Playlist: On "Texture"

Our semi-monthly Playlist column features music curated by our faculty, students, and staff around an interesting idea or theme. To celebrate the release of her excellent début, 17 Hoops, we asked singer/songwriter/pianist (and School of Music Communications Assistant) Colleen O'Connor to talk about music and "texture." You can listen to the tracks below via Spotify (if you have an account) or YouTube (if you don't). The full playlist is also available here.


By Colleen O'Connor

One of the features I love most about music is texture. Many of my favourite musicians use contrasting textures to create diverse musical landscapes that I find mesmerizing. Here are some of my favourites: 

Bonobo, "Migration" from Migration

In "Migration," electronic layers are blended with piano and sparse percussion, which become more dense and varied in texture as the atmospheric work develops. 

Arvo Pärt Silentium from Tabula Rasa

When I was studying composition, I found Minimalism particularly captivating. In this piece by Arvo Pärt, subtle, progressive alterations to repetitive melodic and harmonic patterns draw the listener's focus toward the changes. Plaintive strings coupled with the unsettling sound of the prepared piano creates an ambiance that is elegantly sad. 

Bokanté, "Jou Ké Ouvè" from Strange Circles

The newly-minted group Bokanté was formed by Michael League of Snarky Puppy, and Malika Tirolien, who sings in French and Créole. Jou Ké Ouvè weaves a tapestry of blues and world fusion.

Prokofiev, Piano Concerto No. 2 in G minor, iii. Intermezzo

The third movement of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 2 begins with a heavy walking bass theme, punctuated by ominous horns, followed by sneaky, chromatic, descending triplets in the clarinets. The piano enters with thin chromatic flourishes, creating a stark contrast. I imagine a giant stomping and loping back into his castle after a night of carousing.

Bjork, "Stonemilker" from Vulnicura

Björk is an artist who creates masterful electroacoustic arrangements. Stonemilker combines electronic beats with lush strings and Björk's unique vocal tone.

John Stetch, "Zabava" from Green Grove / Ukrainianism

John Stetch recently came to the School of Music to study for a Master’s degree in composition. His piece Zabava is a masterclass on the different textures the piano can create. The piece employs a variety of techniques, including the strumming of the piano strings at the start of the piece, and the muting of the keys at the end.

Radiohead, "Decks Dark" from A Moon Shaped Pool

I'm drawn to the cascading sounds in Radiohead's Decks Dark — broken descending chords in the piano, gently oscillating electronic sounds in the upper register, and the choral effect of the layered vocals.

Aaron Diehl, Le tombeau de couperin iii. Forlane (Ravel) from The Bespoke Man's Narrative

Aaron Diehl re-imagines the Forlane from Ravel's Tombeau de Couperin in a jazz setting.

Super Pyramid, "Devoid"

The aesthetic of this piece includes a juxtaposition of smoky, ethereal vocals with crisp layers of Rhodes and Wurlitzer keyboards, electronic percussion, and other ambient acoustic sounds. The mixture creates a texture that I find both calming and intriguing.

Colleen O’Connor is Marketing and Communications Assistant for the School of Music. She holds a Diploma in Music Writing from MacEwan University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from Portland State University. Colleen just released her first recording, 17 Hoops. Listen on Spotify or at colleensong.com/music.

Banner image by Colleen O'Connor.