I'm Writing an Extended Essay (4000 words) on Tommy

Discussion in 'Recordings [BG]' started by blankstare77, May 19, 2007.

  1. blankstare77


    May 19, 2006
    Hey guys. ^^^


    This is a huge paper that I'll be writing over throughout the summer. I think this topic is awesome! It's for my International Baccalaureate magnet program. I can't think of a better topic to write 4000 words on than a great Rock Opera by The Who!
  2. blankstare77


    May 19, 2006
    I'll be figuring out whether or not Tommy, being a Rock Opera, is truly categorized as being an Opera or if it vaguely resembles an Opera.
  3. you go and have fun with that
  4. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    Wikipedia says its a rock opera.

    There, now just 3994 to go.
  5. Hmm, I remember when I wrote my EE and at first I had a topic that I was similarly psyched about. The problem will be finding academic sources, basing a paper on reviews from rock 'n roll magazines will be a bit difficult. Also, do you have a thesis beyond "rock opera" yet? Do you know anything about opera's to begin with?
    I'm sorry if I come across a little blunt but choosing a topic that can be researched well really is the key to writing a good EE. Good luck on your tests by the way, when are they this year?
  6. blankstare77


    May 19, 2006
    No what I wanted to do was discover whether Rock Operas truly resemble a Traditional Opera.

    To do this I would compare Tommy with The Wall to get the typical elements in a Rock Opera, and compare those similarities with the characteristics of a typical Traditional Opera (this is where I will use secondary sources. I will use experts' definitions of the characteristics of operas). Then I will discover my conclusion.

    By the way, The Wall and Tommy will be dissected very well and will be considered as primary resources.

    Thank you for your help!
  7. Against Will

    Against Will Supporting Member

    Dec 10, 2003
    Big Sound Central
    If you have access to the JSTOR academic periodical database you can actually find a lot of sources through there. Particularly through the Journal of Popular Music and the Journal of Popular culture.
  8. jazzbo


    Aug 25, 2000
    San Francisco, CA
    I once wrote a paper arguing that "My Girl" was the greatest American pop song ever written. That was fun. Although the thinking might be that the paper was merely conjecture, it was a scholarly work. I used current research from Psych journals that discussed what aspects of music people found the most pleasant/engaging. I talked about the strings, the lyrics, the bass and guitar hooks, the overall incorporation of instrumentation. I talked about Motown's early process of testing its music on focus groups. It was really fun and really productive. (It was for a cognitive psychology course).

    Sounds like you'll really have a good time. I don't know the piece of work that you'll be discussing, but like you mentioned, it has many compare/contrast components. I suppose that adding critic reviews from music journals like Rolling Stone and the like might be interesting. Also, a discussion of what the term "opera" really means, as their are purists who argue that it is misconstrued, (e.g. how classical music should refer to just a specific genre and time period, [versus romantic, baroque, etc.], but is often used to refer to all art music colloquially), might be helpful. Is the story Tommy influenced by other great, classic works? What is the message? How is that relevant to who The Who was at that time? Were they the first to do it? Have other rock operas (Purple Rain?) been written since? What about rap operas? Is this an emerging idea/concept? Lots of great things to discuss.

    Would you be interested in sharing your outline with us?
  9. thefruitfarmer


    Feb 25, 2006
    Kent UK
    I wrote a dissertation about the sociology of Punk Rock (UK 1976 version) back at college in the 80's, around how the political events and social climate led to the culture developing...

    Tommy is a favourite film of mine.

    I expect your thesis is more focussed on the musical aspects of Tommy. However, there is a whole load of stuff about Pete Townsend's personal reasons for writing his rock opera, maybe a subtext with parallels to his childhood. Ken Russell produced Tommy and he is quite a character who would have had considerable say in the work.

    The film was cutting edge at the time and confrontational to the relatively *puritanical* British society in the early 1970's.

    Just my two pennys worth.....

    Best of luck!
  10. Akito


    Dec 1, 2003
    If you can find some copies of Pete Townshend's 60s Rolling Stone interviews, there is some really interesting stuff in there about Tommy. Especially a pre-Tommy interview where he talks about concepts that eventually became Tommy and how songs like "A Quick One While He's Away" and "I'm a Boy"
    were all part of the evolution of Townshend's story telling.
    Supposedly, A Quick One inspired the Beatles to make Sgt Peppers with a unified thematic feel, so you could argue that Townshend had a huge hand in inventing AOR.
    Also, I am pretty sure that when they toured for Tommy early on, the Who played it in several venues that were previously classical/opera houses only.
  11. Sounds good, I wish you the best of luck with that. Maybe rope in a music teacher as an advisor, you should be set. Best of luck.
  12. blankstare77


    May 19, 2006
    I feel that there is plenty of depth in Tommy. However, I suppose I should use a "typical" opera that is a standard within the opera scene. I would prefer to use an opera that is manageable, or relatively short or trivial.

    The procedure for discovering if Tommy is a valid representation of an opera is:

    I will dissect most of the songs in Tommy. I will then compare certain elements within these songs with elements within said opera. I will not, however, boil the opera down to the same level. The focus of the paper is Tommy and the opera will only serve to prove the thesis of whether or not Tommy is a valid representation of an opera, nothing more.

    I have begun brainstorming within each song by listening to the opera a few times. I have noticed several motifs that appear a few times. Such themes include but are not limited to:

    The overture features the accompaniments to several themes (See Me/Feel Me, Go To The Mirror!, a brief section with Pinball Wizard, then Gazing At You, a longer Pinball Wizard, then an acoustic guitar segue with lyrics to connect the Overture with the opening declamatory number "It's a Boy" (which also supports the comparison between the rock opera and an opera, the prevalence of through-composition in this particular rock-opera, a near seamless integration of themes and songs that create a continuous musical production)).

    Several songs have simplistic forms. For instance, "Christmas" begins with a recitative singing about the excitement of children on Christmas morning, yet Tommy feels no excitement but instead is seemingly unaware of what day it is. The music then seamlessly shifts to a brief aria sung by the parents of Tommy asking Tommy if he can hear them, to which he then takes up an aria of his own (the theme See Me/Feel Me, which appears in the opera at least 4 or 5 times). Then it shifts back to the aria by the parents, and then the recitative. The final form is ABCBA. Again, this supports the element of through-composition, which is a major difference that I have gathered as of now.

    Also, there are several instrumentals. From my understanding, instrumentals are not common in Operas, as they tend to be plot driven and more vocally-oriented. This is also a way that Tommy differs from a traditional Opera.

    I'm just getting started here, and there are plenty more things I can say about this. Those are but two songs in this opera, but arguably are two of the more deep or significant songs. I will break down each of the songs like I did in Christmas. I will discover the melodies, identify if there are any motifs or themes within the song, give a brief synopsis of the significance of plot in each number, will comment on the form if irregular, will comment on any variation of the theme, will comment on the accompaniments/harmonies as well.