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The following is an excerpt from my email news letter that gives some defining moments in my musical life. To read more, sign-up for my newsletter and get lots of freebies as well! So what happened at the Peabody? Well, first we learned about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and saw that in action. As you […] The post Well The Rain Exploded With A Mighty Crash appeared first on Dizzy...
The following is an excerpt from my email news letter that gives some defining moments in my musical life. To read more, sign-up for my newsletter and get lots of freebies as well!
So what happened at the Peabody? Well, first we learned about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and saw that in action. As you may recall, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity goes like this;
_____N___________ = Cool 2
Where N equals Nerd over the quality of Nerd to the tenth power, which then equals Cool squared, or, to put it another way, if you take someone who is a bit of a nerd and insert them into a nerd-rich field or environment, they can actually appear to be somewhat cool in comparison to everyone around them.
This is a constant that holds true whether you are approaching the nerd or moving away from the nerd.
This is precisely what happened. The group of friends I fell in with, Dave (Big Nose,) Fuji and the other Dave, as well as a number of others in the outer circles were indeed imbued with some nerd characteristics, and otherwise we would not have been there in the first place.
Just how we all came to be there also kind of defies belief, but nevertheless it happened. Now, since we had each previously, while in high school, surrendered a few of our nerdish ways for the occasional jay and were experimenting with hard rock, we were, by the physical laws stated above, the coolest thing on campus.
This created a disturbance in the nerd-field, which we found amusing and so we pushed it for all it was worth.
We turned the Peabody into our own private Woodstock. Actually we went above and beyond Woodstock; we just never got any commendations for it. I personally threw in a good measure of Magick and Mysticism, just to make sure we were really and truly living on the edge.
Among the rites of passage that were involved with this was, of course, the first acid trip, which seems rather mild and innocent, compared to what followed. Anyway, this first trip was on Windowpane, the only Windowpane I ever saw in this lifetime and possibly the last remaining batch from Woodstock, who knows?
You might get an idea of how high I was when I tell you that I walked into a dorm room where my friends were playing the White Album and I had an epiphany. I not only understood the lyrics to the song that was playing but all lyrics to every song in The Beatle’s catalogue.
I sat down and started comparing them to Schubert, all considerations of music being complex or simple having been shattered in my mind, time boundaries as well, in my mind Lennon and McCartney could have been sitting in a coffee shop with Franz, comparing notes.
My friends were concerned. Did they succeed in getting me put away? Find out in the next email.
What do people mean by New Music Genres? Webster’s second Edition Dictionary of the English Language defines genre as; “one of the categories, based on form, style, or subject matter, into which artistic works of all kinds can be divided.” So this article is a fair attempt to look at some new music genres. Now […] The post New Music Genres appeared first on Dizzy...
What do people mean by New Music Genres?
Webster’s second Edition Dictionary of the English Language defines genre as; “one of the categories, based on form, style, or subject matter, into which artistic works of all kinds can be divided.” So this article is a fair attempt to look at some new music genres. Now I have often had fun with the term ‘new music,’ because there has always been new music in every day and age. But what people are often getting at is music that is new and different in some way than what went before and whereas every good composer was new and different than what went before to some degree, one can step back and take a really broad look. Music historians have done this, of course, and they divided western music into four main periods; there is the Baroque, which is the really early music of the sixteen hundreds, the Classical (Mozart and Beethoven and all that crew), the Romantic (Liszt and Tchaikovsky et al.,) and finally the Modern Period. The Modern Period begins in the nineteen hundreds and hence the other reason I have fun with the term ‘Modern Music;’ because it’s now quite old.
Why is it Modern Music?
