Friday, April 20, 2012

Concept Bands & Albums - Week 3

What is a concept band? What is a concept album? Why should I listen to them?

Here I am writing my third post and I think I may have became a little too excited. With all of the different aspects of music there are countless subjects that I could write about but this one has to be one of my personal favorites. Why is it so dear to my heart you ask? Because the idea of a concept band or album brings together two of my favorite mediums of art - music and fiction.

Fiction is important and relevant in modern society. In my sophomore history class I entered an argument with my teacher over the relevance of fiction and storytelling. His argument was since it "isn't real" why should we waste our time creating it, reading and learning about it? He has a concrete way of thinking which explains why he is a high school history teacher. (no offense, I love teachers and history) He thinks in absolutes. The idea that everything on this world can be explained with a yes or no. Music, art, literature, media, philosophy, culture and all of these things that are so important to our society are influenced by fiction and a higher level of thinking. Music can contain this higher way of thinking and has zero limits which is what makes it so beautiful.

We will start with one simple explanation. A concept album is a an album that has songs that relate to each other and flow in such a way that they all tell a story. One example of a concept album that everyone knows is Pink Floyd's Dark Side Of The Moon. This gives another level of artistic meaning and gives the musician more chances to express emotions through a story. My personal favorite concept album is by progressive metal band Opeth, with their album called "My Arms, Your Hearse." The album tells a story about a man who suddenly dies and soon his former lover finds a new husband. The formerly deceased man comes back to life by demons who didn't want him and he comes back to find his lover with somebody else and tries to murder the woman and her new husband. The music is gripping and the lyrics are painted with storytelling. Each and every song relates to the one before and the one after. The album flows and expresses emotions that I feel like traditional albums cannot express. This is why I encourage all who are reading this to give a concept album a try. In this weeks "music recommendations" I will include concept albums that I have enjoyed.

If a concept album is an album that tells a story, then what is a concept band? A concept band is what you may be expecting, a band that tells a story. These are more rare and I am going to be focusing on one, Coheed and Cambria. Coheed and Cambria is an extremely unique band with an interesting purpose. The bands lead singer and guitarist Claudio Sanchez is the writer for a comic book and novel series titled "The Amory Wars" (Shown below) He created this fictional science fiction universe and every single song written by his band is based on the events of the Amory Wars story. The band name itself is based off two main characters who are husband and wife. Emotions, opinions and ideas owned by the characters are portrayed in the bands lyrics and melodies. I cannot explain to you how much fun it is to listen to the music then dive deep into the story through the comics and learn about what you have been listening to. I encourage anyone who enjoys progressive rock style music to do the same.

So as we draw to the end of week 3, I have a one more thing to say about concept albums and bands. Try them out. You have nothing to lose and if you don't enjoy it you can go onto the next chapter in the quest for new music. Now onto other news... I have decided to mix things up a little bit concerning The Melody Within. Every fourth post will not be a blog post and will be a podcast. By doing this I can play audio samples and give better examples of what I am talking about. So be expecting a fresh, brand new podcast for week 4!

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.
Mastodon - Oblivion - From the concept album Crack The Skye
Opeth - Demon Of The Fall - From the concept album My Arms, Your Hearse
Coheed And Cambria - Delirium Trigger - From the concept album Second Stage Turbine Blade
Pink Floyd - Money - From the concept album Dark Side Of The Moon

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How The Internet Has Changed Music - Week 2

The Internet is a vast, somewhat new world. Has it benefited music in a positive or negative way?

On the internet we have Youtube, Facebook, The Pirate Bay, Limewire, Itunes, Myspace, (it's still alive) Pandora, Playlist, Rhapsody, Ultimate-Guitar, Amazon and Twitter. What do all of these websites and applications have in common? They all have influenced modern music in a unique way. 

The internet changed how we find and acquire music

It's 2012, the way we acquire music has changed and is always changing. Most music listeners do not go to a CD store or Walmart to purchase music anymore. The internet has changed how we are exposed to music. I personally love Pandora and everything about it. Sure, it gets repetitive and sometimes the artists are not the correct genre but Pandora can expose you to some phenomenal music. Social networking brings the artist straight to our doorstep. It lets us connect with an artist at any given moment and music can be distributed to fans in an instant. This has given countless musicians more chances to give themselves exposure. This is a very good thing!

