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
album...looks like sophomore slump
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.
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.
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.