If you examine the first three periods of music, you will find definite stylistic differences between the three periods, which I will not go into now. The underlying similarity between these three periods is that they get a heck of a lot of milage from what are known as the three Primary Chords. So after a hundred years or so, some composers were really tired of these three Primary Chords. These three Primary Chords are responsible for creating what is known as tonality in music. So some of these modern music composers decided they would do away with tonality and Atonal music was born in genres such as Serial Music or Twelve Tone Music. Other composers used mathematical formulas to make their music and some devised ways of creating music by chance such as throwing dice; called Chance Music (go figure.) Ironically, pop music fits into the Modern Music and we find that, to this day, the Primary Chords are back with a vengeance, only they are now called the Blues Chords. (Seriously. I’m not making this up, honest.) Well, getting tired of the Primary Chords is kind of like getting tired of the primary colors. Curious that the Atonal music was commonly viewed as an evolution of the first three periods of music or ‘serious’ music, as it is known and pop music was something else with unknown origins even though it studiously made use of the three Primary Chords of the early periods of music. There was another genre or two in the ‘serious’ music; Minimalism, but they have now flat out run out of labels. Same with pop music; from Jazz onward the basic musical practice has remained the same and now they have just run out of labels. The ultimate irony is that the two most similar periods of music, as far as musical practice goes, are Jazz and the Baroque. (It’s fashion, beeb, beep!)
Well I hope you enjoyed this little summary of new music genres. I tried to be as honest and forthright about as I could. Obviously genres help to create an identity, which is useful in marketing but it does slow things down and create a lot of confusion as well.
My love of instrumental music started as a very young boy in kindergarten when I was rummaging through my father’s record collection and found a recording of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. This symphony is called ‘The Pastoral’ because it is a musical depiction of different scenes in nature. Beethoven, it seems, loved nature and took long […] The post Instrumental Music by Dizzy O’Brian appeared first on Dizzy...
My love of instrumental music started as a very young boy in kindergarten when I was rummaging through my father’s record collection and found a recording of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. This symphony is called ‘The Pastoral’ because it is a musical depiction of different scenes in nature. Beethoven, it seems, loved nature and took long walks for his inspiration. Anyway, I flipped over this piece as I also shared a deep love of nature. Later I would take weeklong hikes on the Appalachian Trail with my friend Dave during spring breaks in music school.
Through grade school, though, I had a friend next door named Billy and we were very competitive; if he liked Chevys, I liked Fords and so on. He liked the Beatles, so I stayed with Beethoven.
In music school, though, things changed. One enchanted evening, while in a bit of an altered state, I wandered into a dorm room and someone was playing the White Album. I immediately had an epiphany and understood the Beatles and their lyrics from that time on. This opened the door to my finding more similarities than differences in diverse musical genre and an idea to create a music that was a fusion of classical and pop.
My friend Dave and I, whom I took week-long hikes on the Appalachian Trail with, discovered we could like music from practically any genre, and did. Attending a music conservatory that was strictly classical but living in the present age put us in an optimal position to expand our listening tastes to the maximum.
The music school we went to was the Peabody Conservatory of Music, but it shared its dorms with students from the Maryland Institute of The Arts, who tended to be much more on the progressive side than the average Peabody student. The music school students tended to be from conservative backgrounds and most never considered listening to anything but classical music. Needless to say, we hung out with the art students a bit more than the music students.
After awhile, we began an extra-curricular activity of our own design; it was called Music Appreciation. This took place in Dave’s dorm room and was open for whoever wanted to attend. Everyone brought recordings of their favorite music and there were no restrictions as to genre or anything like that. Everything was played and everyone listened in relative silence, without any critical comments.
Naturally, everyone had their own opinions about what they liked and didn’t like but we were not there to have a debate on what was good music. The purpose was discovering something that you hadn’t heard before and, most of the time, we came away with new music that we liked.
As I said, I had an idea at this time of creating a type of music that was a fusion of classical and pop music. When I heard the arrangements that Phil Spector had done on the Beatles album ‘Let It Be,’ I became really excited about instrumental music and songs that had a really large pallet of musical sounds, ranging from acoustic to electric.
I decided to change my minor to Composition. The only composition teacher that would take me at that time was a devout follower of Arnold Schoenberg, who was one of the Avante-Garde composers of the day. This Avant-Garde music was considered the logical evolution of the classical music by all the pedagogy at that time. To make a long story short, they were mostly trying to bypass tonality by using highly formalized approaches.
