Duncan Bayne's picture
Submitted by Duncan Bayne on Wed, 2006-05-24 20:46

A while back, a poster here commented that what he likes about the metal genre is that it has a sense of drive & purpose - and I agree wholeheartedly.

However, I've been listening to more classical music lately, and find that some of it has exactly the same drive & purpose (I'm imagining Lindsay roaring indignantly at his monitor, OF COURSE IT DOES! - so I'm a slow learner in some respects).

Anyway, the best example of this I've heard so far is about 3 minutes into Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major. I lack the musical training & education to properly describe it, but I can say that if you appreciate purposeful music, you need to listen to this.

( categories: )

Sometimes it's in the nature

Duncan Bayne's picture

Sometimes it's in the nature of a lament ... consider the lyrics to Age of Innocence, by Iron Maiden:

I can't be compromising in my thoughts no more
I can't prevent the times my anger fills my heart
I can't be sympathyzing with a new lost cause
I feel I've lost my patience with the world and all

And all the politicians and their hollow promises
And all the lies, deceit and shame that goes with it
The working man pays everything for their mistakes
And with his life too if there was to be a war

So we only get one chance can we take it
And we only get one life can't exchange it
Can we hold on to what we have don't replace it
The age of innocence is fading..... Like an old dream

A life of petty crime gets punished with a holiday
The victims' minds are scarred for life most everyday
Assailants know just how much further they can go
They know the laws are soft conviction chances low

So we only get one chance can we take it
And we only get one life can't exchange it
Can we hold on to what we have don't replace it
The age of innocence is fading..... Like an old dream

You can't protect yourselves even in your own home
For fear of vigilante cries the victims wipe their eyes
So now the criminals they laugh right in our face
Judicial system lets them do it, a disgrace

Despondent public worries where it all will end
we can't protect ourselves our kids from crime the trend
We cannot even warn each other of evil in our midst
They have more rights than us, you cannot call that just

So we only get one chance can we take it
And we only get one life can't exchange it
Can we hold on to what we have don't replace it
The age of innocence is fading..... Like an old dream

The age of innocence is fading..... Like an old dream

Again though, there's a sense of helplessness and pointless conservatism - they're mature enough (unlike Kim Wilde; I almost wrote 'Wilde' then thought clarification might be needed) to realise that something is wrong, but lack the knowledge to propose an alternative. Instead, they're simply opposed to change. In a supremely ironic twist, the iconic metal band has become conservative.

Kind Hearts don't grab any glory...

JoeM's picture

To show just how much has changed in 20 years, consider the lyrics to "Kids In America", a dance-pop hit by Kim Wilde in the mid-eighties Reagan era, the age of money and style that most rockers today rebel against for being profit minded and celebrating style. A song like this couldn't be written in pop music today, and the fact that some bands today cover this song either in an ironic or nostalgic sort of way underlines this fact. (You should see the reaction to Lee Greenwood's "Proud to Be An American" among the loser rock crowd.) These aren't great lyrics, but the idea comes through in the spirited energy of the song and the striving vocal theme. Speaking of "drive," I love the line " I search for the beat in this dirty town"... This is a song so typical of American pop, showing the triumph and tragedy of the youth with the sense-of-life without the backing of a fully focused mind...


Looking out a dirty old window
Down below the cars in the
City go rushing by
I sit here alone
And I wonder why

Friday night and everyones moving
I can fell the heat
But its shooting
Heading down
I search for the beat in this dirty town

Down town the young ones are going
Down town the young ones are growing

Chorus :

We're the Kids In America
We're the Kids In America
Everybody live for the music-go-round

Bright lights the music gets faster
Look boy, dont check on your watch
Not another glance
Im not leaving now, honey not a chance

Hot-shot, give me no problems
Much later baby youll be saying never mind
You know life is cruel, life is never kind

Kind hearts dont make a new story
Kind hearts dont grab any glory

We're the Kids in America,
We're the Kids in America,
Everybody lives for the musical go-round.

