Albin Zak Sound As Form Analysis

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This is an essay based on Albin Zak’s ‘Sound as Form’ where I will attempt to identify and characterize the “sonic signature” of the 1970 rock classic Paranoid by Black Sabbath. I will be using the chapter in which Zak examines and defines five categories of sound that is used to characterise the “sonic signature” of various artists, genres and songs of recorded music. In short the categories are musical performance, timbre, echo, ambience, and texture. Each category is defined in Zak’s chapter and an example is given to illustrate his definition. In this venture I hope to relate how each category is reflected in the song Paranoid. As such the first category is Musical Performance.
To give context to the musical performance that was recorded to become the song Paranoid as we know it today. The song was written as filler for their next album
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This along with Ozzy’s voice in the background creates an image of impending doom or better yet the state of being paranoid. His voice is timed along with the guitar in the foreground giving a complexity to sound between the two as if his words are drowned out by this driving force. The rough, mechanical heavily distorted guitar solo at 1:22 punctuates the rhythm of song almost disjointing the song in half creating the feeling constant paranoia or the image of dread dragged along with no end in sight. It’s as if the unravelling cloth has no end and it is only when the original riff and rhythm return does the driving force continue. This driving force continues the unravelling of the cloth until the very end of the song. The song ends just at the bottom of the riff where it should pick up again, but instead emptiness is left in its wake due to the lack of ambience. Each element of musical performance, timbre, echo, ambience, and texture lend its self to the “sonic signature” of this song. That signature creates a musical world in which this song is the
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