What Kind Of Music Is Important To Us?
Whether you have childhood memories of nursery rhymes or developed a passion for Western Swing while at college, love Pink Floyd, are moved by Beethoven or La Boheme, chances are you have a passion for music.
It’s that passion that has put music at the heart of many cultures around the World. From the United States to Japan, people from all over the Globe participate in the cultures of music.
Home HiFi Systems
For those of us that care, having the best quality listening environment is very important. That listening space also includes loudspeakers, receivers, wireless audio speakers CD's, Vinyl Records, iTunes and room furniture. That’s why audiophiles spend thousands in search of that perfect speaker, amplifier, stylus or turntable.
Recorded music has been produced on many formats over the years and each format has had a variety of quality and standards applied to it. But why is music itself so important to us? Why do we want to carry hundreds of pieces of music around with us on our phones? Why should we care so much that we have spent the better part of 160 years creating new and better ways to record and playback music performances?
Components Of Music
Some people believe that music consists of a meter harmony and a melody. It must have a time signature, a chord sequence and is must have a tune. So does that mean that music cannot exist without notes? How about percussion instruments?
Other people have the opinion that music should have only a single fundamental component. It must have a human as it’s source. This means the sounds must have been composed or performed by a human person. If sounds are purely computer generated and, then it shouldn’t call it music.
For the music programmers amongst you, how do you feel about quantization? Does it remove the human feel and is that why it’s heavily used in electronic dance music? Shoulde we quantize at all? The more selective a programmer gets, the more human feel their music has. So perhaps this is why real human performaces tend to be remembered more than electronic performances. There are 'imperfections' in the human performance which make it relatable.
So is some music more musical than other music. Can other things be ‘more’ of what they are? Is a Ferrari ‘more’ of a car than a Ford? Is some cheese ‘more’ cheesy than other cheese? The answer is well, yes some music is more musical.
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What Does It Mean If Something Is ‘Musical’?
We usually mean that it has more of a human feel. When Lang Lang plays the piano is it more musical than my iPhone’s preprogrammed piano ringtone? Yes, because Lang-Lang has more of a human feel. Does human feel mean ‘more imperfections’? Is an inflection an imperfection? It depends on your standard of measurement but in the digital music world there are so many techniques that are designed to mimic human feel that it’s clear that digital perfection is not the result that digital composers or music programmers are after.
How would a piece of midi-based music sound if the velocity of each note was the same? It would sound robotic and very few people crave robotic music. Even the most robotic pop or electronic dance music usually has a human vocal soundtrack that expresses all the emotions that are missing in the musical arrangement.
Take Kraftwerk, the German electronic pop music pioneers of the 1970s/1980s or their musical offspring like Yazoo from the UK. Their very electronic and robotic sound was complemented by emotional vocals. Powerful or vulnerable-sounding, the inflections are needed to give the arrangement a human touch.
Is Ancient Music Similar to Today’s Music?
We don’t exactly know how those proverbial Cavemen and women entertained themselves, but we do know how contemporary cultures with ancient roots like the Yoruba from West Africa, whose origins are tens of thousands of years old, like to entertain themselves.
Not that much has changed between contemporary traditional Yoruba music and Ancient Yoruba music. This culture is really old. It pre-dates our human journey out of Africa. They know music, they probably invented it. At least, they were doing it 10’s of thousands of years before Europeans were. In fact, there weren’t any European humans back then.
It’s interesting how a modern Yoruba like Fela Kuti, who died in 1997 was such an enormous contemporary musical figure in his own culture but still felt that he could learn from James Brown, the American Godfather of Soul Music. When Fela travelled to the USA in the 1969 he was heavily influenced by James and vice-versa.
The “Original Suffer Head”, born of a culture 10’s of thousands of years old was equally influenced by the African diaspora in the USA and European classical music.
In 1958 Fela studied music at the Trinity School of Music in London. At the time, Trinity was strictly a classical conservatoire. There would have been no chance that he studied anything but classical compositions there. In 1969 Fela took his band to the US where they learnt about American Funk and became heavily influenced by it. James Brown returned the favor in 1970 when he toured in Nigeria, sending a band member to study Tony Allen, Fela Kuti’s drummer.
The human Genome project has shown that we all have our roots in Africa, so surely some of the oldest-known African cultures can point us in the right direction when it comes to what music used to be like before the keyboard, electric guitar, harpsichord or violin?
We already know that the drum was likely the first instrument, but even that may not be true. Surely the voice came before the drum? The drum was a way of amplifying a rhythm that was stamped out on the ground by feet. So to my mind, at least the voice and the foot came before the drum.
As drums do actually have a pitch they are not simply rhythmic instruments. They become melodic and harmonic. Listen to Fela Kuti and get a sense of how natural complex rhythms can be. Listen to the “talking drums” of West Africa.
Growing Up Around Music
The music we grow up around can have a major influence on how we view music and what we listen to as adults. For example, I remember growing up around the Classic music that my Father played on his record turntable and Decca music system. As he worked for Decca he was able to use a staff discount and buy the top-of-the-range Decca home audio system. I had great sound with Beethoven, Sibelius, Mozart and John Grainer as a kid.
Those early years did not mean that I naturally gained a passion for Classical Music like my father, but it did meant that I knew how to listen to music and was aware what good sound was like.
As soon as I was old enough I then made my own choices and developed my own passions for Rock, Jazz and Blues music. A lot of which has been carefully recorded, mixed and produced by discerning record labels for future generations.
So I’d like to bet that you have your own passions for particular music. It could be just one Composer or Band, it could be a whole genre but that passion from childhood to adulthood will last a lifetime.
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TV And Movie Soundtracks
In the cases where music is coupled with visual images like a TV theme or Movie Soundtrack the effect is particularly powerful. There are people of a certain age to whom Star Trek is the 1960’s TV theme tune.
When most people who loved the show starring William Shatner think of the TV show, they hear the theme tune in their head before recalling any actual scenes. The same goes for the 1960’s Batman TV Show. Time and time again music and video have been paired in popular culture to astonishing effect. The sum of both being far greater than the two component.
One of the biggest box-office hits of the 1980’s, E.T Directed by Stephen Spielberg became part of popular culture because of a 5-note refrain. That 5 note sequence became one of the parts of the movie that people clearly remembered decades later. As an experiment, find someone between the ages of 45-50 or over and ask them if they saw E.T in the 1980’s. The answer will invariably be ‘yes’. Next, ask them to hum a 5-note tune from the movie. I doubt you will be able to find anyone who cannot do this, even if 35 years has passed since they last saw the move.
Of course, this is nothing new. You only have to reach back a few hundred years to see how this was clearly understood by the great Operatic composers like Mozart or Puccini to realise that they knew only too well that a great story could be immortalized if it had a great accompanying musical score. As for William Shatner, apparently he recalls the kiss with Lt. Uhura as being his most memorable part of the Star Trek TV how. We can forgive him for that. Uhuru made music in her own special way.
Whatever your passion and whatever music you listen to, make sure you go to our list of the top rated wireless audio speakers and get some great audiophile audio gear to listen with!