Specific Music: Quick discussions and rants

The following are brief discussions of specific music. For each item, we did an OMS Profile, and then consulted that Profile to produce some summary remarks.

Fairly good performances of all these items may be found on YouTube.

To see the OMS Profiles,   click here  .

The discussions below cover a very broad range of music: Starting with Nora the Cat (barely music at all), ranging up to ultimate Beethoven. So this is a kind of reference list re OMS.

What do the OMS Composite Scores mean? Roughly as follows:
000 – 050  : Stimulation so minimal, it would only be acceptable to a child
050 – 100 :  Good childrens music, light pop/folk/world music
100 – 150:    A great deal of commercial pop music is in this range
150 – 200:    High-quality pop music, also some light classical
200 – 300:    Music that provides a memorable experience; for some listeners, the experience may last for many years or even a lifetime
300 – 400:    An unforgettable experience, rare, will probably be remembered for a lifetime
400 – 500:    The experience of a lifetime. May feel almost like a religious or spiritual experience
500+        :     Mind-blowing. May feel as if one’s neurons are being re-programmed.

[1] Nora the Cat paws a piano keyboard and creates a little random “music”  [OMS Composite score:  003]

There is barely any music stimulation here. The only categories of stimulation we could find were: Structure (a slight sense of organization, because the cat behaved like a mildly-intelligent animal); Oddity (definitely odd, a novelty); Virtuosity (wow, a cat playing the piano).

This barely qualifies as music, or maybe it doesn’t qualify at all.

[2] Hot Cross Buns [OMS Composite score: 009]

This is a very simple children’s song, a melody on three notes.

[3] Barney the Dinosaur Song (“I Love You”) [OMS Composite score: 018]

A slightly more elaborate children’s song. It’s a little too simplistic for grownups, but it is lovely in its own way. Sweet and low-key, it’s a real song (for little kids). It’s ear-love.

[4] It’s a Small World [OMS Composite score: 031]

Listening to this is like eating many spoons of white sugar.

What I mean by this is that on the one hand, it is sweet and gently stimulating (a nice little march); but on the other hand, the stimulus profile for each measure is nearly identical. Of course some people enjoy this endless repetition of exactly the same pleasure (let’s have another spoonful of sugar …). But for me at least, this is a version of Chinese Water Torture.

This has the same problem as slightly-obnoxious tunes such as “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall”. Come to think of it, “It’s a Small World” could be adapted into a splendid song for a big smelly bar-room, accompanied by gallons of beer and vomit. (Maybe I will try this next St. Patricks Day).

[5] The Chipmunk Song  [OMS Composite score: 043]

A silly, fun novelty song. That’s exactly what it is.

[6] Mammy (Al Jolson’s rendition) [OMS Composite score: 090]

A simple piece of music, an electrifying performance. Jolson hits a lot of hot-buttons: Melody, mu-motion, narrative, dramatic, lyrics, sonic effects, communication!, play/imagination, individual, transparent, beautifully integrated. And that’s not all, folks. It’s from the heart, with plenty of bloodflow and electricity. At the end of the day, it’s a light piece of music, a simple entertainment. But superbly crafted and delivered. Notice that if you abstract away Jolson’s overwhelming performance, you have something like a (fairly good) children’s song.

 [7] If I had a Hammer [OMS Composite score: 094]

A heartfelt folksong, with all that implies.

[8] I Found a Million-Dollar Baby (in a Five and Ten Cent Store) [OMS Composite score: 097]

This competes with Mammy/Jolson because it has some jazz-idiom (and some sexiness) in it, and that delivers a lot of stimulus. It also has most (not all) of the hot-buttoms of Mammy/Jolson.

[9] Baby Beluga (Raffi) [OMS Composite score: 100]

A lovely song for children, and enjoyable for grownups as well. Stimulates gently across a very broad range. There is even a mild “sexual” stimulus in places. (This effect is at an almost undetectable level – parents need not be concerned.). It also achieves the rare effect of (really good) musical humor – rich and subtle.

[10] Rockin’ Robin [OMS Composite score: 120]

It goes beyond the preceding pop songs in the following respects: High/low, rhythm, melody/motive, richness, linguistic, programmatic, physical, dance, sonic effects, funny sounds, group experience, party, a little political/rebellious. A nicely-constructed and performed rock-n-roll tune.

[11] Amazing Grace [OMS Composite score: 131]

A perfect folksong, anthem, and something more. Communicates at a very high level. It is not a big monumental work, but many people find it to be unforgettable.

