Music & Story

What's the Story There is some controversy in the Music world if story is an important aspect of music.  When we think of story, we might think of childhood fairytales, or maybe a book we have to read, or have read.  Or maybe it is a humorous retelling of a story of something a friend did unintentionally.  Regardless of what the story may be, there are many ways to tell it.  Sure you could put it in words.  You could write it, or read it, or say it, or see it, or could you play it?

In band this year we have been exploring the relationships that music may have with music. I know when I hear music, especially instrumental music, I see images.   Maybe this is because I have an infatuation with movies and music in those movies. Or maybe it is because I like to interpret the world through stories?  Maybe it is because I am a visual learner?  Or maybe I’m just crazy and no one else sees images with music.

In any case, with this post, we have had many learning experiences in class, and you have just done some reading about how music and stories work together. With this Blog post I would like you to reflect on some of this learning.  What things interest you about what we have learned this year?  What did you learn from the readings?  What pieces are your choosing to do your research on?  Without doing any of this research, what do you know about the pieces, and what stories do you hear with these pieces?  Remember you need to choose 1 piece of your own choosing by any band or artist, and one piece that we have done in band this year.    Give us a synopsis of what the stories are without doing your research, and what the similarities between the pieces are.





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21 Responses to Music & Story

  1. Heather Bondeson says:

    This year I enjoyed learning about Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. I especially liked that once we knew the story, the music seemed to be more real. It seemed to have a purpose other than just being an interesting piece of music. In a way it was autobiographical of Berlioz’s life and instead of writing it, he chose a more creative way of expressing his story about this girl he loved.
    The readings taught me that all listeners create their own stories to go with a piece of music as a way of understanding and interpreting the piece. I’m planning to research Tchaikovsky’s ‘Dance of the Swans’ from ‘Swan Lake’.
    All I know about this piece so far is the story of the ballet as a whole, not this specific piece. A Prince goes hunting with the crossbow he got from his mother and chases a swan to Swan Lake. The sun sets and the swan turns into this hot chick named Odette. She was cursed by an evil sorcerer along with the other swans at the lake who are actually other girls. The Prince falls in love with Odette, obviously, and for some reason their is a ball, I think it has something to do with suitors to the Prince or something. Anyway, the evil sorcerer sends his daughter, Odile, to the ball disguised as Odette. The Prince dances with her and pledges his love to her and real Odette leaves all sad and goes back to the lake and I’m pretty sure they die at the end after a fight with the evil guy or something like that.
    In ‘Dance of the Swans’, the piece sounds pretty sad, so I’m imagining it’s sometime after the ball or something when everyone is dying because it sounds pretty ominous.
    The band piece I’m choosing is Symphony Fantastique, partly because I remember it the best and it’ll be a little bit easier and I have a LOT of homework and it sucks, and partly because I liked the story line behind it.
    I’m researching movement one, ‘Daydreams, passions.’ The piece is the opening of the entire symphony and begins the story of the artist seeing this pretty girl for the first time. In the beginning he’s all depressed and sad, and then he sees this girl. He falls in love with her and becomes much happier, at least for a while. She doesn’t notice or return his affections and throughout the rest of the symphony he is haunted by the thought of her. How cheesy.
    There are some similarities between the two pieces. Both pieces are ominous at parts. ‘Dance of the Swans’ is dark the whole time and the beginning of “Daydreams, passions” is pretty depressing before he sees the girl. They also both happen to be about a man falling in love with a girl the second he sees her which is kind of ridiculous, but hey, whatever floats your boat I guess… The ends of the symphonies are both pretty depressing and somewhat scary. Both pieces happen to be from the romantic periods.

  2. David Baker says:

    This year I enjoyed listening to all of the songs we played. But I have to some what agree with Heather on this one. I too enjoyed Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. One reason is because of the whole story line behind it. Another is because this has a similarity in the music I’m choosing has somewhat the same story line. I mean, Berlioz went through all so much just because he liked a girl so much that he threatened to kill himself if the girl he loved wouldn’t marry him. That’s not love that’s called desperate.

