Thursday, September 30, 2004

Emotion and Electronics

My wife has been celebrating her new job in the music library by checking out horizon-expanding CDs. As we trade cars quite often, I end up with her new recordings in the CD player as I commute, so my horizons have been expanded whether I like it or not. I've been exposed to African tribal music (okay), Tibetan prayer music (did not like), and Gypsy music (pretty good, but only in small doses). Today the CD available was The Doors Greatest Hits. I've always enjoyed The Doors, though I never got around to buying any recordings.

Today, I was struck by the organ solo in "Light My Fire." It is full of repetition, oscillating between two notes or two chords. When the full chords are being used, the solo has some emotional impact. But when single notes are used, it seems flat. On a guitar a single motive or even a single note can be shaped by fingers on the frets, the whammy bar, or various pedal effects. On the Hammond organ (I don't know if it is really a Hammond, feel free to correct me) there are fewer options, none when the other hand is tied up playing the bass line on a separate keyboard. So the notes were not shaped, making the oscillations very repetitive and boring. On a guitar or wind instrument the solo would work, but not on an unchanging organ sound. Ironically, the guitar solo that follows would have worked on the organ.

On the next track, "Strange," the keyboardist went with a chunky harpsichord-like sound, sounding like a bad rhythm guitar when comping. The solo is more complex and more keyboard-like. I'm going to listen to the whole album, keeping track of the different keyboard sounds and how the keyboardist used them. That should keep me entertained this weekend.

No comments: