Posts Tagged ‘music tastes


Escaping boring music

  It’s funny how different types of music can either excite us or bore us. There are so many different facets to appreciating music, so many reasons why we appreciate music and a lot of the time it’s not just the music, it’s the image and the associations and the lyrics etc…

That’s why I’m skeptical about music ‘scientists’ trying to find a formula for why some music is ‘good’ and other music is ‘not good’. Music appreciation is more than just listening to a bunch of notes and ‘aural vibration’, more than just ‘the C chord’ followed by the ‘F chord’ with a nice melody thrown in.

That’s kind of what punk rock proved back in the 70’s -anyone can pick up a guitar, any kid can join a band and rock out. And they became popular not so much for their musicianship but they clicked with their audience. In fact, rather than the puncy rock stars who became separated from their audience, they were part of their audience.

And that’s important for youth -searching for your identity and people you can connect with. I was from the ‘grunge’ generation but personally I connected more with Jimi Hendrix and the 70’s punk bands, and kids today still get into Led Zeppelin and The Beatles.

But now as I’m well into my thirties I’m searching for new types of music, such as traditional Asian music. That’s a completely different appreciation -I don’t have any relationship with the musicians as such because I don’t know who they are, but I relate to the music from living in Asia and getting into things like Taichi.

Since I like songwriting I find I’ve got to keep exploring music to find inspiration, whether it’s bebop jazz, 80’s pop, hiphop, post-rock, Taiwanese indie bands etc…There’s so much out there to explore and learn, and I think it’s important to have an open mind.

Besides, rock just gets boring after a while. Unless the songwriting is good or they’re exploring interesting harmonies or bringing in an outside influences, most rock bands are boring. Especially commercial rock where they churn out the same safe melodies -they’ll be catchy for 15 minutes then thrown on the waste-pile of wannabe hits.


More on music crisis

Another aspect of the new music crisis is for us generation-Xers, we’ve heard almost everything, or it seems like it. Many of us have tasted almost all genres, and been through all the different phases and fades and we’ve picked and chosen the bits that we like.


Well, I am speaking for myself primarily, but I’m sure it’s the same with many others my age. I believe music has become a stable to my generation -it’s important to us and we take it for granted. So, speaking from my experience, this is my exposure to genres:


My first exposure to music (apart from reaching 4th grade violin in Suzuki) was from elder siblings with their Beatles and their Wings and their Cat Stevens and their Supertramp etc. etc…


Them my first passion for pop was with the Bon Jovi explosion ‘Slippery when Wet’, and there was Paul Simon’s Gracelands that impressed me as well. From memory, U2’s Rattle and Hum was also huge at the time -so it was pop that first got my attention.

 Il4 crisis mus tastes

But hanging out with musos at school, I was introduced to cool sixties -Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Cream, the Doors etc… And you had to have a T-shirt. Some friends also rubbed off on me with Metallica, though that’s as far as my head-banging went.


Then my friend’s sister introduced me to British punk (Pistols, Clash, Damned etc…), and I went through that stage -as much for the fanzines and culture as the music itself. From that new wave I progressed to the Cure, of which I’m still a big fan. And I got into Prince.


By then I would have been well into my twenties, and had played in a couple of bands, so had covered odd songs from Bob Dylan to the Pixies. I’d also studied bits of jazz from my guitar teacher, and was back into some 80’s rock like Van Halen and Toto, and I was also well into Aus rock like ACDC and classic Cold Chisel.


In my late twenties I was exploring some techno stuff like Underworld (saw their concert on SBS TV), bit of Bob Marley and Santana, which led to the ‘guitar-head’ of Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.


Since living overseas I frequently bought anything that seemed a good deal and was curious about, from John Maclauchlin to Kylie Minogue. I even bought the Paris Hilton CD to see what a wiz-bang producer could do with an amateur singer. I’ve got into some hiphop, ranging from Common to Eminem.


