When I was a wee lad, getting hit over the knuckles by a ruler wielded by my clinically insane female music teacher was just something that had to be suffered. So too with the psychological torture. She saved her most disturbing practices for when she taught what she called “music theory” but which I knew as, ‘you will suffer; you will suffer long and hard.’
One of the topics that 8 year old Adam had to master was a collection of Italian words and phrases. You see, Italian is the language of music. When something is played at andante then the translation used by musicians would be ‘at an easy walking pace’. This is what is known as tempo. Now crucially, in a single piece of music the tempo can change from section to section. In a very simplified manner there is the common verse/chorus pattern of popular music. Typically a verse will be slower than a chorus, (although not always), while a chorus will speed things up a bit. This delivers an emotional response to the music from the listener.
In other words, music needs to be dynamic in order to be successful.
I purchase very few albums recorded after the turn of the 21st century, particularly anything by new artists. It leaves me cold. It lacks emotion. It has nothing to offer me. But until I saw this video I just thought that people haven’t been able to write music for the past 20 years. It turns out I was wrong. Musicians have been able to write music; they just haven’t been able to record it.
Incidentally, if you’re into music and especially if you’re a musician, Rick Beato’s channel is a must follow.
To put it simply, two music programs were released in the early 2000s that enabled music engineers to manipulate sound recordings so that the music came down exactly on each beat. In other words, they rubbed out the edges, which had the result of rubbing out the edginess. They reduced the music to the beat itself, but a beat recorded by what sounds like a robot.
Music happens around the margins. Music is as much about what notes you don’t play as the notes that you actually play. The spaces between the notes, the pauses that determine how the listener will respond. I once read a quote that said something along the lines of great painters are those who have perfected the art of knowing when to leave the canvas alone. A poor painter will try and put as much in as possible which only has the effect of it being a gigantic mess. Where do you look when everything crowds everything out?
So to with music. The most easily recognisable examples of this messiness are in free form music such as jazz. The common mistake is to play too many notes at too fast a tempo. Immature musicians fall into this trap as their lack of feel means they have to make up for it by attempting to display their technical prowess. This all too often leaves the audience cold. Guitarists are particularly in danger of falling into this trap as the guitar is a difficult instrument to display mood with on an individual note, unlike, say, the trumpet. So the inexpert jazz guitarist plays these blindingly technical solos while the audience chats among themselves as they move towards the bar.
Feel is the final evolution of a musician’s progress. Which is why the computer manipulated recording detailed in the video is the antithesis of music. If I was going to record something today it would be at a studio that uses purely analog and vintage equipment with an engineer that is obsessed with the sounds put out from the 60s to the 90s. Someone old school, like my harridan of a music teacher. A fitting fate for all those computer music engineers would be to be locked in a room with that woman for eternity as she breaks them on a rack of their own click-trac rubbish.