mercoledì 17 aprile 2019

A simple kickoff

And I didn't have any idea what to do but I knew I needed a click
So we put a click on the 24 track which was then synch to the moog modular
I knew that it could be a sound of the future
But I didn't realize how much impact it would be

My name is Giovanni Giorgio, but everybody calls me Giorgio

There is a weak point in my routines. Every time you want to start, you don’t know from where: you have to try and skip and shuffle until you find something that hooks according to your goals.

After some days of no music I was trying something simple to start from. Usually I shuffle random Pink floyd tunes until I find the correct flavor. Or I use some The lamb lies down tunes. Or I shuffle my universal listener routine.

But what if there were a music that is both simple (with hidden complexity) and belongs to the three flavors?

It should have

1) a constant minimal rhythm: the simplest is the click
2) an African circular beat (a groovy funk bass line for example)
3) long melodies or linear patterns easy to follow.

Well most of Daft Punk’s music, in particular the record Random Access Memories has these features. Some Moroder and most Nile Rodgers/Chic tunes are similar, but with Daft punk is a no-brainer because the first is too much minimal, the second too much funk.
Any routines is easier after listening to Giorgio by Moroder that is catchy and balanced. In the record there are also more demanding songs with a variety of styles and rhythms, a sort of summary of popular music.

As an extreme synthesis you could achieve the maximum result (an uniform boost of any skill) with only two records, one as a neutral warm up, the other as a neutral training.

1) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
2) Skies of America by Ornette Coleman

In the practical implementation I experimented that is better to add some intermediate steps:

1) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
2) A love supreme by John Coltrane
3) Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinskij
4) Skies of America by Ornette Coleman

GOOGLE MUSIC PLAYLIST - New neutral pill

This playlist is designed to hook, and there is not much music with the characteristics (balance between the three rhythms, hidden complexity, catchy hook points).

The first step will bring you to the point that most of pop/rock music would be intelligible.
The second and third step will bring you to the point that most of classical, jazz, world music would be fine to listen to.
The fourth step should bring you to the point of being the universal listener (avant-garde, 20th century).

I think this is very simple, replicable and effective. A very good recipe to get prepared to listen to 20th century music.

Try it, the results are impressive!

So let's review: why are we partial listeners?

First: rhythm. We can be used to a particolar way of organizing time. I like to consider them three (Western, Folk, Minimal) as a synthesis.
Second: complexity. We can be used to simple harmony/counterpoint development or we can manage more complex, dissonant, subtle, stratified structures.

If you travel through complexity with a balance of the three rhythms you can listen to everything. I tested that at the end you can manage Gamelan, 12 tone music, guitar heroes, techno, whatever.

If you stick to one particular rhythm and to simple music, you are a partial listener. Every partial listener is different from another (even if there are commonalities, so I invented the three routines).

With this final trick you can actually expand your listening skills in rhythm, harmony, counterpoint without any bias.

So the rationale is polyrhythmic complex music. The most complex and the most polyrhythmic, the widest is the spectrum of what you can listen to.

In the first "neutral pill" there was too much distance between the first steps (Dark side of the moon, Kind of Blue and Bolero) that are very simple and the last (Skies of America), so the results were difficult to achieve.
This one is more demanding and works better. You can't even imagine to what level the Daft Punk record can put you too (I suspect most of the merit is credited to Nile Rodgers by the way).

This is the most effective and reliable playlist I invented, but you cannot have fun with it: it is like a program you should run from beginning to end every day until you learn the four records by heart.

You should stick to the playlist, with no distractions.

I recap: if you want to learn to listen to every genre of music exercize with this playlist

1) Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
2) A love supreme by John Coltrane
3) Le sacre du printemps by Igor Stravinskij
4) Skies of America by Ornette Coleman

from start to end. At the end your brain will be able to manage everything.

Well, if you want to use a more traditional approach (Aaron Copland style, What to listen for in music a very nice book) you could master Rhythm, Melody (Counterpoint) and Harmony separately.

In that case I think a set of artists like for example

Chic/Nile Rodgers (rhythm), JS Bach (counterpoint), Arnold Schoenberg (harmony) could do the job too, but I suppose it is harder and slower and it makes sense only if you are a professional musician who wants to learn theory.

There is no need to explain JS Bach choice.
Schoenberg used complex harmony even before 12-tone music (Verklarte nacht, Pierrot Lunaire).

I know that usually complexity in rhythm is related to odd time signatures and hemiolas etcetera. Mongo Santamaria, Babatunde Olatunji, Mahavishnu Orchestra, late Frank Zappa are sometimes suggested as rhythm masters for complexity. Somewhere I found suggestion for metal related bands like Dream theater, Meshuggah, Tool, Animals as leaders.

But I experienced that for a listener fast and syncopation and stratified is more challenging that any theorical complexity. Probably for a musician it is the opposite.

So I believe Funk is the genre to listen if you want to be challenged in rhythm. In James Brown for example each instrument is used as a drum and there is a lot of syncopation. George Clinton, Parliament, Funkadelic, Prince... any act associated with Maceo Parker has often that kind of rhythm intricacies, but it is often slow.

Nile Rodgers is a mixture of funky rhythm and speed, and I empirically found the most useful to listen to if you want to practice rhythmic skills.  Moreover I guess there is something that cannot be written on paper or formalized when we talk about rhythm: nuances present only in music played by real instruments and not by drum machines or quantizers.

I prepared also a playlist with this rationale:

GOOGLE MUSIC - Study course for professionals

Chic - Risqué
Nile Rodgers - Adventures in the land of good groove
JS Bach - The art of fugue BWV 1080
Arnold Schoenberg - Verklärte Nacht op. 4
Arnold Schoenberg - Piano Concerto op.42

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