The concert of Jordan Ramsey, a contemporary award-winning mandolin player and instructor of music, took place in St. Peter Claver Hall on 7 February 2017. The style of the event was casual. Listeners were wearing casual jeans and shirts, and the musicians had semi-formal outfits. During the concert, the audience was quiet and attentive, while the band members were focused on their performance and happiness.
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The concert of the traditional and contemporary West African Drum and Dance Ensemble, Mokomba, took place in the same Hall on 21 February 2017. The audience was dressed casually; some people were even wearing sports clothes because prior to the beginning of the main event there was a short workshop where the visitors could learn some elements of the traditional African dance under the guidance of the professional Mokomba choreographers. All dancers and musicians were dressed in garments with the traditional colorful African patterns. Their outfits contributed to the overall friendly and happy atmosphere of the concert. Due to the informal and interactive style of the event, there was a strong connection between the musicians and the audience. The visitors could vocally support the dancers and musicians throughout the event and exclaim during the climax moments of the performance.
When speaking of Jordan Ramsey’s recital, only the first composition was a solo piece performed by the mandolinist. All the other pieces were performed by the band named “Expresso.” Along with the mandolin, there was a guitar, a bass guitar, and a violin. The overall genre of the music was jazz-grass or bluegrass. At the same time, we could feel the French influence as a singer, Emily, sang in French in some of the pieces. The major techniques used by the performers were the chord progression and improvisation. Most of the compositions were played in duple meter and major scales. They were mostly homophonic and fast-tempo. During the concert, the mandolin and the violin stood out among the other instruments and worked together a lot. Their sounds were the most distinctive and loud. In the songs, both instruments played solo interchangeably, while the chords played by the bass were somewhat the same throughout the concert. It is possible to say that all the pieces played during the show fitted the overall mood of the performance.
During Mokomba’s performance, musicians combined various Southern and Northern African dance styles. The overall genre was African fusion. The compositions played throughout the performance were very rhythmic and fast-tempo (Molto Presto, Prestissimo). The texture was homophonic. The meter harmony varied from one piece to another. Many times, more than one rhythmic pattern could be heard simultaneously. The main dynamics was forte and fortissimo. The tone color was created by two primary percussion instruments including Kpanlogo and Dunno (snare drums) supported by the bass drum. No instrument particularly stood out. However, the parts played by the dancers were somewhat more prominent.
Since during Jordan Ramsey’s concert there were just a few variations and changes in the tone, tempo, and meter harmony, these songs seemed too similar to each other. Some diversity in the choice of elements could be appropriate because, in this way, the musicians would have an opportunity to demonstrate their skills better and maintain the attention of the audience more efficiently. There also was one significant organizational flaw – it seemed that the musicians were uncertain about who plays next in the improvisation sections. Nevertheless, in general, Jordan Ramsey’s concert was a pleasant experience.
At the same time, although there were not many variations in tempo and tone at the Mokomba concert as well, it did not seem boring as the overall dynamics and theme of the event in combination with the dancing helped to capture the audience’s attention well. Comparing to Jordan Ramsey’s recital, there were no organizational flaws and no hesitation in performers. They showed off their skills and experience perfectly and managed to provoke a strong emotional response in the audience.
All of Me
The overall mood of the song was happy and upbeat. There were no drastic variations and swings in tempo or dynamics. The song played in forte. The texture was homophonic, and the meter was duple. A slight variation could be observed in the instrumentation as, throughout some parts of the song, the violinist was mainly silent and just lightly hitting the chords but then he would pick up the sound, and you could hear him distinctly. The lyrics were sung in a mellow and warm manner.
The variant of the song played by Jordan Ramsey’s band slightly differed from the original version by Billie Holiday. The tempo was a bit faster, and the overall mood was happier than in Holiday’s song. It is possible to say that the softer dynamics and the slower tempo would be more meaningful in this particular composition because they would conform with the romantic and slightly melancholic tone of the lyrics much better. Thus, the musicians’ choice of the elements can be justified merely because it helped them to fit the composition in the overall theme of the concert.
Traditionally, classical music is perceived as a form of elitist art that is an end in itself and requires great attention of the audience to both its content and form. Therefore, the major function of classical music as a genre is the esthetic and intellectual enrichment of the listeners. At the same time, like all other types of musical performances, it serves as a means for socialization. However, whereas the given purpose is overshadowed by other mentioned functions and objectives of classical concerts, it dominates in the genres which were discussed in this paper. For instance, the Mokoomba workshop may serve as a bright illustration of the function of socializing as the visitors, dancers, and musicians were meant to communicate and interact with each other not just through words but through dancing as well. Additionally, one more purpose of the event could be the cultural exchange. By listening to the music and watching the performance, the audience learned about the traditions and customs of which they could be unfamiliar before.
Another apparent and shared purpose of the reviewed concerts was entertainment. Listening to the cheerful and happy music, as it was in the cases of both events, always helps increase morale, forget about daily worries, and just spend a good time side by side with other like-minded people.
Although it could be said that these functions and purposes are present in all genres from classics to rock, a significant difference in intensity, extent, and predominance of these functions’ representation can be observed. Contrary to the elitist and formal style of classical performances, the African drum workshop and the bluegrass, jazzy event are more causal. They have distinct emotional charge and target different domains of senses. Nevertheless, it is hard to say that one form of performance is better than the others. They are all similarly valuable as they allow fulfilling various needs, meeting the interests of diverse audiences, and enriching the lives of people.