Quincy Jones’ interview

They say software is eating the world. In the world of music production, software has given anyone with a computer or an iPad access to multiple sounds and techniques. Is this a valid replacement for the old school methods?

Quincy Jones doesn’t think so. In his recent, infamous interview with Vulture he claims that: “Musical principles exist, man,” he said. “Musicians today can’t go all the way with the music because they haven’t done their homework with the left brain. Music is emotion and science. You don’t have to practice emotion because that comes naturally. Technique is different. If you can’t get your finger between three and four and seven and eight on a piano, you can’t play. You can only get so far without technique. People limit themselves musically, man.”

I agree with him on some of this – A classically trained musician will presumably be able to get more out of a production studio (and an iPad) than I can with my untrained background. But, I also think that convenience and emotion trumps technical proficiency for a reason – it sells. And so we have music-by-numbers.

The internet has let the genie out the bottle. By giving publishing and creative power to anyone with a modem, the internet upended the music industry harder than any other i can think of. Music used to have the perfect model. Scarcity in its production process meant that money was made at an astounding rate, and this could be ploughed back into experimentation within the industry. However with the cash dissipating due to online piracy and access to resources – most songs on the radio are now designed to appeal to the masses, and to guarantee a sale. Much like we tend to have sequel movies at the cinema, new ground is rarely broken in the mainstream music world.

My response to Quincy is – so what? Move out of the mainstream then. What Quincy Jones fails to realise in his interview is that mainstream music is only one type of failing music. In fact, the term ‘mainstream’ and ‘pop’ are becoming less and less important. The internet has built up communities around every kind of genre you can imagine – from classical to afro-electronic beats driven by iPads – you can find it if you want to.

The problem is not a lack of proficient musicians or producers in the world. It is just that Quincy is looking for new things in the old places. And those old places are broken now.

 

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes

One of my favourite songs and it has this line:

“I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are, you make it hard.”

And then after the switchup in timing:

“I’ve got an answer, I’m going to fly away. What have I got to lose?”

And then a trippy guitar solo.

Magic.

Friday Music – The Preatures – “Girlhood”

A surprisingly good album with 80’s throwbacks. This pop rock group will have you thinking of icons from Cyndi Lauper to Sting and The Police.

The first three tracks are super and set the tone for the rest of the album – a straight rocker, a rocking ballad with country twangs and sweet chugging synth pop – all with such 80’s infusion, it’s the album equivalent of watching an episode of Stranger Things…..fewer monsters though.

The album is a burner, well worth exploration. Vocals never fail to offer fragility and strength in equal measure – the front-woman Manfredi can really sing. Lyrics and production show a mature understanding of their craft. Highs and lows make it a dynamic listen. There may be one or two too many songs on the album, but even the less arresting songs are better than most – I can see how it was a hard list to cull.

This album was offered up as a recommendation by Google Play and I am so glad it was.

Monday music

I have eclectic musical tastes. My father worked in the music industry for a long time in the 70’s and 80’s so I have a lot of old school rock in my collection. My mum loves classical music, and my grandma was a great pianist so I listen to some choral and baroque classical music – and my personal passion is blues and soul. Old school. I have also recently started listening to hip hop.

A look at the charts – the top ten on Google Play – is fairly meaningless to me now. Nobody is pushing the boundaries of any genre, and art is scarce when the aim is to appeal to the most number of people possible. When this is the case, inevitably the songs start to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Safe bets are placed like the countless sequels in the cinema.

That said, I like Rihanna and DJ Khaled’s song, Grateful. Also, Charlie Puth’s Attention is pretty good.

Streaming music

I like to think about the music industry.
For my streaming needs I oscillate between Google Play and Tidal depending on how pretentious I feel about streaming quality, and how much cash I have. In reality there is not much difference though – all of the major streaming services have an impossibly huge library, the convenience is amazing too. What is most interesting to me is the angst it brings me – Whenever I stream something I think to myself “am i doing this right?” – with LPs and CDs it was far more clearcut how best to listen to music. Now nobody knows.
Which is the best streaming service? It’s not an obvious answer or even an obvious question – Best for the listener? Best for the artist?
I live in South Africa and don’t have access to Spotify or Youtube Red (or whatever Youtube’s subscription options are) it seems to me that Soundcloud was trying to be the Youtube of music, but failed to make money – why? The music industry seems capable of flicking a switch and making an artist centered service like Soundcloud disappear almost overnight.
The whole streaming genre has taken a grip on my brain – it’s such a vast universe and there are so many ways to listen to music now – Which hardware is the best to use?
I follow it with interest and compulsion.