Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tuneful Tuesday

Before I really get started on specific pieces of music that I like, let me give you an idea of the characteristics I like in music.
  • I like a good melody, which is not to say that it has to be catchy. Catchy tunes are good, but sometimes, they can get a little too catchy and become an earworm, which will make me mad. I like to be able to hear a tune in my head by choice, not necessity.
  • The basic I-IV-V chord sequence, over and over, will make me mad and want to smash things. I like more interesting chord progressions. One of my favorite things is to hear an alternate chord being played, like when I expect a IV but I hear a vi, that makes me happy.
  • I like music that combines two seemingly unrelated melodies into something really interesting. There are a lot of good pieces of music of many different genres that do this.
  • I like music with an interesting texture, meaning I'm not a fan of simple homophony -- music where one instrument always plays the melody, and the others always play the harmony. I like it when the melody is passed from one instrument to another, and when it's not even completely clear what the melody is (such as in the previous bullet).
  • I like an interesting rhythm, but since I'm more of a classical musician, this is not strictly necessary.
  • Actually, none of these are deal-breaking requirements. Some of my favorite pieces of music have crappy melodies, use simple chord progressions, or are homophonic. It's what the composer does with it that makes or breaks a piece of music.


rachel said...

Seeing the word "composer" there toward the end has me wondering: do you ever like a piece of music because of the performer, more than the composer? People who are really into opera, for example, are often quite picky about which performers they want to hear interpret which pieces. Vivaldi's 4 Seasons is pretty blah to me UNLESS it's Perlman playing it (that's the one we grew up with, I guess, and I prefer his interpretation).

When you get into popular music, the question becomes even more difficult to untangle, I guess. You get people performing their own music, covering each other's music, performing music by professional songwriters, performing traditional songs. There's much more scope for individual interpretation there, and again, a song that may be so-so may get a lift from someone else's touch (or may not - I can't think of a single Beatles cover I like better than the original).

A long way toward saying: sometimes it's not the music that's most awesome, it's the performance.

susan said...

This is sort of like your own Pandora analysis!