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A Modern Symphony : S & M

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Essay title: A Modern Symphony : S & M

S & M: No Leaf Clover

The talent of an artist rests in the ability to recreate a sense of reality, and to communicate such an experience. When such timeless thoughts are offered to the audience in an honest manor, it is the result of a true artist. Artists such as Pablo Picasso, Langston Hughes, and the Beatles thrived off of taking such honest risks. In 1999, the San Francisco Symphony and the hard rock band Metallica redesigned the concept of risk taking in the reality for the artists’ world.

A young composer by the name of Michael Kamen passed away at 55. He had the pleasure of conducting The London Philharmonic Orchestra, and The San Francisco Symphony. He aspired to share creative energy with rock legends such as Pink Floyd, Rod Stewart, & Eric Clapton. In 2002 it was his talent that kept the world company during the winter Olympics.

In the late 1980s alternative rock was working at creating symphonies of its own. The band Metallica, known for its speed metal and talented range of chords, developed a new language in music. Their songs ranged from 2, to 9, to 20 minute riffs. They gained attention from emotionally eager listeners. The use of electric guitar, aggressive vocals, and dynamic tempos made their music appealing to an extraordinary audience (Holm-Hudson 189).

Michael Kamen responded to Metallicas unique guitar ingredients, and set out to collaborate with the metal band. In 1999 Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony, merged with Metallica to produce the album S & M. Kamens orchestra consisted of Violins,Violas,Cellos, Bass, Flutes, Oboes, Clarients, Bassons, Horns, Trumpets, and Trombones. Other instruments included the Tuba, Harp Timpani, Keyboard and of course percussion. Metallica has four musicians, two guitarists, a drummer and a bassist. The lead guitarist is also the lead vocalist.

On the insert of the C.D. sleeve S&M, Michael Kamen wrote about “conducting a conversation between two different worlds that share the same language”. Like the composers Hector Berlioz, and Ludwig Van Beethoven, Kamen experienced life through music and spoke of life’s journeys in symphony (Lang 131. He continued to put in plain words, “Combining the San Francisco Symphony and Metallica… was really about creating a dialogue between two worlds that celebrate the power of music” (Kamen 1999).

Our ears have all become familiar with symphonies. From the classic sounds of Peter and the Wolf, to Cannon in D major by Mozart, or Beethoven’s famous Symphony No. 5 In C Minor. Like a canvas, a symphony represents a display of themes and motifs. For example, the song “No Leaf Clover” Performed by Metallica and the San Fransisco Symphony, creates a very strong feeling within the orchestra and flirts with the passion of aggressive rock.

In “No Leaf Clover”, Kamens orchestra and the four members of Metallica organized through a variety of tone and rhythm, an unexpected change from good luck to bad. The woodwinds, string instruments, and percussion, offered the theme of the “No Leaf Clover” with a slow enthusiasm at the beginning of the piece. The central point of the song revealed elements of repetition in the rhythm, tone and dynamics of their sound. The later part of the piece developed around the vocalist. The violins in particular, complemented and coordinated with the vocals. This detail added emotion to the “No Leaf Clover” because the soft sound of the violins reinforced the audience of what the vocalist was trying to convey.

At the start of the piece, Metallica does not join Kamen and the orchestra, until almost one minute into the piece. This again reflects a sudden change from good to bad. The calm melody and harmony of the orchestra were smothered by the aggressive bad luck and distortied amplifiers from the band. Just before the lead singer joined in harmony, there is a big shift in the pitch and tempo. The middle section of the symphony shifts moods again. The vocalist maintained a consistency and the theme persisted as repetitious. Before the artists ventured toward the final theme of the piece, the guitar moved into a solo. The quick fingers of the guitar invite an aggressive mood to the audience. Even so, the string section helped to neutralize the mood by switching to piccatto. Once the lead guitar dropped out, the orchestra worked to reproduce the dark sound of an amplified guitar. Again the theme is traced by the repetition and exchange of roles between

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