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What Is a Lie in Music?

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What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Butterfried Bacon » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:47 pm

A friend of mine is a professional classical music composer who hates new age music. Quite some time ago, I asked him what was wrong with new age music, pointing out that at least some of it is more interesting than something like pop or rap. For example, there are a lot of new age selections which develop and change over the course of the piece, so you're not just hearing verse, chorus, verse, chorus all the way through. I've listened to new age music for thirty years and I have a huge selection of wonderful music. I find it hard to believe that someone who hates new age music would have had the inclination to explore it to see if there's anything—anything at all—that might be likable. He said something about new age music sounding like a lie. That mystified me. I had no idea what he was talking about. Then, about a week ago, I watched an Al Jazeera interview featuring Vangelis and he also made a reference to the possibility of someone creating music that's a lie.

What in the world are they talking about?
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby ReadySaltedChris » Mon Dec 04, 2017 10:48 pm

I have absolutely no idea.
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Agharta » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:21 am

Someone who hates a whole genre of music is not someone who's opinion I give much weight to.
As for New Age music itself like most genres it will vary a lot in style and perceived quality.
Some New Age music can be like some Ambient music in that it requires a different way of experiencing it so it's not so much foreground as background.
I think some people probably just don't get that.
Not that I'm exactly clear on what is New Age music anyway.
I listen to some meditative music some of which is very minimalist and some melodic music both of which might fall into the New Age camp.
I don't really worry about the labelling.
I wonder if some people reject New Age music because they see it as being Spiritual so linked to Religion in some way?
That might well explain your friend's reaction as much as anything.

To say that the whole of a genre is a lie is just silly to me and you could ask him what he meant.
Words can lie but how does music lie?
Well if you are feeling shitty and cynically play a happy song through gritted teeth is that a lie?
Maybe he can't believe that the people who are creating relaxing New Age music are really chilled so thinks it's a front!
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby zenguitar » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:27 am

Ask him to focus on his opinion and expand on whether his problem lies with the music itself or it's association with ideas he disagrees with. Where, exactly, does he place the lie?

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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Dynamic Mike » Tue Dec 05, 2017 12:51 am

Maybe it's the fact that some of it relies upon tonality & timbre rather than composition? Much like a train running along a track is a pleasant sound, it isn't necessarily musical just because it's enjoyable to listen to. Not saying I agree, just speculating.
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Butterfried Bacon » Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:40 am

Agharta wrote:Someone who hates a whole genre of music is not someone who's opinion I give much weight to.
As for New Age music itself like most genres it will vary a lot in style and perceived quality.
Some New Age music can be like some Ambient music in that it requires a different way of experiencing it so it's not so much foreground as background.
I think some people probably just don't get that.
Not that I'm exactly clear on what is New Age music anyway.
I listen to some meditative music some of which is very minimalist and some melodic music both of which might fall into the New Age camp.
I don't really worry about the labelling.
I wonder if some people reject New Age music because they see it as being Spiritual so linked to Religion in some way?
That might well explain your friend's reaction as much as anything.

I decided to check Wikipedia for their definition of New Age music and I found some interesting quotes from some of the artists I found there, most of whom I've heard before:

Harold Budd commented how "When I hear the term 'new-age I reach for my revolver... I don't think of myself as making music that is only supposed to be in the background. It's embarrassing to inadvertently be associated with something that you know in your guts is vacuous".

Vangelis considers it a style which "gave the opportunity for untalented people to make very boring music".

Yanni stated that "I don't want to relax the audience; I want to engage them in the music, get them interested",[16] and that "New age implies a more subdued, more relaxed music than what I do. My music can be very rhythmic, very energetic, even very ethnic".

Andreas Vollenweider noted that "we have sold millions of records worldwide before the category New Age was actually a category", and shared the concern that "the stores are having this problem with categorization".

Peter Bryant, music director of WHYY-FM (90.9) and host of a New-age program, noted that "I don't care for the term... New-age has a negative connotation... In the circles I come in contact with, people working in music, 'new-age' is almost an insult", that it refers to "very vapid, dreamy kinds of dull music... with no substance or form or interest", and that the term has "stuck".


