In this podcast, we deep dive into the music of Black Sabbath, looking at it from various angles. We discuss their influences, how they use timbre, melody, harmony, and rhythm to create their unique sound. Watch to find out more!
Black Sabbath, the pioneering heavy metal band, holds a unique place in the annals of music history. Their music, steeped in dark and heavy riffs, explores a sonic landscape that can be examined through music theory lens. Tony Iommi’s iconic guitar work often features heavy use of power chords, combining a root note with a perfect fifth to create a rich and ominous sound. The band’s frequent utilization of the tritone, known as the “Devil’s Interval,” adds to their signature dark and dissonant atmosphere. In terms of song structure, Black Sabbath’s compositions often incorporate traditional verse-chorus formats but also embrace extended instrumental passages and unconventional song lengths. Their music exemplifies the fusion of blues-inspired rock with darker tonalities, creating a sonic palette that has profoundly influenced the heavy metal genre and beyond.
“The Dimensions Dance” is a piece for orchestra I wrote in 2021. I was heavily influenced by black and white/film noir soundtracks and many others (especially Bernard Herrmann, David Raksin, Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, Henry Mancini, Duke Ellington, Oscar Peterson, Lisa Gerrard, Frank Zappa, Ligeti, John Carpenter, Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, Muddy Waters, etc.). Enjoy! *Contact me if you would like to purchase the full score: feonalee[at]gmail.com
Program Notes: I composed Ancestors in 2021 for Rachel Boehl’s 2021 MM graduation recital at UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music. This commission was an opportunity to write for solo French Horn and delay pedal, and experiment with the sonic possibilities of the two elements. This piece is a tribute to our ancestors, whose histories are imprinted on us and teach us that we come from a long lineage of survivors. The structural sections of the work are a time and space traveling device that transports us across the world. For example, the use of multiphonics, where the player is singing into the horn while simultaneously playing a note, is reminiscent of the archaic ritual horn music of Tibet. Another example is of the whistling portamento in both the voice and horn, suggestive of the whistling languages of South Africa. This piece communicates how we are all connected to our ancestors. When we embrace, connect, dialogue with, and see ourselves as part of a greater familial and spiritual field of energy, we see the ancient wisdom that is deep within each of us. Even if we did not know our ancestors, we are connected to forces we may not understand. An essential part of our healing is connecting more deeply to our families of origin and challenging our familial stories, patterns, and beliefs. The music represents the dialogue with our ancestors and reconnecting with their DNA that resides deep within each of us. The French Horn and delay pedal combination enabled me to create the sound of an ensemble with just one instrument. With the delay pedal, I could create ripples of sound cascading onto itself, drone-like repeated notes and rhythms, canons layered upon each other, and delayed melodic and rhythmic gestures. I also discovered I could manipulate space and time by making some sounds sound closer or farther away. Ultimately, Ancestors is about telling one story about our connection to the past and how it has shaped us. It is about creating a dialogue with the greater familial and spiritual field of energy around us. We are biological storehouses––each are a result of our own unique lineage. By giving a voice to our ancestors’ panoramic, multidimensional view and letting their stories and voices be heard, we can embrace our families of origin and even challenge their paradigms and beliefs if they are no longer relevant. We are all cultural hybrids who have unique outlooks, and I want to honor our multicultural views and bring them to light since we are connected, all sharing this human existence on earth.