    The piece of music I chose is Roads Untraveled by Linkin Park. I chose this song because it has somewhat the same story line behind it, but not quite. Berlioz fights for a girl but the main person fights for revenge on a long time rival because that rival killed one of his friends on purpose in a car race and everyone thought that the rival changed. But when he threw the car in the air and it caught on fire and never turned around. That was proof that he didn’t care.

    At the end, after hours and hours of driving from sea to sea to a huge race that has a load of cash involved so that the main person can pay of his garage. He brings the rivals car to the race so that the cops will see it he gets his revenge. Not by killing him, but by destroying his car and leaving him for the cops and clearing the main persons name for something he never even did.

  3. David Baker says:

    That’s weird it 12:15 and it says I posted my reply at 4:14 Huh???

  4. Melissa Blais says:

    The piece that I enjoyed learning about was Fantasia 2000 because it was interesting how the artists and musicians created stories from imagining stories from the music. Beethoven’s Symphony became popular from different story lines that were created and that is what interested me the most.
    The song that I chose to research was Let It Be by The Beatles. It has a different concept from Fantasia but it tells a very important story. It talks about when times are tough that you shouldn’t give up because there are always people or events that make it better and will help you get through it. Others may think differently about the song or might think the storyline means something different but to me it was about the strong message and that’s why I chose this song.

  5. Maddy Logan says:

    This year we have spent a lot of time talking about how story connects with music. We did the project earlier this year where we picked a piece of music and wrote a story for it and more recently we have been listening to Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” while listening to it we have also been reading the composers program notes to help us better understand what the story behind the music is. After we did that we delved into Berlioz’s personal life and what was happening behind the scenes that made him want to compose this piece.

    After all that we have done this year it has become clear to me that almost every piece of music has a story behind it regardless of genre. I have also learned that each individual listener of a piece can have their own different interpretation it. I think that listening and finding a story is very important when you are listening to music because it can make the listener better understand the artist and the song itself, not just the lyrics. I also believe that knowing the story behind a piece can give the listener an emotional connection with the music which can affect how they feel about a certain song.

    I choose the song “Drops of Jupiter” by train because when you first listen to the lyrics it appears that the writer is singing about a women leaving someone she loves in order to try to find herself and determine her real feelings. But after listening to it a few times and doing a quick google search (opps I did some research) I learned that the song was written after the death of the artists mother and is about him trying to take her death and his loss to find himself and to find a reason for his life.

  6. Matthew Cormier says:

    We have currently been working on the symphony fantastique from the composer Hector Berlioz. I have really liked playing this piece so far because of the challenges it gave us. We have now gotten to the point of where we know how to play it with almost no error. I liked how much of his life Berlioz chose to put into this song sharing his story with anyone who would hear this song. He wanted everyone especially the woman he was after to know how much he wanted her. But he did go a little bit overboard with swallowing the opium. The piece that I have chosen is in some ways similar but different at the same time. It is also about a woman but not trying to get her but trying to forget her.

    The piece that I have chosen is Let Her Go by Passenger. This song represents a man losing a woman in his life and trying to get over her instead of a man willing to kill himself just to get a girl. In both songs the girls were big parts of the lives of the men but Hector did not have his woman like the artist who wrote Let Her Go did. In Let Her Go a certain line in the song represents that you will never know what you have until its gone. Hopefully Berlioz’s obsession realized this about him because he wanted her more then anything. Hector took it way too far though. You should never drug yourself to get a woman. At that point in time you should find yourself someone else who would actually want to be with you.

    In the end of both of these songs the men do not end up with the woman that they wanted. But the artist who wrote Let It Go was willing to move on. If Berlioz was willing to move on then maybe he could of gotten another women who he could of loved as much as the Shakespeare actress.

