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Music theory, musicianship and exposure in relation to technical music

Discussion in 'Spastic Ink/Watchtower' started by sands of the seas, Feb 26, 2005.

  1. sands of the seas

    sands of the seas Of Another World

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    I'm just curious as to how much music theory fans of Spatic Ink, Watchtower and technical music in general possess. Is it because you have knowledge in music theory that you can appreciate bands like this so much, or do you just find the music pleasant to listen to, without knowing anything about theory?
    What about playing an instrument? Do you think the ability to play a particular instrument gives you some sort of insight into the music that allows you to enjoy it more than the average listener perhaps?
    Or are there fans here who know neither any music theory nor how to play an instrument?

    I was listening to... i can't remember what it was, but i was listening to a band the other day and i just thought that perhaps the reason people can't get into the more technical bands is because of their lack of understanding just how much skill it takes, or how complicated it can yet. They might hear it and think it just sounds like some chaotic mess, but when people with some sort of understanding of theory or understanding of a music instrument - even if it's not that advanced - hear it, perhaps they can appreciate it and get into it more because of that.

    I don't mean to sound elitist or anything in this post, i'm just genuinely interested in seeing people's views on this subject. I've noticed Ron mention on this board his distaste for the state of progressive music and some of you echoing this sentiment. So i'm wondering what the cause of this is. Obviously fans who do appreciate technical and progressive music are loyal and dedicated to that kind of music. I mean it's not like there are loads of technical bands for fans to swim in. I think this loyalty goes some way to keeping the technical music we do have afloat in the vast sea of other music, but this just brings us the question: why aren't there more fans?

    I've mentioned Spastic Ink to some of my friends before and none of them have even heard of them. We're not talking your average music listener here either. We're talking musicians who can and do appreciate progressive and technical music. So now this leads me to believe that perhaps it's all an exposure problem, but then i can only speak about exposure from the viewpoint of a musician and metal fan living in Melbourne, Australia. And from that viewpoint, the only reason i have gotten into progressive music is because of the internet. Up until now that's the only way i've been able to hear about this kind of music, and most of the time i'm forced to purchase albums on the internet because no stores carry the stuff.
    A lot of people would not be in the same situation as me so they are at a severe disadvantage when it comes to discovering this kind of stuff. I'm not sure if it's the same in other countries.

    Anyway i'm interesting in hearing what others here have to say about this subject.
     
  2. fragility

    fragility Member

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    Well, I play guitar and bass (and now starting my first adventures in 'keyboard drums') and I'd say my theory is pretty good - even if I abandon thinking like that when writing half the time. Most fans of spastic ink or technical music in general I know play instruments, and most of them have some good theory knowledge.

    Of course exposure is also a problem for spastic ink in terms of getting as big a fan base as possible. But I don't think the majority of your average music fan would really 'get it'

    In short, I have just woken up and as a result I'm bablbing a load of nonsense, but I kind of agree with everything you wrote and belive it to be a combination of those factors.

    Oh, and I also agree about the Internet - I think it is the greatest tool that music fans have ever had, the ability to find a path of bands who sound like this band...and in turn bands who sound like them..and do that in one night when that would have taken goodness knows how long before, and might not even have been possible.
     
  3. juicerino

    juicerino New Metal Member

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    i think this is a very interesting and valid point to make. I agree that most of my current intersts in tech/metal bands has come from internet research and fairly intense seeking out of new music. However, i do feel that in some ways, myself and others i know have come up through listening to crap music only to realize that it was crap at some point. in 9th grade (about 8 years ago) i discovered that i liked Yes alot. and in realizing that Yes was not just a little better than Led Zeppelin, they were exponentially better than any other bands i liked at that point, i was able to begin searching out more music that exhibited good musianship as well as good songwriting and complication of rythms and structures. being a guitarist/bassist i soon began to see the qualities inherent in much of the other progressive music from that time: genesis, gentle giant, king crimson, and later, Rush; i can now appreciate that those bands as somewhat responsible the technical metal and other genres we have now. In terms of being a musician or not, im not sure it is ultimately important, i think its basically important to be a very observant and critical music listener to the best of your ability, some people are not designed be musicians and some musicians are not designed to do math or get real jobs. in my case it was very easy to appreciate a band like Spiral Architect as outrageously talented and progressive the first time i heard them, coming directly from the Yes world. in terms of theory and critical analysis of music it is nice to know why certain things work, and its fun to pick out awesome harmonies and polyrythms between the instruments and understand why certain transitions sound good. and as far as Elitism, it seems that once you enter the realm of bands like Spastic Ink and Spiral Architect its hard to listen to 'keyboard metal' that people wanna call progressive. personally i cant really listen bands like symphony x, gordian knot, power of omens, even dream theater has lost it in my book. sorry guys. anways, thats my 21 year old point of view, thanks.
     
