And the sky was still there (2010)

Carlos Barba

As I heard the opening of David Little’s and the sky was still there, I was immediately attracted to the opening keyboard sounds that resemble a Wurlitzer electric piano. I was unsure of what genre or style I was about to experience, but when the synthesized percussion sounds started I got a clear sense of the character the composer was going for. These opening keyboard riffs and percussion loops serve as the backbone of the entire piece. Besides a variety of digital sounds, there are several recordings of the human voice, violin, and a lower stringed instrument that resembles a cello. 

The spoken vocals in this piece are narrating the personal experiences of a homosexual female army veteran. She talks about the different internal and external struggles that eventually led to her resignation. Her voice sounds troubled and deeply emotional, which blends nicely with the dark and gloomy character of the music. The sounds in the music are more percussive rather than melodic or harmonic-oriented. There is no clear sense of triadic harmony overall. I interpret the form of the song as through-composed. Constantly repeating loops are heard throughout the piece, but there are clearly two main types of contrasting sections or textures. One of these is softer with minimal percussion and keyboard sounds, and the other is a thicker and louder section with more bass, heavier percussion, violin melodies, and pads. 

The 7/8 meter and the variety of percussive polyrhythms provide a sense of forward drive. Most of these are digital sounds, but there is an acoustic drum set playing in the louder sections. I really enjoyed the way these loops and drum sounds were put together. I didn’t hear this as an irregular meter piece when I first listened. There is not a very strong sense of clave-like rhythms as in many other 7/8 compositions. Besides the strong text, the rhythmic and harmonic ambiguity contribute to the overall dark sound of the piece. The violin adds a lyrical or melodic component that contrasts everything else that is happening. The loud dynamic level, strong vibrato, and the extremely high range create an intense and deeply emotional effect. Even though there are a variety of polyrhythms throughout the piece, the texture is mostly homophonic. There is always a voice that predominates and accompaniment in the background. The only times where this may be questioned is when the violin and vocals are sounding simultaneously. I would personally not classify that as polyphonic, but there are two main parts that are competing for a listener’s attention. 

I do not know about the composer’s musical or educational background, but I do not get a strong sense of the classical tradition in this piece. In my opinion, the closest thing that would resemble Western tradition is the use of a violin. This sounds more influenced by 20th-century minimalist composers such as Steve Reich, or even Phillip Glass. This could also fit really well as the soundtrack of an action thriller. I wouldn’t be surprised if the composer was into 90’s techno such as Chemical Brothers either. Overall, I enjoyed the composer’s bold anti-military political statement embedded in loop-based synthesized sounds with minimal use of acoustic instruments. Some may call it anti-American, but I’m glad composers continue to express their political views and values through music. 

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