Come closer, honey thats better
Got to get a brand new experience
Feeling right
Oh dont try to stop baby
Hold me tight

Outside a new day is dawning
Outside suburbia's sprawling everywhere
I dont want to go baby
New York to east California
Theres a new wave coming I warn you

We're the Kids in America
We're the Kids in America
Everybody lives for the music-go round

Rand, Defiance, and Metal

JoeM's picture

Just came across this quote in "Don't Let it Go" from PHILOSOPHY: WHO NEEDS IT, it seemed to fit this discussion:

"Only one thing is certain: a dictatorship cannot take hold in America today. This country, as yet, cannot be ruled-but it can explode. It can blow up into the helpless rage and blind violence of a civil war. It cannot be cowed into submission, passivity, malevolence, resignation. It cannot be 'pushed around.' Defiance, not obediance, is the American's answer to overbearing authority."

THIS is the perfect description of the rock and roll as rebellion mindset, from Jefferson Airplanes "got a revolution" to the Metallica's "Don't Tread on Me." We had something of a Civil War in the Sixties, and much of metal's rebellion is of the blind violent variety. The metal fans won't be "pushed around", and "aren't gonna take it anymore."

The problem is not in the defiance, but in their solutions, or lack of it.

Rand, as insightful as ever, continues:
"A sense of life is not a permanant endowment. The characteristically American one is being eroded daily all around us. Large numbers of Americans have lost it...and are collapsing to the psychological level of Europe's worst rabble."

If metal fans are guilty of blind rage and violence in the name of freedom, at least they had that much. The current trends of rock music are of the "emo" loser rock variety. And when I say "loser," I am using their self-defined term. Some song titles include "Loser," "Zero", and "I Hate Myself and Want to Die." Bands include All-American Rejects, and ...Loser. And like Rand mentions, most of these bands get their philosophy from an European Anti-American worldview, which started with the punk invasion of the 70's with the Sex Pistols. "No Future" is the motto of these bands. When someone says that metal has drive, it's in the manner that Rand mentions above. In the old American metal scene, the participants drive was a hedonistic one, sex drugs and rock and roll. But they saw themselves as rock gods, or demons, creatures of extraordinary power and energy...the bands of today see themselves as mice, lowly creatures of low self esteem. The metal bands are laughed at today, not for the spandex, makeup and big hair, but for the bigness of their folly. It was a life of excess, to be sure, but they are mocked for the virtue of living large. Today the rock fans curl up in a ball in the corner, injecting themselves with heroin and try to be as small as they can be.

There are various forms of evil. But as stated in WE THE LIVING, the worst evil is not the firebreathing dragon, but the louse.

No Problem, Linz, was more a

JoeM's picture

No Problem, Linz, was more a rhetorical question, but looking forward to your thought on that.

Giuseppe Maurone!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Linz, let me ask you a question: in a battle, would you choose a sword or a machine gun?

Just to say I'm not ignoring you. I will get round to this.


JoeM's picture

Iron Maiden, I believe. Rush also put "Kubla Khan" to music in "Xanadu" from A FAREWELL TO KINGS.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

User hidden's picture

that has been made into a metal song? I have to hear it! Who on earth did it? Cooleridge is one of my favorite poets!



JoeM's picture

" ... if "drive" is the particular thing you're looking for; this metal shit is just noise whose perpetrators go out of their way to make as revolting & ugly as possible. And it gets lapped up?!"

Initiation of force. The best defense is a good offense, or so they least, that's the philosophy most fans of metal and rap adopt. When you can attack without fear of effective retaliation, the only thing that hold one back is his own sense of honor. Gail Wynand had power, and feared no one. The Wynands of music today don't have a Howard Roark who will stand up to them. Or, if their is a musical equivalent of Roark today, he's using a sword against machine guns.

Linz, let me ask you a question: in a battle, would you choose a sword or a machine gun?

This might sound wacky, but I have a theory on why: The difference between the angry aria and angry metal is in the weapon of choice. Both are angry, both use music as a weapon (not so much the melody as the "tone of voice." One is a sword, and the other a machine gun. Or an atomic bomb.

Some people and characters proclaim that the sword is a nobler weapon from a nobler time. When a hero slays the dragon or the tyrant, the sword thrust, aimed to perfection, takes on the character of the hero. It's a personal means of defense, you look your opponent in the eye when you kill him. But you can't conquer a nation alone with a sword.

