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The Birthday CD: Musical Review of Tracks 41-50

41) Salsa Birthday

    Salsa is a lively, vigorous type of contemporary Latin American popular music, blending predominantly Cuban rhythms with elements of jazz, rock, and soul music. A dominant characteristic of salsa music is the huge amount of syncopation that exists in all the instrumental parts. Syncopation is the displacement of the beats or accents in a passage, so that the strong beats become weak, or vice versa. It's as if some of the notes have been pushed ahead of the beat, or anticipated.

    The introduction features the brass playing a highly syncopated version of bmp4. The rhythm section enters at 03 seconds and is also highly syncopated. The piano plays a repetitive figure that contains one downbeat attack, and eight offbeat attacks per measure. The bass plays on offbeats almost the entire song. The only bass downbeat attacks occur at the very beginning downbeat of the piece, and at the beginning downbeat of the second section of the piece at 39 seconds.

    Unlike most popular music, the rhythm section in salsa music does not contain a standard drum set. In "Salsa Birthday," the conga drums play repetitive rhythmic patterns starting at 03 seconds, which help to anchor the rhythm section. The sound of a cowbell provides even more stability as it begins hitting each beat at 08 seconds. The timbales help add excitement and motion with their fills from 00 to 03 seconds, and 06 to 07 seconds.

    The vibraphone plays the "Happy Birthday" melody in its entirety staring at 12 seconds. Bmp2 is played at 16 seconds, followed by a slightly ornamented bmp3, at 21 seconds. The "Happy Birthday" melody is completed, by the playing of bmp4 at 26 seconds. Check out the syncopated brass punches behind the vibraphone melody during this section.

    At 30 seconds, a percussive interlude begins featuring the muted bell-like sound of the agogo (stereo right) over steady rhythms of a shaker (stereo left) and the congas. A timbale fill follows at 33 seconds, leading into the scraping sounds of the cuica (stereo left) starting at 34 seconds. Another timbale fill at 36 seconds sets up the next section of the arrangement, which is second complete playing of the "Happy Birthday" melody, only this time it is modulated down a whole step.

    At 38 seconds, the trumpets (stereo right) play bmp1, and then at 43 seconds they play bmp2. The trombones (stereo left) play a countermelody against bmp1 and bmp2. At 47 seconds, the trombones join the trumpets to play a slightly ornamented version of bmp3. At 53 seconds the trumpets play bmp4, while the trombones play a countermelody.

    After one more final timbale fill at 56 seconds, the trumpets tag bmp4 at 58 seconds as the piece ends.


42) Ragtime Birthday

    "Ragtime Birthday" features the sound of a slightly out of tune piano. I'm not sure why ragtime and out of tune pianos go together. Perhaps piano tuners were afraid to venture inside the saloons of the old west.

    The introduction is a shortened, distorted version of the introduction to the famous ragtime piece, "The Entertainer" by Scott Joplin.

    A lot of manipulation was required in order to convert the rather bland and static "Happy Birthday" melody into this bouncy, energetic ragtime piece. The "Happy Birthday" melody was arpeggiatted, ornamented, and syncopated, in order to reform it into a ragtime style.

    Despite all this melodic reconstruction, it is still possible to sing the "Happy Birthday" melody to this ragtime arrangement. An ornamented bmp1 starts at 02 seconds, but the notes that correspond to the words "to you" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" are not played until 05 seconds. Bmp1 is followed by a short fill at 06 seconds.

    In like manner, a similarly ornamented bmp2 starts at 08 seconds, but the notes that correspond to the words "to you" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" are not played until 11 seconds. Bmp2 is followed by a short fill at 12 seconds.
At 14 seconds, a highly ornamented bmp3 is played that is immediately followed by another fill at 18 seconds.

    At 19 seconds, the first part of an ornamented bmp4 is played (the part that corresponds to the words "Happy birthday" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you." This part of bmp4 is followed by a short five-note fill at 21 seconds. At 22 seconds, the same truncated part of bmp4 is repeated, followed by the same five note fill at 24 seconds.

