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Last post Author Topic: What modern music (today) is considered to be both pop AND intellectual?  (Read 8945 times)

superboyac

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Really wondering about this.
Jazz is too intellectual.
Most pop is too pop.
What is in the middle that is still relatively well known, but also can be appreciated by intellectuals?

TaoPhoenix

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My vote might be European melodic metal, soft or hard to your taste.

Just as one fun example:
Blind Guardian Nightfall
http://www.youtube.c.../watch?v=IoyToHOWSV8


40hz

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Joni Mitchell
Kate Bush
Al Stewart
The Pretenders
David Bowie
Peter Gabriel
The Who
Thomas Dolby
 :D

Edvard

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What is in the middle that is still relatively well known, but also can be appreciated by intellectuals?

Aw... that stuff went out by the late '90s  ;D

Besides, today it isn't just a matter of tuning to your local station or reading Rolling Stone or Spin.  No, now you have to plumb the depths of Soundcloud, Reverbnation, or any of the other myriad "upload your music and gain a following" websites.  I'm really sorry I can't suggest anything, but I would perhaps look up interviews with smart pop folks (see 40Hz's list) and what they are listening to nowadays.

My vote might be European melodic metal, soft or hard to your taste.

Just as one fun example:
Blind Guardian Nightfall

 8)

40hz

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For intelligent bluesy-influenced:

Fiona Boyes ;D
Dana Fuchs :-*
the most current incarnation of Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters (i.e. Ronnie Earl,Dave Limina, Lorne Entress, Jim Mouradian)

For Jazzy: Snarky Puppy :-*

For Rocky: Jethro Tull, Camel

And for just cool-weird: the Slowbots. :Thmbsup:

Edvard

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Speaking of the '90s and their curious abundance of bohemian intellectuals with guitars, maybe try Modest Mouse, They Might Be Giants, The Flaming Lips, The Vestibules, umm... I forget any more (they're all still around, I think).
« Last Edit: June 04, 2014, 09:19:16 PM by Edvard »

40hz

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Add: Paul Simon, Joan Armatrading and Suzanne Vega 8)

And especially Lori Anderson! :-* :-* :-*

Edvard

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I did an internet search for "math pop" and found this pleasant little gem:


tomos

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I think when music tries to be intellectual, it takes away from itself musically. Intellect and music don't really mix. Lyrics can be intellectual, but even there I'm not so sure - I guess it depends on your definition of 'intellectual'. Were Dylan's early lyrics intellectual? I don't think so, he says they just poured out of him.

Take Bowie for example. I was listening to some of his albums last week. With a few notable exceptions, Bowie was at his best, when he was most 'poppy' and accessible. Obviously, your opinions may vary. A lot of the other music listed here was great, but hasn't really stood the test of time for me...

I'm not a musician. I do learn songs/sing (never in public!), and since I started that, I have a much better appreciation of a good song. I mean the song could be done in a style I might hate - but I notice it as a good song - whereas before I started actually learning songs myself, I would have just thought: crap.

I do notice that with musicians - they often chose music that I wouldn't chose, and as a music lover, I wonder why. But I suspect it's like me with the singing - they have an ear for something that I don't have, because I don't understand the music in the way they do.
Tom

40hz

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I do notice that with musicians - they often chose music that I wouldn't chose, and as a music lover, I wonder why. But I suspect it's like me with the singing - they have an ear for something that I don't have, because I don't understand the music in the way they do.

It's not you. :)

The paradoxical thing about becoming a musician is you can no longer "just listen" to music once you do. In certain respects, to become a musician is to deny yourself the very thing you want to give your listeners - the unadulterated pleasure of simply enjoying a song.

Perhaps that's the real sacrifice an artist pays for his or her art, whether it's music or one of the many others such as painting, sculpture, or poetry. Knowing how "the trick" is done removes much of the wonder one experiences when watching a performance even while it elicits admiration for the performance itself. And admiration, while enjoyable, is not the same pleasure you get from wonder. Wonder comes from innocence - admiration comes from knowledge and experience.

One of the reasons many musicians attempt to master multiple instruments; or explore unrelated musical genres and cultures; or create (or join) radically different music ensembles is to recapture that sense of wonder and innocence. To be able to "just listen" once again. And ignorance (the healthy kind) plays a key role in that.

