Variety, Not Just for the Sake of…

My Inbox tells me some folks think I’m a music snob.

Well, I am. I prefer vocalists who can actually find and reproduce pitches accurately, as a bare starting point. (Most people can’t tell how very bad the vocals they listen to day in and day out are on just this very basic criterion.) After pitch production, still epaking of just vocalists here, tone, vowels, clarity and the degree to which a vocalist uses their instrument effectively all add up… or subtract from my consideration of their artistry.

And all this is quite apart from the artistry–or more usually lack of artistry–of the lyrics, the tune, the harmonies and rhythms of a simple vocal number, which is the most complex music most folks (don’t really) listen to.

And then, at some level, I’m always listening as well for ways I’d score the piece differently, ways I’d prefer the vocalist(s) and instrumentalists use their instruments differently, etc. Always rearranging and rescoring and re-performing pieces in my head. It’s a blessing and a curse.

Now, I’ve not been able to “correct” *heh* most orchestral works by really good composers in quite that way (although I usually have some small–or large–argument with a conductor on how he chooses o present a piece), largely because good composers and truly good instrumentalists (who have usually worked far longer and more diligently to create real chops than most pop “artists”) remove a grat deal of citical perdormance issues before the performance.

But still there is a lot of talent out there in the popular arena, and some of it has been burnished with enough hard work to be worth listening to. For example, despite the fact that I absolutely abhor the way Emi Fujita treats vowels (and the ocassional consonant) in her English performances, I have to give her a bit of a bye in that area simply because she is attempting English from her background as a native Japanese speaker, and I’d hate for, say, a native Russian speaker critique my Russian when singing a Mussorgsky piece! *heh* But I’d also have to cut her some slack because her performances are so very musical. Yes, I’d like to erradicate a couple of vocal idiosyncracies she exhibits, but surprisingly–to me–even otherwse annoying vocal habits are overcome by her simple artistry, where in lesser talents the same flaws stand out as glaring annoyances.

And her accompanying instrumentals are also always worth listening to–good arranging choices, more often than not.

Here’s an example–just a typical example, nothing special or out of the ordinary–of an average Emi Fujita performance:

08.Tir n`a Noir – Emi Fujita

Now, here’s the rub: I love her performances on many levels, but. *sigh* She seems to sometimes suffer from the same sort of problem many young students who are beginning to sing art songs in Italian, French, German or whatever suffer from: no real connections to the underlying meanings of the piece, just singing the notes and phonetically reproducing the sounds. I don’t get this feeling all that often from her, but it’s enough that it’s a small detraction. Small.

But even there, she’s so very, very much better than most American native English speaking popular vocalists that I almost despair for vocal music recording in these (dis)United States. *sigh* Almost. There are enough examples of good musical and lyrical artistry (Janis Ian comes readily to mind, for example) that I know musicality isn’t dead, but it’s discouraging to turn on the radio and be forced to turn it off, because there’s no music worth listening to.

So, yes, I am a music snob in that I much prefer actual music to regurgitated feces.

2 Replies to “Variety, Not Just for the Sake of…”

  1. I wonder how many of the people that think you’re a music snob are devotees of modern “music” such as rap and hip-hop? Or some of the awful trash that passes for music where the artist sounds like he’s screaming while attempting to gargle a mouthful of mud?

    Just about anyone that likes to listen to music would be a music snob to people that listen to that. Then again, music affects people in different ways, and one mans music is another man’s noise.

    At work TPTB decided that we MUST have some sort of background sound to make the place a bit less formal. They promised us they wouldn’t use music, but that they’d play nature sounds or white noise. After all, diverse music tastes don’t always mesh well. Of course they broke their promise after a single day. Then they moved out of the area where the music is being played and refuse to allow us to turn the crap OFF.

    Country music seems to be generally not liked at work. Various pop music forms work for some but not others. Still, every morning when I get to work it’s Reggae, and it all sounds the same to me. I hate it.

    I tried putting on an all bagpipe internet radio station for a while (I happen to like bagpipes, but I deliberately chose it to annoy). Our Reggae fan told me “your music all sounds the same,” to which I replied “so does yours.”

    I don’t know about snobbery. Listen to what you like, and analyze it as you will. Getting lots of people to agree though… I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    By the way, I’ve enjoyed the bits of music that you have posted.

  2. re: music in the workplace.

    I used to keep up on the literature on the p-sych/physiologocal effects of music on mental/physical health, but it’s been many, many years now since I was anything close to current. Last I was even moderately well-read on the topic, vocal music of darned near any kind was bound to lower workplace productivity. Instrumental music–and most definitely Baroque through Classical period–tended to heighten mental acuity and ameliorate the effects of physical ennervation even among folks who expressed distaste for or even active animosoty toward the forms. *heh* Often called The Mozart Effect by those who are adamantly subliterate on the topic (Mozart was late Classical period), even when played at nearly inaudible levels, Baroque and Classical period music seemed to have the same beneficial effects.

    Romantic period, notsomuch (the wider–HUGE–dynamic ranges of much properly performed Romantic period instrumental–especially ensemble, orchestral–music may have something to do with that).

    But I can find refreshment, invigoration and edification in nearly everything from Bach to Brahms. Just try listening the The Academic Festival Overture and NOT come away a better person. 🙂

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