp4 in a more freely interpreted manner, as the saxes play a countermelody underneath. 

    At 36 seconds, the piano and bass re-state the "Killer Joe" chord progression from the intro. At 39 seconds the brass begin a free interpretation of bmp1 and bmp2, as the saxes play a series of descending dissonant chord structures underneath the brass. 

    At 46 seconds, the brass go far beyond free interpretation, and the saxes continue their descending ways, as the piece ends in a frenzied state of cacophonic excitement.


33) Fifties Birthday

    This piece begins with a piano lick similar to the one Fats Domino played in the intro of the classic fifties hit "Blue Monday." The "Happy Birthday" melody begins at 06 seconds and is played by a low twangy guitar sound, made famous in the fifties by Duane Eddy. 

    The repetitive two measure chord progression used throughout most of this piece is the same as the one used in "Sleepwalk," a popular hit for solo guitar in the fifties by Santo and Johnny. This chord progression is remarkably similar to the 1-6-2-5 chord progression used in thousands of hits during the fifties. (The 
1-6-2-5 chord progression is the same progression used in the children's favorite piano duet piece, "Heart and Soul").

    Another trademark of the fifties that this arrangement contains is the sound of the piano pounding out triplets (three attacks per beat) in the upper register of the keyboard. Interwoven amongst the guitar birthday melodic phrases are sounds of violins, harp and celesta. These sounds bring to mind the lush instrumental hits of the fifties, in particular the theme from "Summer Place' by Percy Faith.

    At 51 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is completed, as the piece ends with a cliché, ending phrase from the fifties.


34) Samba Birthday

    Samba is a rhythmic Brazilian dance of African origin. The intro contains the sounds of assorted percussion instruments from South America, featuring the cuica, which sounds like a cross between a barking dog, and a human asthma attack.

    At 08 seconds, the vibraphone (stereo right) enters playing a repetitive cliché samba figure. At 12 seconds the bandolim (stereo left) enters playing a different cliché samba figure.

    At 16 seconds the zampona (a pipe flute from South America) enters and plays a slightly ornamented bmp1. Bmp1 is partially altered here. If you were singing it, it would be as if you sang the words "Happy birthday - happy birthday - to you." At 17 seconds, the cavaquinho (stereo right) enters and plays an unaltered version of bmp1, joining the zampona midway through its phrase.

    At 23 seconds, the zampona and the cavaquinho play bmp2 in the same manner they played bmp1. At 31 seconds the zampona and cavaquinho play a slightly ornamented bmp3 and at 39 seconds play a slightly ornamented bmp4.

    At 44 seconds, the cuica is featured again during a short percussion break. At 47 seconds the flute and cavaquinho tag bmp1 in much the same manner they played it the first time at 16 seconds. After another cuica interruption, the flute and cavaquinho tag bmp2 at 56 seconds, in much the same manner they played it the first time at 23 seconds.

    At 1:00 seconds, the cuica returns for a last gasp, as the percussion finish out the piece.

 

35) Lullaby Birthday

    "Lullaby Birthday" has three different purposes. To lull the listener into a restful birthday nap, to regress the listener back to his early birthday years, or to calm down infants and toddlers on their birthdays. To induce these moods, "Lullaby Birthday" starts off with the sound of a music box playing a portion of the popular children's lullaby "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

    At 10 seconds the flute (stereo right) begins the "Happy Birthday" melody, as the sound of the music box continues underneath. Also at 10 seconds, an airy feminine voice enters singing Tchaikowsky's "Sleeping Beauty Waltz." In order to accommodate the "Happy Birthday" melody to the chord progression and melody of the "Sleeping Beauty Waltz," some of the notes of the "Happy Birthday" melody are drawn out longer than usual.

    At 21 seconds, the flute plays bmp2, as the angelic voice continues the "Sleeping Beauty Waltz." At 26 seconds, while the flute is in the middle of playing bmp2, some pizzicato strings (stereo left) join the angelic voice in playing a portion of the "Sleeping Beauty Waltz."

