Monday, June 21, 2010

Sexy Theory!

I've been listening to Dave Matthews lately, thanks to my nephew and my girlfriend. I even went to a live concert last Friday, which was actually my first authentic rock concert. I've been to blues festivals that have included some rock acts, seen plenty of small rock groups, and even played in two rock bands. But I had never been to a venue where I had to be patted down, carded, and exposed to that much pot smoke.

It is no mystery that many of DMB's songs are about sex, with lyrics like "You come crash into me/
And I come into you /I come into you /In a boys dream /In a boys dream" or " Sour as my fingers /Dirty pick pocket /I can still taste you /I won’t wash my hands." But I noticed that those songs seemed to share particular musical features, so I've been starting to catalog those features. Things like hypermeter, melodic contour, syncopation, these all tie together to mimic the sexual experience in subtle ways, or sometimes not so subtle ways. This research will take some time, as I haven't done much with popular music before, so I need to familiarize myself with the current state of research.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Virtuosity as Vice

This weekend I went to a Folk Music Festival, and got into a
discussion about amateur vs professional attitudes about music. At
first we talked about musicians on the stage who were clearly non
pros, but then it shifted to the observation that even the pros (those
who perform/teach folk music as their main source of income) had a
certain roughness or plainness to their singing and playing. I came to
the conclusion that in at least some genres of folk music there was a
disdain for polish or virtuosity. Authenticity in these circles was
shown by knowing lots of songs in the canon, and through communal
performances. Time spent by oneself working on performance craft is
less time spent performing with others. I wonder what would happen if
classical music took more of that attitude, valuing community over
individuality and broader knowledge over specific virtuosity. Jazz has
more of that balance, respecting individual skill but also valuing
communal improvisation and memorization of the canon.