Thoughts on Music

As I delve throughout the different genres of music, like most people I run across things that I like and things that I don’t like.  Country music for example, makes me groan and frustrates me that anyone can listen to that and enjoy it.  I guess that’s just not my personal taste.

I have long been a fan of the modern 4 piece rock band.  Drums, Bass, two guitars and lead vocals.  This seems to be what the majority of people in the US enjoy.  At least people my age.  There are many different variations to this ensemble, and many different styles that are included within it.  This has been my primary source of music for most of my life.  And it is wonderful.  I love it.  I really do.  While there is a lot of it out there that is pure rubbish, there are plenty of fantastic pop/rock bands that stand out amongst the rest.  Very musical bands that make music for the sake of music, not caring what other people think.

I do not wish to say anything negative about any pop/rock/4 piece group at all, however, as of late I find myself primarily drawn to everything else but this.  I’m a little burnt out if you will.    In the sea of musical monotony, several styles stand out, and each has their specific reasoning.  Here are the 3 types of music that I just can’t enough of lately.

1. Electronic

I know, I know.  You’re thinking, “That’s just dance party music.”  But it’s so much more.  I’m not talking about the droning house music that you played at your rave last Thursday, I’m talking about electronic music that incorporates more than just a constant beat.  For a period of several months, I was hooked on Daft Punk.  That’s literally almost all I listened to.  Daft Punk does a fantastic job of blending straight ahead beats with brilliant synth sounds and catchy melodies.  It’s feel good music.  It does make you wanna dance, but not necessarily at your Thursday night rave.

Daft PunkNewcomers Justice have also been a throbbing dot on my musical radar.  I don’t know quite how to describe it.  There is a definite Daft Punk influence heard there, but it goes beyond that.  Their layers upon layers of unbelievably interesting lines and beats make me want to dance, almost to the point of losing control.

Londoners Hot Chip have also been a recent favorite.  While they are definitely electronic, they blend in rock elements and instruments and manage to create their own style.  Hot Chip is much more vocally driven than most electronic music out there.

Electronic music attracts me because I get lost in the layers of what’s going on.  I love to see how all of it fits together rhythmically, which is the primary musical element that this genre uses.  I like to try and imagine how you would come up with something that complex and catchy.

2. Jazz

Lately, I just can’t get enough jazz.  Whether it’s listening or playing, I find myself mildly obsessed.  Perhaps it’s the challenge.  Perhaps it’s the fantastic players I’m playing with.  Or the spontaneity of it.  I don’t know what it is but I love it.  Jazz is a unique musical style in that it takes communication unlike any other genre.  You never know where it’s going to go.  Just when you’re doing one thing, someone could do something that could completely change the feel or flow of the song.  It’s all about communication.  But non-verbal communication.  It’s musical communication.  In this sense, jazz could be considered perhaps the most personal of all musical styles.  It’s different every time.  Depending on what you’re feeling, you can make it go one way or go another.  Who you’re playing with could be a factor.  You never know what you’re going to get.miles

This is why I love jazz.  It’s personal.  And spontaneous.  And fun.  I can get lost at times.  I can lose control.

Jazz seems to have lost a lot of popularity since it’s early days.  In it’s evolutionary process, it became more and more complex.  The big bands began to fade and the combos began to take over with their free-flowing styles and uncertainty and impulsiveness.  Along the way, many people lost their understanding of it.  It sounds too random.  “That guy’s just playing a bunch of random notes.” Well…not exactly.  While there is the element of randomness, jazz improv requires a thorough understanding of music structure, theory, and functionality.  Mmm… jazz.  I could go on all night, but then I wouldn’t get to the third musical style that I have been obsessed with.

3. Classical

While Classical music has seen a sharp decline since it’s creation, I have recently discovered a new found love for it.  Classical music is much more diverse and variable than most people give it credit.  While many people can tend to think strictly Mozart when thinking of Classical, there is SO much more out there.  All sorts of intense, moving, calm, tear-jerking, angering, heart-warming, odd, beautiful music.  Dive into it.  As previously stated in this and other posts, I believe that Classical music’s complexity is the main hurdle that most listeners cannot get over and achieve understanding and appreciation.  While surface listening results in a pleasant experience, studying and playing and analyzing and listening can result in such an incredible experience.  It boggles my mind sometimes think of the process that the composer went through to get the final product.dudamel

Beethoven’s complexity is astounding.  I have recently had the pleasure of playing the last movement of his 9th Symphony.  My part as a double bassist is unbelievably hard.  The fast runs up and down are so hard, but so fun.  The mixture of my part with the rest of the instruments in the orchestra is pure genius.  The peppering of themes here and there is brilliant.  The patterns and harmonies and power that is written into that few pages of music is unbelievable.  And it is absolutely a blast to play.  I would take playing a Beethoven Symphony over Disneyland anyday.

Other pieces such as Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” are unreal as well.  The imagery that is conjured up in my mind in a piece such as this or a Shostakovich symphony are amazing.  Other works such as Debussy’s “Clair De Lune” astound me.  I don’t understand how hearing a piece of music can move me so much and how it can be so beautiful.  Classical music is unique in that, more than any other style, at least for me, makes me make some sort of scene up in my head based off of what I am hearing.

I do not wish to discredit “rock” music or “4 piece band” music by any means.  I still appreciate it.  I still enjoy it.  However, a lot of what is out there can become very plain and unoriginal.  What attracts me most to each of these styles of music is the complexity involved in each of them and the virtuosity required.  I will return to the familiar pop/rock/”4 piece” genre eventually.  But until then, I will keep enjoying what each of these three styles has to offer.

7 Responses to Thoughts on Music

  1. Brandon,

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts on music, and especially Beethoven’s Ninth. Here’s a trailer for a film I’m doing on the Ninth. Let me know your thougths about it if you have time.

    All the best,


  2. blazedanielle says:

    Hey Brandon!
    Great post! I so very much enjoy reading your blog! 🙂

    I especially want to give a “woot!” to your jazz paragraph, for I have been Duke Ellington obsessive for quite a while now!!

    p.s. Just wanted to let you know that I did a post about your poster! 🙂 I’m a bit excited about it.

  3. k_shaw says:

    You might like: The Blow “True Affection”

    Sweet song. The rest of their stuff is a little off the wall, but after a listen or two, starts to grow on you.

  4. Alex W. says:

    I recently got a tangible taste of using some Bach invention snippets in diddling with some jazz solos… love it. Cut ’em up, stretch ’em out, squeeze ’em somewhere,… oh the joy of it all!

  5. michael lee says:

    Alex, that sounds like cheating!

    I never really liked folk music, like at all, until I got a contract to take 15 Bob Dylan songs and doing solo piano arrangements of them. It meant listening through his entire catalog to make selections, and I started to fall in love with his melodic writing. He gets credit for lyrics, and that’s fantastic, but his melodic sense is so often pitch-perfect as well.

    I think there are certain artists that transcend genre. You don’t have to like their entire context to really get into their individual thing. Bob Marley, Tupac, Aphex Twin; you don’t have to be into reggae, rap, or electronic to appreciate those artists.

  6. reece! says:

    who are those “fantastic players” you’ve been working with? eh? eh? hahaha

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