I'm one of those people that experiences music as a form of mathematics. I really think Pythagoras was onto something. And for me at least, learning music was akin to mastering what mathematics I have mastered. It began with learning about time and tones - which was much like learning to  count and write numbers. Then on to scales and time signatures, which was very like arithmetic. Then chordal structure and harmony and song forms, which seemed to me to have a strong resemblance to algebra. Last came a focused study of music theory and psycho acoustical concepts which was almost like Calculus - and felt like I had been handed the proverbial pair of Seven League Boots. I finally saw "The Man Behind the Curtain." It was my satori moment. Suddenly music - all music - made absolute and perfect sense to me.

But there's a danger lurking in too much understanding. Because there's a fine line between art and artifice. When you've heard a lot, and played a lot, things can start to seem more and more the same. Which is to say you can suddenly stop hearing what you’re listening to. Analysis soon replaces aesthetic. And it's all too easy to fall back on repetition and formulaic thinking when inspiration deserts you.

You'll see that all the time with musicians that came up very fast. Their first album was great. The second album - either equally good or slightly better. Their third album...um yeah...that third album...looks like sophomore slump setting in.

Usually, at that point you either never hear that musician again - or he/she starts reworking their previous songs and ideas. And that leads to a certain sameness - or formulaic feel - to what comes after. Sometimes, this musician gets lucky and has a following that adores what they do and just wants more and more of the same. Many early Metal bands benefited from that sort of fanbase, and more power to them. We should all be so fortunate. Because most musicians are left to muddle on as best they can.

The key to it all IMO is maintaining a sense of balance. Use your brain - and above all make the effort to master the craft. Art without some modicum of discipline soon degenerates into trash. No art form is so pure as to not have some element of craft to it. But trying too hard can be equally bad.

The challenge is not to get so smart and crafty (i.e. "slick") that the sense of what it's all about gets lost in the process. Because most people - even untrained people - do have an innate sense of what it's all about. And they can easily recognize a good song, even if they don't consciously know why.

Quote
I think when music tries to be intellectual, it takes away from itself musically. Intellect and music don't really mix. Lyrics can be intellectual, but even there I'm not so sure - I guess it depends on your definition of 'intellectual'.

By "intellectual" music, I think what SB was talking about was well-crafted music that dealt with subject matter that speaks to needs a bit higher up Maslov's hierarchy than most of what passes for "popular" music does.

Quote
Were Dylan's early lyrics intellectual? I don't think so, he says they just poured out of him.

Agree. Those who knew Dylan, or followed his career, soon reached the conclusion he was another one of those people who (to put it politely) had a great deal of trouble keeping his story straight. After reading multiple accounts of what he put people through during his recording sessions and while on tour, I think there was very little that "just poured out" of Bob Dylan other than his unfocused rage at the entire universe.


tomos

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Good interesting post 40, thanks :up:
Re Dylan, yeah, I was just talking about the lyrics :)
I have heard him say that in a few interviews - that the lyrics just flowed for most of those early classic tracks. Of course that doesn't make them any better, or worse, than lyrics that someone worked on for months.

Thanks for the 'intellectual' explanation - be curious what SB has to say there. I have negative associations with that word. Which is stupid. It's just a word. But it is helpful to define it a wee bit at least, in a context like this.
Tom

40hz

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I have heard him say that in a few interviews - that the lyrics just flowed for most of those early classic tracks.

Then too, just because they flowed out of him doesn't mean they survived as originally penned once they got worked into a song.

Most of the writing I do gets brain dumped initially. Fortunately, very few people will ever have to read any of it in that form.

Dylan always leaves me sceptical. And I'm always doubtful about most attempts to play the ingénue. Especially when I consider how much working and reworking the few poets I know do. They'll spend weeks getting a single word just right.


tomos

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^ I dont want to get bogged down by this, but he was saying this in a genuinely humble manner rather than boasting about it - almost like he didnt have much to do with it, consciously at any rate. [edit] In fact he came across as a little disillusioned that it just happened in the early days. Disclaimer: I'm not a 'fan' of his, just like some of his early music. [/edit] I know most songs are written and rewritten, but some just come like that - I've heard other musician/writers say that too e.g. Townes Van Zandt.
The Muse :)
Tom
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 09:19:45 AM by tomos »

TaoPhoenix

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Hmm, there's a couple of threads here that I think are fighting each other a bit.