    At 25 seconds the same truncated part of bmp4 is repeated once again, followed by the same five-note fill again at 27 seconds. At 28 seconds, the two notes that correspond to the words "to you" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" are finally played.

    The piece ends with a variation on a fragment of the melody of "The Entertainer," at 29 seconds.


43) Unhappy Birthday

    Birthdays are intended to be happy occasions. After all, we celebrate a person's date of birth as a reminder that life is good, and that the world is a better place because that person is in it.

    However, that old saying, "Into each life a little rain must fall," does hold some water. Sometimes birthdays can have a negative effect on people. The fact that your birthday is your own special personal holiday can be disappointing if that day passes and nothing particularly special happens. You can become depressed because of latent unfulfilled expectations.

    Also birthdays can become time markers for certain tragic events in a person's life, and tend to bring past wounds up to the surface again around the birth date. And for those of us over twenty-five, birthdays are a reminder that we are getting older, a terrifying thought for those of us living in a youth oriented culture.

    That is why "Unhappy Birthday" was created. If you are feeling sad on your birthday, just listen to "Unhappy Birthday" a few times. After awhile you will feel that you're not the only one who has these feelings on their birthday, and that it's all right to feel sad on your birthday. Unhappy birthday to you!

    In order to evoke feelings despair in "Unhappy Birthday" I decided to combine the "Happy Birthday" melody with one of the more gloomy yet sublime compositions ever written: Chopin's "Funeral March."

    "Unhappy Birthday" begins with the mournful drone of strings playing the beginning of the "Funeral March." The drone is reinforced by the sounds of kettle drums, and is answered plaintively by the sounds of tubular bells at 04 and 10 seconds.

    At 12 seconds, the oboe plays bmp1, followed by a striking of the tubular bells at 19 seconds. Bmp2 is played by the oboe at 22 seconds and followed by more hits from the tubular bells at 31 seconds.

    After 3 hits of the kettle drum at 34 seconds, the oboe and French horns (stereo left) play a portion of bmp3 at 37 seconds (the portion that corresponds to "Happy birthday" in the phrase "Happy birthday dear Michael." At the same time, the cello (stereo right) plays a fragment of the melody from the "Funeral March," as a counter melody to the first half of bmp3.

    There is a relatively large pause between the first half of bmp3 and the second half of bmp3. During this pause, the French horns play a melodic fragment from the "Funeral March" at 44 seconds, followed another melodic phrase form the "Funeral March" played by the cello at 50 seconds.

    At 52 seconds, the oboe and French horns complete the second half of bmp3 (the portion that corresponds to the words "dear Michael" in the phrase "Happy birthday dear Michael."

    At 1:00 seconds, the oboe plays bmp4. The tubular bells and kettle drum join in on the last two notes of bmp4 at 1:07 seconds as the piece ends.


44) Rock Birthday

    "Rock Birthday" steals from the sounds of the sixties, back when the Beatles and Stones reigned supreme. It begins with a cliché rock lick from the electric guitar and bass, answered by an electric piano playing bmp1 at 01 seconds. The guitar and bass play their same lick transposed to a higher pitch at 03 seconds, followed by the electric piano playing bmp2 at 05 seconds.

    At 07 seconds the guitar and bass play their lick again starting on the original pitch, which is followed by the electric piano playing bmp3 at 08 seconds.
At 10 seconds, the bass and guitar play their same lick transposed again to a higher pitch, followed by the electric piano playing bmp4 at 12 seconds. However, the electric piano does not fully complete bmp4. It stops one note shy of its destination. If you were singing the words here to bmp4, you would sing "Happy birthday to ---."

    At 13 seconds, an interlude begins featuring organ, handclaps, and guitar power chords. At 21 seconds, a new section begins with the electric bass and acoustic piano pounding out eighth notes (two attacks per beat).

    Also at 21 seconds, the electric guitar (stereo right) plays bmp1, which is answered immediately by the organ (stereo right) playing bmp2 at 23 seconds. At 24 seconds the guitar repeats bmp1, and the organ again follows immediately with bmp2 at 26 seconds.