  4. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    You just called GORDIAN KNOT and Symphony X (this underrated band that's way more progressive and original than Dream Theater has been since what, 1995?) keyboard metal?

    Ah well...

    -- From a guy who thinks Gordian Knot - S/T might be one of the best albums ever created, and the Rivers Dancing outro solo by you-know-who one of the most emotional, evocative and goosebump-inducing solos ever (you must be proud of that one, right, Ron?)

    Now, the 2nd one is kinda shitty in comparison to S/T...

    Well, that's enough of a detour for me. Other than this, I understand your sentiments on the topic at hand and I don't disagree with them.
     
  5. The_Human_Abstract

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    I don't think that to enjoy music you have to know how what you are listening to, and how it is comprised. Many jazz fans don’t have a clue as to how free flowing the music they are listening to is and why should they? Understanding how a piece of music is written can really open up a song and make it appear in a different light but it can also do the opposite, as simplistic music can suddenly appear dull and yet be more satisfying to listen to.
     
  6. fragility

    fragility Member

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    Exactly, I think that being a musician or non-musician makes you listen to and appreciate music in entirely different ways, and it can sometimes be great to have both perspectives
     
  7. sands of the seas

    sands of the seas Of Another World

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    That's true i never thought of it like that. It's just i'm not aware of any non-musicians who are into the more technical kind of music. Come to think of it, i don't know many non-musicians anyway :err: :p I guess i shouldn't assume so much
     
  8. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    There are such people. The thing is, when you're a musician with lots of musician friends, you get exposed to much more stuff. Most "normal" (no hissy fits please) people just don't know some stuff exists. And to tell you the truth, if you haven't listened to some crazy stuff for a little while, you just won't really like John Zorn's Naked City hehe.
     
  9. jimbobhickville

    jimbobhickville Tyrant in Distress

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    I am not a musician, nor do I know anything about music theory. You don't have to have studied theory to recognize when something is unique, original, and difficult to play. I guess I just have an ear for it. I do often get comments that people are shocked that I don't play an instrument, yet appreciate music like Spastic Ink, Spiral Architect, etc. I dunno; I guess I'm just an anomaly.

    As for the comment about Gordian Knot not being progressive, that's a bunch of crap. It may not be as fast or complicated as Ink, but it's definitely progressive stuff. Dream Theater is arguable, though I do still enjoy their new stuff. Symphony X has never really progressed more than being an Yngwie ripoff, albeit a better-than-the-original ripoff. Michael Romeo's guitars certainly are complex, but the music overall isn't that original. Power of Omens is on the complex end of 'keyboard metal', only because of the drumming. But, unfortunately, their strength is also their weakness. The drumming feels distracting backing up the 'keyboard metal' sound they play. I still give 'em a spin now and then, though. I used to really love the debut, but it has faded with time.

    But, you shouldn't trust my opinion, my favorite CD of 2004 was Sleepytime Gorilla Museum "Of Natural History".

    How is "Naked City"? I've heard good things, but never tracked down any mp3s. Maybe I'll blind buy it sometime, but I honestly forgot about it until you mentioned it.
     