A gun is considered more effective, yet crude. And machine guns are capable of far more destruction than a sword. A sword makes that nice singing tone when unsheathed; a machine gun assaults you with a rapid-fire staccatto cacaphony. The sword the weapon of the knight, the machine gun the sound of berzerker vikings. It becomes a weapon of invasion, capable of initiating force from a distance.

I wonder if the attraction is the same as an attraction to the feeling of firing a gun. Even just holding a gun can fill someone with an exaggerated sense of power. Hence, it's not just "lapped up," it's guzzled like water in a desert. Or like a teen's first taste of alchohol; he doesn't sip it like tea, savoring a glass of wine, he does a keg stand. But unlike a sword, a gun has the recoil effect. Unlike a wine headache, he gets alcohol poisoning. In the aria, the anger in the sword is projected outwards towards the enemy. But with a pistol, the range is farther, easier...less personal. Take a machine gun and the potential for violence is on a grander scale. In the aria, the voice and acoustic instruments can only be so harsh, given the nature of electronic effects, with ear splitting volume and distortion, the music becomes a weapon of mass destruction. And that's a powerful feeling. Duncan calls it "causeless anger"...that's an apt description... maybe it's real cause is a justification of having such destructive power to begin with. And when you consider how many people get shot for merely looing at someone funny...

You know what the symbol of power is in metal? The power chord. The teen grabs his first guitar, cranks up the volume to 11, and hits that power chord and that sound, the very act, fills him with a seemingly new source of strength. He doesn't have to learn tricky guitar passages, he doesn't need an orchestra to fill out the sound, it's just him and an amplifier and a guitar and the neighborhood rattles. (The equivalent in rap is the emphasis on bass, the kind that rattles your bones and interferes with heart rate. And it's no coincidence that metal fans appropriate Wagnerian motifs and viking imagery. But that became "corny" (and as morals lapsed, the "heroic" warrrior no longer had a spot, and the emphasis shifted to the P.O.V. of the demons. Rap, being more realistic, and more "honest", appropriated the images of gangsters and dictators. The new archetype for angry black musicians is not Malcolm X, but Scarface, machine gun in hand, introducing his "li'l friend.")

The question is, how will that kid harness and use that power? Galt invented the motor, the invisible ray screen, unpenatrable safeholds. His enemies created the Thompson Harmonizer and torture machines. Weapons of defense versus weapons of offense.

It's not only stunted ...

Lindsay Perigo's picture

It's fucking HORRIBLE. *Intentionally* horrible. That's the part I don't get. If Chopin, who is beautiful, doesn't give you enough "drive" you can go to Liszt, or Beethoven, or Verdi, or even (shudder) Wagner, to name literally a few, if "drive" is the particular thing you're looking for; this metal shit is just noise whose perpetrators go out of their way to make as revolting & ugly as possible. And it gets lapped up?!

> Duncan's comparing Chopin

Duncan Bayne's picture

> Duncan's comparing Chopin to the metal genre...hmmm...

I wasn't trying to equate them; rather, I was pointing out that what I like about certain metal music - take the Rime of The Ancient Mariner as an example - can also be found in that Polonaise, but ... better, somehow. Without the apparently causeless anger?

You're right about the wider range of emotion in classical music. One of the things I particularly like about Iron Maiden is that for metal musicians they have a very wide range of emotion (& that as far as that genre goes, they're quite thoughtful), but in comparison with classical, it's still stunted.

Chopin's Polonaise in A flat major

JoeM's picture

Duncan's comparing Chopin to the metal genre...hmmm...

This is one piece that in my metal years I would have claimed had no power to it. When someone speaks of "drive" in a metal context, they are looking for brute force. The Polonaise doesn't have the drive, of, say, the charge of a whip master on a Viking ship. It's doesn't have the frenzy of berzerker warriors bent on conquest. "It ain't balls to the wall, it has no power, no drive."

But it DOES have drive. Their is purpose, tension, release, but of a benevolent variety. And it shows the limitation of metal compared to classical music. Metal musicians often have technique, and often incorporate difficult classical passages into their music, or even outright cover classical pieces (Flight of the Bumblebee is a common guitar showcase), but you'd be hard-pressed to find Chopin in the repetoire. It's not a lack of skill, but a limited range of emotion. (Yes, there are "ballads", but they are usually more subdued and...tragic? in the metal world). Because metal is about brute force, and nothing like the Polonaise could enter that realm for fear of being considered "fruity" or trivial.

Oh yeah

JoeM's picture

"I just think that the rhythm section entity that came into being in the 20th century was unique in that it's constant function was to provide a pulse/groove while all the other instruments were laying melodic and harmonic content on top."

Not really unique to 20th Century, but certainly the emphasis switched from highlighting melody to putting the rhythm section upfront in the mix. It seems that way, though, especially nowadays with drum machines and samplers that don't get tired like musicians who want all the solos. But it really got underway with the metronome and Beethoven's experiments with it.

...I wouldn't deny, Pete, that metal has drive, but what kind of drive? Who's driving? Where are they going? Duncan noticed that the drive in metal has precedent in some classical pieces. It's kind of funny when you think of the reaction of some metal fans (and many contemporary listeners) towards classical music, especially pieces without strict meter. The rhythm section in most rock is up front, but older dance forms had them also, just not as loud or prominent, because melody was still the focus. (My music teacher laughed when I said I liked metal, and not classical, for its if Wagner or Beethoven didn't portay power...but they lacked the upfront, consistent pulsing rhythms. Like many not accustomed to it, I didn't know how to listen to classical forms. I didnt' know about meter versus rhythm.) We treat constant meter as a crutch sometimes, and the stronger the emphasis on meter, the less room there is for developed melody.)

Even though I recommeded breaking this idea down into musical terms for better understanding, "drive" is a powerful and accurate description of what goes on in music. In this case, you could compare metal rhythms to up-tempo country-western or polka music since all through often employ 2/4 time. Strip away the instrumentation and the skeletion is often similar. But polka and country have a different "feel", different drivers. Actually, metal is closer to the military march. The tonal coloration, the timbre reflects the psychology more than the melody and rhythm, which is why non-musicians often miss the technical similarities.

Of course dance has been

Pete L's picture

Of course dance has been around for thousands of years. I just think that the rhythm section entity that came into being in the 20th century was unique in that it's constant function (bass & drums in particular) was to provide a pulse/groove while all the other instruments were laying melodic and harmonic content on top. To this day, a rhythm section of sorts is found in nearly every non-classical example of music with a driving quality. Nowadays, much of it is electronically rendered as opposed to having live musicians.

'Goal directed action' and 'tension/release' also add to the driving aspect of certain music. For example, most heavy metal songs that begin with a verse or introduction played on the clean channel of an electric guitar immediately create expectation/anticipation that a later section will come in with a bone-crushing distortion. This expectation is prepared by listening to previous tunes in the genre.

Nothing Else Matters by Metallica is a fine example of this in action. Distortion of the guitar doesn't come into the song until a guitar solo at the very end. For me, the tune is constantly working towards this moment. This is but one example of how a metal tune can have a sense of purpose or 'drive', if you will.

Keep in mind Pete that

JoeM's picture

Keep in mind Pete that dancing's been around for a while! Waltz's, square dancing, tribal dances, Irish jigs, boleros...most dances require some kind of pulse. There are dances that don't require strict meter, I'm thinking ballet and some broadway musicals that are a little looser.
And keep in mind the type of meter involved. Disco had 4/4 time, waltzes are in 3/4 time, square dances in 2/4 time. Even when the pulse is strict, the different tempos all have their own feel and psychological pull. (3/4 time was considered "the devil in music" and often banned.)

Getting back to Duncan's point about music haveing " a sense of drive & purpose": The type of dancing is related to psychology as well, keep in mind. We haven't got that far into the Romantic Manifesto thread yet, but there's a nice section on dance that explains this in more detail. But in a nutshell, music and dance are partners because of the emphasis on movement, and music and dance are romantic in the sense that man can choose the type of movements that will stylize his life. A man's purpose, his "drive" is often reflected in his music. (Rand's description of Hindu dance as suggestive of decapitation was an interesting observation!).

What about dancing?

Pete L's picture

If we're still on the subject of music with a steady meter, what about the simple fact that much of America's early popular music was made for dancing. Duke Ellington, Paul Whiteman, Count Basie etc...people went to see these bands in order to dance to them.

It was here that the 'rhythm section' of the group (bass, drumset, guitar/keyboards) came into being. The bass and drums in particular served the function of giving the dancers a steady beat to latch on to, while the remaining instruments added interesting melodies and harmonies.

