Revolutionizing Music

Looking down my blog, “Music Through My Ears,” I wince at the small grey text beneath each post title. It reminds me that I have neglected sharing my ideas with my audience for several months. Writing blog posts is neither a duty nor a catharsis in my eyes, but a practice and interest that marks my personal drive. I am passionate about music, therefore I write. Even so, couldn’t I maintain this appreciation without writing about it on the Internet? Who am I sharing for, I wonder? Above all, for myself.

I realize that the last few months have been filled with intellectual progress, with schoolwork and college essays, successful grades and finished applications. As a high school senior, I’m busy enough, right? No. A part of me grasps a responsibility to share what I feel to a small slice of the public, so in that sense being to busy is understandable. Yet a greater, more personal piece, yearns to simply clarify my ideas.

Regardless, my time away from writing by no means infers that I’ve stopped listening to a broad variety of music, suggesting my favorite songs and albums to friends, or revolving ideas for posts in my head. A month or two ago, I latched onto a blog post concept while listening to a track released on Soundcloud by French producer 20syl. Some of my favorite songs by the Nantes native include a remix of Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”, a rap classic with CL Smooth, and a remaster of budding English star King Krule’s “Easy Easy.” But this specific production struck me, titled Game Set & Match and paired as a two-part selection united by #tennis, marking the beat-maker as a game-changer in my eyes. If you listen to the original track (the second in the collection), you’ll know what I mean. If you’d rather be lazy and just keep reading, imagine listening to “Technologic” by Daft Punk in the middle of a court at the U.S. Open.

This one song is not what I want to focus on, though. The personal significance of “Game, Set & Match” is that it commenced a train of thought about what truly revolutionizing music means (thus, this post). Think about the most recognizable musicians that influenced generations, the name-brand guys. I’m only born in the 90’s, but off the top I can name bands such as Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles and Nirvana, singers like Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. But were these stars the real transformers of music itself?

Delving back into the history of Western music, one can mark transitions within Classical (Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, etc.), Pop, Rock & Roll, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and every category of music that has ever cropped up into existence. Who are the doers, the mover and shakers, the revolutionaries? By definition, a revolutionary is radically new or innovative; outside or beyond established procedure, principles, etc. To me, a music revolutionary is a figure that transcends the bounds of popular music, heeds only individual inspiration, releases work that is completely original except for its base in music theory (but no prior genre), and changes the minds of music-lovers and listeners to be attracted to his/her new sound.

We can all determine our own interpretations of a genuine “music revolutionary.” But let’s assume my definition is plausible and accurate. Now, how many people can you think of that fit this description? To answer the question with the proper limitations, you have to name the “Fathers of Genres.” And even then, there is always dispute in regard to the forerunner of any type of music.

Take Rap / Hip-Hop for example. A friend of mine from Trinidad & Tobago claims that real rap was born from a place of peace in the streets of Brooklyn, when gangs halted their violent tendencies in favor of breakdancing competitions, opening up Disc Jockeys to spin the turn tables. In this tale, guys spinning their bodies in the streets and DJs mixing beats evolved into rappers spitting bars. Music-wise, some call funk master James Brown the main influencer of recorded rap music, others put faith in Lightnin Rod’s 1973 album “Hustler’s Convention.” And then you get to the more recognized leaders of the lyric-based hip-hop movement, from Chuck D of Public Enemy to Rakim to Sugarhill Gang (check this remix of Rapper’s Delight).

This type of progression only leaves me tracking my own footprints in an endless circle. The truth is, there are no real revolutionaries. Public Enemy was no more revolutionary to rap than Beethoven or John Coltrane. Each new ‘player’ in the game brings a different take to an already existing, rapidly evolving sound. Each new puzzle piece must link to one already set on the table. Rap could not exist without Jazz, Rock would never have taken off without Blues, Gospel, Bluegrass, and R&B. I think my definition still holds though, with one simple change. Just scratch the requirement that a music revolutionary “heeds only individual inspiration.” Inspiration can come from anywhere: the wind in the trees, a teacher, classical music, or even a tennis court (shoutout 20syl). A revolutionary must only believe in his personal vision and ambition, the rest will come naturally.

