Feb 19 2010

Friday Foolishness

I wonder sometimes what makes us like the music we like.  I’ve tried to like classical music, but most of it leaves me cold unless I’m listening to an orchestra play it live.  Jazz is the same way: great live, but puts me to sleep anywhere else.  It’s great if you’ve got a talented singer who’s fun to watch as well as listen to, or if you’re at a party where the music isn’t the only thing going on, but take those things away, and the music isn’t enough.  Organ music and chant are similar: great in the context of church, but they don’t hold my attention by themselves elsewhere.  The only music I like by itself out of context is pop and rock.  I wish that wasn’t the case, but there it is.

When it comes to the music I do like, one consistent feature is crispness.  I like the various instruments and voices to stand out and not blur together.  With my poor hearing (probably from playing my car stereo way too loud back in my pizza delivery days), I don’t distinguish foreground sounds from background very well, and maybe that comes into play with music too.  That may be why I don’t like classic rock like the Eagles as much as I used to, because that music tends to be a little blurry.  The grunge of the 90s was the absolute worst, with pale losers mumbling about their angst.  So most of my favorite music comes from the 80s, the time of electronic drums and synthesizers, and you could certainly classify it as crisp.

The other factor, which would probably surprise people who know me, is that I tend to like upbeat music.  (Again, grunge was a horrible time in music.)  I don’t take music real seriously, and I couldn’t even tell you what some of my favorite songs are about, but I like songs that have a fun, upbeat feel to them.  I actually do like some blues, but I tend to go for the blues songs that don’t feel like, “Life sucks and then you die,” but something more like, “Life sucks sometimes, but it’s still worth singing about.”

All that is leading up to this idea I had of posting one of my favorite songs each Friday.  (A local Quincy blogger used to post old speeches from Ronald Reagan every Friday, but I couldn’t come up with an idea nearly that cool.)  My first one would probably be a guilty pleasure, if I took music seriously enough to feel guilty about it.  It’s just fun and definitely crisp, and sounds great cranked up in the car.  What puts it over the top for my first selection is the appearance by Geordi La Forge as the angry cop in the video.  I wasn’t sure that was him at first, but sure enough it is.  I don’t think I’ll ever get used to seeing that guy with eyeballs.

Anyway, here’s Cameo, with Word Up.  This is about as 80s as it gets.  Try not to stare at the lead singer’s red codpiece; I dare you.

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  • Nice article! I play saxophone in my college wind ensemble, and I really enjoy it. (No, I don’t play jazz, believe it or not.) I think the main audience of classical music are classical musicians themselves. Jazz opens it up to less musically acquainted people. You can enjoy good jazz without being a jazzer yourself, but it’s hard to enjoy good classical if you don’t know how to appreciate the details, and you won’t know what the details are unless you’ve struggled with them yourself in rehearsals.

    To your comment “When it comes to the music I do like, one consistent feature is crispness. I like the various instruments and voices to stand out and not blur together.”

    That also explains why you don’t like classical music. The major elements of a classical sound are

    Intonation (Being in tune and on pitch)
    Dynamics (Getting quiet when the music says to, etc)
    Blend (Making sure no one sticks out in their section of the ensemble, and that no section sticks out overall)

    Blend, or as you said the blurring of the sound, is a critical component of classical.

    Fun read!

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    • Aaron says:

      Wow, I throw up a video in place of a real post, and get real comments! Sorry it took me so long to notice and approve them.

      Joseph, those are good points about classical. It especially suffers for me in an environment like a car (where I do most of my music listening), where the noise of the environment blurs things further. I do like classical better in a concert hall with good acoustics and no interference from other noise.

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