Thom Yorke Biography and Listening Guide By Irie Earnest 7/9/2013
Thom Yorke Biography • Extremely influential popular music writer and producer. • Pushed the boundaries of what popular music could consist of.
Childhood Hardship • Was born with a problem with his eye. He had multiple surgeries resulting in a lazy eye. • He was made fun of a lot in school for his unique eye.
Solace in the Band Room • Yorke would hide in the band room after school where he taught himself how to play piano.
A Dark, Moody Sound • The dark and moody tonality of Yorke's music can possibly be attributed to his hardship as a child.
Young Bandmates • Yorke picked up his first guitar at age 7 and formed a band by 11. • He met his first bandmates at an all boys school. They would eventually form the band Radiohead.
Musical Success • Radiohead has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. • Two of their most influential albums are "OK Computer" and "Kid A".
Musical Variety • Yorke has been involved in many musical projects including solo works and collaborations. • His most recent collaboration is called "Atoms for Peace", a superband including many well known musicians.
Musical Versatility • Yorke sings and plays piano, guitar, synths, drums, and produces electronic music. • Yorke is well known for his voice which is tenor although he is mostly noted for his use of falsetto.
Activism • Yorke is a politically liberal activist. Much of his music has been influenced by writer Noam Chomsky. • Yorke has been involved in human rights and anti-war movements as well as environmental movements.
Controversial Image • Yorke is known for being cold and standoffish. He may be misunderstood as introverted people tend to be. • Despite the controversy, he deserves accolades for his music and activism.
Song History: Idioteque • One of the most well known Radiohead songs. • From the Album "Kid A" • Break from Radiohead's traditional style. • Theme is four chord synth progression sampled from "Milde unde Leise" by Paul Lansky. • Written in 2000
Song History: All I Need • From album "In Rainbows". • First performed in 2006. • "White Noise" effect created by string instruments playing all the notes of the scale in the background.
Song History: Airbag • From album "Ok Computer". • Features paradoxical themes. They lyrics rant about the dangers of vehicles and technology while simultaneously using synthesized beats against electric guitar.
Listening Guide: Idioteque • 0.00: Introduction - Starts with fast paced drum sample. At about 0:02 the first chord comes in very softly and slowly grows louder until about 0:10 where there is an electronic glitchy sound that introduces the theme. • 0:11: Theme - the theme consists of four chords with the last chord sustaining for twice as long as the previous ones. Each chord has multiple harmonies. The chords are being produced electronically. The timbre is hard to describe but sounds a bit like a phone. The harmonies create a raspy sort of texture but the notes themselves have a pure tone. The theme continues for 4 measures with every fourth measure lasting 8 beats as opposed to 4. • 0:38: Break - The theme ends for a short break. The drum sample continues. There is a syncopated snare sound. The break lasts for 12 beats.
Listening Guide: Idioteque • 1:00: Verse 1 - The first verse begins. The vocalist is male. The vocal style is falsetto. The theme and verse come in at the same time while the drum sample continues. At 1:16 a second voice comes in creating polyphony. • 1:34: Chorus 1 - two voices harmonizing. Lasts for 10 beats. • 1:52: Verse 2 - The theme drops out. Only one vocalist and the drum sample are left. It lasts for 16 beats until the second vocalist comes back in with a harmony. The timbre of the first vocals start to become more raspy and intense. The back up vocals are still light and soft in the background. • 2:36: Chorus 2 - Same thing as chorus 1 except lasts twice as long.
Listening Guide: Idioteque • 3:10: Bridge. The bridge consists of the same drum sample with some ethereal electronic sounds in the background. There are no vocals or additional instrumentation. At 3:50 a raspy sounding noise comes in that is long and sustained. It grows slowly louder and fades out into a complicated beat the underlies the regular drum sample. • 4:05: Theme - the theme re-enters. Same four chords ascending and repeating. More ethereal sounds in the background. The timbre of the background noise is airy and sounds a bit like screeching metal in the distance. • 4:18 - Yorke’s voice comes back in. Its one single phrase on repeat. There is only one voice. • 4:49 - The drum sample stops. All that is left is the airy metal sound and a very dissonant sounding chord that sustains and fades out at the end of the song. • 5:10 - Song ends by fading out.
Listening Guide: All I Need • 0.00: Intro - String instruments come into play including cello. The volume is medium soft. The main cello plays slowly from the tonic to the 5th while a 3rd is playing lightly in the background. • 0:09 - Drums come in. The beat is fairly simple. Tempo is medium slow. The volume is about medium. The cello continues to slowly play tonic to 5th. Some harmonics are playing lightly in the background. • 0:19 - The bass guitar comes in with the theme. The timbre is very deep and a bit raspy (distortion). The pace is moderately slow. The theme mimics the cello’s by going from tonic to 5th and then to a 3rd. The theme ascends from the 3rd to a 7th and then back down to the 5th. The 5th ascends to a second in the next octave giving a sense of climax and then descends back down to the tonic in the previous octave for a release. The drums continue steadily. The cellos continue to play 5ths slowly in the background creating a flowy texture.