This was music that needed to be qualified; if you didn’t like it, it was because ‘you didn’t understand it.’ Well, I understood it and I understood myself and I knew I didn’t like it. It didn’t stand up to me criteria of ‘would I listen to this every day, like I do with music I like?’ My apartment in Baltimore was called ‘Tunelandia,’ because that’s what we did; we listened to tunes.
Did I feel about this music, the same way I feel about breathing, in other words? Listening to Beethoven has always been like breathing to me and, since I understood this composer from the first notes I ever heard, at the age of five, I’ve always had it fixed in my mind that you don’t have to have music explained to you first before you can like it.
The main problem I had with this composition teacher was that he wouldn’t allow me the freedom to explore the sounds that I wanted to but had a fixed agenda that he wanted to shape me as a composer with. At one point he even said ‘Let’s get away from these sounds,’ meaning the sounds I was working with. So we had a conflict of ideologies; a failure to communicate musically and don’t suppose for a moment that any genre of music doesn’t have political ideologies behind it.
I quickly became so frustrated and unhappy over the course of my composition studies that, mid-semester, I informed him that I wouldn’t be writing any more pieces and he could give me whatever grade he wanted. He gave me a C+.
I didn’t stop composing, however, but went underground with it and finished my studies at the Peabody with a performance major, as I had started.
In an effort to salvage my music career, I did some graduate work at Cal State Fullerton and this proved to be much more fruitful; I met a violin teacher who was able to change my whole approach for the better and I was playing professionally in short order.
I also started hanging around the composition department, playing in the workshops and such, and I was impressed by how diverse the compositional styles were. I spoke with the prof, and he said that he didn’t try to change what the students were doing but just help them do it better.
While there, I joined a group called D.O.M.E.S. This was an acronym for some non-sensical and pseudo-intellectual title, which I forget, but it was a group modeled after a group the composition teacher ran; a group of composers that played an eclectic assortment of electric and acoustic instruments. These were minimalist groups that followed the practice and politics of minimalism.
Our group had its share of drama, as you can imagine, being manned with all composers but it was a good platform for everyone to expand and experiment. We played regular gigs and recorded; our highlight being the opening band for Hunter S, Thompson at the Coach House in San Clemente.
One of our regular gigs was at a club in Long Beach called ‘System M.’ They didn’t really have room for such a large group so they would put all twelve of us on the roof of the kitchen. It was rather precarious with all of us up there and all of the amps and keyboards and such. Usually, a vicious argument would break out between a couple of the founding members of the group, during sound checks and the manager of the club would look at us, wondering if there would be a show that night.
Before I ever wrote anything for the group, I spent some time observing what was going on and I noticed what I considered as two bad flaws. The first was that the existing composers would simply double existing parts whenever a new instrument was added because they were too lazy to rework their compositions for the new arrangement. This created something of a wall of sound coming at the listener since everything was amplified and so many instruments were just playing the same parts.
The other thing was since everyone was amplified, there was kind of a one-upmanship going on to be heard which continually drove the volume up. This was especially rough on the singers who could not be heard and, hence, we could never keep our vocalists long. The other problem with the wall of sound effect was it tended to make a monotonous genre even more so and the audiences would tend to talk through the performances.
When I finally got around to composing a work for the group, I took the trouble to give each instrument its own part and made sure everyone wasn’t playing all at once, all at the same time. The result was that, when we premiered my piece, all talking in the audience immediately stopped.
There I learned that all you have to do to draw an audience in is to suddenly change the volume or texture of the music.
The founding member was quite affronted by the attention my piece got and that was the end of D.O.M.E.S.
D.O.M.E.S. served it’s purpose, however, for me and a number of others in the group, I think. It provided a catalyst and direction, even if the direction was figured from where one didn’t want to go. For me, minimalism wasn’t it, but I had a larger cognition as well; I had read the ‘Minimalist Manifesto,’ and it said some things that I agreed with and had actually held true for some time.