One of the big problems I have with the "Alternative" scene especially beginning around the '90's is that the word itself was in reverse, a negative. Supposedly people wanted "Alternatives to crap" ... but what if the alternative to "overpolished stadium rock crap" is ... "semi-melodic uncrafted crap"?

I saw news of a study once to the effect that you can get a "listenable" pop song with relatively little craft in "innovation" as long as the individual pieces fit together. From my own little pet project, I took the music program Audacity and chopped up "What does the Fox Say?" and re-spliced the verses minus the raucous chorus and wound up with something that is surprisingly listenable.

A new problem is emerging with the intersection of Viral and modern over-mixing effects. I put Gagnam Style in that group. Trying to stay on track, the lyrics might actually be "intelligent" because they parody a part of Korean culture not everyone agrees with. ("Gangnam" refers to an upscale district considered to be snooty but has a lot of what we would call "wannabes" mixed in. So the song parodies the wannabe-posh people.)

But below that clever level, the actual song is just rather standard techno - it doesn't make sense that it's the most watched item on YouTube *of all time*. I think today's social media amplifying tools can over-promote stuff that would normally before have just been kinda "underground".

40hz

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One of the big problems I have with the "Alternative" scene especially beginning around the '90's is that the word itself was in reverse, a negative. Supposedly people wanted "Alternatives to crap" ... but what if the alternative to "overpolished stadium rock crap" is ... "semi-melodic uncrafted crap"?

My feeling is there are two ways to break a "rule" in music: through a conscious decision - or - out of sheer ignorance.

The first way has a much better chance of securing a good outcome even if serendipity is never completely absent from musical invention.

Crap, on the other hand, remains crap no matter what you do with it. ;)

fyb.jpg
« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 09:55:04 AM by 40hz »

Vurbal

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One of the big problems I have with the "Alternative" scene especially beginning around the '90's is that the word itself was in reverse, a negative. Supposedly people wanted "Alternatives to crap" ... but what if the alternative to "overpolished stadium rock crap" is ... "semi-melodic uncrafted crap"?

My feeling is there are two ways to break a "rule" in music: through a conscious decision - or - out of sheer ignorance.

The first way has a much better chance of securing a good outcome even if serendipity is never completely absent from musical invention.

Crap, on the other hand, remains crap no matter what you do with it. ;)
 (see attachment in previous post)

It's typically overlooked that when "breaking the rules" out of sheer ignorance pays off there's often some behind the scenes work involved by people who apply a touch of informed wizardry.

OTOH I explain the difference between a good and great musician this way. A good musician plays the notes you expected to hear - or one of the readily anticipated options. A great musician plays notes that wouldn't have occurred to you but somehow they're still the right notes.

The thing is, in any art the "rules" are really just there for people who are plotting their way through the process rather than feeling their way along. Not by coincidence, actual artists happen to follow some subset of the rules most of the time. That's why we turned them into rules - sort of a crutch for the creativity impaired.

Art is fundamentally more like a different language - a different sense entirely even. Or maybe I'd say creativity is another language which most people don't speak very well and the less you speak the language, the more you need a roadmap.
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superboyac

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Perhaps that's the real sacrifice an artist pays for his or her art, whether it's music or one of the many others such as painting, sculpture, or poetry. Knowing how "the trick" is done removes much of the wonder one experiences when watching a performance even while it elicits admiration for the performance itself. And admiration, while enjoyable, is not the same pleasure you get from wonder. Wonder comes from innocence - admiration comes from knowledge and experience.
So true.  I am getting better at switching my mind from critical musician analysis mode to just being able to enjoy the music.  I still have a hard time with things that BUMP too much like at clubs, lounges, most parties, most situations where I have to dance with girls.  I'm not really able to tolerate it for more than an hour.  But yea, that's the price I pay for trying to figure out music.  I'm fine with it, I love being able to experience hearing and recognizing a great new song.  I wouldn't give that up for much.