And in my host Asian countries where I’ve lived, I’ve also got into the local music (Wubai and The Chairman in Taiwan) and even traditional Asian music (which I like to practice Taichi to.)


Anyway, I find it’s hard to follow a particular direction. I’m more keen to go wandering into an Asian music store in China town and pick up a Jay Chou CD than to wander into the local. I still like Aussie music -Powderfinger for example, but I’m not passionate about Aussie rock any more, but I’m interested in the new local hiphop. I’ll also pick up the latest Prince or Cure album if I have the spare cash on me (which I haven’t lately), but I’m finding it difficult to attach to anything new.


And I don’t think the problem is because there’s nothing good. I think musicians have improved in songwriting and production -but every man and his dog is doing it, and there’s such a vast array available. But most can’t compete with the back catalogue of classics that’s easy to find -for in the past, all the dross has been removed, and the classics and cream of the crop remain. But in the current scene, it’s impossible to sift through to find something you feel is really classic.


Crisis in Musical taste…

As a ‘generation-X’er’ I’ve felt like I’m in a bit of a crisis regarding my search for new music at the moment. I listen to the Australian alternative radio station, JJJ, quite a bit, but I’m not getting into any new bands much. Most of that seems to be for gen-y.

Furthermore, when I search the magazine stands, there have only been two mags that kind of stand out to me: “Uncut” and “Now hear this”, which have accompanying sample CDs. They’ve had some interesting stuff on the CDs, a lot of music from different genres, and far more varied and interesting than typical ‘mainstream rock’, ‘RnB’ and so-called ‘alternative rock’. It’s all variants and mixtures, for more discerning listeners, but nothing has grabbed me in particular. It’s hard to know if you could really get into an act from just hearing one song.

It also seems to me that there’s a great focus on the past four decades (with classic rock mags and so many old bands reforming) but that’s because the classics stand out. So, for example, I’ve been getting into Sade because she has a great voice, great songs and a great band. I’ve been willing to buy all their albums, and I’m happy with all of them.

It’s hard to look at the current scene, or scenes I should say, without feeling overwhelmed. The internet has widened things up so much, but you could spend years wandering the muso-wastelands (of which I’m a part of) and not be struck by anything. Of course you may find some gems, but what’s going to compete with all the classics to which we compare them.

I’m not talking about genre here, but quality in all aspects. Songwriting, arrangements, each performance of all the instruments and vocals, and how they interact. After a while we don’t care so much about the style or genre or category, but the quality of the music.

I know it’s also subjective, but take rock for example. If you’re been into rock for years, and you play a bit of guitar yourself, you’re going to be able to discern well-played guitar parts. You going to get sick of the same over-used chops, cliche solos and typical powerchords. You’re going to want to hear interesting songs, where the guitar parts (and other parts) are unique. You’re going to appreciate the way the guitar works with the bass and drums, not cluttering but complementing. You’re going to appreciate the way guitar counter-melodies play off the vocals.

It’s the same with songwriting and the whole song. You’re going to get sick of cliches and hyped music, the same blaring guitar parts, puncy image and rock antics. You’re going to turn a deaf ear to the marketing hype, advertising campaigns and ‘industry buzz’.

I know most of generation X has moved on from ‘youth culture’. Most of my friends listen to talk-back radio, which I can’t stand. But there are some who still take an interest, because we know there are bands from rock to hip-hop to pop, which are quality. It’s just hard to sift through the rubbish to find them.

The last five years I’ve got into jazz -particularly classic bebop and cool jazz, like Miles Davis And John Cultrane. I also have some favourite pop artists -because there is quality pop that’s satisfying. And lately I’ve borrowed some CDs of African pop, which I’m finding refreshing. I like the rhythm, and the way the guitar is more ‘minimal’ (not minimalist), with light, clean riffs and rhythmic licks that make the song interesting, rather than blaring 6-string strumming that can clutter a song.