[12] Takin’ It To the Streets (performed by Taylor Hicks) [OMS Composite score: 141]

A formulaic commercial production of a fabulous piece of pop music. The production accounts for a fairly high OMS score. The slickness of the production holds it back from an even higher score. (I’d like to hear Taylor Hicks perform it in a bar, rather than in a fancy recording studio). Compare to the red-hot original production by The Doobie Brothers.

[13] Stars and Stripes Forever (performed by the U.S. Marine Band) [OMS Composite score: 168]

This definitely provides Organized Multi Stimulus ! And a broad range of stimuli. Highly transparent, easy to analyze. The melody and motives are probably unsurpassed.

[14] Mozart Piano Sonata K570, Mvt1 (performed by Alfred Brendel) [OMS Composite score: 171]

The OMS Profile makes it evident that M570_1 is a slight piece of music. Notwithstanding the greatness of the composer, there are only a few categories where the work provides high stimulation.

 Depending on the values or preferences of the listener, the few categories of high-stimulation may regarded as sufficient for greatness. I.e., a listener may praise the work highly for its proportion, personal individuality, transparency, integration, compositional technique, and apollonian character; and the same listener may say that these qualities constitute greatness and provide the greatest satisfaction for the same listener.

However, it is also reasonable that other good listeners may not value the above categories in the same way and may feel that M570_1 is uninteresting, boring, …

The above remarks are consistent with the view that M570_1 is skillfully composed. I think M570_1 is a good example of how skillful composition is not always sufficient for highly successful music.

I am not a music historian, but I have been told by several musicologists that Mozart did not intend this music as a magnum opus, it was intended primarily for private study and home performance by amateurs.

[15] Johann Strauss: Blue Danube Waltz (performed by Berlin Philharmonic in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) [OMS Composite score: 199]

Broad stimulation, and deeply stimulating in these categories:  Melody and motive; Richness; Beauty of sound; Dance; Communication . The waltz itself is not a magnum opus (it is not Beethoven Op. 111 or even Ravel Bolero), but it has wonderful qualities; and this performance is an iconic fulfillment of the composition. Unforgettable.

[16] Irving Berlin: White Christmas (sung by Bing Crosby): [OMS Composite score: 201]

Modest and “simple”; but rich in emotion, “memory”, melody and motive, lyrics/message, “communication”, with a lovely melody and a lovely overall “sound”. Also: Poetic, imaginative, serene, fine structure, multi-layered, transparent in its workings, fun but also poised and serious.

In terms of technical compositional skill, there are only basic skills on display. But from an OMS point of view, it certainly deserves a rating of 201.  Interestingly,  it measures up nicely against a “serious classical” work such as  Mozart Piano Sonata K570 Mvt 1  from an OMS point of view. Of course there is no comparison between Mozart’s technical skills in his work as compared to Berlin’s skills. But in a broader sense of compositional skill, Berlin’s accomplishment is comparable to Mozart’s in their respective works (assuming very good performances for both).

[17] St. Louis Blues (performed by Louis Armstrong): [OMS Composite score: 202]

Broad stimulation, exceptional in these areas: Melody and motive; communication; passion; celebration/party; group experience; transparency.

[18] Schoenberg: Piano Piece Op. 11 #2 (performed by Pollini) [OMS Composite score: 258]

Lugubrious, intense, semi-atonal. Very broad stimulation, exception in these areas: Play, creativity, imagination; challenge and adventure; group experience; political; extraordinary stimulation (new kinds of stimulation); beauty/non-beauty; sublime; individuality; personal individuality.

[19] Hoagy Carmichael: Stardust (performed by Nat King Cole) [OMS Composite score: 301]

This is close to the maximum score for a piece of popular music.

[20] Ravel: Bolero (Celibidache conductor, 1971 performance) [OMS Composite score: 376]

Beautiful and broadly stimulating in detail; and the organization on the macro level is almost unmatched. Listening to a great performance live can be the experience of a lifetime, and even slightly life-altering. The Celibidache 1971 performance on YouTube is over-the-top dramatic, riveting, wonderful !

[21] Brahms Intermezzo Op. 117 #1 (performed by Arthur Schnabel) [OMS Composite score: 423]

[22] Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto #2 (performed by Richter, Warsaw Philharmonic 1959)  [OMS Composite score: 427]

[23] Ustvolskaya Symphony #2 (conducted by Reinbert de Leeuw) [OMS Composite score: 567]

Comes across as obsessive, one-track. But it provides massive stimulation in dozens of categories. The macro-design is masterful, it makes possible the obsessive focus and ultimate integration. Gripping. The experience of a lifetime. Life-altering.

[24] Beethoven Piano Sonata Op. 110 (perfomance by Arthur Schnabel or Marino Formenti) [OMS Composite score: 680]

The utmost stimulation in dozens of categories. The experience of a lifetime. Life-altering.