Sunday, 21 June 2015

And now for something completely different

Just listening to some classical music and felt inspired to write a few ponderings about music in general.

I'm a muso myself and have a few offerings on my Music page if you are interested.

I find the role that music has for us absolutely fascinating. So much so, that I've spent most of my life trying to understand why we love it - what it is that makes some music special for some but not others - the feelings that it evokes in us etc. Its a huge field of study and one that's still quite lacking in any real answers.

I would say that there are basically two types of music - "folk" based, and "art" based, and the differences cross over into all the fields of art in many ways.

Folk based music is all about cultural and community identity. I don't mean hippies with guitars and musical genre of "folk". Its far more encompassing, being music that expresses common values among communities. It's music that provides comfort, meaning and purpose. Through the ages its been the music that the "common folk" could sing together, or the traditions could be passed down through the generations. It's music that everyone can understand, learn easily, sing along with and identify with. It often links with key points in our own journey through life and triggers significant events - good and bad.

Folk music can cover everything from classical music to rock to hip hop to country to metal... whatever. Its not the style of the music. Its the purpose.

Art based music however, is about exploring forms and expression, creating new sounds that stimulate emotions and reactions, that dig deep into our souls to confront the "status quo" (subtle pun intended). Art based music is like the painter who goes beyond the traditional images to purposely challenge emotional paradigms, to draw responses and emotions that we may not be comfortable with, to stretch us.

Of course, these two basic approaches aren't clear cut, and often the boundaries between the two are blurred. A lot of what we might consider traditional classical music is nothing more than folk music, in that it creates a place of structure and comfort from easily recognisable forms, melodies and harmonies, rhythms with tried and proven "clich├ęs" (not in a derogatory sense, but simply meaning well used motifs, phrases, patterns etc)

Modern music is the same. Most of it is just a collection of commonly established forms within certain genres, drawing from well defined boundaries to create music that's comforting, familiar, inspiring and defines and builds a particular community identity.

But there's always those who push the boundaries. Those who feel deeper than the commonality of the "folk" expression. Those who long to explore the full range of passion and emotion that can be expressed through sound and word. These are the people who break the traditions, and yet often the very things they wrestle and struggle to give birth to, become the musical norms for the next generation of "folk" music.

But despite all that, there's always the profound words of John Cleese: "Ooo, I like a nice tune - you're forced to!".