Something’s Happening Here (and You Don’t Know What It Is)

Sooner or later, if you’re a musician and if you live long enough, you’ll start to notice that the music the kids are playing is confusing, ugly, and stupid. This happened, I’m sure, to musicians who had been active in 1895, when the big-band swing of 1935 was blazing. It definitely happened to jazz players who had honed their chops in the 1930s, when the Beatles and the Stones turned pop music around in the 1960s and 1970s.

Today it’s happening to me. Looking to hear some fresh sounds, I clicked over to the FL Studio website and had a listen to some of the mixes being produced today by musicians who are 40 years younger than me. I heard a relentless reliance on 4/4 time and drum tracks that bludgeon the listener. I heard music that has no melody, a monotonous bass line, and exactly two chords played over and over.

Okay, two-chord pop music is nothing new. Lou Reed was doing it in the ’70s, and so were a lot of other people. I didn’t like Lou Reed much at the time, and for that precise reason. But I trust my point is clear. I’m no longer in sync with the music of the young.

Me, I like chord progressions. I like odd time signatures. I like melodies and bass lines that move around. I’m classically trained, but that’s not a bad thing in itself. The trouble is, I’ve become an old fogey. Still wallowing contentedly in the hallowed styles of yesteryear.

The other day I launched Reason, came up with a bit that I liked, added a bass line and some drums, added a high pad sound … and suddenly I had an eight-bar synth pop riff straight out of 1983. As embarrassing as that is, I like the riff. It speaks to me in a way that these intense young people’s music doesn’t. Hell, when they rap I can’t even tell what they’re saying. Of course, it wasn’t always clear what Mick Jagger was saying either, and back before Mick there was “Louie, Louie,” a hit song in which, according to the prevailing legend, even the lead vocalist didn’t know what he was saying.

I do like the weird accent patterns of a good rap, though. I just wish they’d write a song that had some damn chords in it.

Where’s my rocking chair? Where did I put my bifocals? Did I take my pills yet today? Phooey.

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One Response to Something’s Happening Here (and You Don’t Know What It Is)

  1. Mike Zimmerman says:

    Jim,
    It is great to read your search for finishing a degree in English and Music. Don’t forget your level of understanding in technology!
    The Livermore High School Reunion Committee has established the 50th reunion for Saturday, October 15, 2016, at the Elks Lodge in Livermore. The cost is $75 if purchased by July 1, 2016, otherwise, it is $90. You may purchase a ticket by writing a check to LHS Reunion and mail to 2360 Stearns Rd, Paradise, CA 95969.
    On a sad note, one LHS teacher was a victim this summers’ fires. 82 year old Owen Goldsmith, musician, composer, and arranger, was killed a few weeks ago in a fire in the Sierras.
    M. Zimmerman

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