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Philosophical Rant: Musical Genuis

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by LiquidMidnight, Mar 15, 2003.

  1. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Hey, I've been thinking about this for a while. About a week or so ago, I got into an online debate at a website about who "The Best" guitarist was. It was a metal site, so obviously you had a lot of shred heads who judged guitarist soley on speed and technicality. I've stated time and time again in different venues that speed is just part of a palette of techinque and I'm usually more impressed with someone doing a "slow" Chet Atkins type of jam then someone sweep picking through arrpegios at lightning speeds. Still, I've never compared players from objective points of view. I always felt that once a player gets to a certain point of level in their playing, you can't judge them from a objective level. Randy Rhodes and Stevie Ray Vaughn were both great guitarist, but they're styles were very different. It's easy to say, Randy was better because he was faster, but faster doesn't always = better.

    I thought more about things and started thinking in terms of bass players. I thought about some of the instruments high class and best players. In my debate about guitarist, I stated that I find many shredders harmonically and melodically boring and a lot of them use speed to cover the fact that cannot create an interesting solo. As far as bass players, I thought about Jaco for he's one of the most advanced players from a harmonic and melodic stand point. Then I thought about Victor Wooten who's one of the most advanced players in technique. The more I thought about it, Jaco is a genius while Victor is just a really great bass player. (Not a dis against Victor, he's one of my favorite players) Case in point - Technique is a tangible aspect of playing and something, that as long as most people are in full health can achieve eventually. On the other hand melodic, harmonic, compositional and tastefulness can only be achieved half way with study. Theory is more of a road map and doesnt guarantee that someone is going to reach a pentacle point of playing. (and that's not a dis against theory either, it's helps shed light on things) Maybe that's where my arguement was coming from in the guitarist debate on the metal forum. Those concepts are to subjective and intangible. It's something that comes more from the mind and heart. Technique is just the means to an end for the portrayal of the musical ideas.

    Don't mean to sound so objective about players cause I usually am not, but this has just been an idea I wanted to share.

    What are your opinions, thoughts, agreements, disagreements?
  2. CS


    Dec 11, 1999
    SRV said in an interview that he thought his brother Jimmy was a better guitarist. He stated that Jimmy only played about 20% of what he knew and playing blues was a conscious decision.

    So the point I'm bringing up is that judging someone by their recorded and live work may give a distorted view and bringing it back to bass, Jason Newstead is a case in point.
  3. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I've been thinking about this lately too.

    My current thinking is this:

    It's perhaps not best to use 'genius' as a label we ascribe to certain people. I think genius is a state of being. I don't think there is some sort of cruel random selection, whereby certain people are born geniuses, and everyone else is just destined to be in their shadow. I think genius is a state of being that everyone has the potential to attain. Some people never attain it in one lifetime, some do fleetingly, some do more often, some attain it for a period, and some, well, seem to come from that place in everything they do.

    And people attain it to different degrees, too.

    By a more traditional definition of genius, I would perhaps not want to call McCartney a genius, given the music he has been making over the last 30 years.

    But I think he and the other Beatles did attain some sort of state of genius during their time together.
  4. Amethska


    Jan 27, 2003
    NJ, USA
    Everyone's mind works differently. Some people's minds are set up to better come up with these darn awesome solos and riffs and harmonies. I think that's what makes a great musician different from a good one.
  5. jondog


    Mar 14, 2002
    NYC metro area
    Ranking is irrelevant in the arts. [American Idol is *not* about art/music, it's a popularity contest -- this model should not be used by real musicians or music lovers.] Beauty is beauty, and it is foolish to say that the Mona Lisa is more beautiful than the Venus de Milo. They are both beautiful! Portrait of Tracy is beautiful. School Days is beautiful. We should stop worrying about who is better and just enjoy beautiful music. "The Best" music is music that speaks to you. You can "turn on" your friends to new artists, but it is pointless to argue about whose favorite artist is the best.
  6. Amethska


    Jan 27, 2003
    NJ, USA
    Hahaha, so true.

    And you're pretty much right in the rest of your post, too. I guess I'm just speaking from what I like... I don't mind if it's simple and slow, it's just gotta be interesting. With a groove. I think that's my problem, I try to play too fast...
  7. Munjibunga

    Munjibunga Total Hyper-Elite Member Gold Supporting Member

    May 6, 2000
    San Diego (when not at Groom Lake)
    Independent Contractor to Bass San Diego
    I don't think of genius and virtuosity as synonyms.
  8. LiquidMidnight


    Dec 25, 2000
    Munji, you said the whole point of my post in one sentence.

  9. I like this thread. It's genius.
  10. moley


    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    Does anyone?
  11. Nicklas


    Mar 15, 2003
    I think genius are people like Lennon, Dylan, Mccartney,Brian Wilson thats people who have the talent to write songs right away. I think that know musican can ever be so complete as those.
  12. Bruce Lindfield

    Bruce Lindfield Unprofessional TalkBass Contributor Gold Supporting Member

    I agree - it is just a blind alley to try to objectively determine who is "best" or to develop technique for technique's sake.

    I think the "Punk" movement was a really good thing for this in Britain. So in 1975/76 - the music scene was a bit like this - longer and longer guitar solos in rock bands, longer and longer concept albums etc etc.

    But the Punk movement came along and blew all this away - so 2 or 3 minute songs with no solos and with as much energy as you could muster - forget about any kind of technique - just get your message across.

    Anybody can get up on stage and do it as long as they have something to say - anybody can be in a band.

    So I threw out my entire record collection - all the Yes, Gentle Giant, Genesis etc and got totally into punk - like many people I knew at the time, who were at college or on the dole and couldn't get a job - music turned into a means to express a message - like Anti-Racism or Political messages, rather than technique.

    So of course there was a lot of bad music - but there was also a lot of really good music that was made that wouldn't have been made if the players had had to worry about technique. The punk movement then went on to influence many future generations to remember that music is about having something to say and communicate to an audience and not some competition to show how complex you can make it!

    And I think this applies to a lot of the best music - so composers like Mahler have something the wanted to communicate - a philosphical or religious vision - Shostakovich had similar aims as well as reflecting the times he lived in - Communist revolution , Stalin's puges etc.

    Jondog mentions the visual arts - so if you have nothing to say - then for me it is probably like a painter with fantastic technique who can reproduce a still-life with incredible accuracy - but then, if he/she is not saying anything....then why not just have a photograph ?