  10. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    You're wrong on Dream Theater vs. Symphony X. Try to look past the 1 or 2 obligatory stinker songs on The Divine Wings of Tragedy and forward. Sure, you might not like it, but one should try to get ones facts straight : )

    Like the insane part in Accolade where they layer about 6 or 7 different time sigs at the same time (polymetrics mind you, not polyrhythmics. I forget how many, but there are 4s, 5s, 7s, 10s and a 13 there IIRC) — quite original indeed (note, I'm not saying technicality automagically means quality). Sure, Romeo might repeat himself in his riffage and sometimes they rip off themselves, but when it comes to rip-offage, no one can beat Dream Theater. Their songs starting with half the songs on FiI consist of other artists' riffs and songs, pretty much. After FiI, they haven't written one original note of music. But hey, to a DT fan, there are no rip-offs, only "homages".

    There's not that much Yngwie in Symphony X after The Damnation Game and forward, actually, and that's just the choice of scales. I've always strongly disliked Yngwie's music and playing (he's very overrated, in all areas), and I like Symphony X. Go figure. Heh.

    Sleepytime Gorilla Museum are great, but I found their new album to be quite a bit less captivating than their debut. Most songs come off as being too same-y. 2nd track is a stand-out however, and I'm having trouble filtering out Carla Kihlstedt's awful singing... Nils said she would sing less on the new album... he lied : (

    Describing Naked City is impossible. You should probably start with the S/T from 1990 or Torture Garden from... 1993? My memory fails me yet again.
     
  11. slayve

    slayve New Metal Member

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    Great topic. It's the age-old question. What is art? Or more accurately what is "good" art? The paintings you get at the mall with little lights in them or illuminated waterfalls? People buy that crap by the thousands. Does is make it "real" art? I don't think so. In general you have to have some understanding or knowledge about art to really appreciate and/or differentiate between what is "good" or "bad". Now that doesn't always apply, I know some people who have absolutely no education or background in art but they can really appreciate a nice painting or sculpture and have the ability to point out why it is "real" artwork. Which brings me to the subject of "Spastic Ink" or just complex music in general. First of all, let me say that I think Ron is a true artist and musician. His creativity, knowledge and control over his instrument is second to none. Most of my friends, some of who are musicians, are big fans of his. Now, having said that, alot of those same friends who listen to the old S.A. Slayer stuff, Watchtower and Spastic Ink, don't really listen too much to his "Solitarily..." cd. It kind of goes over their heads, the same way that classical music or some of the more progressive jazz music would. It's funny though quite a few "metal" musicians that I know won't really listen to that cd too much. They say it's "too complex". I think that that cd is just not meant for "mass consumption". It's not a "big mac" or a "pizza". It's not "mall" art. I'ts Picasso. I'ts H.R. Giger. It is sheer fucking genius. Without question. But It takes some research and education to really appreciate it. Like all "real" art.

    p.s. anyone in San Antonio should go see Ron's cover band, Dragonfly. They play every weekend here. They only play covers, but it's so cool to see Ron play Randy Rhoads or Kirk Hammet or Pantera solos. Note for godamn note. Cool stuff.

    later.
     
  12. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    Well, I'll just answer that by saying that music isn't art. The other "arts" don't even come close to pretending to attain the level on which music operates, so you can't draw parallels with art.

    There : )
     
  13. sands of the seas

    sands of the seas Of Another World

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    I'd say art is entirely subjective. There is no universal constancy for art. Art to me is whatever the person 'indulging' in it deems it to be. If cheap paintings with lights in them is what makes a person's soul sing how could that not be art? I agree with you Taedium Vitae so far as music to me is superior to any other form of art, but others may feel differently. Different art forms touch different parts of us. I think it's just a question of where you like to be touched the most :loco:
    I'm sure you were just talking form a personal viewpoint though.
     
  14. jimbobhickville

    jimbobhickville Tyrant in Distress

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    Sorry, I should clarify a couple things.

    I wasn't comparing DT to SymX in the slightest. I didn't say DT was still original, I just said I enjoyed their new stuff still. SymX I still enjoy on occasion, as well, I just said they weren't that progressive. I pointed out different things about both bands, but I largely feel the same about both. Enjoyable stuff from time to time, but not really all that progressive; not when compared to truly progressive stuff.

