March 28, 2008
By Austin Davis Davis, Olympia, WA

Musical expression is possibly the oldest form of self-expression around. Both people and animals create, conceive and others wise form music in order to define their feelings because of the natural instinct of it. We are always making, recreating, or thinking about music. We always have a song in our head whether we like it or not, we just need to listen. We need to be able to embrace this fact in order to gain deeper understanding of music, its complications, and ourselves.
Everyone and everything has had a fascination with music; from the first forms of the modern day human it has been a way of life, of communication. Music allows us to change, manipulate, and other words agree with our current state of opinion. Why do you think jazz was popular in the “roaring” 20’s, or indie punk rock, or “grunge” popular in the 80’s? It’s because of the ideas, thoughts and emotions that sparked those creative genres. But it’s not just the culture that sparks the music.
The Baroque, Classical, and Romantic time periods were all divided because of the difference of musical styles created by the composers of the eras. In the early Baroque period, Scarlatti and Bach were evident in creating a robust, hard hitting kind of music which showed in the culture; in the Classical era, Beethoven’s acrobatic, jumpy methods combined with soft tones and chord changes symbolized change among that society, making the architecture cleaner and less rustic than the previous baroque style; in the Romantic era, Chopin, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, and Rachmoninoff introduced the emotional chords that induced the agitation of that time period.
Take the life of any one of these composers and you would see how they came to be who they were. Everyone one of them, by minimum of age ten, had written at least a sonata and had been studying music since their birth. However, take any one musician today, and you could not say the same thing. As you move up in years, introduction into the musical realm of composition has been set back dramatically. Why is this? Has the world forgotten about music? Or are we just consumed into the mindless three chord songs that exists today?
America has always been a musical country. Many genres have been born, and in turn, have died here. From “grunge” to “underground classical” America has always been a place of diversity. But diversity in what? Take any song, say, Coldplay’s “Clocks”. Now if you know anything about music, telling you that the chords are Eb major, Bb Minor, transitioning down to a condescending F minor, all relying in a cadence like tone will mean something. But for those of you who have not yet explored, or have not yet grasped this topic, that’s only three chords. Only three ideas can be expressed in that song. Yet when listening to it, Chris Martin portrays really only one idea that stands out to the listener. Now I take you back to the classical era. Rachminoff’s Op. 3 No. 2 Prelude in C# Minor is a monotous chord tone built on a mixolydian-esque pianissimo like melody. He’s total chord count is around 60 different chord changes: 60 different idea movements.

Why has our diversity in chords regressed so much that they’ve been reduced down to three chord, linear idealistic songs? Why has the popular culture come down to listening to songs about strippers, sex, drugs, black ghettos, affairs, rape and other topics such as these?

When jazz became popular in the twenties, the entire nation celebrated its birth. Jazz was everywhere. On street corners, in clubs, on the radio, at basically any party, on TV, it was inescapable. Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane all embraced this style and formed their own unique versions of the genre: Thelonious Monk’s experimentation with the Greek mode scales; Charlie Parker’s fast, bebop style; and John Coltrane’s smooth jazz contemplations. All three of these artists surrendered their ideas to their current pop culture and it flourished, but then a machine was invented. This new machine could replicate different frequencies of the different timbre’s (or the quality of a frequency) and extract them into ohms and thus, making a new and interesting sound. Soon more sounds were added until eventually layers upon layers of sound where compiled to form harmonies. And then artists began to notice this new machine and began to embrace it. They started to move away from the pure hearted soul of jazz and towards this new, exciting, artificial sound: and out of them became Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Fleetwood Mac. Out was the age of jazz, in, the age of the synthesizer.

The death was evident. It was excruciating. It couldn’t die, this genre of soul, of jazz. But alas, it had faded away. And it is still evident today. It is getting harder and harder to find true jazz. Granted there are still some artists or groups such as Tower of Power-a modern day funk band- that haven’t given up; but turn on any radio: the only radio station that would dare play them is NPR for fear of losing listeners.

So I ask you. Look around you; really listen to the music you listen to, think about what the artist or artists are trying to portray and think about how this is important, or not important, to your life. Because if you find lyrics that suggest finding a stripper in a club, paying her massive amounts of money, and then having sex (as would come out of Flo Rida’s “Low”) you might want to think about what you are listening to. Think about the chordal idea’s coming out of the song, the thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Because now is the time.

Now is the time to embrace this culture of high-adrenaline, sex-obessed society; and in turn, bring it down. It is time to embrace both ourselves, and our eventual youth into music that really matters, that really gives us a basis to base our opinions on the music at hand. Look back through the centuries and see all what has happened, at what has become of the different genres, the artists, the songs. Write your own music, weither in your head or on paper or on the computer. Everythought worth listening to counts.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.

Parkland Book