One thing it said was that there was not an evolution to an ultimate musical form, something the Avante-Garde school held up as true. It was as if writing in the latest musical evolutionary form would make or break you as a composer.
Now this was interesting; that the minimalist school would point out the falsehood of such an idea and yet there were all these minimalists around at the time. It brings to mind the movie ‘The Life of Brian,’ when he’s trying to get all his followers to think for themselves.
I realized, too, that there is a basic problem with this whole labeling of genres in music. This is something that is done in this age to market music but, for older music, it was all done in hindsight; it wasn’t like composers woke up, on the morning of 1750 and said “Oh! Baroque Period is over! Time to start writing Classical Music. Better follow the new rules!” There were no new rules to follow.
This always amazed me in theory class in music school where they would grind into you what the ‘rules’ were to writing a sonata and then the first Mozart sonata you looked at seemed to be making a mockery of these rules. This was because the rules were always created later by pedagogy.
So what rules did a composer such as Beethoven use to write music? Well, I believe the first rule was ‘music the way Beethoven liked to hear it.’ He was his best and, at the same time, most critical audience; he was not going to stop working on something until he was fairly delighted by it.
Also, creativity was a game to him. He didn’t want to think out of the box as much as he wanted to turn the box into an amazing geometric shape.
After D.O.M.E.S., I had more of an idea of the direction I wanted to go and I started my own group called The Jabberwocky. I was still playing in quite a number of other groups as well, from symphony orchestras to string quartets and blues groups. I still had not learned to become my own audience, however, and so my efforts were still quite cerebral.
There were two other events that were quite formative in my musical life. One was attending a lecture by the great author Ray Bradbury. He knew that his audience was mostly young, aspiring writers and delivered a speech that was informative and inspirational for them.
One thing he said was that, if you want to be a writer, you should read and read and then it will just start to come out. I understood what he meant, which was, a writer or any artist such as a composer, should not isolate himself in some ivory tower in the hopes of coming up with something original. All great composers, such as Beethoven had their own favorite composers that they listened to. This was their influence. For Beethoven, it was people like Handle and Mozart, and you can hear these composers in Beethoven but, what comes out, is Beethoven with these other influences in the mix.
The other event was when a friend and I went to a New Age sort of festival and spent the time getting readings from tea leaf readers. One, white-haired lady told me she saw me as if cooking, mixing a little of this and a little of that.
Well, I thought this was the worst reading I had ever gotten but I was polite and didn’t say so. It made no sense to me, at the time, since I didn’t cook and why would she be telling me about something mundane as cooking?
Well, she was talking about fusion composing, many years before I started doing it.
My first really powerful musical experience came at a very early age when I happened upon a recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony in my father’s record collection and I put it on. This music communicated to me so powerfully that, afterwards, when I read the descriptions that Beethoven had made on the manuscript from the […] The post Music As Communication appeared first on Dizzy...
My first really powerful musical experience came at a very early age when I happened upon a recording of Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony in my father’s record collection and I put it on. This music communicated to me so powerfully that, afterwards, when I read the descriptions that Beethoven had made on the manuscript from the record jacket, I was merely validated. I thought ‘of course, that’s what it had to be about; music about various scenes in nature’. It’s interesting that Beethoven also made the following note on the manuscript;
“The hearers should be allowed to discover the situations,”
“All painting in instrumental music is lost if it is pushed too far,”
I find this very interesting because it is a bit of an explanation of how music is a two-way communication. The way I believe it works is this; music has an emotional content and maybe or maybe not there is a specific happening or event that inspired the composer, but not everyone is going to have the same emotion regarding a specific happening. Therefore, there is a bit of an open-ended-ness to the music that allows the listener to fill in what he or she thinks the music is about. This then is the two-way part of the communication. The listener is then actually contributing to the work. If you have an audience of a hundred listeners, you have a hundred different contributors to a single work.
This makes a composer or songwriter a far different job description than the solitary, ivory-tower image that we usually have for these individuals. So, if you listen to a particular piece of music or song and have a specific idea of what it’s about, it might not be exactly what the writer was thinking of, but you are still, nevertheless, probably right.