The rhythm section began in earnest with early jazz music, and through morphing with blues and other influences rock and roll eventually came into being.

Blues and Industrial Age

JoeM's picture

Ross, you're right, I didn't mention the blues at all. Why? The blues, with its ties to black slaves in America, are a product of an anti-industrial agrarian culture, just the opposite of the industrial rhythms of the urban cities. (And, of course, influenced by the African music of the elder slaves?). Pure blues music is more likely found in the south, just as folk music was found in the agragrian societies in Europe. The more industrial America became, the weather the pure blues influence would be found. The "Blue Note" was embraced by jazz and rock musicians alike, as well as composers like Gershwin in "Rhapsody in Blue." But notice that the use of the blue note was to invoke strong feeling and something less mechanical. It's a raw, primal wail of a sound. Gershwin, and many jazz artists of the big band era, didn't play blues but instead morphed into something else.
You can see the difference in the contrast of Delta blues versus the electric Detroit sound. And blues music in the cities underwent crossbreeding with symphonic pop forms, losing some of the primal sound, and merged into the Motown Sound. Motown was accused of producing plastic music as well, an considered a corruption of the primal sound of African American music. (Damn Whitey!). Notice that blues is noted for its depiction of suffering, which is now fetishized by purists. "To play the blues, you have to have the blues." Again, something more associated with a agragarian or blue collar culture. The rap and disco/dance music is less influenced by the blues because, being more a product of cities, their is less emphasis on suffering. Blues and party music don't mix.

As for the pschological implications...I'd say that many rappers and dance fans (as opposed to the musicians) are less influenced by the blues than the rockers. Rock and roll, being more associated with rebellion, took more fuel from the blues. And since rockers have more of a socialist liberal mindset, they often fawn over the blues and the bluesmen as symbolic of a noble anticapitalist mindset.

I'll come back to your post

Ross Elliot's picture

I'll come back to your post later, Joe, but you didn't mention the influence of blues music. I would have thought the deep roots of slave rhythms and the call & response method influenced dance & rap more than anything. And, many old blues artists have been sampled by beat-heavy hip-hoppers for exactly that reason.

"Is this a common opinion

JoeM's picture

"Is this a common opinion amongst contemporary musicians?"

My favorite personal horror story was sitting in on an interview with a band that I was working for as a bassist. They were feeding the interviewer pap about standing for peace, love, brotherhood, how if they could change the world, people wouldn't have to work for food...I was very polite and kept my mouth shut...Sad

But it was almost a scene from the Fountainhead. Remember Keating's first meeting with Lois Cook, and her sly wink at his adulation of her "higher aspirations?"

Believe it or not, many musicians are business savvy, especially those with a good manager. The pop artists tend to be "pro-business." They are also the ones criticized as being "plastic," "corporate", etc., by so-called "senstive artists" like Kurt Cobain, who'd rather blow their brains out, either with drugs or shotgun, than be part of the "machine." (Well, the honest ones blow their brains out; the hypocrites rage against the machine while collecting their royalties.) But often, once an enemy of capitalism in music gets a taste, they usually become hypocrites. (The members of Metallica had no problem making cassettes of their favorite European bands, but changed their tune when they became rich and went after Napster.)

There are wedding bands that make decent money because they run their operations as businesses. Hootie and the Blowfish had their own insurance plans. Madonna owns record labels, rap moguls like Russell Simmons have gone the entreprenurial route in a big way. John Tesh and Yanni know how to make a buck.

The musicians who claim to reject the business side are usually of the hippie variety, the heirs of the Woodstock generation. The jam bands, the folky environmentalists. But they learn real fast. (Read Rand's indictment of the Woodstock concert.)

Not wishing to side-track

Duncan Bayne's picture

Not wishing to side-track the thread, but ...

> Another side note: Think of the anti-industrial revolution when
> someone tells you that all musicians are in debt to other musicians,
> and that music should be "free"...

I've had many arguments with proponents of the latter idea (or, worse, those who don't care whether music is free or not, but consume it as though it was), but I've never come across proponents of the former.

Is this a common opinion amongst contemporary musicians?

