The other day, I watched Adam Neely critique the movie Whiplash (2014), which I dug when I saw it a few years ago. Its a story about an ambitious and talented jazz student and his volatile, perfectionist instructor/big band leader. It was… intense. Adam enjoyed it as a movie, but didn’t find its connectivity to jazz accurate, and felt that it was mean-spirited – which concerns him as its currently the only representation of the jazz school/musician scene on film.
I just took a short break from practicing and watched the most interesting Ted Ed Talk video about rhythm, focusing on beats which play out in a circle, like a clock face, instead of linearly, like on a musical staff. It shows how many genres across the globe base their rhythms on a 2-beat sequence (the strong beat and weak beat) and then layers concentric circles with other beats on top of it to represent other beats and instruments – and shows their commonalities over different styles.
What really caught my eye is the idea that you can see the relationships of layered rhythms like this. Its more visually decipherable than reading notation or tablature – and its interesting to see how spinning a wheel affects rhythm in relation to other wheels or circles.
Take a look, its a thought-provoking, eye-opening 5 mins:
I was watching a 3-part video in which Adam Neely and Ben Levin converse about a range of topics. One thing that came up was a band featured on NPR Music‘s Tiny Desk Concerts. They’re called Songhoy Blues. Wikipedia describes them as a desert punk/blues group from Timbuktu, Mali. They were formed after fleeing strife and Sharia Law in their country. Their name comes from their being Songhoy people, which is an ethnic West African group. Nick Zinner, guitarist from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs produced a track of theirs called Soubour, which means “patience”. Following this, Zinner helped produce their first album, Music in Exile, in 2015.
I like their sound quite a bit. There’s something intriguing to hearing blues with Songhoy lyrics sung on top of them. Because I don’t understand the words, they become something of a 2nd melody to follow, instead. Guitarist Garba Toure is apparently the son of the percussionist for Ali Farka Toure (1939-2006), whose music also blended traditional Malian music and blues. The band covered their music at their inception.
Here’s a fun video from Adam Neely about mashups, or as 13th century composers called them, quodlibets. He goes into some music theory about them, initially, highlighting that its their tempos that really allow them to work together. He also speaks about the I-V-VI-IV chord progression, which is used in a lot of pop music, as illustrated by that old Axis of Awesome video that mashed up about 500 songs to demonstrate it. 😉
Some compositional attributes that allow a lot of this music to be melded together include their overall use of notes from the major scale, which – if I understand this correctly – allows them to be more readily transposed to the same key; 4-bar phrase lengths, which allows them to fit passages of the same length together; and cyclic chord progressions that repeat without a strong sense of resolution, so they can keep going without end. Enjoy!
This is an amazing speech given by T Bone Burnett at AmericanaFest – the Americana Music Festival & Conference – on Thursday, September 22, 2016. I saw it posted on The Dutch Luthier‘s blog, and he, in turn, found it on The Americana Music Association‘s web page.
I don’t quite believe in the art vs. technology idea that he speaks about, but his call for freedom of expression and pushing boundaries rings true to me. There is possibly truth to the idea that people are becoming more homogenous through technology and social engineering, however. (If any of you are old-school tabletop RPG players, this might also come across as a Technocracy vs. Tradition speech, from the mouth of a Cult of Ecstasy practitioner.)
“Technology is turning over every ten years. Their technologies don’t and won’t last. Our art, if we do it right, will.” – T Bone Burnett
I have come here today first to bring you love. I have come here to express my deep gratitude to you for your love of music and of each other. And, I have come here to talk about the value of the artist, and the value of art.
When Michaelangelo was painting the great fresco The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, he came under intense criticism from various members of the church, particularly the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies- a man named Cesena- who accused him of obscenity. Michaelangelo’s response was to paint Cesena into the fresco in the lowest circle of hell with donkey ears and a serpent coiled around him devouring, and covering, his nether regions, so to speak.
Cesena was incensed and went to the Pope demanding he censor Michaelangelo for this outrage, and the Pope said, “Well, let’s go have a look at it. ”So, they went down to the chapel, and when the Pope stood in front of the fresco, he said to Cesena, “You know, that doesn’t look like you at all.”
Here’s something interesting from a cultural and musical vantage that I found when Jackie from Lindsey Tree Music posted in the Bass Blogs group on FB. Its a trailer for The Girls In The Band, a documentary with and about women from the jazz/bebop scene who were excellent musicians, but because of the influence of patriarchy, were marginalized and not given the credit they were due as amazing players – something that has repeated since in other styles of music, as well as areas outside of music. Some of the women were also black, so they had a double-whammy to deal with as this predates the civil rights movement in America.