    At 28 seconds, the guitar and organ join together to play bmp3. At 32 seconds, the band breaks and the tom-toms play a fill. The tom-toms are tuned so that the notes of the fill play bmp4 at 33 seconds.

    At 38 seconds, the beginning section of the piece is repeated, except that a tambourine is added for more excitement. The section begins with the same cliché rock lick from the electric guitar and bass, answered by an electric piano playing bmp1 at 39 seconds. The guitar and bass play their same lick transposed to a higher pitch at 41 seconds, followed by the electric piano playing bmp2 at 43 seconds.

    At 45 seconds the guitar and bass play their lick again starting on the original pitch, which is followed by the electric piano playing bmp3 at 46 seconds.

    At 48 seconds, the bass and guitar play their same lick transposed again to a higher pitch. This lick is immediately followed by the guitar and bass playing a blues-rock lick at 50 seconds. The first half of this blues-rock lick is repeated at 53 seconds, and is followed immediately by the guitar, bass, and electric piano finishing the piece by playing bmp4 at 55 seconds.


45) Dreamy Birthday

    "Dreamy Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with the music of "Reverie" by Claude Debussy. The reverie inducing nature of this composition, coupled with the ethereal sounds of the harp, bells, and flute, should make it easy for the listener to conjure up the birthday fantasy of his or her choice.

    The piece begins with the harp playing a hypnotic repetitive figure, exactly like the figure that begins Claude Debussy's "Reverie." The flute (stereo left) enters at 04 seconds and plays Debussy-like melodies to help add counterpoint to the "Happy Birthday" melody. The bells (stereo right) enter at 05 seconds and play bmp1. At 13 seconds, the bells play bmp2, as the harp continues the repetitive figure, and the flute continues its countermelodies.

    At 20 seconds, the harp and bells play an extended arpeggiated phrase that leads to the flute and bells playing a drawn out version of bmp3 at 25 seconds. At 34 seconds, the musicians go into a reverie of their own and begin playing their own melodies for a few seconds.

    The bells and flute come back down to earth for a moment to play the first half of bmp4 (the part that corresponds to the words "Happy birthday" in the phrase 'Happy birthday to you) at 42 seconds. They quickly go off to dreamland again at 45 seconds, but manage to wake up in time to play the last half of bmp4 (the part that corresponds to the words "to you" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you") at 53 seconds.


46) Hip-hop Birthday

    Hip-hop music usually features drum machines playing sequenced rhythm loops, using electronically processed drum sounds. One of the more popular drum machines used in hip-hop music over the years is the Roland TR808 drum machine. "Hip-hop Birthday" uses the bass drum and hi-hat sounds from the TR808, and percussive sounds from other drum machines as well.

    The function of most hip-hop music is to accompany rappers and singers, but since "The Birthday CD" has no singing or speaking on it, I had to come up with some appropriate instrument to play the "Happy Birthday" melody.

    My first choice was to use the "DJ scratch" as the most fitting instrument to play the "Happy Birthday" melody. Virtually all hip-hop performers have a DJ on stage. The DJ stands at a turntable, rapidly pushing and pulling a record back and forth, to add rhythmic scratching sounds to the music track. In "Hip-hop Birthday," the pitches of the scratches are raised and lowered to play the "Happy Birthday" melody.

    "Hip-hop Birthday" starts out with the drum sounds pretty high up in the mix. Other synth sounds supply background effects and texture. At 18 seconds, the DJ scratch (stereo left) enters and begins the "Happy Birthday" melody. At 23 seconds, bmp2 is played, followed by bmp3 at 28 seconds and bmp4 at 33 seconds.

    At 39 seconds, the "Happy Birthday" melody is played for a second time, only this time by the bass drum. A distinguishing characteristic of the TR808 bass drum is that its sound sustains for such a long time, that an actual pitch can be heard. In this piece, the pitch of the bass drum is altered on each attack, so that the bass drum actually plays the "Happy Birthday" melody. This could very well be the only melodic bass drum solo in music history!