The internet changed how we learn about music

This is the generation of self taught musicians! More beginners are learning music online. I myself learned a good portion of my own knowledge from the internet because professional instruction that one would pay hundreds of dollars for is now free and accessible twenty-four seven! For guitarists, a very good site is (has nothing to do with me) For bassists, Sites like these are of professional grade. Sure, there are the bad ones but aside from those the internet has become an encyclopedia for musical knowledge and has been helping people like you and I for years!

The internet changed how we organize live music

When is the last time you saw a physical show flyer? Social networking has become the king of bringing musicians and concert goers together and letting them organize shows and network. Through my own personal experience with local music, I would say 60% of a local bands exposure comes from the internet.  With that in mind, inviting people to come to your concert via networking can be much more beneficial than in-person marketing. Let's do an example. Lets say a band has a Facebook page that has 3,000 likes on that page. This band has a big concert coming up in a month, makes an event page for it and invites all 3,000 people to it. Those 3,000 people will see that as soon as they log into their Facebook. Compare that to posting a flyer in a music store that people usually just ignore if they even see it in the first place. With more people being interested in concerts, more people attend. More attendance results in better live music.

The internet has most definitely changed how we look at, create and promote music. In my personal yet humble opinion, the internet has BENEFITED music. The industry nuts will argue with me saying, "The internet has killed music! Everyone gets it for free! Labels are dying! Lower quality music is getting popular! The industry is dead! The internet is NOT A GOOD THING!" I respond with this explanation...

The music industry is not dead, it has just changed and has been leveled. Instead of greedy corporate labels controlling the industry, the industry is being controlled by the musicians. Anyone can make a name for themselves at any given time and that my friend is a VERY GOOD THING.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.

Kraftwerk - Radioactivity
Streetlight Manifesto - The Receiving End Of It All
Unwed Sailor - Firecracker

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Genres - Week 1

How do genres influence the artists we listen to?

"Nah man, I play in a folk psychedelic indie progressive hard rock band with some electronic and pop influences."

Genres are an identity to a piece of music. We use genres as a name tag to place on a song or artist. We hear people say all the time, "I listen to all kinds of rock" or "I just can't listen to any country." People will swear to that and be completely stubborn no matter what you try to tell them. That is how we get genre elitists.

Now don't get me wrong, I can sometimes fall into this category also. Honestly, there is little modern country that I enjoy. "But Justin, you live in Oklahoma, how could you possibly dislike country?"  How do I dislike country you ask? I just do. I can't really explain it, I just don't enjoy most country. But does that mean I should discard every single song that is in that genre? No, there is still country music that I enjoy!

In my personal opinion, that can be the downfall of most average music listeners and even musicians themselves. For example, I never saw myself listening to 40's and 50's r&b but something opened my eyes to it. It was the video game Fallout 3 that included a soundtrack of real r&b and swing from the era. While playing the game I was forced to listen to this music and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much that I dove into the genres and searched for new music that was similar. Is that what we as music listeners need sometimes? New ways to be opened to new music? Video game and movie soundtracks are a great way to find new styles of music. When searching for new music I must ask you to do one thing. Discard any genre information. Listen to the music itself without recognizing what style of music it is. If you like the song, then enjoy it! If you do not like the song, then move onto the next one! It's as easy as that. When finding new music, I ask all people to not let little stupid "identities" hinder their thirst for new music.

So as a musician and a songwriter, how can we use genres to our advantage? Most artists will write in one or two specific genres that will usually appeal to a certain crowd. Certain styles of music have unique instrument and vocal techniques along with melodic and rhythmic attributes that create a certain sound. This is all true, but my rule of thumb still applies. Do not limit your creativity to the styles of one genre. Progressive rock band Emerson Lake and Palmer was notorious for incorporating musical styles from other genres with full orchestras, organs and obscure vocal styles that didn't fit the "rock" genre. Did it matter though? No, in my opinion it pushed their creativity beyond belief and gave them the unique flavor that all artists strive for.

As a musician or a music listener, a good way to enrich your musical knowledge and interpretation is to be open minded. That does not mean you have to enjoy every single piece of music that touches your eardrum. It means that you should approach music with the ability to enjoy it. If you discard a piece of music just because it is "jazz" and you have this little voice in your head saying "It's jazz, it can't be good", then you are already going to miss out on new music. So if you get anything out of this huge block of text, let it be this...

Be open minded.

Until next week, stay loud and proud.

Music recommendations for this week.

Roy Brown - Butcher Pete
Andrew Bird - Tea And Thorazine
Mastodon - Blood And Thunder