One of the reasons many musicians attempt to master multiple instruments; or explore unrelated musical genres and cultures; or create (or join) radically different music ensembles is to recapture that sense of wonder and innocence. To be able to "just listen" once again. And ignorance (the healthy kind) plays a key role in that.
You know, I never though of it like that!  One of my close friends is like this, and I'm the opposite.  To quote Oscar Peterson, "I'm having enough trouble trying to just play the piano" (when asked if he likes to sing also).  But that makes a lot of sense.  But we are different like that, he's the type where his mind will quickly bore of something once he hears it once (unless it's really good, like Bach or something).  But I don't mind lots of repeated listens.  Usually it's for analysis, but sometimes I can loop a good groove for a while.  Something like this:

When that guitar is soloing over those two chords, I can listen to that for a hell of a lot longer than my friend.  Actually, this is really what my question was all about.  In this particular example, yes it's only two chords, but they just got it right for me.  

I'm one of those people that experiences music as a form of mathematics. I really think Pythagoras
was onto something.
Ha!  You know, before I even knew about Pythagoras and music, I made a chord progression diagram in Autocad to see the geometric shapes made from my favorite progressions.  Then I found the Pythagoreans were all over this stuff!  lol.
circle-of-5ths_Page_3.pngWhat modern music (today) is considered to be both pop AND intellectual?


The challenge is not to get so smart and crafty (i.e. "slick") that the sense of what it's all about gets lost in the process. Because most people - even untrained people - do have an innate sense of what it's all about. And they can easily recognize a good song, even if they don't consciously know why.
This is probably my problem.  But I've been getting better lately at striking that balance.  Playing with people more helps this problem a lot.  Also, not "practicing" and just playing also is a good way to fix it for me.  I tend to practice too much and play too little.

By "intellectual" music, I think what SB was talking about was well-crafted music that dealt with subject matter that speaks to needs a bit higher up Maslov's hierarchy than most of what passes for "popular" music does.
Yes, that is exactly right.  lol!  Especially for performances, I really try not to be an intellectual since my experiences with jazz has taught me that it is largely alienating, unless you have a very particular type of audience (which is very rare).  I spend the analysis/intellect on arranging a song and coming up with the practice routine, after that, I plan on just playing it a lot and see what develops.  And for performances, I like most of it to be pretty second-nature so I can focus on the audience and react to them without screwing up the music.  I was so relaxed at my last gig (country music, easy stuff) that the organizer of the festival made a special note to come to me and mention how relaxed i looked.  I couldn't tell if it was a compliment or if he wanted me to have a little more energy.  I think it was a compliment because I was playing pretty well!

Stoic Joker

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"Gangnam" refers to an upscale district considered to be snooty but has a lot of what we would call "wannabes" mixed in. So the song parodies the wannabe-posh people.

I Did Not Know That. Interesting...I kind of like the song now..

40hz

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It's typically overlooked that when "breaking the rules" out of sheer ignorance pays off there's often some behind the scenes work involved by people who apply a touch of informed wizardry.

That's pretty much how the best band I was ever in worked. We had somebody (the lead singer) who was very creative and original - but totally clueless. He was our wild-card factor. The rest of us would take his good ideas and chord progressions (he had made up his own chord shapes - which he played badly)  and turn them into workable songs. We used to call it "the process" - or "assaying." It was a good symbiosis. A neat (occasionally brilliant) idea he lacked the knowledge to do something with got turned into a complete song. And we got that oddball riff or idea we might not have come up with ourselves since we knew better. It was a workable arrangement.

billy-and-the-boingers.png

I sometimes suspect most song writing duos work in a similar manner. One is the wildcard - musical but largely untrained. The other is the so-called "real musician." And in the best of such teams, those roles get switched back and forth.

« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 01:47:42 PM by 40hz »

40hz

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That's why we turned them into rules - sort of a crutch for the creativity impaired.

FWIW I think some "rules" are actually liberating. And creativity by itself is vastly over-hyped in my opinion. A musical idea is cheap. Most of us can crank out a dozen or more on demand. Finding one that's worth doing something with, and knowing how to do something with it, is an altogether different thing. Therein lies (to me) the difference between creativity and art. Creativity is just the raw material - not the finished piece. Or the process leading to it. You need both. But music isn't just about being creative.