  7. Dayle Swasey says:

    I personally really enjoyed Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique and the March of the Scaffold. I really liked how we got to read about each part and watch the documentary on the whole idea of the song. At first I thought it wouldn’t be so interesting but I really liked it. I found it interesting that in March of the Scaffold it was like each little thing we played during it played a part in the story. I like that we got to see how each part worked. It was an interesting piece to look at. It was different then most and I enjoyed that.
    I chose a song by The Ghost of Paul Revere. I wanted to change it up and pick a local band that I enjoyed. The Ghost of Paul Revere is a folk like band from our own Buxton, Maine. I heard about them through my sister who is friends with them. I have been to over 5 of their concerts. The strong harmonica is what really blows your mind. They all have such amazing voices which makes you wonder why aren’t they bigger? (If you want to listen to them they’re on spotify).
    I chose the song Ghostland. I picked this one because a lot of their songs about girls. Which I find it to be a boring topic to just listen to because I mean you know what it’ll be about. When I first listened to this song I wasn’t quite sure the story. I had to re listen to it and really get the whole idea of it. I finally decided that my point of view for the story is that this guy is living the same life everyday. He decides to try and get out of his boring life. He refers to it as a ghostland he lives in. When he says “which side has won” I think he means his heart or gut. As in should he live this ghostland or stay. But he really doesn’t know exactly what will happen next that’s why he says “but will I see you tomorrow? Only dead men know”. I think this song has more to it then I think that’s why I plan to look more into it.
    This piece relates to March of the Scaffold because Berlioz is really at an ending point like this guy in Ghostland. Berlioz doesn’t know what to do without his true love but this guy doesn’t know what to do in this town. I know they are different in a way because I don’t think that Ghostland is about a girl but Berlioz’s is. I mean Berlioz dreams of dying while in Ghostland it definitely doesn’t go that far but they both are at ending points of a journey they are tired of living.

  8. Anna says:

    I find it interesting how music works with the brain and causes so many emotions, thoughts, and connections. It’s crazy to me that listening to a piece of music can make us think and feel different things; for example, how a minor chord makes us feel different than listening to a major chord. In class, I’ve enjoyed learning about all these stories that are portrayed through music and how we picture scenes based on the parts of the music.

    The pieces I chose to do my research on are The Typewriter and I’ll Make a Man Out of You (yes, the song from Mulan). We worked a little with the story of The Typewriter. In the first part of the song, a man is writing with his typewriter. In the quiet section, he falls asleep and dreams of being a musician. Then he wakes up in a panic when he remembers that he has to finish writing. I’ll Make a Man Out of You is a piece from Mulan. Obviously we can tell what the storyline of the song is based on the movie and the song’s lyrics. But if you also listen to the music, you can also hear the story in the music’s details (instrumentation, tempo, rhythms, etc). The drums tell us there is some sort of marching or group preparing for war. We can tell that something great happens in the end because of the all of the instruments and louder dynamics. In the movie, the group is preparing for war with the Huns. Mulan has a hard time adjusting to the training at first, but then ends up impressing everyone when she climbs the pole (because she’s awesome).

  9. Liz Newberry says:

    So far this year in band, I have learned a lot about how music and story can intertwine and make something so much more special. I feel like when there’s a story behind a piece of music, or even if you just create one to go along with what you’re hearing, it helps you better understand what’s happening in the piece. I guess you could say you kind of get emotionally attached to it in some strange way. From one of the video clips we had to watch, I learned that taking the same scene of a movie and changing the music can be a huge difference. With the western movie, you had the older version with the typical western music. It sounded very frantic or like they were on a mission to do something. With the newer version of the movie, there was a lone piano that sounded like a sad melody. It changed that scene in a heartbeat.

    The song that I will be researching is Kiss The Rain by Yiruma. All that I know about this piece is that it’s done by a single piano and that it’s insanely beautiful. Without doing any research, it sounds like the person playing this song is longing for something or someone. While listening, even a story appears in my head of a couple walking through a pretty little meadow hidden from the rest of the world. You can just tell how deeply in love these two are.

    The band piece that I’ll be doing is Berloiz’s “The Ball”. I mean they’re both kind of about love right? I don’t know anything about this piece other than the fact that it leads to the piece we’re playing, March to the Scaffold. I’d like to learn about another piece from Symphonie Fantastique that was on the happier side, but still had the darkness of longing for someone the artist couldn’t have.