Well, as one who began listening to "new age music" at age 17 (after listening to country music and "KISS" from about six years old until I was 13, and after starting to listen to pop from 13-17), all I knew from a consumer's standpoint is that I *loved* what I heard in the new age genre, especially the high-energy music, whether the artists found there liked that label or not. And also, whether the artists liked it or not, most of the music moved me like no other music has before. Most of my CD collection came from the New Age genre.

The person who got me interested in new age music back in 1987 also happened to be a bit of a new-age spiritualist herself. She was into Ruth Montgomery, quartz crystals, meditation, etc.... I explored New Age topics for a while, but never I never put stock in physical objects as anything that could "focus your energy" or bring you anything special. At the same time, the music I heard in the new age genre did elicit from me a vision of a kind of "new age" for the world. I think what appealed to me is that what I mostly heard was musicians using only musical instruments for expression rather than relying on a vocalist; when a vocalist is present, most of the expression comes from them and the music becomes something happening in the background. New age music allows me to focus ONLY on the music without the interference of a vocalist. And with no vocalist, the music can become more personal because what the music means can change from one person to the next. A vocalist's lyrics forces the definition of the music down your throat and you have no choice but to accept it.

New age music is engaging enough to keep me awake when I'm driving. Sometimes the constant throb of something like dance music can put me to sleep, even if I like it, but the constantly changing movements of new age music keeps me awake. And I think what fasinated me the most was the fact that the music might move along dreamily for two minutes until the beat kicks in. Anyway, I didn't know any of these artists as "contemporary instrumentalists". They were "new age", maybe because I didn't know about their disdain for the genre's name. The term stuck with me. And as I've begun getting into writing my own instrumental music, I find myself proud to think of myself as one who writes new age music because, as I said above, I've always enjoyed so much of what I've found there, whether those artists like it or not. And the ideas I have do include a beat, not just 16-bar chords with crickets, birds, and ocean waves.

Some high-energy examples are:

Mars Lasar - "Mount Olympus" and "Victory" - from Olympus (1992)
John Tesh - "A Thousand Summers" - from Tour de France (1988)
Yanni - "Street Level" and "Point of Origin" (Amazing) - from Out of Silence (1987)
Tangerine Dream - "Rockoon" - from Rockoon (1992)

Those are hardly selections that would disappear into the background.

Agharta wrote:To say that the whole of a genre is a lie is just silly to me and you could ask him what he meant.
Words can lie but how does music lie?
Well if you are feeling shitty and cynically play a happy song through gritted teeth is that a lie?
Maybe he can't believe that the people who are creating relaxing New Age music are really chilled so thinks it's a front!

lol! Well, I did once offer him a selection from Bill Douglas who did some work with Eric Stoltz (sp). He said it wasn't bad, but Bill Douglas is categorized as new age. But yes, new age, to me, encompasses many styles of music. I think if one listens to hard rock, they expect to hear lots of guitars and drums. If you listen to new age, you will also hear guitars and drums -- even distortion guitars, though there will usually be synthesizers, lush ambient chords, maybe a flute, a pennywhistle, and a harp playing along with them.

Dynamic Mike wrote:Maybe it's the fact that some of it relies upon tonality & timbre rather than composition? Much like a train running along a track is a pleasant sound, it isn't necessarily musical just because it's enjoyable to listen to. Not saying I agree, just speculating.

Yes, it almost seemed as if he was emulating some of the quotes above. It's hard to believe that music which moves one person to tears of joy can be seen as vapid or vacuous to another. I remember reading a long time ago about a guy who was on the edge of suicide until listening to Yanni's CD Keys to Imagination, and that stopped him from killing himself. And to me, Keys to Imagination is quite amazing!
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:59 am

One person's 'melodic jazz' is anothers 'elevator music', it never ceases to amaze me how music can draw such varied opinions. In truth, it's all valid and has worth (well, all except the 'Bay City Rollers' and Kenny G :tongue: ).
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby ore_terra » Tue Dec 05, 2017 10:01 am

probably he doesn't recognize in new age stuff that is basic for him, such as composition and structure!

more or less the same sort of reason that makes me think electronic dance music is not real music :lol:
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Butterfried Bacon » Wed Dec 06, 2017 12:47 am

ore_terra wrote:probably he doesn't recognize in new age stuff that is basic for him, such as composition and structure!

more or less the same sort of reason that makes me think electronic dance music is not real music :lol:

