As I’ve tweeted, and posted on Facebook — here’s a sound I just love. Is it an animal, singing? Is it music from some other culture? No, it’s an escalator at the Archives stop on the Washington DC Metro. Somehow it sings, and (to my ear) very wistfully, too. 

On Facebook, my friend Lucy Miller (hi, Lucy, and thanks) found someone this sound like. Roswell Rudd, a jazz trombonist. Here, on YouTube. Uncanny connection.

And for more diversion, from the excellent “Click Track” pop music blog at the Washington Post, you can listen — in chronological order — to just a few seconds from every No. 1 pop single, from Elvis to today. The length of each cut varies, so each time you get enough to know what song it is. (Someone did hard work on this.) It’s diverting to hear. And informative. You’ll hear a parade of changing musical styles! Corresponding, of course, to changes in our culture. Which now are audible. 

And it’s striking (a) how pop music grew more sophisticated, over the years, and (2) how some songs hit home in just a few seconds. I was looking for an example, and two came up, one after the other — the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” and, believe it or not, “I’m a Believer.” Yes, the Monkees. It’s a lesson on focused musical content. What blend of melody, rhythm, harmony, and sound sticks in your mind, the moment you hear it? (Also “Light My Fire” and “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of of the Bay.”) [Blog software won’t recognize ” and ( as part of the same word! Explaining any weird line break you see…]  Also “Hey Jude,” “ABC,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and so many more.)

Great fun. Though sometimes disorienting, as each few seconds brings a new universe. 

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  1. says

    Hello, I don’t even recognize half of those “hits”–though give me the year and I could probably tell you what were the Eurovision winners or hits in non-Western countries. *shrugs* None of them are particularly engaging to me and in the end, in some ways they all sound the same to me (relatively speaking) since, for the most part, these are Euro-American pop tunes.

  2. says

    Interesting idea, BUT–pop music grown more sophisticated since Elvis?

    Are you kidding. And why do you start with Elvis?

    There has never been any pop music as sophisticated as the work of Kern, Porter, Rodgers, etc. circa 1925-40. Try Vernon Duke’s: “Autumn in New York” for melodic, harmonic and lyric sophistation…from 1934. Yes, and Sinatra made it POPular.