Protest music is a genre of music that contains a message of needed social change. One such example of protest music is the song “Killing in the Name” by the American rap-metal band Rage against the Machine. “Killing in the Name” manipulates musical elements in such a way to clearly convey their message of protest. Their message is protesting the illusion of control under the guise of government, oppression and racism. This essay will deconstruct the manipulation of musical and compositional devices that successfully communicate a message of protest to the listening audience.
“Killing in the name” is composed in the key of D minor which means both the guitar and bass are tuned down to drop D (dadgbe). With the low E string tuned down it creates a darker, more aggressive tone that coupled with saturated distortion, helps to emphasise their message of protest and convey their anger against “The Machine”. The first four bars of the song start off with aggressive, distorted D minor power chords played by the guitar and bass accompanied by crochet hits on a loose hit-hat and bass drum kicks on the first beat of the first four bars, this sets the beat and the overall mood of the piece straight away. At bar 5 the bass plays a triplet pattern solo on the low D and High D#, creating an unbalanced tone; this is used to signify the government’s unjust actions and to further enforce their message of protest.
At bar 6 two cow bells are used to play a flammed, triplet pattern on each cowbell, the distinct sound is used to further disrupt the tone centre which create a sudden shift in the mood to a more aggressive, confronting mood to emphasise the underlining meaning of the lyrics during the first verse. At bar 9 the full drum-kit is re-introduced, playing a fast rock beat. With the drums playing at an upbeat tempo, accented with dominant use of cymbals and the bass playing the triplet pattern, this small section of the peice adds further to the rebellious feel which is...
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