Mumford and Sons, wow, it's like the same song over and over.
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Someone once said that every artist or group is just constantly rewriting the same 7 songs over and over again. I agree with that to some extent, but I don't think it's bad, or even necessarily deliberate. It's just that artist's particular pallette of expression. Some artists are a little more limited with their bag of tricks, and some more deliberately experimental.
Remember when Mick Jagger sang "It's the Singer Not the Song"? When I was younger I strongly disagreed with that sentiment, putting the song way above the singer. Hence my love of The Beach Boys, precisely because they had the best songwriter in the world (Brian Wilson), but only okay singers (except for Mike Love, who was/is dreadfully bad).
As I've gotten older, my thoughts on the matter have changed. And though the song still comes first, singers are of much more interest to me than they used to be. Iris Dement, Emmylou Harris, and Allison Krauss from the gals, John Hiatt, Buddy Miller, and Jim Lauderdale from the guys, being amongst my current favorites.
Pop music songwriting took a giant nosedive in the 70's, when Rock Group's songs became not much more than a guitar riff. The "sound" of a Band became their "song", what they were known for. Bands like Alice in Chains have only one song, really, every single one even having the exact same two-part harmony (and it is not a very good one). Boooring!
By definition, the vast majority of blues tunes performed by singers like SRV will have the same "form"; the classic "twelve bar blues". What distinguishes one blues song from another is typically the melody and the time feel; the "form" is usually (not always) exactly the same. The two songs you mention not only have the same form, as is usual for blues tunes, they are in the same key, the melody is very similar and the tempo is almost the same ("I'm Crying" is slightly slower); those are the things that make them sound so similar.
SRV is a blues/rock singer and his musical palette is fairly limited. I don't think that the fact that many of the tunes he performs have the same form is any sort of indictment of him as an artist. I do think that those two tunes are so similar that it seems almost ridiculous, but not terribly surprising. I do think it is an indictment that he is not able to do something with the interpretation of each to distinguish one from the other.
Some of the other artists mentioned do sound very similar from tune to tune, but those tunes don't necessarily use the same "form". "Form" is not the same as "formula". Actually, a better way of looking at this issue, and a great test of an artist's true talent, is wether an artist can sound fresh and interesting IN SPITE OF the fact that his/her tunes use the same form.
I was about to make Frogman's post - almost word for word. The observation re: the blues also applies (tho less precisely) to basic rock n roll song structures. Chuck Berry's song structures are almost as limited as haiku - and therein lies the art: Can you make compelling music within the strict limitations of the form?
I don't see this as a criticism at all. Creating within a norrow environment is not only an artistic challenge, but it's a challenge in which the results are often satisfying at a very basic and fundamental level. There's something essential (and, weirdly, "elegant") about a great rock n roll or blues song. In an even weirder sense, I get a similar sense of satisfaction from a well executed plate of sashimi.
At the other end of the same spectrum (and without drawing an equivalency to blues or rock music), Bach often works within a narrower range of expression than did later Western classical composers. I'd argue that his music lies within a sharply less expansive universe of expression than someone like Beethoven, yet I'd never diminish his work for that reason.
Sometimes, IMO the best answer is the simplest - and the simplest answer is found within the tightest limits.
+2 for Frogman. Blues consists almost entirely of 12-bar or 8-bar forms, although the older generation often ignored (or lost track of) the time count, when they felt like it ("Lightnin' strike where lightnin' want." Lightning Hopkins.) SRV achieved amazing variety within the limitations of the form, but it was done mostly via the solos, in his live shows. His albums are pale reflections of what he could really do.
Pride and Joy was admirably original, for a blues. No real argument about I'm Cryin', but in live performance, you would never confuse the two.
When someone told Jimi Vaughan that Stevie never played anything the same way twice, he replied, "Stevie never plays anything the same way once!"
Another 100 % agreement, this time with Marty. I imagine all Baroque also sounds quite similar to those who have yet to hear past the outside surface. Form is only one aspect of music, but yes, the first one heard and recognized. Inside the form are many musical ideas that share only that basic form with one other, just like Blues, Bluegrass, but NOT contemporary Nashville "product"!
I have been listening everyday for the past month to two different recordings of C.P.E. Bach's Six Symphonies, trying to, first, "know" them completely (I'm not there yet), and second, to appreciate the differences between the two performances (Pinnock and Hogwood). THAT I just last night got, pretty much.
Czarivey, you are wrong about bluegrass. I've taught and played enough of those songs to know that it's not so one-dimensional. There are subtleties and musical variations that you apparently have not yet encountered--I know it's not a matter of them "going over your head." For instance, there's a lot of different melodic modes and different chord progressions. You will hear some of the same ones repeated, and often, but there's a lot more there than what you've mentioned.