    At 32 seconds, the flute plays bmp3, while the clarinet (stereo left) takes over playing the melody of the "Sleeping Beauty Waltz." Also at 32 seconds, a harp enters, playing a background accompaniment figure in conjunction with the music box.

    At 43 seconds, the flute plays bmp4. At the same time the pizzicato strings join the clarinet in the continuation of the "Sleeping Beauty Waltz." At 53 seconds, the flute plays a flurry of notes leading into a tag of bmp4 at 55 seconds. The piece ends with the music box playing a portion of "Brahms' Lullaby."

 

36) Patriotic Birthday

    "Patriotic Birthday" blends the "Happy Birthday" melody with "The Star Spangled Banner." As "The Star Spangled Banner" is being played in its entirety, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played completely, three separate times.

    The first playing of the "Happy Birthday" melody occurs as it is mixed with the first stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner" starting at 00 seconds. The rhythmic phrasing of the "Happy Birthday" melody and the first stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner" are so similar, that it is not that easy to pick out the two separate melodies as they are being played. The tuba (stereo left) plays the "Happy Birthday" melody, and the trumpets and trombones (stereo right) play a harmonized version of "The Star Spangled Banner."

    At 21 seconds, the second playing of the "Happy Birthday" melody occurs as it is mixed with the second stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner" (the stanza that starts with the phrase "Whose broad stripes and bright stars"). The rhythmic phrasing of the "Happy Birthday" melody and the second stanza of "The Star Spangled Banner" are also so similar, that it is not that easy to pick out the two separate melodies as they are being played. The flute (stereo right) plays the "Happy Birthday" melody, and the clarinets and bassoon (stereo left) play a harmonized version of "The Star Spangled Banner."

    The third playing of the "Happy Birthday" melody takes place in a fragmented manner over the second half of "the Star Spangled Banner." At 41 seconds, the French horns begin the second half of "The Star Spangled Banner" (starting with the phrase "And the rockets red glare"). At 43 seconds, the glockenspiel plays bmp1. After a six second pause, the glockenspiel plays bmp2 at 53 seconds. 
After an even longer thirteen second pause, the glockenspiel and flute play bmp3 and bmp4 at 1:11 seconds, as the rest of the band play the last two phrases of the "Star Spangled Banner." You can sit down now.


37) Chopsticks Birthday

    "Chopsticks Birthday" takes the familiar childhood, two-finger, piano favorite "Chopsticks," and converts it into a four-handed piano duet in the style of classical composer, Joseph Haydn. It should go without saying by now, that the "Happy Birthday" melody is combined with 'Chopsticks" in this version, but too late, I already said it.

    The piece starts out plainly enough, with the simple playing of the "Chopsticks' melody, that any child could play with their two index fingers. At 05 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played in a lower register of the piano against the "Chopsticks" melody.

    At 10 seconds, the second section of the "Chopsticks" melody is played, while the "Happy Birthday" melody is played against it in a higher register of the piano. Also at 10 seconds, an arpeggiated figure is played in a lower register of the piano that helps accompany the other two melodies.

    At 15 seconds, the second section of the "Chopsticks" melody is played again, but this time in an arpeggiated, almost trill-like manner. The "Happy Birthday" melody is played against it in an even higher register of the piano. Also at 15 seconds, the same arpeggiated figure that was played at 10 seconds, is played again in order to accompany the other two melodies.

    At 20 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played in the middle register of the piano, while the first section of the "Chopsticks" melody is played against it. Also at 20 seconds, a rapid arpeggiated countermelody is played in the upper register of the piano to provide interest.

    At 26 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played for the last time, and is in the middle register of the piano again. The first section of the "Chopsticks" melody is played against it, but this time a rapid countermelody is added in the lower register of the piano to add excitement.

    At 31 seconds, bmp4 is tagged as the piece ends in a blazing finish.


38) Gothic Birthday

    "Gothic Birthday" gets your immediate attention with a blood curdling scream, followed by various scary, unsettling sounds to draw you into the world of the macabre.

    At 06 seconds, bmp1 is played by an organ sound reminiscent of the "Phantom of the Opera." In order to prolong the horror, the "Happy Birthday" melody is drawn out as long as musically possible. The melody is also harmonized in an eerie discordant manner.