    Another unique aspect of this particular playing of the "Happy Birthday" melody is that bmp1 starts on the downbeat. Normally the notes that correspond to the words "Happy" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" are pick-up notes to the downbeat note, which corresponds to "birth" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you." When the bass drum plays bmp1-4, the downbeat note corresponds to the syllable "Hap" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you" (there are no pick-up notes).

    Bmp1 is played by the bass drum at 39 seconds. At 43 seconds, bmp2 is played, followed by bmp3 at 48 seconds and bmp4 at 53 seconds. A synth bass plays short fills (at 42, 47, and 52 seconds) in between each of the bmps played by the bass drum. Also check out the offbeat hits played by a metallic percussion sound (stereo right), starting at 39 seconds.

    The piece ends as the bass drum and DJ scratch tag bmp4 at 58 seconds.


47) Gospel Birthday

    Today, gospel music can be any kind of music, as long as it contains lyrics that are inspired by the gospels from the Bible. "Gospel Birthday" was inspired by black gospel music, a now popularized form of impassioned rhythmic spiritual music rooted in the solo and responsive church singing of rural blacks in the American South, central to the development of rhythm and blues and of soul music.

    "Gospel Birthday" has no introduction. It starts off immediately with the piano using huge sonorous chords to bang out the "Happy Birthday" melody. The melody is played in a drawn out manner, taking up twice the normal playing time. A bass drum and snare drum are added to provide more punch, and some solo organ fills and a tambourine can be heard in the background. At 17 seconds, handclaps enter as the piece builds some momentum.

    After the "Happy Birthday" melody is completed, a drum roll begins at 30 seconds, followed by a wild piano fill leading to the entrance of a "spirited" rhythm section at 34 seconds. The first half of "Gospel Birthday is written in three, as is the original "Happy Birthday" melody, but the second half of the piece changes time signature and is played using four beats per measure.

    At 35 seconds the "Happy Birthday" melody begins again and is played the trumpet, saxophone, and trombone. Bmp4 is tagged at 51 seconds. At 55 seconds, an elongated version of bmp4 is played, which is followed by some soulful licks from the horns and rhythm section at 1:00 seconds, as the piece ends in a blaze of glory.


48) Chopin Birthday

    "Chopin Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with one of the most-well known of Chopin's compositions: "The Minute Waltz." Even though Chopin's "Minute Waltz takes closer to two minutes to play, it moves at such a rapid pace that it seems to fly by in a minute. Not do be outdone, I wrote "Chopin Birthday" so that it could be played in 42 seconds. It moves at such a rapid pace that it seems to rocket by in a half a minute!

    To sing the "Happy Birthday" melody along with the music of "Chopin Birthday" would not be an easy task. It begins simply enough. Bmp1 of the "Happy Birthday" melody is clearly stated, plain as the nose on Chopin's face. At 04 seconds, bmp1 is stated again, only with a slight rhythmic variation. At 08 seconds, bmp1 is played twice more, with each variation slightly more mutated. By 10 seconds, bmp1 has been chopped down to a four-note figure, which is played repeatedly and rapidly. This figure is similar to the four-note figure used over and over again in "The Minute Waltz."

    At 14 seconds, the left hand of the pianist enters playing an accompaniment pattern under the rapidly repeating chopped-up bmp1, which is being played by the right hand. At this point (14 seconds), part of bmp1 can be sung over the rapidly repeating four-note figure (the part that corresponds to the words "Happy birthday" 
in the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). The words "to you" would be sung when 
the piano flies up the scale and finally reaches the two notes that correspond to those two words, at 16 seconds. (There is a slight ritard at that point). After these two notes are played, there is a fill at 17 seconds that is lifted from "The Minute Waltz.

