Music is Life

Why Is Pop Music So Easy?

I’ve always wondered why music like the Classical period has so many chord progressions going on whereas a modern dance track can practically be in one chord the entire time. I remember studying a book called “A Practical Approach to the Study of Form in Music” by Peter Spencer and Peter M. Temko which spoke about music being organized by “structural phenomenon.” These phenomenon included a myriad of things such as melody, rhythm, harmony, register, key, tempo, dynamics, etc. For some reason humans have a tendency to give strong preference to just a few of these, namely melody and rhythm. Just look at any “fake book” and you can find a song or a composition boiled down to a melodic line, chords, and rhythm.

But as we venture into the world of pop, producers—which is really just another name for composer—look to create entirely new sounds, not just melodies and chord progressions. The listener’s ear is now directed to, perhaps, how a particular synth is sculpted with EQ, reverb, and side-chaining techniques or how a drum set is shaped and made to groove with compression. I think that since there is so much tone manipulation occurring that it would overload the senses to include complex counterpoint or a crafty chord progression. I couldn’t imagine an EDM track full of the kinds of melodic and harmonic devices that Bach employed. Who knows, maybe someday someone will come along and change that.

Non-Jamaican Reggae?

Billboard recently reported that today’s top selling reggae tracks are by non-Jamaicans, in fact most of the top charters are from the US. I watched a short video of some news reporters discussing this and they thought this strange. I remember years ago in university one of my professors brought up the same subject but in a different light, “Why do so many young people have a strong connection to music 250 years old from Germany?” I never thought about that. After that conversation I always thought it strange to see so many young adults strive to become effective interpreters of the three B’s: Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms.

I think the operative term here is ‘culture’. Music and culture can be so incredibly enmeshed that it sometimes creates a difficult barrier through which people can navigate. One of my friends commented on the non-Jamaican reggae video saying, “Reggae isn't about the color of your skin... it's about the feeling in your soul,” yet in Billboard’s articles some mention an exploitation and misappropriation of the Jamaican culture. I’m sure that both are right; there are always artists that are purely genuine and those that are merely copycats. As the saying goes, “Bad artists copy, good artists steal.” What do you think?