    At 13 seconds, as bmp1 ends, the sound of an accelerating heartbeat can be heard. It is accelerating, no doubt, because of the sounds of growls and heavy breathing from that monster nearby.

    At 19 seconds, bmp2 is played by the organ, and is followed by the sound of a thousand bats being released from their cages at 28 seconds. At 30 seconds, the organ plays bmp3, which is followed by the sound of an arrow from a crossbow finding the heart of a giant centaur at 39 seconds.

    At 41 seconds, the organ plays bmp4, and is followed by the sound of thunder and lightning, splitting the earthly realms asunder at 48 seconds.

    As the organ slowly fades out on the last note of the "Happy Birthday" melody, sounds conjuring up images of voodoo magic rituals enter at 50 seconds. At 56 seconds, the sounds of what is probably going on inside the head of psychotic madman are heard. These sounds eventually fade off into a vast void of eternal darkness. Pleasant dreams!


39) Polka Birthday

    "Polka Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with the most popular polka song ever written: "The Beer Barrel Polka." The introduction begins with the eight note descending line that always precedes the chorus of "The Beer Barrel Polka." However, just for fun, after the first four notes are played, the second four notes are modulated up a half step, and when the chorus actually begins at 04 seconds, it is modulated up one more half step. The descending line of the intro is played by the accordion (stereo right) and the fiddle (stereo left). The clarinet offers up a trill and the drums contribute a roll for background support.

    At 04 seconds, the accordion begins the chorus of 'The Beer Barrel Polka" (corresponding to the words "Roll out the barrels etc,"). The "Happy Birthday" melody is highly fragmented in this piece. Bmp1 is played by the clarinet at 08 seconds, as the accordion continues with "The Beer Barrel Polka" melody.
At 12 seconds, the accordion continues with the next phrase of "The Beer Barrel Polka," but the clarinet does not play bmp2 until 16 seconds.

    In like manner, the accordion continues the next phrase of "The Beer Barrel Polka" at 20 seconds, but the clarinet does not play bmp3 until 24 seconds. At 28 seconds the accordion continues on to the next phrase of "The Beer Barrel Polka," but the clarinet does not play bmp4 until 32 seconds.

    At 36 seconds, the accordion tags the last phrase of "The Beer Barrel Polka," and at 40 seconds the clarinet tags a drawn out version of bmp4. This is followed by a descending chromatic run by the accordion and fiddle at 45 seconds.

    The piece ends as the clarinet tags bmp4 at 47 seconds, while at the same time, the accordion, fiddle, and bass play the most oft used cliché ending in music history ("shave and a haircut, two bits").

    Also note the numerous fiddle fills and snare drum fills that help add some zest and pep to the arrangement!


40) Heavenly Birthday

    "Heavenly Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with the music of "The Lord's Prayer" by Albert Malotte. The introduction begins with the sound of chimes and an ascending harp passage that is intended to guide the listener up through the heavenly spheres.

    Upon arriving at the final destination, the flute and a bell sound (both stereo left) begin playing the "Happy Birthday" melody in a drawn out manner at 04 seconds. At the same time, a heavenly angelic voice (stereo right) starts singing the music to "The Lord's Prayer," at 04 seconds.

    The repetitive plucking of the harp, and the occasional sprinkling of chimes provide accompaniment for these two melodies throughout the arrangement. Also the violins give background support with a combination of sustained notes and contrapuntal lines.

    The flute and bell sound start playing bmp2 at 17 seconds, bmp3 at 31 seconds, and bmp4 at 44 seconds. Meanwhile, the angelic voice continues on with the melody of "The Lord's Prayer." Both melodies stop at 59 seconds, as the piece ends with a harp arpeggio, and a smattering of chimes.

    Unfortunately, even though the "Happy Birthday" melody was played in its entirety, only the first third of "The Lord's Prayer" melody was used in this arrangement. Don't blame me! I can't help it if God made the "Happy Birthday" song a lot shorter than "The Lord's Prayer."

Detailed Notes on Tracks 41-50


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