Classical Music

The oldest established genre of music in the modern world, classical music spans numerous genres across multiple centuries. Classical music is deeply rooted within European and Western culture and has played an important role in cultural development. Although classical music can be said to cover almost every form of music written prior to the 20th century, most modern musicians refer to classical music as music written between the Renaissance era and the start of the 20th century. Modern classical music typically refers to music that is written in a classical style, using classical instruments, although like many musical terminologies, they are not set in stone and are often used informally.

The renaissance was an era that was of particular importance to music and it is unlikely that we would have any of the forms of modern music that we do had this period not happened. Many instruments that are still in use today were invented during the Renaissance era, although almost all of them vary greatly for their original iterations. Classical instruments are typically classified into one of four different categories: brass, string, percussion, or woodwind. Brass instruments were traditionally only played by musicians who were members of Guilds, although there are not many historical reference to street performers and whether or not they were guild members. String instruments were considered to be a more universal instrument, particularly as they were typically the least expensive of all types of instruments.

Vocal music also went through a number of changes during the Renaissance period, with vocals becoming increasingly polyphonic, something that until that time was uncommon around the world. Classical music continued to evolve during the Baroque era, and it is during this time that some of the most well-known classical composers, whose works are still frequently played today, began to emerge.

AC/DC – Back in Black

AC/DC’s seventh studio album, Back in Black, was released on the 25th of July in 1980 by Albert Productions and Atlantic Records. The album marked an important time for the bad as it was the first album to feature the bands new vocalist, Brian Johnson, following the death Bon Scott, the band’s previous vocalist.

Back in Black capitalised on the commercial success of their previous album, Highway to Hell, becoming one of the band’s most successful albums, with many fans being very impressed with Johnson’s vocal style. The band recorded the album over a seven week period that they spent in the Bahamas, between April to May 1980. The band took their producer who they had worked with on their previous album, Robert John ‘Mutt’ Lange. The album was mixed at the Electric Lady Studios in New York City, and the album cover was designed to be black as a sign of mourning for Scott.

Back in Black is currently one of the best-selling albums in history, having sold an estimated 50 million copies across the world. Part of the success of the album was the band performing a yearlong world tour, which also helped to cement them as one of the most popular live musical acts in the early 1980s. The album remains popular today, regularly being included on numerous lists of ‘greatest’ albums. Since its initial release, it has been remastered a number of times for each reissue, most recently in preparation for digital release.

The album had an influence on many individuals who would go on to become artists themselves, with the album being hailed by many critics as a crucial album in metal’s history. The journalist Joe S. Harrington said that at the time of Back in Black’s release, metal and hard rock stood on a precipice and was in serious danger of becoming unpopular in commercial markets, with many bands turning toward slower tempos and longer guitar solos. The album was instrumental in proving that there was still a large market for metal, having an additional effect that many other bands were able to achieve greater levels of success in musical markets that they may not have been able to achieve if Back in Black had not been the success that it was.

Pink Floyd

One of the defining bands of the psychedelic movement, Pink Floyd was an English rock band that formed in London in 1965. The band’s main musical style focused on progressive and psychedelic music, and were particularly known for their musical experimentation, as well as their heavy drug use.

The founding members of the band: Syd Barrett, Nick Mason, Roger Waters, and Richard Wright, were students when they decided to form a band. They played at a number of clubs that were popular in the underground music scene and managed to secure themselves a following. Barrett led the band to release two charting singles and their debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, which was released in 1967. The band recruited a fifth member in December 1967, bringing David Gilmour on board as a guitarist and backing vocalist. Soon after, in April 1986, the band lost Barrett who decided to leave due to his deteriorating mental health issues, which are rumoured to have stemmed from his heavy drug use, although some of his family dispute this. The band went on to release a number of critically acclaimed albums, including The Dark Side of the Moon.

Electronic Music

The modern genre of electronic music spans numerous individual styles and techniques. Generally for a song to be considered electronic music, it is composed using only electronic instruments, typically making heavy use of digital synthesisers and drum machines.

The genre began to grow traction during the 1990s, particularly in the United Kingdom, when clubs playing only electronic music began to pop up around the country. Although electronic music had been around for some decades by that time, it was mostly seen as either purely experimental and was not necessarily produced for commercial consumption. Electronic music has continued to evolve and now spans dozens of individually identifiable genres, such as house or dubstep.

Sampling has become an important feature of electronic music with many artists now decided not to use digitally synthesised instruments in favour of hiring musicians to play real instruments and working those into their productions instead. This has been particularly evident since 2010 when new recording techniques made producing music much cheaper and easier, as well as the invention of social media, which has helped fellow musicians to communicate with one other and collaborate without having to ever meet in person.

