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

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