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IB Music Links Investigation (sample)

RESOURCE: IB Music Links Investigation (sample)

Sample IB Music Links Investigation

This assignment is a part of the International Baccalaureate (IB) Music theory course requirements. The goal of this investigation is to study two very different musical cultures and then to find various musical links. The focus of my musical investigation is to analyze the similarities and differences between “Scarborough Fair” and the “Tibetan Plateau”.

Scarborough FairBackground Information

“Scarborough Fair” is an English ballad with origins in the Middle Ages. The performer for this ballad is Hayley Westenra fromCeltic Woman, an Irish ensemble of all-female singers. Its title refers to the medieval trade fair that took place every year in a town named Scarborough. These fairs also attracted entertainers, food vendors, and other travelers. The lyrics of the song are about unrequited love – a young woman requests impossible tasks from her lover, then promises to take him back once he completes them. Rumors suggest that this song was derived from “The Elfin Knight” [1], a Scottish song that could have been introduced into England through wandering minstrels or troubadours. As times passed, the lyrics were changed by ordinary people who forgot the old ones and made up new words to replace them.

Ballads are usually simple songs that have been passed down orally over a long period of time, and reflects the lifestyle and the people’s culture. They are primarily a rural tradition. In order for a ballad to survive, it must be “simple and catchy to sing but easy to remember. It must have a theme that people can relate to” [2]. These themes are usually love, unrequited or otherwise, lust, treachery, and betrayal, which is to be expected of such a secular genre of music.

Folk music has been extremely popular ever since the beginning of the sixteenth century, with the invention of the printing press. Words to popular songs were often printed on sheets of varying lengths, which became known as broadsides. Broadsides had no musical score, so the words were sung to a well-known tune instead. Broadsides were popular in Britain, Holland, France, Italy, Spain, Germany, and later America [3].

music 5  IB Music Links Investigation (sample) music 5

The Tibetan Plateau

“Qing Zang Gao Yuan” is a patriotic, modern Tibetan folk song composed by Zhang QianYi in the 1980s. The original singer, Li Na, had taken the tonsure – or undergone a sacred rite – at a Buddhist temple in the Wutai Mountain [4]. The Wutai Mountain is famous for being the highest mountain in northern China, with many Tibetan influences. The thin air of the mountains gave Tibetan singers and Li Na their trademark: strong vocals and their ability to sing extremely high notes very powerfully.

It should be noted that although the “Tibetan Plateau” is about the landscape and nationalistic feelings that the singer has toward Tibet, the musical elements are not completely native to the Tibetan culture. The Tibetan’s native Bön music was used as an “accompaniment to ritual chanting, a means to communicate with supernatural forces. The rituals were techniques of invoking good spirits and exorcising evil ones” [5]. Religion played a large role in the music of Tibet, and the introduction of Buddhism into the Tibetan culture was extraordinarily easy due to its similarities.

Buddhists further developed music in its conception and scope; they “diversified instrumentation and incorporated foreign elements from India, China and Central Asia. All these borrowings were made in harmony with tradition, resulting in a distinctive form of sacred music” [6]. Although the “Tibetan Plateau” was a secular song, it incorporated many elements of sacred Tibetan music, possibly to enhance its patriotic tone.


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