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Songs without words vs Sing songs

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notes_norton
(@notes_norton)
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I just want to add something to the excellent post by Scrybe.

It takes more work to listen to a good instrumental song than it does a good vocal song.

This goes for just about any kind of music, from C&W to Blues to Rock to Classical (Opera is more popular than Symphonies even though symphonies are generally more musically complex and developed).

Unfortunately the general public is not interested in putting in the extra work, that is why Rap and other types of extremely simple music have always been "folk music".

I say unfortunately, because the delights from listening to a complex piece of music are much greater than a disposable top40 song.

Plus, the general public is not taught how to listen to complex music. The greatest gift my junior high school band director gave me was to teach me how to listen to music to get the most out of it. How to recognize themes and the variation the themes go through as the composer develops the music.

Example:

I have been listening to Antonin Dvorak's Symphony #9 (From The New World) since I was in school (we played a band arrangement of the fourth movement of that symphony). On about the thousand listening, I realized that in one part of the symphony, Dvorak combined variations of 4 different recurring themes at the same time. One for the melody, and the other three for counter-melody and background parts. It was an eargazm and I ran the CD back again and again for repeated delight.

An experience like this can only happen after one has listened to a work so many times that the themes and all the variations of those themes are memorized. It takes a complex song to keep your interest that long and still find something new each time one listens to it.

But the majority of the general public will never enjoy great music or great literature because they would rather do something that doesn't require so much attention. They don't know it, but it's their loss.

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Hmm I have to disagree with some of the things that have been posted about instrumentals.

There is nothing wrong with instrumentals if that's what you like but the inference that it somehow takes "more" to listen to an instrumental than a vocal song..What is more, intelligence? Time? Musical knowledge?

Art is about the experience that each person internalizes when they see or hear it. It's like trying to tell someone how they should interpurt a painting..but that's not what art is about art is about someone creating a piece and the audience making their own judgements and if that includes just listening for the fun of it fine, if it includes a detailed dissection of a peice in order for the listener to gain enjoyment then that's OK too.

All of you that have posted are coming from a musical background that 95% of the population don't have and don't need to have to enjoy a piece of art.

Notes you said I say unfortunately, because the delights from listening to a complex piece of music are much greater than a disposable top40 song.

That is your personal opinion and not a fact even though I'm not a big rap fan I'm sure I could find "simple" music be it rap or something else that I enjoy much more than any complex music I've ever heard. Complex doesn't automatically = good or enjoyable.

Art is out there to be enjoyed at all levels including the unintelligent lazy people like myself. It is what it is. People like what they like for reasons only they know and maybe sometimes they don't even realize why they like it.

So sure it's OK to suggest to people to listen to other kinds of music in the end the listener will make there own decisions on what they like or don't like.

I tend to be like the original poster and in general prefer music with a vocal line over instrumentals.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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Ande
 Ande
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But the majority of the general public will never enjoy great music or great literature because they would rather do something that doesn't require so much attention. They don't know it, but it's their loss.

+1. (or two)

And true with any great art. There's a local gallery here I go to every few months. Paintings I've seen every few months for a couple of years. There's more there every time, if you know how to look, and you really look.

One of the joys of learning the guitar for me has been the way it's reactivated my musical ear. As I get a little more knowledgeable about making music, I hear a little more when I listen to music!

Best,
Ande

PS- Guess this is a little off topic, as I think it's true of ALL good music. Whether instrumental or with vocals. Heck, good acapella can go in this category. To quote Duke Ellington, “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” The other kind can be fun, but good music is a joy forever.


   
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notes_norton
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<...>Notes you said I say unfortunately, because the delights from listening to a complex piece of music are much greater than a disposable top40 song.

That is your personal opinion and not a fact even though I'm not a big rap fan I'm sure I could find "simple" music be it rap or something else that I enjoy much more than any complex music I've ever heard. Complex doesn't automatically = good or enjoyable.<...>.

Rap is simple music because it has great rhythm but lacks in the harmony and melody part of music. Plus there is hardly any development. I enjoy many of the rap rhythms, but without melody and chord movement I generally get bored part-way through the song. I don't dis the people listening to it nor the art form itself, because as long as there is an audience, it fulfills its function.

I enjoy simple music too, but I get the greatest enjoyment out of complex music.