  10. Ryan "cool guy" Harris says:

    Not every piece of music needs to have a story. Many people say that it does however. I don’t feel like a story necessarily needs to be portrayed throughout every piece of music. Music is something that can flow right from you without knowing it. Once the piece is complete, people may interperet it differently than others and claim there is a story being told in their mind. Even though they don’t need to have a story, having one will be beneficial in the writing process. My two pieces are “If You Can’t Hang” by Sleeping with Sirens and “March to the Scaffold” by Hector Berlioz. Both of these songs are very different styles of genres but both have the same ieee fixe, women. If You Can’t Hang talks about how Kellin (lead singer) fell in love at a mere age 17, eventually going throughout the relationship it goes downhill and they are no longer together. Kellin got heartbroken much like what happened to Berlioz. Berlioz was a youngster once too and fell madly in love with a women. She ended up being something with him so his heart was not completely broken. Once going steady, the women breaks his heart and Berlioz attempts suicide. These two pieces connect with the ieee fixe on women breaking there hearts although two completely different ways of showing it. SWS use somewhat aggressive guitar licks with distortion to create an angry feeling of grit in the piece. Berlioz uses a symphony, because it’s all they had at that time, with different instruments showing different parts of the story.

  11. Liz Doyle says:

    Music & story-telling are two human-created concepts that seem to go hand in hand. I tend to overanalyze lyrics in songs quite a bit, & if a song I like has meaningful lyrics that give an interesting message in the form of a musical “story”, I enjoy the song that much more. When it comes to songs without lyrics, in the past I usually have only thought as songs to be helpful in defining the tone of a visual story, such as a play, rather than thinking of the songs as stories themselves. This year, I have been able to take a better look at instrumental pieces without the aid of a visual to see how the music can in fact tell a story. I am choosing Symphonie Fantastique to examine because upon initially hearing it for the first time, I honestly didn’t really think anything of it. But after using it in our band project & learning the actual story behind the music, it really became a more powerful & interesting piece to me. For my other piece, I debated on doing a song with or without lyrics. But ultimately I think will choose the song “Kill Rock n Roll” by the fantastic System of a Down. The title & lyrics can be interpreted to mean the metaphorical death of a genre of music, unless you knew beforehand that there was actually a rabbit named Rock n Roll that the band members accidentally ran over one night & felt really bad about it. More to come in project, stay tuned.

  12. Spencer Ratte says:

    Like a lot of people, I like the story of Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. The story is illustrated by the music extremely well, and the story itself is interesting. Every part of the story is heard in the music, which is different from a lot of other classical or band pieces. In most, you have to struggle to find the story, or stretch it and make tenuous connections. Symphony Fantastique isn’t like that, and that’s why it’s such a good example of story in music.
    The piece I’m using is Jesus of Suburbia by Green Day. I chose it for much the same reason I chose Symphony Fantastique: the story is easily heard in the music. Yes, there are lyrics to tell the story, but it is also reflected well in the music. The story is also similar: it starts happy (being in love, leaving an unhappy situation), and ends in tragedy (death).

  13. Lexi Thomas says:

    Symphony no. 3 composed by Robert Schumann is a peaceful and happy piece that can illustrate many different stories to people. To me it describes a wedding. A women wakes up on the morning of her wedding. She realizes she is running behind schedule and begins running around to get ready. A 16th note run is continuously heard during the time of her getting ready. I believe this is her running up and down the stairs and every which way through a house. The grand royal rhythms immediately following is her getting her hair and makeup done. The music decrescendos and converts into a soft and quiet sound. This moment is when the husband is getting ready. He’s gradually and calmly getting ready, because he’s not worried or late. At around 2 minutes and 30 seconds of the piece the grand royal music returns. This is the husband descending the stairs to the limo. At 2 minutes and 53 seconds the husband leaves and the section of music seems to go completely silent. Right after you return to the women getting ready frantically. Theres a break in the music where it’s calm again and the image of the man heading to the church returns. At 3 minutes and 35 seconds you are back to the women finishing getting ready. At 3:50 back to the man getting closer and closer to the church. Between the 4 minute and 5 minute marker the man arrives at the church. He is greeting the family and waving to everyone. At 5 minutes the women is arriving at the church. 5:00 to 5:35 is her preparing to walk down the aisle. The horn lines (royal sound) you hear at 5:42 is the opening of the church doors and she begins her journey down the aisle. She reaches him and they do their vows and such from 6:00 to 7:50. There kiss is illustrated from 7:50 to 8:14. The rest of the peace (till 9:19) is them leaving the church and getting in their car as everyone waves goodbye.