On The Beatles album, Magical Mystery Tour, there is the song; “I am the Walrus,” which has, among other things, a voice chanting a particular phrase. Everyone took this particular phrase to be “everyone smoke pot,” but John Lennon insisted that the correct phrase was “everyone’s got one.” I tend to take the latter explanation […] The post Everybody’s Got One appeared first on Dizzy...
On The Beatles album, Magical Mystery Tour, there is the song; “I am the Walrus,” which has, among other things, a voice chanting a particular phrase. Everyone took this particular phrase to be “everyone smoke pot,” but John Lennon insisted that the correct phrase was “everyone’s got one.”
I tend to take the latter explanation as being correct. Here’s why; let’s take a look at some of the lyrics from “Instant Karma.”
“Who in the hell d’you think you are?
A super star?
Well, right you are!
Well we all shine on
Like the moon and the stars and the sun
Well we all shine on
Ev’ryone come on”
So what is it that everyone’s got? Well, a connection, a source, whatever you want to call it. It’s a source of power and wisdom where one’s truth can be found. Dig it; in the Old Testament, you find these people called Judges. Judges were the only ones who could talk to God, so that pretty much eliminates any argument and makes the Judge a god practically speaking. Anyone who had any argument with this was taken out and promptly stoned to death. Hence our societal preoccupation with thinking that ‘authorities’ should be doing our thinking for us and making our decisions. As far as how is that working for us, I don’t need to ask.
If one looks at the history of music and art, one finds this same theme; that one person doing the thinking for many was not the intended way and will not, ultimately work. There is not a human being that is superior by birthright or chosen by god that can solve all our problems for us. Each individual is the only one who can solve his or her problems and that will be done by looking within to their own source or connection to the universe because ‘everyone’s got one.’
One occasionally hears talk or reads articles about the content of pop music and it usually gets a pretty bad rap. The snippet below, from FaceBook is an all too typical case; Admittedly, in an effort to appear counter-culture and thus sell more records, the ‘bad boy’ content has been played up. Hell, even violinist […] The post You’re A Shinning Star appeared first on Dizzy...
One occasionally hears talk or reads articles about the content of pop music and it usually gets a pretty bad rap. The snippet below, from FaceBook is an all too typical case;
Admittedly, in an effort to appear counter-culture and thus sell more records, the ‘bad boy’ content has been played up. Hell, even violinist Paganini played up rumors that he was in contract with the Devil. Maybe he was the one who started this particular sales tactic. This is kind of an unfortunate situation because, for one thing, it plays right into the hands of the religious right and drum banging about ‘religious freedom,’ which is freedom to do whatever and suppress whomever they want.
The other reason it’s unfortunate is there has been some great music made in this day and age. Music made by artists who take their place among the artist visionaries of yesterday and write about the great themes of Western Civilization. Yes, we’ve had them and they’re still there despite the establishments efforts to swallow them up wholesale.
I give you but one example;
Shining StarSong by Earth, Wind & Fire
When you wish upon a star
Your dreams will take you very far
But when you wish upon a dream
Life ain’t always what it seems
What’d you see on a night so clear
In the sky so very dear
You’re a shining star
No matter who you are
Shining bright to see
What you could truly be (What you could truly be)
Shining star come in to view
Shine its watchful light on you
Give you strength to carry on
Make your body big and strong
Born a man child of the sun
Saw my work had just begun
Found I had to stand alone
Bless it now I’ve got my own
So, if you find yourself in need
Why don’t you listen to these words of heed
Be a giant grain of sand
Words of wisdom, “Yes I can”
You’re a shining star
No matter who you are
Shining bright to see
What you could truly be.
That’s pretty crazy and unique; telling someone they’re a shinning star no matter who they are, yes? Not really. If you look, you will find this is a well taken up theme throughout history and why would this be?
‘Composers and artists are the visionaries of society.’ Dizzy O’Brian
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