My music collection (and I have thousands of CDs, LPs and legal downloads) include Blues, Rock, Country, Calypso, Soca, Reggae, various Latin American forms, Jazz (classic to modern), Afro-Portuguese, Classical Indian, Tuvan, Classical Chinese, Klezmer, Hawaiian, Gypsy (Romany), "European" Classical (mostly Romantic era to Modern), and dozens more types of music. I enjoy it all.

And it's all good.

But if I was forced to choose just one, I'd pick the Classical because the enjoyment is greater.

YMMV

Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Notes I wasn't attacking you because your still my idol but, alot or all of your post comes from your personal point of view and that is of an accomplished musician. Most people are not musicians and they aren't going to analyze every piece of music they hear to enjoy it nor do they need to.

90% of the population or more are simple people and will enjoy simple music as it is the other more complex people will get enjoyment from thoroughly analyzing a piece completely.

Different strokes for different folks.

And I have an issue with Duke Ellington's qoute What music is good music..the music he thinks is good.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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Scrybe
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Most people are not musicians and they aren't going to analyze every piece of music they hear to enjoy it nor do they need to.

Just to be clear - I'm not saying that instrumental music is inherently better, greater, or even more complex than word-based music. But I am saying that we analyse any music we evaluate in a positive or negative sense. It's just that with word-based music, a lot of that analysis is carried out so intuitively that we're barely aware of it happening. With instrumental music, most of us have to put a bit more effort into deciding if it's great or if it sucks.

Nobody looks at a painting, reads a novel, or listens to a piece of music and has a strong emotional reaction (hating it, loving it, being moved by it) without first analysing it at some level. I'm sorry, but even as an artistically inclined indvidiual, I have to call that supposedly magical effect of art as total BS. The reactions are the result of our interpretation of the work of art. I'm just saying that we find it easier to interpret word-based art than we do non-word-based art because we have continual and necessary practice at interpreting words and speech. We have significantly less 'practice' in our day to day lives of interpreting non-word-based signals (with the possible exception of body language, which may go some way to explaining why films and, before that, theatre, proved so successful among the general public as art forms).

In that sense I agree with the OP - if I want to communicate with as many people as possible and be really clear about what I'm communicating, I'm probably best served by using words to do it. But the OP goes further - dismissing the validity or need for instrumental music because people "get" songs more easily. There's no contradiction in saying that word-based art is easier to evaluate but that non-word-based art is also valid. And that's precisely what I'm saying. There's good and bad in both forms, and I'm not enough of a J.S. Mill fan to suppose that the subtleties of instrumental music make it a necessarily higher art form than pop songs. But I think there's great value in instrumental music, and value of a qualitatively different kind than you get in many songs - without words there to make things fairly obvious, you have to give a lot more thought as a composer to matters such as which instruments you choose and what you make them do (this also happens in songs, but there is generally less emphasis on this as a key component of what is being produced).

If I have something to communicate and I choose to do it by composing an instrumental piece instead of a song, I'm making certain demands and expectations of my audience, namely that they'll give more in listening and evaluating it. So, I might choose to do that with a subtle idea, or a complex one, or just one that I don't want every Tom, Dick, and Harry in the world to know about.

I'm sorry, but saying instrumental music is not as good as songs is a bit like saying pop art acrylic paintings rule, and cubist oil paintings suck, so the world doesn't need any cubist oil paintings. Well, both the pop art/cubist choice and the acrylic/oil choice give the painter different options about what to convey and how. Dismissing any one of them summarily is denying ourselves (collectively) a mode of communication. And that is what I have a problem with in the OP. Trying to make that argument while overlooking something as pertinent as the skills required to evaluate two different modes of communication is, imho, either disingenuous or just really shoddy thinking.

I'm not saying this because I'm a musician; I could make exactly the same argument in the photography/painting debate, without considering myself much of a painter or photographer. Same thing goes with pondering whether poems are needed when novels are generally so much easier to understand (unless you happen to be reading Finnegan's Wake...). Heck, we could even push this whole thing to absurdity and ask why there's any need for any form of communication whatsoever beyond billboards and text messages. It really wouldn't strain the logic of the post much to do it, but then I think few who agree with OP would consent to something as strong as that.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Scrybe,

I kind of lost you after the first paragraph but I do slightly disagree with the last sentence of that first paragraph. I guess I don't understand why I would need to put any more effort into deciding whether I liked an instrumental than I do with a lyrical song. I listen, I hear I make a decision. It's pretty cut and dry to me. Have I changed my mind on occasions of course but my gut feeling is usually what i stick with so within a minute or two whether the song has got lyrcs or not I can tell you if I like it. It does not involve any other special analysis on my part, heck it doesn't matter what the art form is it could be a painting, a song, a dance whatever.

