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What Makes Music Bad? A New Scale: Part I, the Definition
http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=2431 ^ | William M. Briggs

Posted on 05/27/2010 5:12:48 AM PDT by mattstat

It might have been coming out of the air space between her ear buds and flesh, or it might have been seeping through the holes in the woman's head. Either way, that endless, non-varying thump-thump-thump was making me nuts.

This experience is similar that one endures when listening to a well known song by a bubblegum band named after an ubiquitous insect. The one in which the lyric, "I want to hold your hand" is repeated over and over and over and over and...

The "Boss", Bruce---Bruce!---Springsteen uses this technique as a bludgeon: "Born in the USA!...I was...[wait for it]...Born in USA!" Repetitiveness is such an integral part of this man's music that you have the idea he is ad-libbing most of his songs, though drawing on a shallow fund of imagination.

And then there is the sheer, gut-wrenching awfulness of most modern children's music, which includes music supposedly sung for the benefit of children. "Banana Phone" and "We are the World" come to mind. Not only are the lyrics of these songs simpleminded, but their melodies are brief, trivial; a handful of phrases recapitulated dozens of times in one sitting. Thinking children idiots is a recent phenomenon, incidentally.

Need I repeat what makes music awful?...

(Excerpt) Read more at wmbriggs.com ...


TOPICS: Music/Entertainment; Science
KEYWORDS: badmusic; beatles; music

1 posted on 05/27/2010 5:12:48 AM PDT by mattstat
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To: mattstat

Much of the new contemporary “Christian” church music also fits this bill. Inane repeatings of the same, shallow lyrics, often on the same repeated note. The Wesleys and Newton would have covered their ears and raced for the doors.


2 posted on 05/27/2010 5:17:07 AM PDT by fwdude (It is not the liberals who will destroy this country, but the "moderates.")
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To: mattstat

Hundreds of good symphonies, string quartets, and concertos have been recorded, and are widely sold at low prices.

Why not buy some and listen to them?


3 posted on 05/27/2010 5:17:25 AM PDT by proxy_user
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To: proxy_user

I can do better and listen to them free at, among other places, Pandora.

The real question is: how do we stop the non-stop assault of bad music in public?


4 posted on 05/27/2010 5:20:11 AM PDT by mattstat
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To: mattstat

THANKS FOR THIS.

IT’S A MAJOR ISSUE WITH ME.

That’s a long overdue article.


5 posted on 05/27/2010 5:20:33 AM PDT by Quix (THE PLAN of the Bosses: http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/religion/2519352/posts?page=2#2)
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To: mattstat

Who can forget Yoko Ono?


6 posted on 05/27/2010 5:24:53 AM PDT by caver (Obama: Home of the Whopper)
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To: mattstat
Beethoven would disagree. Listen to his Fifth Symphony. It is a phrase repeated endlessly.

LLS

7 posted on 05/27/2010 5:25:55 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: caver

Who?

(don’t make me remember)


8 posted on 05/27/2010 5:27:46 AM PDT by ctdonath2 (+)
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To: mattstat

“The real question is: how do we stop the non-stop assault of bad music in public?”

Earplugs work for me.


9 posted on 05/27/2010 5:27:57 AM PDT by proxy_user
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To: fwdude

Much of the new contemporary “Christian” church music also fits this bill. Inane repeatings of the same, shallow lyrics,

Amen!


10 posted on 05/27/2010 5:28:05 AM PDT by Recon Dad ( USMC SSgt Patrick O - 3rd Afghanistan Deployment - Day 216)
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To: LibLieSlayer

This is a point; however, the repetitions you speak of are weak, in the sense that the four-note phrase is varied, expanded, called and answered in multiple ways.

Plus, and this is key, the repetitions form a small part of the entire piece. MB is a ratio.


11 posted on 05/27/2010 5:28:11 AM PDT by mattstat
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To: mattstat

Counterexamples:
Philip Glass, Steve Reich.