    At 19 seconds, the rapidly repeating chopped-up bmp1 is heard again. At this point (19 seconds), part of bmp2 can be sung over the rapidly repeating four-note figure (the part that corresponds to the words "Happy birthday" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). The words "to you" would be sung when the piano flies up the scale and finally reaches the two notes that correspond to those two words, at 21 seconds. (There is a slight ritard at that point also). After these two notes are played, there is a fill at 22 seconds that is again lifted from "The Minute Waltz."

    After that fill is played, there is a tiny pause, and at 25 seconds, two notes are played a little bit slower than the rest. These two notes correspond to the word "Happy" in the phrase "Happy birthday dear Michael." Between 25 and 26 seconds, the note that corresponds to the syllable "birth" of bmp3 is played. After a flurry of notes, the note that corresponds to the syllable "day" of bmp3 is played at 26 seconds. After another flurry of notes, the note that corresponds to the word "dear" of bmp3 is played at 28 seconds.

    After yet another flurry of notes, the note that corresponds to the syllable "Mi" of bmp3 is played at 29 seconds. This note has a trill on it. At 30 seconds, the note that follows the trilled note is played. This note corresponds to the syllable "chael" from the phrase "Happy birthday dear Michael," and completes bmp3.

    At 31 seconds, after a slight pause, the first 3 notes of bmp4 are played (the notes that correspond to the word and syllable "Happy birth" in the phrase "Happy birthday to you"). Immediately following these three notes, eight notes from a descending scale are played, leading to a note that corresponds to the syllable "day" in bmp4. This note is played at 33 seconds, down an octave from where the first three notes of bmp4 were played. Immediately following this note, eight more notes from a descending scale are played, leading to a note that corresponds to the syllable "to" in bmp4. This note is played at 34 seconds, down 2 octaves from where the first three notes of bmp4 were played.

    Immediately following this note, five more notes are played, as the piece ritards, leading to the final note of the piece. This note corresponds to the final word "you" in bmp4. This note is played at 37 seconds, down 3 octaves from where the first three notes of bmp4 were played.

    There now, that wasn't so bad. Maybe it wouldn't so hard to sing the "Happy Birthday" melody along with "Chopin Birthday" after all!


49) Asian Birthday

    "Asian Birthday features the sounds of instruments that come from all over East Asia and Southeast Asia. There is no rhythmic pulse to "Asian Birthday." It is played in a rubato fashion. There are numerous entrances by many different instruments during the performance of "Asian Birthday." These well-structured and disciplined set of musical entrances and phrases seem almost improvisatory in nature. This paradox of highly organized spontaneity is a concept that perhaps only the inscrutable oriental mind can comprehend.

    The piece begins with a few notes from a Japanese shakuhachi flute, accompanied by an Asian gong and several drum rolls from Chinese percussion instruments. At 03 seconds, some bonang bells from Indonesia play a series of notes from a pentatonic scale. These bell sounds are accompanied by some Asian cymbal hits.

    At 04 seconds, an assortment of plucked, string instruments from Asia enter one right after another, as if in a tag team relay. These instruments include the yangchin from China, the koto and shamesin from Japan, and the kayakeum from Korea.

    Each of these instruments play an ascending passage derived from the notes of a major pentatonic scale. This is a five note scale very popular in traditional Asian music This particular C major pentatonic scale contains the notes: C,D,E,G, and A.

    A unique characteristic of this scale is that the smallest interval between any two consecutive notes is a whole step. Most scales contain intervals of a half step between some of the notes, which enable the possibility of harsh dissonance in melodic runs, and harmonic structures. Since only relatively consonant sounds can be performed using the major pentatonic scale, most music derived from it will pleasing and restful.

    At 06 seconds, while the plucked stringed instruments are in the midst of playing their ascending passages, the shakuhachi flute plays bmp1. As the flute holds the last note of bmp1 at 10 seconds, the plucked string instruments play descending phrases from the pentatonic scale, sprinkled with percussive hits from the Chinese ban gu.

    At 16 seconds, the shakuhachi flute plays bmp2, along with Balinese bells, and the biwa, which is another Japanese string instrument. At 21 seconds, as bmp2 is ending, the plucked strings play a descending pentatonic scale run, which is followed by a quick cymbal and gong hit.