Now when you talk about a composer writing an instrumental that's a whole different ball game and I guess I would tend to agree with you since your logic makes sense but I'm really not qualified to comment.

Different people enjoy art at different levels and that's fine and for a lot of people (probably myself included) make their decisions about a piece without any intense "scrutiny", but I think that is what sets art apart you can choose to enjoy it at a very casual level and others get their enjoyment from very detailed analysis.

I don't know the symphony Notes mentioned but I can tell you I can listen to it and tell you what I think of the peice in a couple minutes, I don't have the desire nor expertise to dissect the peice like Notes. So does that lessen my enjoyment for that peice. Now I may listen to the piece and marvel at the composers use of multi harmony and all the things Notes mentioned and still not like it.

I think my only point was a person is wired the way they are wired and they will tend to listen to music lyrically or instrumentally the same way and the is nothing wrong with that as there isn't any reason to "work" at it. Basically if I like it it's good and if I don't it's bad and no one else's opinion of how I should "analyze" the piece is going to change my mind.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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KR2
 KR2
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I'm in 95% agreement with you, Scrybe.
The 5% I disagree with is,
Nobody looks at a painting, reads a novel, or listens to a piece of music and has a strong emotional reaction (hating it, loving it, being moved by it) without first analysing it at some level.
At least that's not the way I work.
If I like or dislike a novel, a piece of music, or art . . . the reaction comes first.
I don't analyze it first to decide my emotional response . . . that sounds like something Data (Star Trek) would do . . . if he was capable of having an emotional response.
And I usually don't bother to analyze the reason for my reaction unless I want to duplicate that work of art.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


   
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Scrybe
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It seems I wasn't being clear; my contention is that the analysis (or processing, if that's better) is intuitive. If I give someone a present and they say "thanks" with a dull flat tone, I register their disinterest based on that, but I'm not conscious of hearin their tone and associating that with disinterest. The processing happens naturaly, and with me hardly being aware of it. Likewise with any art - you process the information being presented and, the more you process a certain type of information (words and speech/song, instrumental music, art, action, whatever), the more natural and refined that processing becomes.

I don't think you can have an emotional or intellectual response without having picked up on some sort of cue which causes that response. That's what I meant by "analysing" - not necessarily sitting down with a score and taking it apart note for note, but a more general "picking up on cues". I think it's undeniable that we pick up on a wider range of cues in speech and song more easily than we do in music or visual art - that's something we do every time we have a conversation or listen to someone talk. Not even the most music-obsessed musician could really hope to match that amount of "speech practice" with "music practice". So we're more likely to be moved by a song or speech than an instrumental or an abstract sculpture. But that doesn't justify the leap involved in dismissing intrumentals (or abstract sculptures, for that matter) as lacking value.

As a practical demonstration - ask someone what their favourite song is. Then ask them if they could write out all the words in right order. Then ask them if they could tell you when the guitar starts playing, or the bass player drops out, or something. Chances are you'll get more success with the lyrics than the music. Even if you ask specifically about the sounds, you're more likely to get a response about how the singer sounds than a response about the whole musical sound.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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cnev
 cnev
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I think we are down to the definition of analyze, from your posts I get your analysis is more technical, forensic if you will.

If you call what I and now Kr2 mentioned it is more a visceral, unconsious analysis if you can call it that and for me that happens instantaneously with not much work involved and it's the same for any type of art.

I don't care what the artists intentions were or what he hoped to portray it's all about my interpretation and how it makes me feel.

This was posted before I read your last post and maybe we are saying the same thing or similar things.

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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Scrybe
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By analysis I mean interpreting something using whatever skills and/or information you have at your disposal. What skills/information we have differs from person to person, and may differ depending on the mode of presentation we're responding to (a painting, piece of music, phone call, whatever). It also depends on how focused we are - I don't always give full attention to my phone calls, and the same goes for music at times.

