Music without sound

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This article is based on David Byrne‘s excerpt text “Singing is a trick to get people to listen to music for longer than they would do ordinarily”, that can be found inside the 1983 Talking Heads’ live album “Stop Making Sense“ inlay booklet.

By default all of us humans are music listeners. We can’t exactly set a date to when music firstly came to the fore of our ears and senses, though. And fairly enough is to say, that the need to strive for a place or date for the origin of music is irrelevant. Music has always been intrinsically a form of organized sound. Someway, through our cultural experiences, it has evolved continually and accordingly with our ordinary social experiences and senses to the point that we have it today.

Everywhere in the world, whether in the Western or Eastern cultures, we find these forms of organized sound, that spread exactly from one point to the other, and vice-versa, in between cultures. Permanently evolving, changing. The structures vary from abstract - a relative term, regarding a cultural point of view - to more structured ways. Different note ranges, scales, rhythms, pitches and patterns have always adorned either way of music, regardless it’s origin.

Eastern cultures have always had their own way to approach music. Most commonly, Eastern music has been regarded as “odd” in the West, for its vague sound, rhythm and chants (when it happens to be the case). This is so much so that it’s rather impossible to get any average Western music lover to get along to Indian Classical or Hindu ragas, from India, at the first hearings of those rhythm patterns. A quasi-parallel example is set with Jazz, which is a genre from the Western world. Western average music listeners are more likely to be fond of vocal pop songs.

Most people from Western countries need to recognize what they’re listening to, to feel at ease with the sound, allowing themselves to enjoy the music. They need a voice. A voice singing the lyrics on the top of the song is the main ingredient to hook, to greater extent, people into the music; mainly with pop music. But then, that would only do for the average music listener. And the length of a song is equally relevant for the average music listener. The average music listener feels misguided if a song lacks vocals or specific lyrics or if it lasts longer than three and a half minutes.

The more sparse sound of the Indian Classical music of Allauddin Khan or the Hindu ragas via Ravi Shankar and Annapurna Devi, in India (genres that extend to Pakistan and Bangladesh), made their way to the West world during the sixties, when popular acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones became enchanted with the Indian culture through literature. They incorporated Indian instruments (sitar, tambura, etc.) into their music and played along with it, hence expanding their music. And there were Alice Coltrane too, adding the Indian influence to her music with the seminal “Journey in Satchidananda”.

Through the likes of Louis Armstrong, Billy Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald and Chet Baker, jazz music came closer to pop audiences, by the vocal component those musicians added to the genre. It’s clear that melody is not enough for the ears of the general music listeners. They need the singing voice. And minimalist, experimentalist, avantgarde and music concret musicians will never become popular or make any money from their records (works). Money, accolades, popularity, acceptance from the general public, would never mean to be their point, anyway. Melody is pointless here.

02.01.2011 | par herminiobovino | Musik