    This is a joyful piece and brings people the feeling of enjoyment when hearing it. There could be numerous narratives of this piece and each with a different twist to it.

    March to the Scaffold composed by Berlioz is pretty much the opposite of Symphony no. 3. March to the Scaffold is sad and depressing. Someone may imagine a funeral, a war, or in this case the march to someones death. The marching rhythms in March to the Scaffold is like the royal rhythms in Symphony no. 3. A theme that lingers through the piece. The royal sound describing a moment of intensity. Going down the stairs and getting makeup and hair done is building the suspension for the listeners to be anticipating the arrival of the two characters. The marching sound is also an anticipation, because you now when it nears it’s end there will be death.

    I feel that music in some way has to tell a story. Sure you could throw a bunch of notes, rhythms, and dynamics together and call it a piece. But there has to be some kind of story behind it. If the piece is happy then maybe the composer may have been in a happy state and indirectly wanted to express it through music. Maybe not the story, but the sounds that make them feel the way they do because of such experience. This allowing listeners to relate to these feelings and see them as well. Every piece of music has a story. Be it an indirect or a direct story. Either the composer wants you to know the story or they want you to feel the same they did no matter the story behind it. Somewhere in that composer made them feel like a 16th note run was needed to express the way they felt. Like the idea of music stimulating the brain. A fast and racing song can cause someone to experience anticipation and alertness. A slow and quiet song can get someone thinking and feeling sad. Music can indirectly and directly tell life events, but now matter the song feelings can be made and personal narratives can be formed.

  14. Caleb Pendleton says:

    As you can see, many chose Berlioz’s Symphony Fantastique. I did enjoy it very much, and at first wanted to use it, I thought I would create a bit of a challenge for myself and choose another piece that we played that nobody else chose, or probably will choose. That piece is Fanfare to the Common Man. Though a story is not easily extracted from the music, there is a story and inspiration behind the music. It has a much more patriotic and bold style than any other band pieces we have played. The inspiration of this piece is from a speech where vice president Henry A. Wallace proclaimed the “Century of the Common Man”. There is still much more research to be done on this piece, but I believe it is going to be very interesting to discover the story behind this great piece of music.
    The piece I chose to use for this project is New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak. This piece was composed in 1893, and it is about the composers discovery of the New World, america. I chose this piece because, unlike Fanfare to the Common Man, the story is much more easily seen, but still will take research to go more in depth into the inspiration and experiences that caused the composer to write this piece. I think this piece will be very cool to compare to Fanfare to the Common Man, because they are similar and different, and were written in different eras. Both of these pieces are great, and this project will be very interesting.

  15. Brooke Ward says:

    There is not always a story to be intended. Sometimes the composer leaves it out, but not always. If there isn’t a story many people think of what is going on and what is happening inside the music. Its important though to not say that what you think is the story because the composer might have chosen a different story to go along with it. My Kind of Love by Emeli Sandé is the song I chose. This song relates to March to the Scaffold for me because each of the stories being told the characters don’t get who they want. They fight to get the other to see but are ignored and left behind trying again and again. Although its pop rather than classical it still has the same feeling with the character feeling despair and a type of hopelessness. In the music in My Kind of Love, you can’t tell that is is not a sad song, but you can tell that it is not a fast upbeat song. In March to the Scaffold, you can defiantly tell it is a dreary and hopeless piece with low instruments. Until it gets to the idee fixe then it turn to cheers and gets a little happy. I chose this song because many people can relate to heartbreak, including Berlioz. Going March to the Scaffold over and over helps me realize that stories can be misinterpreted all the time. Without learning in detail I never would have known that.

