“Phantom of the Opera” or “Phantom of the Musical?”

The Phantom of the Opera is my favorite opera,” is a phrase that many of my friends in the music department at my school throw around when jokingly imitating people who aren’t too familiar with either opera or musical theater. Fans tend to think of Phantom as an opera primarily because of the more classical technique used by singers, emphasizing high notes and long runs requiring a lot of flexibility (or the ability of the voice to move easily), which are elements not traditionally seen in popular musicals, such as Wicked and Rent. Although it may seem obvious to opera connoisseurs that Phantom is a musical (as it opened on Broadway, uses pop instruments, has spoken dialogue, and allows for a contemporary musical theater vocal technique), the structure of the musical itself is, indeed, very similar to that of an opera, though in a satiric way. I actually happened to see Phantom a couple of weeks ago at the Pantages in L.A. (which I highly recommend, if you have the chance to see it), so this entry will combine my observations with the insights of music scholars who have completed research on the work.

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Sight and Sound: The Effects of Media and Shock Value on Music

The 1980s produced more than just the first Mac computer, which clearly made a lot of people happy, if its successors, such as the iPhone may be spotted at least once while walking down any street today. With the advent of modern technology in this decade, reforms were made in all categories, including that of popular music. The equivalent to the computer in music was MTV, a network which acted to integrate the sounds one hears while listening to a song with the images one sees while watching a movie, as implied by the name behind the acronym, “Music Television.”

While it is true that music videos existed prior to the 1980s, the motives that producers and artists had in creating these videos differed in earlier decades. In the 1960s, for example, videos were simply used for promotional purposes to get audiences to listen to the particular song being advertised, as was the case with the “Twist and Shout” video made for The Beatles. Yet, in the 1980s, the visual element of the video served more of a storytelling purpose, setting the precedence for almost all music videos produced today, with the exception of those that are recorded live in concert settings. How did artists and producers choose to tell the stories behind their music? Two simple words: shock value. Read More »

1970s Push and 1980s Pull: Examining Social and Political Trends in Music

Branching off of the “Bohemian Rhapsody” topic is a closer look at pop and rock music of the 1970s and 1980s. Although the songs of these decades may appear to fall into a mutual “Oldies” category due to the differences in instruments and technology implemented, vocal tone qualities, and fashion choices made by the artists when compared to pop artists of the 2000s, there are several factors which distinguish 1970s music from 1980s music. But, what possibly could have contributed to so much change within ten short years of music history? Pop music, and even rock music in the form of New Wave in the 1970s, heavily emphasized lyrics of love. It focused more on the singer than on instrumental solos, and mostly stuck to the basic short form (or structure) of verse and chorus, rather than trying to get creative with each section of a musical piece, which could cause the piece to be lengthier. Read More »