Heavy Metal

One of the sub-genres of rock and roll, heavy metal is a much heavier style of rock that has become its own genre. Although the exact roots are continually debated amongst fans, the roots of heavy metal date back to the early 1970s musical scene in the United Kingdom when many bands started to experiment with heavier sounding guitar. Heavy metal today is typically characterised with guitars that are heavily distorted.

Three bands that help pioneer heavier sounding guitars were: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple. Although the bands are not themselves considered to be heavy metal, they did introduce to the public how heavier guitars could be used melodically, with a lot of heavier sounding bands starting to emerge in the mid-1970s. A lot of heavy metal bands began to discard the typically blues rhythms that rock bands were using at that time, instead opting to switch for simpler melodies that would often only feature two or three chords throughout an entire track.

Heavy metal has itself evolved a number of times since hitting commercial markets, making crossovers into the electronic musical genre as bands became more experimental.

Michael Jackon – Thriller

One of the most popular pop album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller was his sixth studio album and was released on the 30th of November in 1982 in the United States. Thriller was released in the US under Epic Records and CBS Records internationally. The album is a continuation of Jackson’s style, following on from his previous album, ‘Off the Wall’. Thriller is a mixture of pop, disco, rock, and funk, with songs often blending two genres at once in order to appeal to multiple audiences at once, something that critics generally agree was achieved. Recording for the album took place over a longer time than is common, with the recording period being between April and November in 1982 at the Westlake Recording Studios in Los Angeles. Part of the extended recording time was due to the album’s large budget of $750,000, which allowed for the recruitment of many guest musicians on the album, but due to large numbers of recording conflicts had the effect of extending the recording period.

In a little over a year, Thriller became the best-selling album in the world, selling an estimated 66 million copies, although exact numbers were a lot harder to obtain back then rather than today. The album recently dropped to the second highest-selling album in the world, losing out to the Eagles’ album Their Greatest Hits (1971 – 1975), although Thriller was the first album in the world to reach 30x platinum.

The album holds the record for being awarded the highest number of Grammy Awards, winning eight awards, including Album of the Year. There were seven singles that were released from the album, all of which were well received amongst fans and commercially. The singles released were: ‘The Girl Is Mine’, ‘Billie Jean’, ‘Beat It’, ‘Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin”, ‘Human Nature’, ‘Pretty Young Thing’, and ‘Thriler’, all of which managed to secure top 10 spots on the US Billboard 100. Part of the success of the album was Jackson’s ability to break through racial barriers in pop music that helped to enable Jackson’s appearances on MTV, as well as his meeting of President Ronald Reagan at the White House. Thriller was also one of the first albums to make extensive use of music videos as a promotional tool, a trend that has remained firmly in place today. The music videos were known for their high-budgets compared to other music videos.

Pink Floyd – The Dark Side of the Moon

Pink Floyd’s critically acclaimed album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was the eight studio album recorded and released by British psychedelic rock band Pink Floyd. The album was released on the 1st of March in 1973 under the record label Harvest Records. The album was unique in that it was largely developed during live performances, with the band tweaking sounds and concepts that they were using while live on-stage. The album was prototyped a number of times before Pink Floyd even found themselves in a recording studio, with the band premiering a very early version of the record several months before recording began. Two separate recording sessions took place in 1972 and 1973 at the Abbey Road Studios in London, with a large amount of the work going into the album being added after live recording was finished.

The album was a slight change from their previous albums, as the band had started to move away from the extended instrumental segments that they had used for their previous albums, with some critics speculating that they wished to make some of the tracks more friendly to radio, as radio stations generally favoured shorter tracks to longer tracks, a trend that continues through to today. Although the album is designed to be listened to in one go, rather than picking and choosing which tracks to listen to, a number of the songs work very well on their own, although some critics have stated that the tracks do sound better when listened to as a part of the whole album.

The Dark Side of the Moon has often been described as a concept album, with songs that explore various themes, including life, death, money, fame, and the downsides of them all. The group also experimented with advanced recording techniques that had only recently been invented, such as multitrack recording techniques, tape loops, and analogue synthesizers. The album was also one of the first to use audio samples from conversations that had been had with both the crew, as well as philosophical quotations that are played through the album, particularly in the intermission segments. Alan Parsons, an audio engineer, was responsible for many of the special audio effects that appear throughout the album as he was already known for his experimental style which complemented the album well.

The album was immediately successful upon its release, with a number of critics calling it one of the greatest albums of all time, at least within the psychedelic rock sphere. The album managed to reach number one of the US Billboard 200 and remained charted for over 900 weeks in total, a feat that very few albums have managed since.

The Jackson 5

One of the most iconic bands in the world, The Jackson Five were an American pop band that was made up of five brothers from the Jackson family. The three brothers, Tito, Jermaine, and Jackie, were the founding members of the band, with Marlon and Michael joining soon afterwards. The band was also effective in breaking through racial divides, obtaining large followings amongst both black and white communities, something that had been challenging at that time.

