I’ve always found it interesting (and valuable) to begin to dissect why we hear certain compositions and are immediately able to discuss them in terms of success. Our ears are trained to hear catchy melodies and let them stick, and it’s oftentimes true that the more catchy the melody, the better we feel calling it a ‘good’ song. If music as we know it in the Western world is merely a series of frequencies played in varying timbres for different amounts of time–if it is something we can understand both as a natural phenomenon as well as a science, it’s interesting to begin to look at music people love and why. For whatever reason many find it’s embarrassing to admit to loving a pop song, when in reality a good pop song just might be the easiest thing to love. We hear and immediately understand simplicity in music in a way that’s oftentimes difficult to see and understand in the visual arts. This has always interested me. At it’s core, pop music is formulaic. It is easily reproduced and is rarely heard as complicated. In the visual arts, it would be hard say this kind of formulaic medium exists in the same way.
Looking at the way the concept of timbre shapes the way we emotionally connect to song–particularly considering how a singer’s voice can convey different sensations–is fascinating. The example of Sting was a great one–the repeated high-reaching line on Roxanne vs the longing one in Every Breath You Take– there is something about how the Roxanne line leaves the singer more vulnerable. It’s a stretch. But he gets there every time. And we can relate to that. A singers voice is something we connect with on many levels but I think it’s often our point of entry in engaging a composition.
In a funny way I think the reading drove me more to thinking about what it is that immediately turns us off as listeners. For example, is ‘classical’ music ‘boring’ to younger generations because they’ve been inundated with pop music? And is pop music actually more ‘exciting’ than classical music or is this something that is ingrained in us? And if so, is it ingrained in us based on the science behind pop music–the elements that make it what it is–or is it ingrained in us by a machine who seeks to control all that goes in our ears??
If music (and maybe marketing?) can be understood in specific scientific terms, is it possible to one day determine the precise elements that make up a perfectly composed pop song? Or is emotion still a part of the equation? Do we need to feel that the singer means what he says? Or is it enough to hear the words through a moving melody?
Food for thought. Nomnom.