I’m just waiting to see what the world has in stock for the future of music.

Music Update

Penthouse Penthouse – Besides EP

Penthouse Penthouse makes some insanely smooth and easy-listening electronic music, I definitely consider the LA-based duo an inspiration for my future attempts at producing. Something about their heavy-hitting bass combined with a constant vibe — I haven’t found in any other producer’s music to date. I can name Kaytranada, Stwo, Mr. Carmack, Sango, Flume, and more, as incredible musical creators in the modern-day electronic context, and while I gravitate toward that umbrella of production-type, Penthouse really does bring a unique feel to a Soundcloud culture populated by same-sounding producers.

Some of my favorite single tracks include: Private Jet, What U Sippin On, and Let Me See That

This new EP just came out yesterday — there’s a collab with Stwo that is off the charts, two of their best previously-released tracks have been buffed up, and a JNTHN STEIN (bassist) feature on the closer is clean. I highly suggest a listen.

Music Fills Voids

I put a lot of thought into the continuity of these posts. I hold and kind of cherish this idea that each post, whether separated by a day, week, or month, should relate in some way to the prior one. Not really the subject matter, just getting back to an interesting note that I might not have fully explained before. The purpose of this, in my ears, is for you to be able to start from post one and go through to my most recent entry, the collection of which paints a picture, a story, or in my case, a sort of personal album/playlist.

So on this note, I wanted to elaborate for a quick second on a broad and slightly idealist idea that I mentioned in my last “musing,” when I said music has a way of “filling empty voids.” In the context of the rest of what I was saying, you probably didn’t even have to pause for that to settle in and hold some meaning. In a way it really is all about context. Or I guess it’s also about how each person perceives and understands various situations and ideas differently.

For this idea, I want to give you a specific example. You’re driving back from a long day at work or school or soccer practice or whatever you do that you drive home from after a long day. So you’re in the car, just you and the car, just sitting and driving? To me, a car without music is truly an “empty void.” And music really does fill that void, I can go on an hour car drive and be satisfied by bumping a soundcloud playlist (here’s one I’ve made), or going back to oldschool rap albums (I got suggested by a friend to go back and listen to this 213 album, the OG rap trio of Snoop, Nate Dogg, and Warren G), or even vibing to some jazz. I could do whatever. Just wanted to put it out there and pose the question as to what music does for you. Hit me on my twitter or leave a comment below with your ideas.

Musings (vol. 2)

Taking a second to clarify a bit of the last post… I had the idea to talk about the creative process because it’s a part of every art form that everyone experiences differently, I wanted to share its significance  “through my ears.” You may have thought: why Duke Ellington? He’s famous for unique chord changes. You also may have thought: how did I pull “art is channeled passion” out of the hat? Ah, referring to a not-so-weekly tweet I do called Quote of the Week, in which I make up a quote and tag a famous musician or public figure as it’s originator: i.e. this tweet.

It’s kind of funny having music as an interest and talking about it on social media. Sometimes I feel like the world revolves around music, not because of its vast importance, but for its inherent existence in everyone’s daily life. Maybe it is because of its vast importance, I don’t know — music has an ability of connecting people, breaking down societal barriers, filling empty voids. To me, it sounds simple — if the world has about 7 billion people, and 95% love music, I should be able to create a lot of conversation by posting about it. How does it sound to you?

Musings (vol. 1)

The creative process. It can start anywhere: watching a TV commercial and catching a curious chord progression in the background music, driving down the PCH with the image of the sun setting on the water etched in your memory, reading a 1920’s literary classic and putting your own pen down to paper. For me, it’s when no one is home. That’s when I feel compelled to sit down at the piano and clash diminished and dominants with simple harmonic chords, stuff that just doesn’t fit in the real world. I guess standards exist for a reason though, but it’s not that they’re to be held, but rather to be deceived. I bet Duke Ellington would agree. Either way, when I sit down at the piano or pick up my vibes mallets and go, all I really do is let the creativity flow. So here’s my process: art is channeled passion, so channel it.vibes-mallets