The band performed across the country at talent shows and clubs, eventually managing to get a record contract with Steeltown Records in 1967, although they only released two singles with that label. In the following year, they signed with Motown and this switch helped them to achieve 16 singles that managed to get in to the top 40 in certain US charts.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the brothers decided to go their own way and many released solo albums. Michael Jackson’s career became the most famous of all the brothers, with his 1982 album ‘Thriller’ becoming the best-selling album of all time, as well as breaking numerous other records.

Black Sabbath and the birth of British Heavy Metal

What is heavy metal music? Many fans would say this genre of music started in the late 1960s, into the early 1970s and beyond. There are multiple forms of rock music, but what makes heavy metal stand out above the rest? Initially, the music was played at high volume with massive guitar stacks, creating a sound unlike anything heard before. The volume was essential and was probably taken to its extreme with Black Sabbath in the 1970s. So the volume was important, but what else made heavy metal a unique genre of music?

Their first album, called “Black Sabbath”, was unique. It featured songs that were very long, leaden riffs together with frantic guitar solos, and Ozzy Osbourne’s doom-laden lyrics. The heaviest tracks were “Black Sabbath”, “N.I.B.”, “Behind the Wall of Sleep”, and “Sleeping Village”. All of these tracks conjured up a sense of myth and mystery that was to shape heavy metal over the next few years. At that time, music fans had not heard anything quite like this before. Their track “Warning”, for example, weighed in at 10 minutes and 33 seconds. For this type of music, this was unheard of. The album was released on February 13, 1970, and reached number eight in the UK charts and 23 in the American Billboard charts, where it stayed for a whole year. Had Black Sabbath created something that was unique amongst rock music, maybe heavy metal itself?

Black Sabbath then released their “Paranoid” album, where perhaps the most seminal of all heavy metal riffs appeared on their track “Iron Man”. The use of a ring modulator at the start of the track to create the voice of Iron Man was highly influential. It took heavy metal to new heights, and is probably one of the most famous tracks of its genre ever written. The album soared to the top of the UK charts. The track is still used today in the films featuring the superhero Iron Man. The eponymous track “Paranoid” from the same album was a smash hit, and finally showed that heavy metal was reaching the masses. If you want to listen to this track, why not use an apple PC refurbished in the uk. This album also features another heavy metal classic, “War Pigs”. This fantastic heavy metal pastiche of the Vietnam War is an example of how Black Sabbath would change the musical landscape forever.

Black Sabbath continued to release many more albums in various guises, but the first two albums were so different and commercially popular that Black Sabbath were here to stay. Many bands have been influenced by Black Sabbath, but their first two albums were undoubtedly works of art in relation to the birth of British heavy metal music. Nothing like those two albums had ever been heard before, and there is no doubt that they invented or sowed the seed for the future of heavy metal as we know and love it.

The Beatles

One of the most well-known bands in the world, The Beatles were a pop / rock band that formed in Liverpool in 1960. The line-up consisted of Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr until the band’s dissolution when a number of the members went on to pursue solo careers. The Beatles’ early sound was a small evolution from 1950s rock and roll, but the group still managed to become global icons that would influence popular music and culture around the world, particularly the counterculture of the 1960s.

Throughout their career, The Beatles continued to experiment with both sound and recording techniques, incorporating a wide range of music styles, many of which they discovered when travelling the world. The group also incorporated elements of both classical music as well as older forms of pop, this is evident in a lot of their songs when they have entire string sections or even orchestras just for one song on an album. During some of their more experimental phases, The Beatles’ sound evolved into psychedelic rock and many songs took on a harder edge, a lot of this was due to the influence of other bands that were popular around the same time period, such as the Rolling Stones.

The main songwriters of the group, Lennon and McCartney, helped to establish the group’s reputation playing clubs in Liverpool during the early part of their career. The band’s lineup has changed a number of times, originally featuring Stuart Sutcliffe playing the bass guitar, before the band finally recruited Ringo Starr in 1962 and the four remained the sole members of the band until their eventual split. A large part of the groups success is owned to their manager, Brian Epstein, who helped to mound the band into a more professional outfit. The group were also greatly helped by their producer, George Martin, who helped to guide the band and develop their recordings that helped increase the success of their first hit. ‘Love Me Do’, which was released in 1962.

The band’s real fame came around 1964 when the band became an international phoenomenon, being one of the bands to lead the British incursion into the American music market, in which they broke numerous records. Thanks to their success, the band was also able to create their own motion-picture films, the first of which they titled ‘A Hard Day’s Night’, which debuted in 1964. This also marked the start of the bands true creative innovation, when they were suddenly not limited by any resources, they were able to be more and more creative, particularly with the newer, electronic recording equipment that had begin to hit the market at that time, particularly noticeable with the ‘White Album’, released in 1968.