Why new music is old
HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED “WHERE ARE THE MODERN DAYS BEETHOVEN, MOZART AND BRAHMS?” ?
That’s a damn good question.
Let’s take another field as comparison: aviation industry.
We started here…
…passed through here…
…to end up here
Now let’s see music
(please: listen to them. It’s music, not photos: music is supposed to be listened to)
We started here…
…passed through here…
late 1700 (1790)
…and maybe even here…
To get, today, here…?
You’re probably questioning yourself, right now:
What happened between 1900 and today?
and the answer would be
A lot of interesting stuff of which I’m going to talk about
, starting from:
Supersonic jet, or kite?
You may even like what today’s music sounds like, but you really can’t argue against how basic is compared to what 100 years before (yeah: that’s quite a lot of time. Look at how much airplanes changed in 100 years) was considered “top industry”.
Some may go as far as to make an orwellian praise to the “beauty of simplicity” – confusing “simple” with “basic”: even a supersonic jet fighter has numerous astoundingly simple solutions implemented in it, but being simple doesn’t mean “immediately explainable within a few words”. That is basic, not simple.
You may prefer a kite to a jet plane capable of flying a human being to the stratosphere, but you surely don’t try to get into an argument like “Yeah that jet plane is cool, but my kite is the next step”.
Thousands of years of striving for the better
Until 1900, music pursued an unique evolutive path who spanned throughout centuries of musicians and research: we had monodic music, then polifonic, then deeper dynamics and research for timbral richness… We started from the simplest constructions and went up for always more refined ways to create our art.
Every composer passed the torch to the next one, who continued his research where the others left it.
Just like every other science does.
The famous “dwarves on the shoulder of giants” thing.
This unified, collective effort to improve music is called “musica colta”, in which colta stands for written: music notation (“written music”). Who made possible to document studies, deepen them (instead of figuring out everything in your head) and, most importantly: passing them to the next musician’s generation.
Other musical cultures did not adopted music notation (music sheets – notes!), denying the possibility of conducting studies on it or even passing to the new generations what has been found out.
If you really are a nerd, this explanation is perfect: music sheets (written music) = savegames. No written music = any time you play, you start from the first level.
Musica colta vs Pop music
Pop music is not a recent invention: it’s amongst the oldest kinds of music.
The fact itself of differentiating the musical research (musica colta) with a proper noun is a clear sign that there are also other forms of music.
Pop music was one of them. Ethnic, for example, another one.
While musica colta was made amongst courts and churches, Pop music was what happened outside them: amongst the peasants.
The term “popular” does not stands for “famous”: it stands for “the people’s”.
As you probably know (especially if you’re into marketing or business development), “the people” is moved by the most differentiated reasons: while musica colta was an outstandingly pure search for beauty and justice (artistic one, of course), Pop music had very different purposes.
But, since the power was in the hand of princes, kings and popes, musica colta was the predominant musical culture: most of the beautiful artworks created in the past times were funded and commissioned by popes, princes and kings who liked to surround themselves with beauty – and proofs of their power: having the most talented artists at their service was a powerful statement about their power.
…shall we call it a B2B business environment?
The death of musica colta and the arise of Pop music
Fast forward to the first decades of 1900: princes and kings are not anymore the main customers of music industry.
The people, is.
And it is way less demanding.
Musica colta is dead.
Because “the people” likes and needs bad music?
No: they just don’t know any better because no one took care of introducing it to them.
They don’t know the heights of beauty that have been reached before them. And you can’t like something you don’t know.
So, instead of scraping to new artistic heights with your passion, you can simply recycle what has already been done: they won’t know it and they will think that what you’re offering is as good as music gets.
And, as countermeasure to getting caught with this poor practice: be sure of shunning the past by labelling everything happened before as “classic music” and giving to it the most negative brand image you can think of (boring, long, old, surpassed, complicated…) to discourage the most to discover it.
There you are: your endless musical spare parts warehouse.
It is “the bad businessmen” fault?
Please, please, please: stop blaming labels and productions. Their only duty is to foster artists. If there are no good products to take care of, they try empower what they have at their disposal.
Do you really think that they will come up with stuff like “No no this is too good: please, do something worse”?
-Little dissertation start-
Put yourself for a second in their shoes: you have to entrust your business to someone else’s creativity. They make something bad, you go homeless. And so your employees.
Funny, isn’t it?
Still feeling like “you don’t understand my talent: let me loose”?
You have a great artistic idea? Think about the best way to present it. People don’t read minds, and don’t have your same culture: help them understand your talent. Don’t be egocentric.
– Little dissertation end-
…but that’s what real artists do.
Other than them, there’s an army of wannabes who don’t want to sweat it too much with pitches and plausible explanations, and they just go for the safe (read: lazy) way.
