Friday, March 9, 2012

Discipline and Sociology

So, in a recent post, I was talking about how song craft is important. No less a figure than Wino would agree, at least in principle.
The first thing would be to describe what Songcraft is. Bottom line, it's about the discipline of finding a meter, and seeing it through. On the one hand, that can be very simple- iambic pentameter, 4 line verses, 2 line chorus, and you're done. In Rock and Roll, it's usually based around the 12 bar system of the blues- Tonic, subdominant, and dominant, and 4 bars to a line.
Music doesn't have to be quite that limited, and a song can be extremely well-structured on the basis of the 32 bar rhythm changes of 4 eight measure sections. But the point is that the meter makes the song. Ignore meter- and I know lots of 1970's era Prog bands that do ignore meter, and the song craft dies, in favor of the "jam". Well, to borrow a phrase from the mighty MC5- Kick out the jams, brothers and sisters ( Nope, I don't swear gratuitously- here's why- I want the content of what I'm saying make the impression, not the format)
See, what most listeners crave in music is some form of harmony. Sure, technically, that means vertical harmony, while what I'm describing in meter is closer to the melodic line, or horizontal - but, even Frank Zappa reached for a kind of harmonic tension in his compositions- in the meter.
So, when we talk about music the extensively uses dissonance- the "harmony" can be in the metrical use of dissonance-
Putting this in terms that everyone is sure to understand- no matter what you do in a song, make sure it sounds like you meant to do that, so that the listener, whether they perceive the individual bits and pieces as working together or not, understands that there is a plan- that, to me, is the essence of songcraft.
I think this is why people are willing to accept "music" with no melody- such as is found in some rap/hip hop and Industrial music, or where the melody is submerged to the beat, like in Grind, and Deathmetal, or where the harmonies are so odd that nothing sounds 'in tune' to western ears, like Math rock or free jazz.
Now, this is one of my underlying aesthetics. I can certainly understand, intellectually, how some folks just love the 400 bar free form "jam" that some bands indulge- "Dude, the drummer did a 20 minute solo, followed up by the bass player and flute player jamming for another 10 minutes! It was AWESOME!" but that has zero emotional resonance with me. This is why I hate 99% of guitar solos in hard rock and metal- in order for some dude to show off his ability to pull off 18 varieties of hammer ons, and achieve 164th notes, the whole structure of the song has to stop for "THE SOLO". Emphasize that crap too much, and it's like listening to somebody's workout routine- maybe that's entertaining for you, but I'd rather gouge out my ears.
Now, both require a kind of discipline- and I can always respect discipline, but ( and this is another part of my ever-evolving aesthetics) for me, I prefer the disciplines that aren't about inflating one's personal ego, and are more about serving some purpose outside of the self. Think about it- do you prefer someone who is single-minded in their pursuit of getting accolades, or do you prefer someone who wants to make something that other people will enjoy, even if that means that they will get less personal thanks? Either way can be validated, but i know where i stand.
I think most of us feel like I do, and I can prove it simply- I've got two blogs on blogger. This one which is a lot more focused on other people, and one that's purely self-indulgent,and probably more intelligent and sophisticated- people choose to read this one at about 500 to 15 ratios. There you go.
Ultimately though, the only aesthetics that matter are yours. If you can find stuff on this blog that serve your needs, fantastic! I'm not about to change it too much, but that's kinda the point of this whole thing- rather than mass culture- where we look for some kind of personal meaning in impersonal Art, my goal is to find those points where my personal tastes intersect with the public. Geddit?

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