TaoPhoenix

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I wanna stress a brand new angle that hasn't been possible until very recently.

One of my quiet little hobbies is taking a song that feels "promising" but not quite right for me, and doing about one to three easy mods to it, such as chopping out an annoying part, then fiddling with the tempo and pitch. I end up with "my song". No once else has to agree with the result, though I'm sure seven people in the world would. Because once the song is given to me, I get to share in the experience. I get the artist's vision, but then their control leaves.


TaoPhoenix

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That's why we turned them into rules - sort of a crutch for the creativity impaired.

FWIW I think some "rules" are actually liberating. And creativity by itself is vastly over-hyped in my opinion. A musical idea is cheap. Most of us can crank out a dozen or more on demand. Finding one that's worth doing something with, and knowing how to do something with it, is an altogether different thing. Therein lies (to me) the difference between creativity and art. Creativity is just the raw material - not the finished piece. Or the process leading to it. You need both. But music isn't just about being creative.


I'll give you an easy rule.
Of course there are thunderous tons of exceptions, but if your melodic singing contains less than five notes, be very careful unless you're sure you know you have it down. This is why I have trouble with lots of those D list garage bands - I can't focus on the instruments if the singer is tanking it. Rap is tight-pitched, but it's a special case. It's that droning anti-shoegaze turkey gravy style of singing I can't stand.


superboyac

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That's why we turned them into rules - sort of a crutch for the creativity impaired.

FWIW I think some "rules" are actually liberating. And creativity by itself is vastly over-hyped in my opinion. A musical idea is cheap. Most of us can crank out a dozen or more on demand. Finding one that's worth doing something with, and knowing how to do something with it, is an altogether different thing. Therein lies (to me) the difference between creativity and art. Creativity is just the raw material - not the finished piece. Or the process leading to it. You need both. But music isn't just about being creative.
Another good one.  :up:

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Most of the music cited dates back to the 70s, plus or minus, and I'm not sure that qualifies as "modern", unless you mean that in contrast with classical. Certainly some of them are great examples of a thinking/feeling balance at the time (I'd call out Al Stewart and Jethro Tull from those mentioned earlier).

The power metal genre was mentioned, but as much as I enjoy that (although I prefer the American side to the Euro), I think it's actually kind of sophomoric when analyzed closely.

When I want something today that's both interesting and catchy, the current stuff I go to are Rush (which may be cliche, but they've certainly learned balance over the years), and a few newer prog bands like Big Big Train.

I explain the difference between a good and great musician this way. A good musician plays the notes you expected to hear - or one of the readily anticipated options. A great musician plays notes that wouldn't have occurred to you but somehow they're still the right notes.

I strongly agree with this statement, and in fact have thought the same thing frequently. But (and I'm sure you meant this) don't limit yourself to notes. This obviously applies to rhythms, progressions, and even timbres and dynamics.

And especially Lori Anderson! :-* :-* :-*
If you're a fan, take a look at this... http://youtu.be/ZVuiYhAVgFE?t=1m23s
The guy wandering around the background there is a good friend of mine, who has worked with her a bit. He's a researcher at RPI's Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center.

40hz

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a few newer prog bands

Liking prog invites stares and condescending snickers where I live. Annoying because I place at least half my musical roots firmly in the psychedelic and prog rock camp.

Excellent 1hr+ BBC Rock Britannia documentary on prog can be found on YT. It gets the details correct. Where it began, how it grew,  and also pretty convincingly discusses how prog ran off the rails for awhile. I suggest either watching it fairly soon or downloading (315Mb in medium MP4) if interested. Because it keeps getting pulled.



Nice to see some of these old men still have what it takes to do real prog: ;D :Thmbsup:


Go Chris! :Thmbsup:

Oh yeah - additional intellectual groups and artists: Pink Floyd. Brian Eno. Allan Holdsworth. And Julie Cruise's epic Floating Into the Night album.

« Last Edit: June 05, 2014, 05:47:33 PM by 40hz »