Musica colta as spare parts warehouse
Any time you’ll go short of ideas, you can simply do some archeology.
You want to be “disruptive”? Current music mostly adheres to theory from 1600: you can skip a little bit, go for late 1600 and let everyone think you’re a pioneer.
Be sure to don’t skip too much, of course! Or you’ll end up in having to really put some effort in music composition!
For example: Progressive Rock was born when people found out that they could use even other measures than 4/4 and straight song form (strophe-refrain-strophe… A B A B…).
What a surprise, uh? That’s music theory from around 1600.
Another example: “the drop” in EDM (Electronic Dance Music: Dance music!). The drop is nothing more than a little more conscience about music intensity. If you ever glazed to a music sheet, you can’t help but notice the ff, p, pp, mf or even weirder symbols like huge brackets (<, >, but really long ones!) together with notes: they’re intensity indications. Intensity (“how loud it is”) is one of the most important musical dimensions, and most of the modern musical “artists” simply ignore it: modern “music” is mostly without dynamics. Leading to aberrations like the loudness war.
…and wait till the day they will find out that music can be made also without regular tempo, or even without notes (that’s right: notes are not obligatory. They’re only one amongst the many ways to create musical sounds – if you listened to Brian Eno you already know what I’m talking about).
You can even slice out entire pieces from their original place and use them as your “new” piece: the so called borrowings – although taking what others did, labelling it as yours and making money over it is not exactly “a borrowing”.
What people look for in music
This is another extremely important topic: why people buy something.
If you’re a marketing or business development guy, you already know.
For all the others, most of the people are moved by a very, very peculiar matter who comes at the name of social validation.
It is an unfortunately extremely convoluted argument that I won’t be able to fully disentangle in this (already very long) post.
in a very, very short form:
social validation is the need to be accepted by other people.
This fact itself is not that bad: people are funny to be with!
It becomes a problem when it becomes an obsession, and there’s willing to go at extreme measures to achieve that.
Many psychologists agree that social validation is quite frequently the most basic drive after food.
(Only amongst the most basic personalities, of course: concrete people have actual problems to think about)
There are various level of social validation, starting from I’m your friend to I’m your boss.
What does have to do this with music?
Some support a particular musical artist to become part of that crew:
I buy this stuff = I’m like you = accept me amongst you
Others support a particular musical artist to gain the powers of its status symbol (brand):
I buy this stuff = I’m as cool as they say = “you should behave towards me accordingly”
Even if you don’t are a marketing professional, you surely already have encountered such behavior: guys who buy that stuff because they want other to think a precise idea of them (many time radically different from what they really are) are not that rare – in fact, there is plenty.
Is there salvation for these poor lost lambs?
Yes: let them know what real beauty is.
Let them try what can you feel with real music.
Have you seen La grande bellezza? It’s a movie about this. Have a look at it (and maybe to Fellini too, after that).
And why nobody does it?
Because they would need a real artist to feed their need for beauty. And if you’re damn lazy, that’s not what you’re looking for: you want to feed the people with your monstrous ego, and not with the products of your (inexistent) artistic soul.
That’s why, for example, ghost writers exists: many “artists” are not capable of creating art, and they hire someone else to create for them.
Are not capable because “art is hard”? No: they just don’t care. Way better to share selfies on Facebook and jab with the press on Twitter.
And what is LmK Music Production position’s on this matter?
Curious, aren’t you?
Being an outsourcing company, we don’t really make “our own music”: we work for our customers! So, the final outcome is kind of a mix between our artistic inputs and our customer’s needs.
We can’t be 100% ourselves.
But you can be sure we’ll offer the best artistic inputs we can think of. If we already had the pleasure to meet or work together, you already know what I’m talking about.
And, moreover: time by time, we might take some time to create our own music. Just like, some years ago, happened with this: https://open.spotify.com/album/3zoTvDRS0ANwoNp8AFn36d
…fasten you seatbelts before click play!
Mythbusting: “people like simple and bad music: I can‘t make good one, or they won’t buy it”
Yeah tell it to these guys or these ones: these are both bands that studied music theory from “subsequent chapters” than the ones used from the average.
Not much, but enough to create a gap from their contemporaries.
Or even just ask yourself if someone in the 2100 will be listening to Taylor Swift just like, today, many are listening to Beethoven or Mozart – and I’m pretty sure Mozart will still be listened to in those years.
Since the importance of this topic, we will make another post to talk only about this.
So, in a very few words:
Modern music is created with music theory centuries old because of the creation and maintenance of a very poor overall musical culture, that permits to sell obsolete products – which, with the modern technologies at our disposal, are hilariously easy to compose – passing them off as new.