I'm hoping to change that, but I don't know if it'll work. It seems like if it was possible to make "electronic dance music" both something you could dance and also more musically impressive, someone would have done it by now. Take the film composer John Williams. What if he broke out a DAW and composed some electronic dance music using only synthesizers and his own custom patches. What would it sound like? What would Mozart do with a DAW?
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Sam Inglis » Wed Dec 06, 2017 7:57 am

I suppose that if you thought the spiritual foundation of New Age music was bogus, that would be a sense in which it is built on a lie. Though no-one seems to argue the same about the music of JS Bach.
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Temp » Wed Dec 06, 2017 8:26 am

Interesting. Maybe the 'lie' has something to do with the New-Age composer attempting to disingenuously affect the spirituality of the listener? Like most genres that gain widespread popularity, I get the impression that this particular bandwagon quickly filled up with monkey-see artists assuming that whalesong and rainsticks were going to take their listeners to a higher plane. A lot of folks - including myself - regard this type of message with the same skepticism as TV evangelism. I don't think it's the music per se, but the hackneyed impression that precedes it. Hip-hop has its bitches, bling and guns, country has its whining self-piteous cowboys, trance has its tree-hugging trustafarians and punk has its phlegm-hurling nasty bastards. Perhaps when any genre becomes popular, the opponents of its trappings also become more prevalent and vocal.

To dislike the palette of a certain type of music is understandable, to dislike its message is perhaps more so.

Cheers.
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Wonks » Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:32 am

I'd have assumed it was more aimed at the CDs of ocarina + breathy pad versions of well known tunes that were often sold under the New Age banner.
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Re: What Is a Lie in Music?

Postby Butterfried Bacon » Thu Dec 07, 2017 8:54 am

Temp wrote:Interesting. Maybe the 'lie' has something to do with the New-Age composer attempting to disingenuously affect the spirituality of the listener? Like most genres that gain widespread popularity, I get the impression that this particular bandwagon quickly filled up with monkey-see artists assuming that whalesong and rainsticks were going to take their listeners to a higher plane. A lot of folks - including myself - regard this type of message with the same skepticism as TV evangelism. I don't think it's the music per se, but the hackneyed impression that precedes it. Hip-hop has its bitches, bling and guns, country has its whining self-piteous cowboys, trance has its tree-hugging trustafarians and punk has its phlegm-hurling nasty bastards. Perhaps when any genre becomes popular, the opponents of its trappings also become more prevalent and vocal.

To dislike the palette of a certain type of music is understandable, to dislike its message is perhaps more so.

Cheers.

I remember reading somewhere a long time ago that some music ended up in the new age genre because it was quite a bit different from other types of music and they just didn't know how else to classify it. I guess "New Age" just ended up being a catch-all for "uncategorized" music. For example, John Tesh is found in the new age genre, but his first albums, planted right in the New Age category, was simply music from the Tour de France. People liked the music and they wanted to have a copy to listen to without all the sports going on behind it. At the other end of the spectrum is Constance Demby from Hearts of Space (spacemusic). According to her Wikipedia entry, she began playing classical piano at eight years old and was performing concertos at age twelve. Written about her Novus Magnificat release, "USA Today wrote, "There is no other recording in the electronic genre rooted in the harmonies of Bach and the romantics that is so heartfelt" and it was noted for "its Bach-like organs crescendos, its Vivaldi-like string passages" in Pulse! magazine." She overtly describes her music as transformational, and some listeners seem to agree on this page about her Santcum Sanctorum album.

http://www.constancedemby.com/sanctum.html

Anyway, I guess perception is 9/10ths of reality when it comes to musical taste. To some, Constance is a liar. To some, she's a gift from God. lol I happen to enjoy her music because it's mostly synthetic, and because it's so different from other things I've listened to. I first discovered her on the first Hearts of Space sampler released in 1990. I knew I would be listening to "spacemusic", and her track "Moving On" did seem to be music from some primordial memory, forgotten for so long that the playing of it was both new and distantly familiar. That was before I knew about her spiritual side. I didn't really feel like I was being lied to, however. It felt like an aural enema. :lol:

If I could sum up my goal in electronic music production, it would be to create grand soundscapes like Constance has created, but in a way that makes you feel like dancing. (Even though I don't dance myself.)
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