Listen to this!

A very common component of intro music textbooks is a listening guide, because typical course objectives for a non-major intro to music or music appreciation course include teaching students to recognize musical elements, to understand and identify musical style and style periods, to develop critical listening skills, along with some aspects of learning about music and culture. These listening guides can range from a play-by-play of the entire piece to a general overview of a piece and its high points. Consider the following a version of the latter…

This past Sunday we did the song “This Is How We Know” (as performed and recorded by Matt Redman). I like this song for a variety of reasons, but…I know this song mainly from its recorded version by Matt Redman, and there are things I like about it based on this version, including the instrumental piano hook, the traces of Redman’s accent when he sings certain words, and the use of delay on the vocals in different parts of the song.

I also like this song for other reasons, including the actual meaning of the lyrics of the song and the bass line during the second part of the verse or what you might call the pre-chorus. And I also like this song when our band plays it and Little Drummer Boy gets to do his thing on the bridge.*

One of the most common and often satisfying aspects of (some) popular music is its use of repetition and what I’ll call accessibility (you might also call it simplicity). When it comes to participatory worship music, this “accessible” part is incredibly important. Thus, in the interest of group participation, it becomes imperative that songs aren’t too terribly complicated and that they don’t change a ton (because we’re working with a non-notated, aural tradition for the most part). However, in this context, I find subtle changes to be quite interesting and even more satisfying at times.

On the recording of “This Is How We Know,” as is quite common with this particular style of music, the bridge builds and the chorus following the bridge is down and builds up again to the end of the song. On this final chorus, the chord progression changes on the line “For this life…” On “life,” in any other chorus it’s the I chord, but on this final chorus, it’s the vi chord (this isn’t indicated on the Redman chart). This is a very common substitution in Western music, in general, and there’s tons that you could read if you’re interested in the function or meaning or interpretations of the vi chord in classical OR popular music traditions. I could probably come up with something in relation to this song…

But that’s not really where I’m going with this. I like that part because it’s different. It’s a subtle difference that I really enjoy (and when the musical tradition in question is by its very nature simple, then one should take what one can get, eh?). So if you want to hear it, on the video below at 1:09 you can hear the ‘regular’ I chord chorus, and around 3:45 you can hear the ‘different’ vi chord chorus.

Happy Friday!

*I will take this moment to note that according to the chart available on Redman’s website, this section is called a “mid-section.” I think it’s the British thing…


One thought on “Listen to this!

  1. Slightly off-topic yet hilarious: a particular musicology professor @ UGA has long proposed that he be permitted to author a new edition of the Kerman/Tomlinson music apprec textbook (called, aggressively enough, “Listen!”) which he would title… “Listen, Dammit!”

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