Listening Guide: All I Need • 0:35 - Verse 1 - Yorke’s voice comes in with a moderate volume. He starts on a 5th and moves between 4th and 5th notes, then descends from the 4th to the tonic and then back to the 5th. The 5th is the last note of the phrase and is sustained for a bit. The second part of the verse is the same at the beginning but instead of ending on a 5th it ends on a 2nd which creates the illusion of not having an end. He then continues with the same motive and phrase from the beginning of the verse and repeats the second part of the verse ending on the 2nd. • 1:21 - Chorus - The chorus begins with the vocals moving from a 3rd to the 5th ascending to the 6th and sustains on the 7th for a sense of of anticipation. After the 7th, the voice jumps back down to the 5th then jumps to the 8th (tonic) then descends down to the 7th then sustains on the 6th for a moment. Then the melody jumps back up to the 8th and eventually descends down to the 3rd and sustains. The tonality is minor so it has a dark, sad kind of feel to it.
Listening Guide: All I Need • 1:43 - An instrument that sounds like a glockenspiel comes in playing a new melody in counterpoint with the bass and cellos. This new fresh sounds adds a new dynamic to the piece creating a sense of growth toward climax. The glockenspiel plays an ascending melody and then descends and continues to ascend and descend giving a wavy sort of feel. At the same time the glockenspiel comes in, Verse 2 begins which has the same melody as verse 1. • 2:24 - The chorus comes in again same as the last chorus. The glockenspiel drops out. • 2:46 - The bridge starts by the introduction of a new instrument, the piano, playing some thick chords. There is no singing but the cellos and bass are still playing their melodies. The chords of the piano are somewhat dissonant creating a sense of tension.
Listening Guide: All I Need • 2:56 - The drums increase in volume and more symbols are being played increasing the tension by a lot. The song is starting to climax at this point. All of the instruments are now playing (including the glockenspiel) creating a very thick and dissonant texture. • 3:13 - The vocals come back in with a new melody that ascends and descends multiple times giving a climactic yet circular feel. • 3:40 - All of the instruments sustain on one note to end the piece. The vocal part ends on a 3rd giving the song the feeling of not actually ending. The song ends with a very thick and dissonant texture with an accordion like sound. • 3:55 - Song ends. All instruments stop playing.
Listening Guide: Airbag • 0:00 - Intro - Guitar comes in with the theme of the piece. Bells are pulsing in the background. • 0:10 - Second guitar comes in playing a different shorter melody that repeats. At 15 seconds the drums come in. • 0:26 - Verse 1 - Singer comes in. Only one guitar remains playing a melody. A bass guitar plays a separate melody. The bells are still in the background. • 0:44 - A synth melody comes in. It is a simple counterpoint that gives the song a bit of added texture. The timbre is a bit like a deep flute. • 0:55 - The second guitar comes in briefly to play a very short motive. The main guitar imitates the motive directly after and continues with its melody. • 1:01 - Verse 1 - The first verse includes all of the instruments playing different melodies. The flute like synth part counters the vocals and the feeling of the music is very climactic.
Listening Guide: Airbag • 1:14 - Verse 1 ends. At 1:19 the guitar 2 starts to play its melody again. At the same time another synth part comes in with the timbre of a group of cellos playing guitar 1’s melody. • 1:24 - The drums drop out briefly creating a sense of anticipation. • 1:33 - Verse 2 begins. One guitar is starting to play a new melody that utilizes many short and fast notes. The texture of the song is increasing in volume creating the feeling of incline toward climax. • 2:07 - Chorus two comes in. They lyrics and melody for the vocals stays the same. • 2:19 - The drums drop out again briefly to create anticipation. The vocals have also dropped out as well as the synth part greatly redusing the texture of the piece. Only the bells, guitar 1 and the bass remain.
Listening Guide: Airbag • 2:25 - The drums come back in and guitar 1 and 2 start to play the bridge. • 2:22 - The synth comes in again to bring more texture and to add to the growing climax. • 2:58 - Chorus 3 comes in the same as the other choruses. The singer has the same lyrics and melody. All of the parts of the music have come together again. The synth, bass, guitars, and drums are all playing together creating a very rich texture. This chorus is a bit different than the other choruses toward the end. Instead of the vocal melody descending, it ascends first, repeats and then descends. • 3:28 - Everything drops out except for the bells and the bass • 3:33 - The guitar comes in and the synth comes in with a scratchy record type noise. The bass comes in and out giving a sense of hesitation. The synth then comes in with a melody. The vocals imitate the melody and then they start to play together.
Listening Guide: Airbag • 4:13 - The theme comes in again. They synths come back in playing what sounds like a string orchestra that is imitating the melody of the vocals. The song is finally climaxing at this point but only briefly. • 4:34 - All of the instruments have dropped out and only the guitar part is lingering and fading out. • 4:44 - Song ends.
Bibliography 1. Footman, Tim (2007). Welcome to the Machine: OK Computer and the Death of the Classic Album. New Malden: Chrome Dreams. 2. Pareles, Jon (9 December 2007). "Pay What You Want for This Article" The New York Times.. 3. Byrne, David (18 December 2007)."David Byrne and Thom Yorke on the Real Value of Music". Wired. 4. Reynolds, Simon (2001-07). "Walking on Thin Ice" 5. McLean, Craig (18 June 2006). "All messed up"The Observer.