Yes, I consider myself a serious musician. But that doesn’t mean music isn’t fun for me.
I confess that I get a little smug inside when a teenager says he knows music or is “into music” but hasn’t ever been in a band or a choir or had theory class but maybe had a “music production” class and actually listens to hip-hop on purpose. Now, you don’t have to know who the “Three Bs” are (NOT the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Boston) in order to love music deeply, and you don’t have to love so-called “classical” music at all, but it does help to be familiar with different types/genres. Also, some comprehension of the basic elements of music (rhythm/duration, melody, harmony, and timbre) can enrich your sense of it and what it takes to create a viable composition. I think much of the public must believe that composing music is nothing more than strumming chords on an electronically tuned guitar or belting out a non-tune with weak rhymes (and maybe hiding your face with a mic so you look cool). That’s like believing that being a chef is just putting a pizza in the microwave or pouring some canned vegetables into a bowl of chicken broth, turning up the heat, and serving up a cliche, claiming it’s a recipe.
I was starting out to talk about fun music. This might surprise some people who think I’m a serious-minded purist when it comes to music, but actually, I also enjoy me some classic and progressive rock. Kansas is the go-to when I’m looking for some rock, because most of their songs are interesting compositions. There are some real melodies, some complex harmonies, and a lot of terrific play with mixed and asymmetric meter. A little less often, I’ll choose Chicago or ELO or Boston or Styx or the Steve Miller Band. Since I only had about a half-decade of following much popular music, finding a few songs on used albums by REM, Grateful Dead, and Jethro Tull can be a new experience for me. Yes, one has to be selective lyrics-wise, but the sounds were so much more interesting back then. (Sorta like classic cars — so much more interesting to look at than cars built in the last couple decades. As my wife said once, “No one in 2050 is going to look at a 2005 Corolla and say, ‘What a beautiful car!'”)
I am listening to “Free Bird” right now. This reminds me that I was once enough of a music geek not only to learn the piano solo in the middle of the long version of “Free Bird,” but also to **write it out on manuscript paper.** This is not as challenging as a jazz sax aficionado writing out a Parker or Coltrane or Gillespie solo, but it’s a fun fact, and I can still play it. 🙂
Now, my desert island music is more likely to be chamber winds or brass quintets, but lots of different music can be fun. Tonight, it was the Commodores big band and then Lynyrd Skynyrd.
- Casey, 2/25/17
The above was originally a Facebook post. Here are most of the comments made there:
I’m also quite sure that there was plenty of uninteresting music made in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. (And before). We just don’t hear it much because it is, well, uninteresting.This comment is oversimple; it’s a result of ‘typing’ on a phone. However, I feel that far too many of my friends who are musicians too easily dismiss contemporary music. It’s a shame, because far too many of my students do the same with the music I most enjoy. Perhaps if both groups were able (willing?) to invest the necessary time to find the good stuff, the perceived chasm between the two worlds would seem a mere crack.
Brian Casey This has been on my mind and bothering me off and on. I think you misunderstood my intent if not my words, Lisa Manning. I wasn’t trying to say one has to understand in order to enjoy. However, I do embrace my capacity for some analysis as a means to what at times *feels like* deep enjoyment at times.
Overall, I was hoping my tip of the hat to some pop/rock would be taken as just that — not as an appeal for everyone to criticize or to see some music as superior or inferior. For the record, I think Bach is probably just about as mixed as the Beatles. I only own two Brubeck CDs, but I like them a lot. Bach cello suites are excellent to calm the soul, but I had more Bach than I could take during a certain 6 years of my life.
Brian Casey Ha. You may be exaggerating my familiarity with the corpus. I would guess I have heard 20, but not a hundred. I’m really pretty ignorant about most popular music. It would be hard to imagine that I’ve heard more of his tunes than James Taylor or Billy Joel, and I don’t think I know more than 40 or 50 of the either of the latter.