12 posted on 05/27/2010 5:31:25 AM PDT by ctdonath2 (+)
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To: proxy_user
Rap music, played at high volume in public places, is a hate crime against my ears.

Perpetrators of that crime should receive many years in prison, if not capital punishment, IMO.

It's one more example of the death spiral of our culture. Not just the music, but the concept that it is acceptable to assail the ears of those around you with repulsive, racist, hateful, misgynistic noise.

13 posted on 05/27/2010 5:31:49 AM PDT by I Buried My Guns (Novare Res!)
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To: mattstat

I had skin like leather and the diamond-hard look of a cobra
I was born blue and weathered but I burst just like a supernova
I could walk like Brando right into the sun
Then dance just like a Casanova
With my blackjack and jacket and hair slicked sweet
Silver star studs on my duds like a Harley in heat
When I strut down the street I could hear its heartbeat
The sisters fell back and said “Don’t that man look pretty”
The cripple on the corner cried out “Nickels for your pity”
Them gasoline boys downtown sure talk gritty
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city

I was the king of the alley, mama, I could talk some trash
I was the prince of the paupers crowned downtown at the beggar’s bash
I was the pimp’s main prophet I kept everything cool
Just a backstreet gambler with the luck to lose
And when the heat came down it was left on the ground
The devil appeared like Jesus through the steam in the street
Showin’ me a hand I knew even the cops couldn’t beat
I felt his hot breath on my neck as I dove into the heat
It’s so hard to be a saint when you’re just a boy out on the street

And the sages of the subway sit just like the living dead
As the tracks clack out the rhythm their eyes fixed straight ahead
They ride the line of balance and hold on by just a thread
But it’s too hot in these tunnels you can get hit up by the heat
You get up to get out at your next stop but they push you back down in your seat
Your heart starts beatin’ faster as you struggle to your feet
Then you’re outa that hole and back up on the street

And them South Side sisters sure look pretty
The cripple on the corner cries out “Nickels for your pity”
And them downtown boys sure talk gritty
It’s so hard to be a saint in the city


14 posted on 05/27/2010 5:32:50 AM PDT by babble-on (another one of Springsteen's monotonous unimaginative songs)
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To: LibLieSlayer
Beethoven's 5th came to my mind too. It's not pure repetition though. It's a motif. I use it when I teach kids about musical motif. True, the phrase- da da da daaaaaaa, repeats and is reused, but the tempo changes, the motif is used to shape the various chord changes, it shifts from minor to major and back again, etc.

A better example is Ravel's Bolero.

The truth is that this article, while thought provoking, is off the mark. Repetition is a legitimate device. It can be used well or not, just like any other musical device.

Pop music--the focus of the article--is repetitive by design. A single song only contains one or two ideas. These ideas are not developed very deeply. That doesn't make it bad. It just makes it pop.

Is a french fry bad? Is a lollipop bad? Is a cheesburger bad? No. They just fulfill a different purpose than something more complex.

15 posted on 05/27/2010 5:38:21 AM PDT by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: caver

Yoko Uggoth: That which screams without a voice.

Truly a Lovecraftian horror.


16 posted on 05/27/2010 5:39:00 AM PDT by MrEdd (Heck? Geewhiz Cripes, thats the place where people who don't believe in Gosh think they aint going.)
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To: fwdude

This was brought home to me with a commercial for some kind of juice. The “singing sensation” I had never heard of droning “shine on, shine on...”


17 posted on 05/27/2010 5:43:24 AM PDT by Paisan
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To: Huck
Is a french fry bad? Is a lollipop bad? Is a cheesburger bad? No. They just fulfill a different purpose than something more complex.

Excellent analysis.....how true.....then again there's INNAGODADAVIDABABY.... Can we cry out in horror over one repetition?

18 posted on 05/27/2010 5:44:12 AM PDT by cbkaty (Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy---W Churchill)
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To: Huck

>> Is a french fry bad? Is a lollipop bad? Is a cheesburger bad? <<

If you eat them once a month or even once a week, they’re OK. But if you eat them every day, and especially if you don’t eat much of anything else, then they’re prone to ruin your health.

