For a while, in order to discover musics, I was doing this : downloading archives like “100 Best Indie Tracks – June 2015”, stuffing these into my small iPod, and then, as I was walking along in the city, I was playing with the iPod wheel, wandering in random mode.
It’s awful for all these groups, I KNOW, but it is what it is : I listen to the intro, a few seconds. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the song begins. If I’m pleased, I go on. Then the singer, then the chorus, etc.
It’s really like “music speed dating”. It’s wrong, I know.
I’m old enough and skilled enough to sort tracks like that, very quickly. Then I used the 1-5 stars system of the iPod like :
- 1 star – trash
- 2 stars – should relisten
- 3 stars – not bad/I keep it
- 4 stars – good/interesting
- 5 stars – I love it!/masterpiece
If you think about pop-rock music, if you begin to analyze, you can hopscotch with your brain and the “idea of pleasure”. What do you love in this track?
Energy? Lyrics? Sound? The guitar solo? Singer’s voice? Production? These are musician’s choices elements and how they are mixed together.
Makes you think about someone? A period of your life? Makes you feel you’re part of a community? These are other elements, right?…
One of the pleasures of pop music is the game with time. Listening to a music piece is “following it along its continuity”.
Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro…
When you know the music already, there’s a pleasure in… knowing what’s going after : you can sing along, right? You wait for the pleasure which will come (ahhh this chorus is so good, move your shoulders, transform your hands in butterflies…).
I’m back with my iPod. The music begins. If I don’t like the beginning (sometimes I need 5 seconds to know it, but sometimes it’s more like a minute), I turn the wheel. I go from 0’15” to 1’20” – just to see how it will evolve, as you can guess…
Most of the time, my instinct was right : if the first verse is bad (music, singer, harmony, sound, whatever), it STAYS bad, and I see almost no difference between 0’15, 1’20” and 2’45”. This is how pop music is made, 98% of the time.
There’s pleasure in repetition, in “it comes back”.
The chorus idea is like the proof of it. A good chorus (or a great gimmick), and people sing, and you got a hit, Johnny!
What I like the most, with my little wheel, is when I hear the beginning or a track, then I go to 1’10” and I hear something else, then I go to 2’20” and I hear again something else. Woah! Invention!
Most groups of the Progressive Music era worked like that : Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson. They liked to invent structures similar to Classical Music…
And well, yes, Classical Music has this “pleasure in repetition of themes”, but it’s much more complex, of course. A theme coming back is more like an event in a ocean of… :
In Pop-Rock, it’s VERY rare. Some groups are crazy enough to build a 5 minutes tracks like Pink Floyd did with 30 minutes.
- Instead of : Intro, verse, chorus, verse, chorus, break or solo, verse, chorus, outro
- They do : Intro, verse, break, surprise, chorus, another music, double break, altered chorus, intro to triple variation, piano reprise, Irish drum arrival, guitar, false outro, reweaving of some previous with other instruments, choir silliness, new chorus, samples, etc etc…
Continuous Invention : you invent all along, continuously, surprising the audience with pleasant unexpectations.
Names I have in mind (for some tracks, not all of them) : Röyksopp. MGMT. St Vincent.
In what discipline you could apply this tool of “Continuous Invention” instead of “Pleasant Structural Pattern Repetition”? Poetry? Mmmmhhh… Marketing?
What about the contrary? If most movies are based on “stories” – continuous invention – some of them are based on variations around a small story : Rashomon, or Run Lola Run. There’s a pleasure here, in viewing three or more times the same stories, viewed with another point of view…
Thanks for reading!