"Avant-garde is highly subjective. To some its recordings of steam trains; others its Captain Beefheart, still others U2. To be honest, I find most "avant-garde" to be highly self absorbed. Just my .02"
I suspect you possess the platitudes when one is to elucidate avant-garde...again, very predictable.
All bluegrass songs to me sound same regardless. I've been vendor selling records at bluegrass festivals and was able to sing one song during another song played on stage easily. Had lotsa fun making fun, otherwise would be definitely bored to death standing and listening to that squicky fiddle...
Mark Knophler "Nottinghillbillies" project with mix of classic country and bluegrass actually impressed me.
Another candidate of same song structure or would rather say same music structure is Phillip Glass. Most of his music based on typical minor arpeggios.
I think it's fair to point out that "avant-garde" is hard to pin down when discussing music. Does Phillip Glass qualify? If so, he probably fits the OP's question reasonably well as much of his work follows pretty formal structural rules. Actually, while I don't profess much depth of knowledge of modern "avant-garde" composition, it kinda seems to me that a fair bit of it is formally pretty rigid, Schopenhauer is one that quickly comes to mind.
This isn't my listening hour "meat and potatoes", but I'll dip a toe in these waters from time to time.
Czarivey, trust me, it takes genuine talent to play bluegrass well. I don't care for most of the modern examples of it but I respect the musicianship.
You can also sing Folsom Prison over the changes to Pinball Wizard, and vice versa, but that doesn't diminish the value of either song IMO.
Not a fan of Phillip Glass, but at least he's repeating himself intentionally to achieve a certain effect.
Anyway on the bluegrass the new vocal people mostly don't ring my bell (I like Tim O'Brien) but the instrumentalists such as Sam Bush, Tony Rice and Jerry Douglass are phenomenal musicians. It takes real skill to do what they do. Try it some time.
I can only listen to Doc Watson. He was phenomenal and skillful. That's as far as my bluegrass tastes are going.
No matter how good they are for example Ricky Scaggs could not listen for more than few minutes or one song than change the record as soon as the next one starts playing with same rhythm and same bass and same structure.
Completely agree with Tostados re bluegrass. The playing by some of those guys (and gals) can be fantastic sometimes, in an earthier way than other genres. Some of those bands swing their asses off. As far as the song structures go, as usual, until one delves into the music one doesn't really get it. I had that experience recently with a friend who is a classical clarinetist and an accomplished Irish traditional music player (on the clarinet!l!). Not until I gave the music more than a causal listen did I understand just how much "there" is there.
Btw, anyone who is quick to give avant-garde short shrift, give this a listen:
Doc Watson was a wonderful player, but Bluegrass is full of spectacular guitarists. Check out Jerry Douglass (primary guitarist for Alison Krauss and Union Station) or Tony Rice or Bryan Sutton, among many, many others. I understand that you may find the general tonality of the genre off-putting, but there's wonderful playing talent shot throughout the bluegrass catalog. You may not find it worth the effort to acclimate to the form, but - if you do - you may be pleasantly surprised by what awaits you.
"Bluegrass is full of spectacular guitarists."
And vocalists- Alison Krauss being only the most well known; there's also EmmyLou Harris and Dolly Parton (don't laugh, listen to some of her real bluegrass stuff).
As for players, how about Mark O'Connor or Jay Unger on the violin, David Grisman on Mandolin or Bela Fleck on banjo. World class musicianship.
And not to nit-pick Martykl, but Jerry Douglass is most well known as the absolute premier dobro player in the known universe. And yes, I know some may say that a dobro is just a guitar laid across someone's lap.
Your point is taken, but a dobro is actually just one brand of resonator guitar. Like "Kleenex", I guess that it has become synonymous with the product type and the resonator is very often considered its own instrument separate from the guitar. Depending on the day of the week (or time of the day), I might do that myself. However, in this particular post, I was including Douglass in the broader class of guitarists. I understand those who'd put him in the separate class of players, but it's essentially a semantic distinction at the end of the day. Probably a little sloppy on my part, tho.
Martykl- I should know better than to criticize someone w the good taste to recognize Mr. Douglas' skill.
Schubert- The people who laugh at Dolly do so, imo, by judging her w their eyes, not their ears. Although I will admit that when she goes too Nashville/Vegas, the whole package can be a bit over the top.
Swamp. I'm a classical guy all the way, but when I heard Dolly sing her delicate, achingly beautiful rendition of
"I will always love you" on my car radio in the 70's I had to pull over I was so teared up . A true artist period .
A funny, when Whitney Huston sold 87 million CD's of her far inferior version of Dolly's masterpiece, Dolly was on late night and I believe Letterman asked Dolly if she had
any problems with Whitney's version , Dolly replied "if I did the 2 million in royalties make me forget them "
I kind of agree with phasecorrect, although I understand others' points. I was hoping someone would not say, "all of AC-DC". (Which would be technically correct, but not what I was going for. I guess my point was from (one artists' output in consideration of their own catalog of songs). Does that make sense?