Author Topic: Pop as part of a vision?  (Read 2255 times)

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    • The Music of Ronald J Brown
Pop as part of a vision?
« on: July 20, 2011, 08:24:42 AM »
For the past 12 years or so, since I picked up this composing business again, I feel I've been gropping. I've tried different techniques and styles. One thing that keeps calling me back are stories that I find very moving. For example, I've written about the deaths of sealers in the North Atlantic, and I've written about the forceable reloaction of Inuit in Canada's north. The problem, though I feel very deeply about the issues involved, is that I have never been in the North Atlantic during a storm, or in the high Arctic. The result, I think, was a kind of abstract intellectual approach.

I've been do I marry the passions I feel with my intellectual understanding of music? I've grown up in virtual isolation. I left home at 14, dropped out of high school, got a university degree and taught high school for many years in a remote First Nations community--then entered Ottawa as an over-priced computer consultant...and now I'm here. I've enjoyed working with the disenfranchized for the past 6-7 years while doing their taxes for H&R Block. I've always had a special bond with those pushed out of "mainstream" life. But, I can't incorporate their music into my musical world any more than I can incorporate the music of our First Nations. Primarily, because neither is a part of my basic personality.

So, what is? I can go back to my childhood of smaltzy music (Bing Crobsy, Patti Page), and Scottish folk. And, what about later?  At 14 when I rejected the middle-class world I was brought up in, I also adopted an absolute distain, as only a young adolescent can, for the popular music being presented to me. It didn't take long for me to realize that all that Rock n Roll could give me was a 4-chord progression: C - Am - F - G, with breaks on C - F - C. That certainly carries strong emotions but it tires the ear very quickly. I withdrew into reading the scores of Schoenberg and Stravinski ignoring what what going on around me. The Beatles? Interesting, but they never grabbed me. Bob Dylan was the first singer whose lyrics I could hear and understand (most vocal music, to me, is a string of meaningless syllables); he certainly spoke my language. Then I withdrew into academia and packed music away for a few years.

Now I've started going back and taking a second look at music of the past 40 years. It's always been there, in the background. It has had its influences on me though I never was a "Top-40" fan. And, I've started to look again--and realize that about the time I dropped out of listening to pop music (around the time of the early Beatles), popular music started undergoning a tremendous change. The four-chord mantra of the 50's and first half of the '60's is long gone (thank goodness!), but, what has replaced it is very interesting musically. I've started looking at the harmonies that have been playing in the background. Here's an early sample (The Beatles, "8 Days a Week"): D - E - G - D - D - E - G. A very simple progression, but it defies traditional major-minor analysis. Here's another, from later Beatles ("Across the Universe"):  D - Dmaj7 - F#m - Em7 - A - A7 - D - Dmaj7 - F#m - Em7 - Gm. They never learned that in basic theory class.

So, I am thinking, and investigating, but I think I might have hit upon a way to integrate my musical vision, passion, and intellect.  ::) I'll keep you posted.
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