How time flies.
Robbie Williams, Muse and Green Day are allegedly ‘too old for BBC Radio 1
‘? (Frankly, I feel I’ve always been too old to listen
to Radio 1; but Atlantic 252 fulfilled a popular music black hole throughout my teens.)
Even so, Radio 1 typically represents generation after generation of music, that never really chimes with me.
Something across the sound waves makes me tune out – be it an excessive reliance on technology, or simply a limited melody range, or an overreliance on lyrics, and not more musical instruments, solo’s a variety of accompaniments?
A zen philosophy, is the simplicity in complexity. An autumatic gearbox being easier to use than a manual – but yet more complicated to build. A human body, being massively complicated, but taken for granted! Music’s different perhaps, but a piece of technology, that oversimplifies music, perhaps makes it hard and complicated for me to listen to? I often think that people buy into an image with modern popular music, and a need to feel a part of something, regardless of whether it does them any good, rather than because it resonates with them, (if they ever get the chance to engage with anything on a spiritually based level of need?)
I’ll admit, I might sound old before my time, but ‘music these days, doesn’t seem to have much of a melody to it’. More specifically, it doesn’t seem to have ‘soul’.
One of my favourite artists today, is Chris Botti. An American trumpeter, Chris refines his performances with technology, but never suppresses live musicians with them, and – especially his more recent albums – I find a lot of happy solitude in.
I’d love to have a huge orchestra myself, and emulate his music on the clarinet, (because I think it’d do it even more justice, than a raspy trumpet), but that aside, the pop industry today – like in so many other industries, seems to be reliant on artificial materials, or sticking plasters.
Michael Bublé, is pretty much the only popular music act today, that I admire.
He can be overdone – especially more recently, with electronic sounding autotuned vocals, that occasionally go beyond a fine balance of being subtle and delicious, into rigid, and robotic sounding. (Not that the audience seem to notice.)
But he does use a live band, and autotuned or not, his voice seems remarkably flexible, and lubricated. (A duet between him and Gary Barlow last Christmas, show Barlow’s limitations for sure.. but I’m wandering into my parents home tv viewing habits now, which can be shallow at the best of times.)
So – where does the popular music industry need to go?
I’d suggest, spending money on real musicians, and investing some of their money, back into community music, so that people can play together. But even if they did that, people can be so desperate to leave their communities, who’s to say you wouldn’t end up at square one?
Much of the community music in the 60’s, was almost certainly funded by a hugely successful nationalised industrial wealth.
I have wedding clients coming to me, who frequently ask me for various songs. Often, I have to decline them, because I have an utterly different road map to New Direction, and Bruno Mars might as well come from there – to me, he’s an immature little squirt, with a pubescent voice, that couldn’t match Michael Jackson, or any of his other ‘inspirational artists’ if it tried. Michael Jackson (and his incredible producer, Quincy Jones), pushed the limits of their studio technology, but Bruno Mars? People seem to buy into images these days more too (not to say Michael Jackson didn’t, but Quincy Jones legacy was huge, and at least they both employed some fine musicians for their accompaniment, and gave them some fab solo’s).
Today, songs seem to rely heavily on lyrics. The melodies are hard to adapt into instrumental solo’s, partly because of their heavy lyrical focus, and partly because they don’t have much melodic range either. Technology, seems to limit the interdependent nature of man and instrument too.
Much emphasis is put on Line 6 amps, and other sound modules that replicate classic amps – but there’s something in the nature of digital recording, and sound sampling, that can have a place, but never replace a ban.
To me, much of the modern music is hard to listen to, perhaps because the way that digital music captures sound – in bits. I can’t immerse myself in something that’s captured in bits. A vinyl record captures all the wave forms. (I believe?)
I’m not speaking out against MP3’s, though I may in a separate blog. I just believe that the instruments that accompany singers, and even the singers themselves, need not have their talents, (or potential) limited by technology. Technology, is nearly always linear. Facebook, doesn’t show a humans multitudes, it shows a narrative. Filing, is stored in a linear fashion, apart from (perhaps), personal brain, which I discussed in a previous post (but still haven’t got to grips with).
Society is dynamic.
Orchestra’s are dynamic. They respond to a conductor, like fish respond to a threat. They move together, in ways that only an orchestra can. A computer, often requires hours of programming. It’s taking computers decades to even get close to some sounds. Then to get them to blend in, seems a waste of time?
Technology has the capacity to enhance the musical recording, and introduce us to all kinds of other digital instruments, but unless we can get those extra squeeks and pops out of them, that a saxophonist can put into his playing, the breadth of frequencies, perhaps I can never immerse myself in it?
I’d argue, we live in an already, terribly artificial economy, in which we’re surrounded by a paradox, of sterile materials, but no social interaction. A majority, don’t have savings, they have debts, they don’t have meaningful jobs, they jobs that only a few are fully engaged with, we don’t own property, we rent it, we buy cheap products, that won’t be worth anything, or last long, so we don’t really own these either. We’re given a license for software and even music on some retailers sights, but aren’t allowed to own it. Products are built to fail after a few years, so we have to replace them.
Increasingly, people have nothing with financial value, which brings us a concern for the future. And, we have recordings, instead of live music. We have recorded music, instead community music (which once was the lifeline of nearly all the music that record companies relied upon. And endless raw material, up and down countries. And one, that, unbelievably, is more or less empty! Musicians that have sold out their talent as soon as they realise it, and lost the opportunity to simply enjoy it, with fellow neighbours, just because it can sell. And the pop industry buy, immature musicians, so they can profit from it fast! It’s all part of a drive to maximise profits, or make money, and reduce costs. And to own anything real, we have to be pretty rich.
It’s a great entrepreneurial model, if you can work it. But it’s why a lot of musicians either don’t get entrepreneurialism, or get it, but don’t want to touch it, or get it, and are willing to flaunt around and make their mark, regardless of quality.
And that, to me, seems to be where Radio 1 steps in.
Radio 1, and all the corporate music industries.
And all corporate industries.
To be an entrepreneur, you need to mine raw materials, and turn them into something you can mass produce quickly. If you don’t, you’re increasingly likely to be snapped up by competition.
Then again, many rock n roll songs were similarly narrow in melody, and words, and relatively speaking, perhaps the instruments they used? Perhaps this simple approach has lasted longer than I’m willing to admit… (so I won’t; for now)
Maybe I’m just too old for my time?
Or maybe I just expect something deeper from our industry leaders?