Same with music. An inane song here and there is harmless. But a steady, exclusive diet of today’s “pop” music is nothing short of horrible.


19 posted on 05/27/2010 5:47:12 AM PDT by Hawthorn
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To: Hawthorn
But a steady, exclusive diet of today’s “pop” music is nothing short of horrible.

That's probably true, but that's not the songs fault, just as it isn't the french fry's fault if that's all you eat. It doesn't make the thing itself bad. It just means the consumer of the thing is stupid.

Last night I listened to Chopin for about an hour. Speaking of repetition, I think I listned to his Nocturne in Eb 5 times in a row. But that doesn't mean I can't appreciate Bo Diddley.

20 posted on 05/27/2010 5:50:14 AM PDT by Huck (Q: How can you tell a party is in the majority? A: They're complaining about the fillibuster.)
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To: mattstat

I think lack of skill, talent, etc. in musicians and composers = bad music.

When you listen to a piece of music written/performed by people who CARE about what they are doing, know the process, respect the form, bother to stay in tune and actually keep their instruments in tune... then it can’t be bad music.

It doesn’t matter whether it is classical, contemporary or anything else. That is why when you listen to Classical you want to hear the NY Philharmonic doing Beethoven’s symphony, and not some schlock outfit .... you want to hear ZZ Top doing rock and roll not a bunch of adolescent creeps who couldn’t keep it together if their lives depended on it.

Here’s an example of what I mean, though it is about the ballet. I am not an authority on ballet but this was MY introduction to the difference between ‘talent’ and NO talent:

I went to see the National Ballet do ‘Sleeping Beauty’. For the first 30 minutes or so, the chorus was performing and it was nice all the costumes, lights, color, music…etc. Super, I thought: ‘so this is the ballet!’.

THEN… the stage cleared and the prima ballerina came out. She began to dance and SIMULTANEOUSLY… as if on cue, the entire audience (myself included) gasped!!! She was THAT spectacular and THAT much different from everything else which was presented to that point. I had never been to the ballet, and I recognized it instantly. It was obvious at once that SHE was what it was all about and it only got better from there. I was almost sorry for all the others in the troupe.

I understood immediately the whole production was a mechanism to showcase talent. It is the same for all the arts.

In American popular culture, almost NONE of the people calling themselves artists are equal to the standard. They are a sham.


21 posted on 05/27/2010 5:52:52 AM PDT by SMARTY ("What luck for leaders that men do not think". A. Hitler)
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To: mattstat
This is why I like Ballads
Long narrative stories in song

Examples
Harry Chapin
- Cats In the Cradle
Arlo Guthrie
- Alice's Restaurant

22 posted on 05/27/2010 6:08:01 AM PDT by HangnJudge
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To: mattstat

Inversion, repetition... it is all in the math.

LLS


23 posted on 05/27/2010 6:15:25 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: Huck

Very true... I did not think of Ravel... but then that makes me thing of Bo... yum!

LLS


24 posted on 05/27/2010 6:24:52 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: mattstat
This experience is similar that one endures when listening to a well known song by a bubblegum band named after an ubiquitous insect.

Bubblegum band? This guy doesn't have anything useful to say about popular music.

25 posted on 05/27/2010 6:28:24 AM PDT by Interesting Times (For the truth about "swift boating" see ToSetTheRecordStraight.com)
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To: LibLieSlayer

“Beethoven would disagree. Listen to his Fifth Symphony. It is a phrase repeated endlessly.”

Although I never really liked Beethoven’s 5th very well, at least in comparison to the 6th (Pastoral), 9th symphonies, and most of his other compositions, I disagree somewhat with your comment on the phrase being repeated endlessly. The rythmic phrase is repeated, but the chords and even the intervals between the melody notes are changing on each repetition so that the “Da-da-da-dahhh” rythmic phrase begins with a downward major third interval, immediately followed by a downward minor third interval, and pretty soon the rythmic phrase is repeated with a downward semitone interval, etc.


