I’m going to treat this post more like an open letter. Maybe some people would like to take this up and post to others. Maybe some people would like to take this into the studio and answer.
This is to musicians and fans alike. To be a musician we generally need to be a music fan too. Well that is what I thought till recently when it seems that music is more a function of becoming famous for the sake of being famous than of expressing anything particularly valid or personal. Borrowing from Wikipedia we see that the concept term “Music” comes from the concept of the Muses.
The word derives from Greek μουσική (mousike; “art of the Muses”).
Following a Muse is to have a purpose, a fascination, a need to pass on some knowledge. Muses were about knowledge. The word is knowledge; to know something. Something known is a fact. That makes music communication. Music should communicate something that you know to me. That something can be as simple as your desire to hold my hand. Or it can be as complex and diffuse as a love of nature that leads to a symphony.
It is not the style that counts in art, it is the message.
Now this is the hard bit. There is someone who likes and someone who doesn’t understand or like any particular thing. It is not my purpose to say anyone in particular is bad. I don’t like NIN or Limp Bizkit but you may. The reason I don’t like these sorts of bands is that I don’t feel that they pass anything of any value to me. Now you may want to tell me how listening to NIN and/or Linkin Park helped you when you were a lost teen; I’m happy for you. Now I won’t say that NIN or Limp Bizkit don’t have anything valid to say, but that the message is lost in a lot of other things getting in the way.
My concern is that the form has replaced the function in music (and a host of other things too) and it is to no one’s benefit that this be so. Let me use an example, again you may think otherwise but even if that is the case then please at least consider the point I make before the shutters go down. Trent Reznor wrote a song called “Hurt”. Johnny Cash later sung the song. With Trent I find the song unpalatable. With Johnny it think it is superb. To me the difference is not in instrumentation or style. I think the song becomes superb because Mr Cash (who had almost completely lost his voice by this time) passed the knowledge of the song. No more or less. That is what makes it great. Now I assume Trent and Johnny have similar demons so why didn’t Trent deliver anything near as powerful?
Let’s pop the boot on the other foot. Limp Bizkit did a cover of The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes”. It would be unfair to say their version sucked but if you compare it to the The Who or even John English’s cover then it is missing a lot. Now I don’t begrudge them doing the cover; I’m not trying to defend the 70’s or some silly thing, but why did they gut the most powerful part of the song and replace it with a Speak & Spell (children’s toy) saying L.I.M.P.? What is the point?
Don’t get the idea that I am saying only vocals and strummed guitar are allowed in music or any of that sort of narrow-minded rot. Speak & Spell was used very effectively by Krafwerk. Right now I am hearing Starship’s “Set The Night To Music”. Big and glossy 80’s Pop-Rock production, not in the same league as Cash, but I enjoy it. Enjoyment through the emotion of wanting to spend that special night with someone is all that song was designed to do, and it does it very well.
The current fashion in music is a destructive one. Music should lift the soul. I don’t mean that it has to be all hearts, flowers and fluffy bunnies. “The Trooper” by Iron Maiden isn’t remotely Disney but the song is still an uplifting experience. “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division is pretty bleak but it speaks hope at the same time.
I know I am not alone in knowing Music is being destroyed by the very people who are making it. No not the record companies but the (anti) artists and fans alike. Hard to blame the fans as they just grab whatever they are told is going to make them seem more accepted in the tribe. The artists though should know better. Many try to deny that (as I have seen a certain singer do after inciting a riot) but the reality is destroying music is not the same as making music.
I remember having a young musician in my studio in the mid-90’s and I was (at his request) showing off a new MiniDisc player I had and chose Alan Parsons Project “When I’m Old & Wise” as it is a good recording with subtle moments and an orchestra. We didn’t get to the orchestra as a couple of bars in this kid pronounced the music “Cheesy” and turned away. That bothered me and it has bothered me ever since as the experience has been repeated many times whenever anything with melody, or that could be traditionally called music, was presented.
Over this time I have watched music go from a thing I loved to a thing I loathed. I get CDs from the library and have to eject them after only a few songs – and only that far as I want to seem open-minded. As a dedicated music lover this is very wrong, so very, very wrong. I now decline to work with artists who are more interested in whether the distortion sounds right than the actual song.
If you have read this far and don’t feel the need to skewer me out of some inarticulate rage then you probably want to find some way to get your real Muse into its proper form and heard by fans. You know the fans are there but feel that you have to dilute or even destroy your real work to even hope to get on the playlist. Maybe you have even stopped trying – I know I did.
What I suggest is this: that you deliberately start presenting your art as it should be. If distortion on the voice doesn’t sell your message then proudly take it off. If removing melody makes you ill then pile it all back on where you know it belongs. If you don’t see why your drumming needs hyper-editing and quantizing then find a new Producer who won’t waste the time or money making your track sound sterile (and puerile).
When some sneering critic or confused person on a forum calls you “out of date” or “unfashionable”. Hold your head high and tell them that they are mistaken. Tell them “I m a neo-Traditionalist”. After that, don’t waste any more time, as that person only wants to destroy music like an addict needs to get a hit.
Remember, Music is the work a of a Muse passing Knowledge from one person to another. If you can do that with only your voice then do that. If you need a whole orchestra of electronic sound then do that. Just please don’t go adding layers of things that serve no purpose other than to destroy the Knowledge your Muse asked you to deliver to us.
You are in good company. If you need proof of that come back here, as I want to start collecting artists who are proudly making music that expresses what they know in the way they know it needs to be expressed. Remember it is not a Genre thing, send me anything that fits the traditions of being good music simply because you tell your story as only you can.
Use the Reply box below, use my Contact Form (unpublished), write your own Blog Post (link em in to here)… Whatever, just use the voice you got, the way it should be used (or if you are religious as God meant you to). As I receive music that I think is really good and genuine I will provide reviews just like my “Driving Music” articles.
Let’s get this neo-Tradition movement going.
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A Caution: if you try to Spam me or offer mediocre “me too” content in hope of a free ride then I will initially ignore you. If you persist then I may just take to using you as an example of how to be a bad artist. If any of what I write above offends you then good. I have made you think. If you have a question then ask me. If you want to vent then use your own Blog – just be sure to like to this one so people who don’t agree with you can see if they agree with me.