If you’ve ever fed me a few beers and we’ve had an in-depth discussion about music, I’ve probably brought up the subject of language. If you’ve ever been in one of these conversations with me, you’re probably tired of hearing about it at this point, so I’m providing you the option of throwing in towel on this post right now! If not, read on, o brave soul, and leave a comment. I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.
As a side note, it’s 9am on this lovely friday morning and I’m sober as a f-ing fox!
Quite possibly, the most important goal to be achieved when performing or recording music is communication. I think we, as musicians, can unanimously agree that we have the most fun when performing in front of a relatively large audience that is fully engaged in the proceedings. The connection that happens between band/audience occurs when the musicians are willing to give themselves to the music, and when the members of the audience are willing (and ready) to accept this offering.
A good performance or recording of music is heard like a good book is read. There is a beginning, middle, and end, and there are guideposts along the way. This is all the language of music. The best authors and musicians utilize subtlety of language to deepen the effect of their work. For me, satisfaction often comes in these subtle details.
I was listening to the new Dr. Dog album, “Shame, Shame”, while driving through traffic yesterday and I realized why I like them so much. In addition to being great songwriters, much of the beauty lies in the details. There is so much language in their music. The fact that much of their production esthetic is lifted from The Beatles almost contributes more to the effectiveness of their music. Dr. Dog definitely has their own thing, but it’s also obvious they’ve done their homework. It’s this blend of innovation and tradition that makes their music so effective.
I felt the same way when I recently listened to George Lewis’ “Solo Trombone Record”. What an incredibly deep musician! “Phenomenology”, in particular, floors me. It sounds like the history of jazz up to 1976 in eight minutes. It has so much language, so many guideposts; it is so compositional, yet so very satisfyingly abstract. The whole album is incredible and worth anyone’s ears.
It’s the language that these musicians use that communicates artistic depth. Language is obviously not the only aspect a musician needs to excel in to effectively communicate, but is often the most overlooked. I love music that gives you something to chew on (the language part) and takes you to a completely different place with it (the innovation part). If either of these aspects is missing, the music tends to not be as effective.
Have a great memorial day weekend!