Music education always & always looking forward.

Asymmetrical Compound Meter in Nickel Creek's "In the House of Tom Bombadil"

One of the things I tend to write about here is not only the music that I think would be appropriate or useful to teach to students, but my own experience with said music.  The problem with Nickel Creek is that I have no experience with their music.  If you check out their debut album cover, which can be seen on the video below, you might see why.  I definitely judge the book by its cover, or the band by its bad early 2000s 'NSync-ified hair. 

That was a bad mistake on my part.  Because Nickel Creek is legit, and in interviews that I've heard, Sara Watkins (the band's violinist) is so awesome.  And that's wonderful, because there are so few high profile female instrumentalists in the popular music world.  I'm going to go play more Nickel Creek right now, and then one day re-read The Fellowship of the Ring.

“In the House of Tom Bombadil” - Nickel Creek

Intro: The recipient of Country Music Association awards and the beneficiary of country music ariplay, Nickel Creek is more accurately identified as a bluegrass band with their instrumentation (mandolin, fiddle, guitar). Having worked together as a group since 1989 and released albums since 1993, the band recorded on country star Alison Krauss’s record label and released the album Nickel Creek in 2000, on which “In the House of Tom Bombadil” appears. The song makes reference to a scene and a character (who is described as singing many different songs during his short appearance) in the first of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books. The album reached #125 on the Billboard 200 Albums charts, #13 on the Country Albums charts, and #2 on the Independent Albums charts. The band released two more albums before a hiatus in 2007, returning with a new album in 2014. Nickel Creek has been nominated for five Grammys and won one in 2003 for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

Analysis: Played at a very quick tempo in 7/8 and featuring all of the instruments of the band, the intro appears with a repeating solo figure played by the violin, featuring the mandolin outlining the rhythmic figure and the guitar indicating where the eighth note groupings occur. Each instrument takes turns with a solo, continually in ⅞ time, with a pause at 1:44. An acoustic bass is also heard in the accompaniment. The song also emulates rondo form prior to the first pause, with the first musical theme being expressed immediately at the start of the song, subsequent themes being heard with a return to the first theme (or the A theme) between each expression of a new musical theme. After the first major pause, there appears to be a development section, followed by a recapitulation of the major themes of the first section.

Considerations for Teaching: The song is entirely instrumental, thus it contains no inappropriate lyrics or subject matter. It could be a companion to literature studies as well upon a reading of the Lord of the Rings series.

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