26 posted on 05/27/2010 6:35:32 AM PDT by Texan Tory
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To: fwdude
Much of the new contemporary “Christian” church music also fits this bill. Inane repeatings of the same, shallow lyrics, often on the same repeated note. The Wesleys and Newton would have covered their ears and raced for the doors.

I couldn't agree more. As far as I'm concerned, very few decent hymns have come out since "No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus" by Charles F. Weigle (1932) and "Jesus Is Always There" by Bertha Lillenas (1934)--and I didn't post links to them because it seems that only insipid "modern" arrangements of these tunes are available online.

27 posted on 05/27/2010 6:44:05 AM PDT by Fiji Hill
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To: mattstat
Briggs must be a little too smart for me. Here's some of the "repetitive" music I like:

I've Been Everywhere

Pachelbel's Canon in D

The Boogie Woogie Flu

The Orange Blossom Special (Don Rich)

28 posted on 05/27/2010 6:53:18 AM PDT by Richard Kimball (We're all criminals. They just haven't figured out what some of us have done yet.)
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To: Texan Tory
Yes technically you are correct. I hate today's music but the repetition thing has been around a long time. Today's music is not music to me. Most of it is just commercial trash written by software algorithms.

LLS

29 posted on 05/27/2010 7:11:38 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: babble-on
I'm a big fan of early Springsteen. In my opinion, he captures a certain aspect of the 1970's very well. Then he became a superstar and (IMO) lost his touch.

I suspect that I like a lot of music which Briggs would dislike -- but I agree with his basic premise that most of what passes for popular music today has very little redeeming value.

30 posted on 05/27/2010 7:18:17 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy
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To: Richard Kimball

1. Did we see the part where the MB measure is meant to be taken in a probabilistic sense? That is, a piece of music might receive a score of 0.5 (in all dimensions), which means there is roughly a 50% chance that it is bad.

2. Do not take this as a criticism of your choices, but surely you agree with me that because you (or anybody) likes a piece of music does not mean that music is good.


31 posted on 05/27/2010 8:05:15 AM PDT by mattstat
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To: Paisan

“This was brought home to me with a commercial for some kind of juice. The “singing sensation” I had never heard of droning “shine on, shine on...”’

So glad I wasn’t the only one that hated that! And it was on so often. It got to where I was running out of the room with my ears covered (it was quicker than finding the remote)


32 posted on 05/27/2010 8:08:29 AM PDT by smalltownslick
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To: Interesting Times

God had an inordinate fondness for beetles, not Beatles.


33 posted on 05/27/2010 8:09:54 AM PDT by mattstat
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To: mattstat
This is repetitive, but she was one hip chick! Link
34 posted on 05/28/2010 7:57:19 PM PDT by brianr10
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To: LibLieSlayer
Beethoven would disagree. Listen to his Fifth Symphony. It is a phrase repeated endlessly.

Or even worse, the "classical" version of almost every U2 song:



and:


35 posted on 05/28/2010 8:17:49 PM PDT by aruanan
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To: fwdude
Much of the new contemporary “Christian” church music also fits this bill. Inane repeatings of the same, shallow lyrics, often on the same repeated note. The Wesleys and Newton would have covered their ears and raced for the doors.

Amen. I have NO use for any church that has ever heard of the phrase 'worship team'.

36 posted on 05/28/2010 8:20:43 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (No apologies.)
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To: aruanan

Nice catch!

LLS


37 posted on 05/29/2010 8:37:47 AM PDT by LibLieSlayer ( WOLVERINES!)
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To: Colonel_Flagg
I have NO use for any church that has ever heard of the phrase 'worship team'.

That, and 'worship center.' Or how about calling their property a 'campus?'

38 posted on 05/29/2010 1:27:32 PM PDT by fwdude (It is not the liberals who will destroy this country, but the "moderates.")
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To: fwdude

I’m with you on both.


39 posted on 05/29/2010 4:27:15 PM PDT by Colonel_Flagg (No apologies.)
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