I think this may give you an idea as to how many musicians I know Smiling

The Industrial Revolution and Musical Forms

JoeM's picture

Ross, you got my gears spinning! I'd say what extent, I'm not sure. It may be more accurate to make an argument that the "anti-industrial revolution" has influenced music forms. Here's my two cents worth:

To start, much of the early technology of the industrial revolution was based on repitition and mass production. Workers repeated movements over and over like machines. The musical equivalent is repitition and mass produced hits. When you mass produce music, you have to appeal to the common denominator, which does not lend itself to promotion of melodic development. It requieres a leisure class...

In the visual arts, the parallel was the rejection the overly ornate style of Art Nouveau, which was often delicate and in an old world style, in favor of Art Deco, which celebrated order and stark design through streamlined imagery, often of skyscrapers and technology. (I've been interested in the influence of Art Deco on Rand, hopefully someone will do a study on that soon. And I thought the Nick Gaetano book covers captured the essence of Rand's ideas. Think about Rand's emphasis on straight lines in art. Obviously a reflection of her psychology.)

In your examples listed, there is an explicit influence moreso in (post) modern music than the classical field. I'm not aware of a musical equivalent of Art Deco, since the trend at the time was in favor of Jazz. (Would "Rhapsody in Blue" qualify as musical art deco?) There was a "benevolent" sense of life in the industrial influence on Art Deco, but it seems the industrial influence in music was co-opted by the postmodernists. Edgar Varese and co. utilized sirens and industrial "noise" instead of traditional structure and harmony, attempted to liberate sound from structure. Serialism shared a psychological or political connection with socialism, which held that all tones are equal and eliminated heirarchy in music. The musicians who utilized industrial advancements most often had a malevolent view towards life, deconstructing the mind in the process. The heirs of Varese and Cage carried this into "industrial rock", industrial being the dirty world of the Dickens variety and the music was meant to be as ugly as Birmingham, England or Northern New Jersey. (Pink Floyd is an interesting case, but their early forays into industrial electronic music was somewhat superficial, and eventually abandoned in favor of tonality, with the electronics serving as special effects.) Psychologically, bands like Floyd and ELP followed the pseudo-romantic notion of Shelley, using electronic music to represent corrupt society and acoustic music (usually folky) as the motif for the noble savage (and it should be remembered that most of these bands were British, and had a bit of pastorilism in them, fond of William Blake's "Jerusalem" which railed against England's "dark satanic mills" of industrialism in favor of God's "green and pleasant land."

The modern educated upper class embraced a nihilistic view of industry. The German artists had that culture's decadent Berlin era to contend with as well, but combined with the high tech reputation of German (and Swiss?) precision. German dance music especially embraced the strict, steady non-changing beats of the drum machine and the influence of minimalism and gave us the robotic Kraftwork, among others. The members of Kraftwerk took the opposite tack of the dirty anti-industrialists, (like Nine Inch Nails),and emphasized the criticism of technology as uber-sterile and lifeless (like the future of Kubrick's 2001.) The members appeared almost like store mannequins on stage, barely moving and seemingly dehumanized. (Gary Numan comes to mind as well.) The message is clear: industry kills the spirit.

But observe what happened when the urban crowd in America took note. Disco first, then r&b and early rap latched on to the German music scene, took the hypnotic, repetitive machine rhythms which replaced the Motown orchestral hybrid of R&B and symphonic stylings. This could not have happened in the countryside of Georgia, it happened in Detroit and New York (and don't forget that the "Motor City" was the home of Motown!). The city was full of jackhammer sounds, crosstown traffic, sirens and machines. No surprise that the breakdancers in the city were doing "the robot." But unlike the comprachicos of the art schools, the inner city kids, and the gays and women of the disco scene, were looking for a similar hedonism, but not in the same cynical nihilistic way of the cultural elite. The working class was looking to rise, not having the decadent lifestyles of the rich and famous. (But look at what happens when many working class people rise through entertainment.) The working class entertainers are usually not sympathetic to the factory owners and have a socialist attitude towards business, which is why they pursue riches through entertainment. But they get caught up in the hedonistic lifestyle, fall from grace, and ironically blame this on the "machine" of big business. (It always comes back to the anti-industrial revolution!)

The New York of the 40's, with colorful musicals and Rhapsody in Blue, gave way to machine rhythms among the blue collar crowd who worked in the factories. Interesting, though, that they largely gay musical crowd stuck with the older showtune stylines. That's interesting when you remember that gays usually don't work in factories.