  16. Gabe says:

    “March to the Scaffold” in Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique”, there were many things that interested me. The main thing that interested me was the story behind the music and how the music related to the story. I particularly enjoyed discovering for myself that the timpani in the beginning was an allusion to the marching drums to the scaffold. Overall I enjoyed learning about the small musical elements that contributed to the story, such as the violins representing the squealing crowd. The piece I chose to research was “Dance of the Knights” by Prokofiev. This piece is one of my favorite classical pieces simply because it sounds amazing, so it made a good candidate. I know this piece is from the play “Romeo and Juliet”, so there must be some story behind it, I reasoned. The name of the piece, “Dance of the Knights”, hints a fight scene, possibly the killing of Mercutio. The music starts off with a bold, powerful theme which transitions into a graceful and dignified section, then back to the powerful theme. The way the music moves from one idea to the next indicates the possible presence of a story. Between this piece and “March to the Scaffold”, there are quite a few similarities. They both seem to tell a story, and both use musical effects to contribute to that story. In “March to the Scaffold”, the timpani and dark theme portray marching to the scaffold. In “Dance of the Knights”, the powerful brass and bass section set the stage for some sort of battle or war. Even the Name “Dance of the Knights” implies a battle.

  17. Eddie says:

    One piece that I was interested in learning about in band this past trimester was Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie Fantastique” of which we are playing March to the Scaffold. This piece has a lot of history behind it, not just because of the historical circumstances at the time, but also the thoughts and emotions of the writer. Hector Berlioz was truly a romantic because he poured his feelings into this creation in hopes of gaining the heart of his one true love. Because the story in and behind this piece caught my attention, I am using it for the research project, and I will be comparing this to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This was the first piece I thought of which I could relate to the symphony, and it fits quite well. I know that in “Symphonie Fantastique,” the writer has delusions about reality and what is happening around him. He is in love with a girl, and because the girl does not love him back decides to poison himself with opium. Under the influence of this drug, he dreams that he kills the woman he loves, and envisions himself being executed for doing so. In my interpretation, “Bohemian Rhapsody” follows someone who is not sure whether what they are going through is reality or just a fantasy. In this undetermined state, said person supposedly kills someone and from there on out, the piece gets more and more hectic. This follows quite well the set up of Berlioz’s composition, and thus makes for a swell comparison.

  18. Marissa Rowe says:

    I’m comparing March To The Scaffold with La Dispute’s Then Again Maybe You Were Right. There is a lot that you can compare with the two songs. They both are about a girl that a guy wants. In Then Again Maybe You Were Right a guy and a girls marriage fell apart for problems they were having but he still wants her.The song is talking about how these two people’s marriage fell apart but he still thinks of her a lot and sees her in his dreams. The guy knows he won’t get her though and that he probably shouldn’t want her anymore but he still wants her back and loves her. This relates to March To The Scaffold because in the music the guy wants the girl but he knows he will never have her so he takes opium and sees her in his dreams. He ends up killing her and has to die for what he’s done.Then at the Idee Fixe part he sees her in the dream coming to him before he dies. They are related because they both want a girl they can’t and shouldn’t have.

  19. Durkee says:

    Well first I would like to say that Lexi was a complete and total “try hard” on this. Furthermore, like many other i am choosing Symphony Fantastique to analyze. The piece follows the story very well compared to other pieces. Like spencer said, you don’t have to stretch the truth to try and find the story. The crescendos and rhythmic patterns really play in to the march theme of the piece.
    The piece that i have chosen is a song called Live Like you Were Dying. I chose this piece because it is an easy story to follow but it very meaningful. Also everyone can somewhat relate to the song in how they would “live like they were dying. The song tells the story of a sad story but can be interpreted in a way of happiness of living life the way you want, not how someone else wants you to.

  20. Casey Ahlemeyer says:

    I liked Symphonie Fantastique as well as many classmates because not only is it an interesting adventure to play, but it had a unique story behind it as well. It is not very hard to see that there is distress in the piece as well as peaceful pauses indicating perhaps a woman or something joyful.
    The song I will be doing is Forget You by Cee Lo Green. We played this in band this year and I found it relevant compared to Berlioz’s dramatic love story as well as Cee Lo’s it could create a great comparison or connection. I chose this piece because it seemed as though Forget You was a contradiction of a song, I will go into furthur detail in my essay but the song can be interpreted as a heartbreak of a sort.

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