    As for Carla's vocals on SGM, I agree they aren't that great, but somehow they still work for me. I guess I just got used to them. I thought the CD was a bit samey at first, too, but it keeps getting better the more I listen to it.

    And what's wrong with paintings with lights on them? :) Seriously, though, I have a B&W photograph of a foggy scene with various light sources (headlights, lamp post, etc) replaced by christmas-tree lights. Normally I would think it was cheesy, but it looks damn cool. Everyone who sees it loves it.
     
  15. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    Alrighty, then I get what you're saying sir! I agree of course (not on the Carla thing though! Yikes). I still think you were unfair towards the New Jerseyans, but I'll live hehe.
     
  16. fragility

    fragility Member

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    I think its always important to remember one simple fact:

    People listen to music for different reasons and get different things out of it.

    For that reason music is really always going to be subjective. You can however, take one perspective and compare music from that viewpoint, which is when you can start talking about what is 'good' and 'bad'. People with similar reasons for listening to music may value similar things in it and therefore enjoy similar music. Without trying to sound elitist, I do tend to go with the standpoint that musicians are always going to have the 'better' viewpoint of music and understanding for me. However, we do always need to remember that the enjoyment of music is part of our make-up, we have evolved an appreciation of music and an ability to be 'musical' for very good reasons. For that reason, to limit ourselves purely to a musicians stand point and ignore the masses is to ignore part of what makes music so great.
     
  17. Taedium Vitae

    Taedium Vitae Member

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    That's something I really can't agree with, ever. And I AM an elitist... :\ Hehe.
    Retarded people (or musically challenged if you wish) are everywhere, and they can be found in the ranks of musicians as well.
     
  18. slayve

    slayve New Metal Member

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    Interesting points. Now, there's nothing wrong with "mall" or "flea market" art with little happy lights in them. Hell, my mom and my grandmom have some of that stuff hanging in their living rooms. But let's not confuse that with good and thought provoking art that hangs in museums or art galleries or something that someone put their heart and soul into and dedicated their life to. Now when I mentioned "art" earlier of course I was just talking about paintings or sculpture. But music IS art. Just like painting, dancing, acting, sculpting, almost anything that we can do to express ourselves creatively can be considered art. Which brings me back to the original topic. I play guitar. I love "progressive metal" or just progressive music in general. I love classical music. Blues. Old funk. I know, of course, that like all art, music is highly subjective. Everyone likes different things and what sounds good to one person might not sound good to someone else. I remember one time Ron asked me if there was any cool cd's I had heard lately. I recommended the new Nine Inch Nails cd which was at the time "Downward Spiral". I love that cd and I think it is a masterpiece. He heard it and he hated it. Now, I think most of us here in this forum love great guitar playing. We can hear a 5 minute guitar solo from Ron or Vai or Satriani, etc. and just be blown away. But it would bore most people who aren't musicians. Most people, but not all. Let me ask this. Do you think that in order to be a good or great guitarist you have to have "over the top" technique? In other words say you don't have the greatest knowledge of chords or can't play blazing fast scales, can you still "master" the instrument?
     
  19. fragility

    fragility Member

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    Oh no, that wasn't meant to be a hard and fast rule....just that on average, in my experience, some musicians tend to have been exposed to a greater variety of music and are those who take it seriously understand more about the composition of music so have an additional perspective....and I was only referring to the musicians who I respect, haha ;)


    With regards to the 'mastering the instrument' I would say that you do have to have some very good technical ability on your instrument for me to think of someone as having that title. It doesn't however, make you a good musician or make you a good guitarist (or whatever instrument). I suppose I just think of mastery of an instrument as being able to do things with that instrument that most people can't and to bring the sounds out of it that you want, but then that's only because I usually use that term 'mastery of an instrument' in that sort of theoretical/technique based context.
     
  20. slayve

    slayve New Metal Member

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    cool. i agree. when i go see bands or musicians i like to see them do things that i can't do. most of the time. but i also enjoy bands like the ramones, the sex pistols or green day who i think are genius in their simplicity. three chords. cool vocals. attitude.
     

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