    At 24 seconds, the shakuhachi flute and bells play bmp3. As bmp3 is being played, the plucked string instruments play ascending pentatonic scale passages. At the end of bmp3 the plucked string instruments play descending pentatonic scale runs that lead to a cymbal hit at 34 seconds, and a giant gong hit at 35 seconds.

    At 35 seconds, bmp4 is played by the shakuhachi flute and the yangchin. Bmp4 is accompanied by descending and ascending passages from the plucked strings, and sporadic hits from percussion.

    At 45 seconds, bmp4 is tagged by the shakuhachi flute, the yangchin, and the hichiriki. The hichiriki is a Japanese instrument that uses a bamboo double reed, and sounds similar to an oboe. The bmp4 tag is accompanied by the pounding of a Japanese taiko drum, and more descending and ascending pentatonic scale runs from the plucked strings. The piece ends with a final cymbal hit and the obligatory gong.


50) New Year's Birthday

    "New Year's Birthday" combines the "Happy Birthday" melody with that perennial "New Year's Eve" favorite "Auld Lang Syne." Even though these two songs are sung at different times and on different occasions, they do have a similar purpose, and share a common emotional connection. When people sing "Auld Lang Syne," they are collectively marking the passing of another year. They are showing gratitude for the bounty of the past year, and expressing hope for even greater prosperity for everyone in the New Year. When people sing the "Happy Birthday" melody, they are marking the passing of another year for an individual. They are showing gratitude for all the good times they have shared with the birthday celebrant during the past year, and expressing hope that the birthday celebrant will have an even better year coming up.

    I thought it was appropriate to make "New Year's Birthday" the last piece on "The Birthday CD," because it marks the passing of the entire fifty pieces on "The Birthday CD." It also expresses hope that the listener will never tire of the "Happy Birthday" melody, and will listen to "The Birthday CD" over and over again. "Blues Birthday" is next!

    "New Year's Birthday" is divided into two sections. The first section features the big band sound of Guy Lombardo. Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians ushered in the New Year for America from the 1920's through the 1970's. His version of "Auld Lang Syne," featuring a saxophone section with a huge vibrato, is a classic.

    The second section of the piece is a tribute to "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve." Dick Clark has hosted a different conglomeration of rock bands every New Year's Eve from the 1970's to the present.

    The piece begins with the saxophone section playing "Auld Lang Syne" with a wavy vibrato. At 01 seconds, the muted trumpets play bmp1. The "Happy Birthday" melody may be a little hard to distinguish or sing to at first listen. For one thing, it comes in two beats later than usual throughout the entire piece (except for the two bmp4s in the first section). Also, it is blended with the chord progression of "Auld Lang Syne" which make the notes seem to take on different characteristics than if they were played with the regular "Happy Birthday" chord progression.

    At 06 seconds the muted trumpets play bmp2. At 12 seconds they play bmp3, and at 16 seconds they play bmp4.

    At 22 seconds, the saxes play the second half of "Auld Lang Syne." They are accompanied by the strings, which play fills and harmony lines, starting at 20 seconds. The "Happy Birthday" melody is played a second time by the brass, starting at 23 seconds. The brass play bmp2 starting at 28 seconds, followed by bmp3 at 34 seconds, and bmp4 at 38 seconds.

    At 43 seconds, the second section of the piece begins with a drum fill. The electric guitar plays the second half of "Auld Lang Syne," and at 45 seconds, the harmonica (stereo left) begins the "Happy Birthday" melody.

    At 1:05 seconds, the guitar tags the last phrase of "Auld Lang Syne," while at the same time, the harmonica tags a freely improvised version of bmp3 and bmp4, as the piece, and "The Birthday CD", come to an end.


Note: If, at the end of the fifty explanations, you still have a hard time locating the "Happy Birthday" melody, Michael Hughes will come to your home and personally explain the secrets of the fifty renditions for a $100 per hour fee, plus round-trip airfare (some restrictions apply) ;-)

 

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