Ra Er Ga.

Ninjazz have SuperChops.

http://www.blipfoto.com/Scrybe


   
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cnev
 cnev
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Then yes we are in agreement there is some sort of internal analysis going on in my brain and I see the same thing going on for all media and art. Like I mentioned before I look, I hear, I judge it all happens in the matter of seconds whether it's Bach or Greenday or Picasso or Britney Spears (but you'd never thought those names would end up in the same sentence)

I'm not even sure how this post got to be about instrumentals all the OP said was "don't you think there is a need for more wicked guitar solo's"

"It's all about stickin it to the man!"
It's a long way to the top if you want to rock n roll!


   
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Moonrider
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<sigh>

Listen with your heart, y'all.

You'll never "get" any kind of music at all if you don't.

Playing guitar and never playing for others is like studying medicine and never working in a clinic.

Moondawgs on Reverbnation


   
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KR2
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Like cnev said, we're down to the definition of analyze.
When our senses perceive something new, one theory is, we subconsciously put that sensory perception into context with past experiences . . . which corresponds, physiologically, to synapses being linked to memory cells that hold the closest experience to that new perception. But that's all AI research type stuff.
I guess that could be perceived as analyzing . . . but I would call it relating . . . as in the cliché, “I can/can't relate”.

Now, if I only had a brain . . . a heart . . . courage.

It's the rock that gives the stream its music . . . and the stream that gives the rock its roll.


   
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notes_norton
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cnev, I didn't perceive that as an attack, no apology is necessary, but thank you for considering my feelings. I hope I didn't come off as if I was being defensive, that was not my intent.

I find my musical tastes have changed as I listen to more music.

As I learn to understand a particular kind of music, I tend to want something different, and often that means more complex. I guess that's just me.

But other times it's just different. When I was working on cruise ships I developed a strong love for Caribbean Music. Salsa, Merengue, Soca, Reggae, Calypso, Ska, and their kin. This spilled over to South American Music. I don't understand the non-English words, but I love the music.

There was a time when I thought Mozart and Beethoven were great and anything past Tchaikovsky was uninteresting. But I gave the newer pieces some time and I learned to understand them. Now Mozart is boring (still genius but I'm over that), and music from Beethoven's 3rd symphony to the present is what I like. But definitely not all of it. Like everyone else, I have my personal tastes and certain pieces that are admittedly great music simply don't ring my bell.

As long as there is an appreciative audience, the art form is valid.

But the fine arts, whether it is music, dance, literature, painting, poetry, or whatever, have never had as much appeal as the folk arts. It's just the nature of the beast.

And who defines what is fine art anyway? Jackson Pollock is considered fine art, but his work does nothing for me. So just because it is fine art doesn't mean I'll like it.

Songs with words will always have more popularity with the general audience than instrumental ones. Because as it's been pointed out, we interpret words all the time.

I'm weird though. When I listen to a song, the very last thing I pay attention to is the words. I hear the pitch, articulation, and ornamentation of the singer along with as many of the background parts that I can digest but pay no attention to the meaning of the words. On repeated listenings I eventually hear all the parts and start digesting how they react with each other. Then when all or most of that is assimilated in my brain, I start hearing what the words are actually saying. In other words, all songs start out as instrumentals to me, even the vocals. The voice is just another instrument capable of creating interesting articulations. Eventually those articulations become words and have a literal meaning. But again, I'm weird that way.

So I guess I'm not a good contributor to this thread ;) as I am not "normal". Plus as a career musician, I am steeped deeper into the music than the audience is (and that's the way it should be).

But as far as I'm concerned, there is always room for both vocal and instrumental music. If it sounds good to me, I'll like it. If it has something new to me after a hundred listenings, I'll keep on listening to it. If I have it assimilated after 20 listenings, I'll still like it but won't play it as often. And it doesn't matter whether it has words or not.

And if someone else gets pleasure out of a song that has completely no interest to me, that's OK to. The song was written for him/her and not me.

Insights and incites by Notes

Bob "Notes" Norton

Owner, Norton Music http://www.nortonmusic.com Add-on Styles for Band-in-a-Box and Microsoft SongSmith

The Sophisticats http://www.s-cats.com >^. .^< >^. .^<


   
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