What does it mean when in the age of progress music from the past has more plays than the top hits? We’re armed with so many digital libraries and tools, why is music so different?
Body-Ya – Feather It Out
This episode airs on Sept 3rd, and if we’re going to talk about music and be band nerds together, what better song than this one that is for this month, and is just full of so much joy?
I have a few phrases I use that sum up how I think. It’s mostly a musician’s view: build a core melody, know your chords, and build as you go. Find the pattern, do a variation. Or as O says Zee, we have the core concept, let’s feather it out as we need. Core concepts are building blocks, and with experience you can vary and create new things, whether it is music, documentaries, podcasting, and amazingly enough, software.
Hypothesis: Does a Society in Decline Cling To the Glory of the Past, and Does Music Today Reflect That?
There are many forms of music today that, while new, do not reflect a degree of sophistication that you got from songs on AM radio. 2023 Pop music offers a dull menu. The #10 Song on Spotify has a flute that is flat, out of tune.
Pop music from corporations is not challenging the ear of it’s audience. In fact, many musicians are recruited who play from sample libraries and mumble incoherently, with little variation. The shock value is not helping either. That said, there are so many genre’s today that music is fragmented and people really have seek out artists off platform to discover something fresh.
As a musician who wants to hone their skill and not gain notoriety by being gross or more ghetto than the next artists, it’s discouraging. Our society from an artistic perspective as a whole, does not encourage new ideas nor ones with a modicum of nuance or sophistication.
Hence the past works are rediscovered. Are we living in the past, captured by normalcy bias, or is there a joy that we get from this music that we lack?
Counter Melodies, Counter Rhythms Are Better Than Sampled Snippets
The amazing thing about Earth, Wind and Fire and this song, is that there were 12 band members who had to communicate, to mind what was going on, each playing fragments that blend together to create this bright cheerful song. And there is careful use of octaves, of syncopated beats that introduce downbeats, just enough tension for a release of notes that punch up an octave.
Body-Ya Say Wuh?
When you listen to the melodies, counter melodies and rhythms, the phrase “Body-ya” is the basic core component for this song, feathered out in unique ways. 12 people with vastly different parts, comprising a whole.
The percussion is simple, it lays the foundation for all the syncopation. The voices are also used as instruments, with different syncopated beats leading up the chorus. Like a few quick short breaths before breaking out into a melody one octave higher than the verse. It’s genius.
The producers told Maurice White to get rid of the “Body-ya” in lyrics, and he said: never let the lyrics get in the way of the groove.
Spotify Has Some Sad News
In 2023, the Top Hit songs only are listened to 5% of the time on Spotify. In other words this year’s best music is not as popular as music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s.
This discounts the modern artists who are not on Spotify, most likely they are without contracts. Perhaps why they are much better than what is presented?
So You Wanna Write Songs
Today there is a plethora of digital libraries that turn you laptop into a recording studio. But with all this sophistication at a musician’s finger tips, why do we get over used sampled rhythms and a 2 note melody, and that is in the Top 10?
Music and sound is basically vibrations and frequency, and in a sense, it is mathematical. There are a set of rules that make certain “match”. Much of what we have enjoyed in the past have a set of rules that normally exclude discordant sounds, but many artists had an instinct to drop a beat, add an additional note that set a different expectation than what a listener’s ear would expect. The idea that this is just comes naturally, without knowledge of music is a myth: a guitar god doesn’t just sit down and suddenly become the next Jimmy Page or Eddie Van Halen without learning some of the recipes of note progression.
But with digital sampling, we see that there is not much curiosity, let alone any real skill because we can go to a library, copy and paste samples, update and we have song. It’s beyond paint by numbers.
The producer has a huge influence on what the artists brings to the studio. While a song may be complete from the artist’s perspective, a producer who is adept a music theory can suggest interesting alternatives. The best ones enhance.
Ted Templeman is a perfect example. In the same year he produced Van Halen and Michael McDonald with the Doobie Brothers, to vastly different groups. I thought these songs were by different producers, the styles are so dissimilar. Now to a guitar metal guy like me, I was shocked when I finally read the sheet music for What A Fool Believes, it’s SOPHISTICATED, it’s yet another blend of interesting notes found outside the normal I,IV,V,VI scheme that most pop songs use.
Would There Be Any Beatles Without George Martin?
While have no musical training, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison had amazing talent, and sometimes not knowing music theory your mistakes become genius. George Martin, who produced every Beatles Album except Let It Be, was just as experimental. He exposed Paul and John to an amazing array of instruments that fueled further experimentation. For example, it was George Martin who thought of the amazing effects for Sgt Pepper’s album, include running recording tape through coke bottles to just generate something different.
Interesting thing to note, this video for Something was shot by John Lennon, with Patti Harrison, George Harrison’s wife who later would run off with Eric Clapton. Something, a haunting love song, flows between chorus verse and bridge seamlessly. But it changes key, from C Major to A Major. That is a leap. 3 more sharps to contend with, but it is not discordant. What an amazing instinct Harrison had. This is beyond plucking on the guitar rearranging chords: this is pick melodies that lead into one another in a unique way that does not surprise the ear at all.
For the band nerds, here is why it works in detail.