Friday, August 12, 2011

Handbook for Creating Evolutionary/Revolutionary Music!

DISCLAIMER: I am no lawyer and barely anything close to an English or Philosophy major. Ok fine. I used to be an English major, but that didn't stop me from not reading. The content henceforth is only reflective of the immediate ramblings of the author (me) and not necessarily the opinion of Sheltered Turtle (me) which grants us (me) with immunity from any legal actions regarding and not limited to: damages, blurred vision, erectile function, implosive diarrea, sudden loss of the ability to make right turns, awkward Facebook messages, and texting while driving.

CLAIMER: I am, however, legally entitled to any money you make from this no matter how indirect. But again, I am no lawyer. Also, by reading this, you kinda owe me your soul and 3.14% of every pie you eat henceforth (yes, I made a math joke). But nobody reads these things anyway.

Statement of the obvious:  The way people listen to music has changed significantly over the past several years.

Assumption:  More so than ever before, people have eclectic musical tastes.  An increasing number of music lovers more strongly associate as listening to “everything” than to a single genre.

Question:  Why is it that musicians, most of whom I assume are also music lovers with broad tastes in music, are stuck with a single genre of music for the entirety of their careers?

Answer:  Well, we all take our paychecks where we can get them.  If a musician gets known as an alt-rocker, it means people are responding to that.  So the musician continues on that course.  It’s all about marketing an image and maintaining it consistently.  Don’t get me wrong: many strive to change their sound and grow, but think back to artists you followed over the years.  To how many of them does the statement “I liked their old stuff more” apply?  People become fans of the music and expect more of the same from the respective artist.  Of course, all artists have their modus operandi which gives them their distinct sound.  However, let’s leave that thought for the moment.   

So many eager musicians begin their ambitions with a desire to create a totally new genre of music filled with sounds and melodies never before heard.  The words “evolution” and “revolution” get thrown around a lot.  However, as much as everyone might complain about hearing the same darn thing over the radio, the same songs covered by every cover band out there, and the same formula used for every hit song you hate to love and love to hate, the formula continues to be used because it still consistently sells better than anything else.  

But let’s think about what the music that follows no rules would sound like.  Well, if I were to be cute and ridiculous about it (you know, until it happens 20 years from now), the most revolutionary music probably couldn’t be heard.  Not through the ears at least.  Even better if you couldn’t even experience it with any of your five (six if you’re a character in a M. Night Shyamalan movie) senses.  

Too out there?  Let’s ground it a bit more starting with instrumentation.  Guitar and piano: absolutely out of the picture.  It shouldn’t even be composed on a guitar or piano.  Everyone uses guitars and pianos.  No drum set.  No bass.  People love vocalists, and that's not going to change, so let’s start there.  Why restrict ourselves to using just the mouth (and all the respective, necessary anatomy) to sing?  How could we revolutionize vocals?  Exploring the possibilities would merit another essay if not a book of its own.  Sample version (keeping in mind that these are just the rules for breaking the rules and in no way proposing a solution): Don’t use language but don’t scat either.  Don’t invent your own language for the purpose of singing: that’s already been done.  Don’t sing in the same key or rhythm as the band.  

Ok.  Now for the band (yes, the rules say it’s ok to have a band in a musically revolutionary ensemble … it’s just not recommended).  We already cut-out the most common instruments.  Why not go for something that creates its own sounds?  Heck, MAKE your own instrument (of course, using physical matter’s fine.  In this economy, who can afford antimatter or dark matter anyway?)!  I mean, there’s no need to turn to an already made instrument to limit your compositional abilities!  Just remember, it can’t be stringed, percussive, wind-based, heat/motion/light based, or programmed in any way.  We’re trying to start a revolution, remember?  Get with the program! Furthermore, the band (they're not all homo sapiens are they?) is not allowed to play in rhythm together (Compound time signatures only, nothing boring like 13/8 or 17/16. What, are you still in 4/4? LOL NOOB!) let alone the same key or mode.  They shouldn’t even be tuned the same frequency let alone anything remotely near 440Hz.

Point of all of this being: the revolution isn't coming. Not all at once at least. There is some truly amazing as well as truly awful music out there that defies many of the conventions of today's popular music. So why aren't people flocking to listen to it, abandoning everything that's popular? Simply put: the majority of us don't want it.

The music we listen to is so closely tied with our social identities that we want things that bring us together. That means finding music we can relate to. This results in music that is, structure-wise, marginally different from decade to decade with a new coat of gloss and possibly glitter (poetically though sometimes literally). We sing to remember and connect with the past: the first songs were used to pass on wisdom and stories of past generations to future ones. This was happening with the only recording technology we had available to us at the time: our brains. Instruments were added to embellish the experience and eventually took a life of their own. Music everywhere makes people dance. No one needs to be taught to sing or dance: babies can do it without taking a single lesson. Point being two-fold: 1) music is social and 2) music is laced into our biology.

So many of us in the creative fields try so to hard to stand out from everyone else and forget that sometimes, it's nice to be a part of something bigger and grander than yourself, something so big that you won't be able to notice it until retrospect, if at all. History makes things seem like revolutions are sparked by a single person when in fact the ideas are already there in the hearts of many, piggybacking amidst our social fabric. A single soul with a grand idea is only that: a single soul with a grand idea. However, with a following, it turns into a movement. Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, the Buddha, and Darth Vader would have amounted to little without the support of like-minded people who related to their teachings. Actually, Vader still would have been a Dark Jedi which does amount to a lot.

[This is where Facebooking made me lose my nonexistent train of thought and thusly end this post.]

Now where's my pie? (See Disclaimer/Claimer)

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