Immersive Listening: Bowie’s “Low”
– David Bowie
David Bowie (1947-2016), singer, actor, fashion icon and beyond, crossed multiple disciplines in his artistic endeavors, and his album Low* (1977) marks a significant departure in his direction of his truly unique voice. Listed as one of Rolling Stone’s best 100 albums of all time, Bowie’s Low deserves special attention: the first in the Berlin trilogy, reveals a change in Bowie’s musical style, and has since influenced a number of artists and musical sub-genres with its experimental approach and new techniques. Low’s sound starts to venture into the musically avant-garde for a popular music album, taking on a much more adventurous attitude with the inclusion of electronic (synthesized) sounds, and even includes wholly instrumental numbers (a rarity for any genre of popular music). Bowie, struggling with a cocaine addiction in the mid/late 70s, moved away from California in an attempt to save himself. The lyric content in the album points to a world of pain and addiction surrounding Bowie, our narrator, at the time the album was recorded. Interestingly, Low is a more collaborative album, with Brian Eno donating a significant amount of the compositional material (especially for side 2) of the album. Join us as we dissect Low into points of deeper listening (rhythm, texture, harmony, melody, instrumentation, form, etc…), discuss the creation of the album, and how Bowie’s life plays into the musical material.We’ll listen and experience the album in-full as a group—discussing what to listen to and focus on beforehand, and an analysis after the listening. For a more fulfilling experience, check out the recommended reading, listening, and links below.
*[ RCA rejected Bowie’s Low.
And Bowie kept that rejection letter on his wall.
…obviously the executives at RCA had no idea what they were listening to…]
Recommended listening: Low, David Bowie
Recommended reading: Low by David Bowie–33 1/3 Album Series
Teacher: Whitney George
George holds an undergraduate degree from the California Institute of the Arts, a masters degree from Brooklyn College Conservatory, and is currently continuing her studies as a PhD candidate at the CUNY Grad Center. In addition to her composing and conducting, George teaches at Brooklyn College, works at the Hitchcock Institute of American Studies and is the Managing Director for New York’s AME.
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