Now, this is the interesting quandry: Where are the pioneers of electronic Romantic music? There have been plenty of attempts to translate classical music with electronic instruments, like Wendy Carlo's SWITCHED ON CLASSICS, and some of the prog band's extrapolations of classical music. But that's a question parallelled by the advancements in architecture. New materials demand new form. You don't build a skyscraper in the shape of the Parthenon, why compose with electronic timbres in classical styles? Beethoven's playing was too violent for the harpsichord, and did not play the piano like a harpsichord. Why use tone synthesizors to mimic Beethoven? (And it's telling that synths are often used amelodically in electronic music. The better the technology, the trend has been less melody. But that could be the influence of multiculturalism's emphasis on "world" music, which is primarily rhythmic.) Composers like Rachmaninoff require a psychology of rationality to integrate such complex melodies, and the level of understanding needed to understand Rachmaninoff is demanding, to say the least, requiring repeated listenings, for one. Most contemporary listeners want it in one go, and we don't have time for that. Especially when the music industry's bottom line depends on quantity, not quality, appealing to the common denominator.

So yeah, there is a strong connection between psychology and industry. Just as it took a logical, integrated view of reality to bring about the Industrial Revolution, so it took a similar mindset to appreciate it. In ATLAS SHRUGGED, you saw the anti-mind try to operate the motor of the world, and it didn't work. In music, you see the postmoderns trying to operate the technology of the musical mind via high tech equipment and producing noise. (I can hear the apologists now; yes, there are exceptions, and we are in a mixed premise enviroment currently. But remember, the extreme view I talk about does exist, literally producing noise.) Fortunately, the worst offenders like Cage and Varese stay in the shadows because they are literally unlistenable. Visual arts may offend, but a painting isn't a torture weapon the same way noise is used. No one ever cracked under interrogation by looking at a Picasso. Eye

(A side note: New age music. Often uses synthesizers to create "spiritual" music. Some classical composers of the enlightenment also used music to communicate the divine. But the difference is that the composers had the influence of Aristotle via Aquinas, and believed God worked through rational means. The new age artists are more explicity Platonic, and less melodic; very little melody and all atmosphere. Yet they use modern tech to communicate. It's very similar to Rand's criticism of Lindberg's talk of spiritual flight without machines.)

(Another side note: Think of the anti-industrial revolution when someone tells you that all musicians are in debt to other musicians, and that music should be "free"...

Good observations, Joe. Are

Ross Elliot's picture

Good observations, Joe.

Are you saying that the industrial revolution has *influenced* musical forms? That there's a psychological connection between the beat of the factory, the machine, the motor, and modern musical choices?

Damn, I just realized I

JoeM's picture

Damn, I just realized I never transfered the musical glossary from SOLOHQ. I'll get that done. Sorry about that.

Hmmm ... I think I see what

Duncan Bayne's picture

Hmmm ... I think I see what you mean. I'm not sure the piece I referenced has a steady rythym exactly ... but it is certainly similar to that ...

Dammit. This is frustrating - I don't know enough of the terminology to accurately describe what I'm experiencing. You have my sympathies; having worked on an IT helpdesk some years back, I've ample experience of this problem from the other end Smiling

It would probably be more

JoeM's picture

It would probably be more instructive to break descriptions as "drive" down to their musical terms to understand what people mean. For most contemporary music fans, drive means a steady meter, a consistent backbeat or pulse. Much in the classical realm does not have that, with its stops and starts and variations, that those who don't understand the terminology say that it has no rhythm. (There are waltzes and other dances that do, and those pieces are probably more relatable to modern ears.) Rhythm and meter are at odds in the classical world already, because of the demands of advanced melody, and most pop listeners just don't know how to listen to non-metrical music.

But interesting use of the word "Drive," though, in one respect. There's definately an industrial revolution at work in music. Some composers fought the metronome, some embraced it (and rejected it again!). But consistent meter probably took prominence with the advent of consistent timekeeping. Reminds of the scene in ATLAS where Dagny is riding the train, hearing the Halley melody against the rhythm of the train. So much of our music today is designed to move us to and fro, it's no wonder that classical and opera fell out of favor in some ways.

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