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Process vs. Product

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Peter McFerrin, Apr 17, 2003.


  1. A while back, I was talking to a girl who loves Dream Theater(!). She said Scenes from a Memory is her favorite DT album. I happen to dislike it a lot, and my reason for it is that significant parts of it (and of DT's catalog in general) are blatant ripoffs of other bands; in this case, it was Pink Floyd. She said something that I dismissed at the time, but I've been thinking about since: "Well, I don't care who it's stolen from or whatever, because it speaks to me on an emotional level, and it works." While this girl is a musician (and headed to Berklee, in fact), such sentiments are far more common among nonmusicians than musicians.

    Rick's recent thread trashing the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and the recent trend of bass-less bands brought this back to the front of my mind. Sometimes it seems that too many musicians--and I am no exception to this--get hung up on the mechanics of music-making. I remember, from my days on guitar.com, all the 40-something burned-out shredders ranting about how awful nu-metal is because the guitar parts are so simple, and holding up hair metal as The Greatest Music Ever because it required high technical skill (on guitar, anyway) to play. I used to be one of those people who wouldn't listen to any record that had synthesizers on it. Similarly, some of the more idiotic complaints I've heard about hip-hop have been in the "but they're not playing an instrument!" department.

    I think this mindset is kinda sad. Instead of focusing on the emotional content of the music--which is why we make it and listen to it in the first place--we obsess over this player's tone, that player's technique, this band's lineup, that band's mixing. We can't see the forest for the trees, essentially. For us as bassists to have this mindset is especially sad, because our instrument is the "glue" instrument. (The bass-less bands are obviously trying to do something abrasive and angry, which is a valid decision for creating emotional reactions.) We, as bassists, need to be especially aware of everything that's going on in our musical situation--we can't just focus on any one instrument, because we have to respond and react to them all while continuing to provide propulsion and foundation.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    I agree with you, Pete.

    As regards the ripping off other bands bit - you still perhaps have a valid point (Though, I've not heard Dream Theater, and to be honest I'm not real familiar with Pink Floyd either :eek: ) - because when you're stealing from someone else, you're not being you.

    Just like none of us can be Jaco - anymore than Jaco could be us (if he were still alive).

    To pretend that you can play just like Jaco is dishonesty. It doesn't mean you can't attain the level Jaco did, it just means you can't be Jaco.

    So, as regards what works - playing honest music, music that genuinely comes from you - is *bound* to work better, than ripping off someone else's, right?
     
  3. Oh, definitely. At the same time, the genuine difficulty of saying something truly new (I just wrote a long and tortuously complicated essay on this for my Comparative Literature class) makes using someone else's music inevitable, whether implicitly or explicitly. But that gets into all sorts of aesthetics issues which I am completely incapable of handling.
     
  4. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    You Have just made the statement of the year!!! That is so true. Good music is good music it does not matter who or what group did it. There are good tunes in all types of music. Just not as much in some types:eek: :)
    Some time the really simple stuff sounds the best.
    We all steal music!!! When you ask who you like or what your influinces(sp) are-thats who you steal from. Thats why music changes
     
  5. Richard Lindsey

    Richard Lindsey

    Mar 25, 2000
    Metro NYC
    Was it Stravinsky who said, "Good composers borrow, great ones steal"?
     
  6. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    If you did not steal music, you could not hear any music at all. You may not now that you are borrowing it but if you have heard it you just may take some of it for yourself
     
  7. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    " I know exactly where I stole every note from ".
    Jaco Pastorius
     
  8. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    maninbox & ConU - yes, it's all very well to say that - but music is about more than notes. Sure you'll be playing the same notes that someone else has played - but it's the spirit behind it (your spirit behind it) that makes it yours.
     
  9. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    That's exactly what I get from the famous Jaco quote.
     
  10. moley

    moley

    Sep 5, 2002
    Hampshire, UK
    That's ok then :)
     
  11. bill h

    bill h

    Aug 31, 2002
    small town MN
    I hear ya there- with only 12 notes bla bla bla....
    I like to take a cool riff and change it some to make it mine.
     
  12. Wrong Robot

    Wrong Robot Guest

    Apr 8, 2002
    15 notes!(enharmonics et al! ;)


    I think this is a very important issue. Personally, I try to avoid it as much as I can, judging music by it's musicality or technical achievements.

    that's why I listen to hip hop and punk, and pop, and blues. When I want mind bending complexity I look at stravinsky or bach or jaco. that's how I balance my musical diet.

    actually,I would listen to hip-hop even if it was musically intense and I wasn't a musician, it's in my blood.
     
  13. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    I think to promote "better" music though we do need to look at it's musicality and use that as a means to expand upon.I think some of the grooves and rhythms are tremendously musical in Hip-hop.I would love to play in a live hip-hop band.Can't say the same for alot of what passes as rock,some of it has just gotten absolutely banal.But if it turns somebody's crank...whatcha gonna do?Make 'em listen to the Count Basie Band!!!That's what I say!!!:D
     
  14. Johnalex

    Johnalex

    Jul 20, 2001
    South Carolina
    I completely agree. Put in a CD and I will listen to it.
     
  15. secretdonkey

    secretdonkey

    Oct 9, 2002
    Austin, TX
    Excellent post, Peter.

    On another note, I just got some photos back and there's a shot of me looking vaguely smug. I thought, "hey, it's my Peter McFerrin look!" I'll have to scan that puppy and post. :)
     
  16. I concur.

    This is the kind of post that deserves cookies AND Superheros!!

    [​IMG]

    I generally try to respect people's tastes in music and accept the fact that people might like crappy music (in my opinion...but I'm always right so...) but if it brings them joy there's no point arguing it. Especially when music is so damn subjective.

    Bravo for Pete, he gets first choice from Wonder Woman's tray.
     
  17. I want the one on her chest. :D
     
  18. this blanket statement aside, i agree with your post. it occurs to me that i don't have any real bass heros. sure, there have been players that "taught" me how to play, but nobody that i put on a pedestal and strive to emulate. that's because i'm more focused on the song. i'd rather be able to write a great 3-chord song than be able to play jamerson's lines. if the song's not there, nothing's there. if the song is there, then the rest is icing. it could be played on an accordian, a banjo, and a slinky for percussion. i'll still listen.
     
  19. I would characterize Jon Spencer Blues Explosion or the White Stripes as abrasive, and the Stripes can get especially rude. "Angry" probably isn't very accurate.

    I think being able to play like Jamerson is important because in many cases, his lines made the song--same with Paul McCartney, or Tony Levin. At the same time, the more complicated the bassline is, the trickier it is for the player to make it work musically in a simple song. Jamerson could do it without sounding like a flashy wanker; I'm not sure about a lot of other "bass heroes."
     
  20. ConU

    ConU

    Mar 5, 2003
    La Belle Province
    Exactly,case in point, the recent "unique technique" guy.