I’m starting a post series called ‘Unpopular Opinions’ because, well, I feel I’ve just been
holding back(lol.) Also I’m pretty certain I have enough unpopular opinions to get a year's
worth of posts, at least.
To start with, a few definitions;
Music; “The art and science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds or tones in varying melody, harmony, rhythm and timbre, esp, so as to form structurally complete and emotionally expressive compositions.” Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th edition.
Timbre is a secondary consideration; music is defined by the presence of melody, harmony and rhythm. I suppose it’s debatable what you get if you remove any one of these elements but, in my opinion, you get sounds but not music. It is my contention that any musician/composer knows this to be true either by education or instinct and is happiest when working in a medium where all three exist.
The next definition is ‘New Music.’ There are two definitions;
New Music (1); Any new piece of music created by any musical artist in any genre.
New Music (2); Music that is structurally different than any music that has previously existed.
Since we have used the same musical system since the time of J.S. Bach, it’s up to
debate how much of New Music (2) there has been.
Our musical system only yields a set number of chords.
A theory professor at my music school argued that J.S. Bach did everything and it was just a reiteration afterwards. A proposition that is difficult to argue against, especially since what followed ( by one of his sons) was a reduction in complexity that was known then as the ‘New Music,’ later to be called the ‘Classical Period.’
There are no ‘jazz rhythms,’ ‘rock rhythms’ or syncopation that can not be found present in even the earliest music.
Later, towards the turn of the century, music got a bit more complex again, but new music consisted mainly of inventive recombinations of the same chords and new uses of rhythm but there are only so many rhythms as the system of rhythm itself (note values) is based on simple fractions.
So frustrated were certain circles over the quest for new music (2) that the answer was a further reduction and the elements of harmony and, hence, melody were removed in the late avant garde music of the late 50’s and early 60’s.
Naturally, there was a reaction against this in Minimalism and harmony was restored and melody (minimally, anyway.)
'Pop music’ went through its own Minimalist Period, only this was reached by pursuing the exact same reduction of complexity that followed J.S. Bach. Only, in this case, they apparently didn’t know when to stop and melody disappeared altogether. Rhythm almost disappeared as well, becoming an irreducible minimum, a static, as it were.
This obviously presented something of a predicament for the record industry to come up with new music as, if they reduced it much more, it would disappear completely.
So, to back out of this predicament, the industry allowed two rhythms; the Jungle Cruise Rhythm and the “Help! Let me out of this trunk!” Rhythm. Melody has returned as a sort of chanting, moaning kind of affair.
It moves very slowly, even backwards, not because people in general are all that resistant to new music but the music business will not allow anything newer than last week.