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Old 07-26-2012, 11:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Skrillex is a good song writer?

I don't really listen to the new "brostep" stuff too much, save for a few special remixes here and there because I grew up on house, electro-house and trance so there's just no room. However, I broke down and just streamed Skrillex's album off Spotify a while ago and a few songs really caught my ear, mostly because they were just solid housey-ish tracks with a bit more aggressive composition/instrumentation. My favorite track, by a metric fuckton, was With You, Friends (Long Drive), a recomposed old song he did before he was signed, apparently. This guy did a piano arrangement for it, and when you strip away all the compositional elements Sonny used, the actual music is pretty fucking interesting. This guy can write a catchy but well-crafted tune:



Props to Evan Duffy (pianist/composer) who did this arrangement for nailing all of the grace notes, dynamics, tempo changes etc. and recreating the music to near perfection.
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Old 07-31-2012, 12:52 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I like skrillex,and the arrangement is excelent. It's actually so good (the arrangement) that makes the song a lot better than it actually is...

Skrillex is not a great song writer, in my opinion. Doesn't have good melodies, and chord progressions are not very original or anything. He's a good producer, his sound world is his best feature.

Deadmau5 is a lot more original, i think.
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Old 07-31-2012, 08:55 AM   #3 (permalink)
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But that arrangement is completely the stripping of the production elements and simply presents the music(songwriting). If his melodies and writing structure were poor, I think you'd find that arrangement to be uninspired.

I think Deadmau5 is horribly overrated as a producer. Random Album Title was probably one of the most bland and unimaginative albums I've heard. It was offensively inoffensive in the same way Coldplay is. That album just wandered from start to finish. He has some brilliant moments in tracks such as Strobe and Arguru but for the most part, Deadmau5's success is a confluence of timing and marketing. He got popular starting in the Trance scene right when the tech-trance experimental sound was big (circa 2006) tracks like SVD-Grasshopper where getting all sorts of playtime and when Beatport was coming into vogue as a distributor. He has an interesting, somewhat abrasive personality and that made him ripe to become the burgeoning Beatport's main poster boy since his appeal was at an all time high with wanna-be DJ's all over the globe. He won nearly every award at Beatport's first annual award, many in categories that, simply put, no objective minded listener would even consider him for.
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Old 07-31-2012, 01:03 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I didn't say Dearmau5 was great, or anything... but listening to some other guys in that genre, he made me pay attention with a few things i found good. I don't know his whole work, because most of it is boring, like with most music in the electro scene. It's all too repetitive and overdone.

Song structure in 99% of these songs is the same, you don't have to be a good songwriter or anything, because the mold is already there (even if you write a classical symphony you have a previously conceived mold). Regarding melody, here comes the part where the arrangement overcomes the actual song... voice leading in harmony is all for this song, there's no real melody (most dubstep doesn't have proper melodies, it just has cool beats and well crafted sounds). Melody in this song comes from the voices in the different chords and how they link, the arrangement the pianist does makes a few choices that are great, he made focus in a few lines that work great, which are not so easy to listen in the actual song.

I don't consider neither skrillex or deamau5 good songwriters... actually, it's hard for me to find a producer that is a good songwriter. They have cool moments, and some good ideas, but it's not consistent, and one good song in ten average ones, doesn't make you a good songwriter.
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Old 07-31-2012, 04:43 PM   #5 (permalink)
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You can tell a lot of the sounds were generated through an arpeggiator module but they still have to be programmed in the correct root/key and depending on the song's root chord, you can create some interesting incidental harmonies based on your choices. While it's partially automatic, it's not completely so. Part of being an observant music listener is picking out those interesting harmonies that are created incidentally from other fundamental music structures. So yes, those melodies are there, but it's up to YOU to try to and hear them. If everything was spoon-fed and obvious, everything would sound like Blink 182. A good song in any genre, IMO, is one you can listen to over and over and appreciate differently each time.

Classical Music Theory has laid a foundation that existed for nearly 500 years so in the sense you are talking about, most music isn't "good songwriting" in that it utilizes this foundation. Jazz is the first truly antithetical music (in the Western World) to take Classical Theory and completely ignore every rule it ever made. Working within a framework of theory doesn't make music necessarily bad; but it will almost certainly be so if the listener doesn't step back and just hear the song as a whole.
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Old 08-01-2012, 11:15 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseForSteeze View Post
most music isn't "good songwriting"
Exactly...



Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseForSteeze View Post
Jazz is the first truly antithetical music (in the Western World) to take Classical Theory and completely ignore every rule it ever made.
What? Jazz was created by negroes who "learned" classical music. They used many elements of it, adding, not ignoring.



I don't understand what you mean about the arpeggiator and all... I think we're saying kind of the same thing?



Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseForSteeze View Post
A good song in any genre, IMO, is one you can listen to over and over and appreciate differently each time.
Yes, I agree, but also that depends on the listener. It's not something objective and measurable, like harmony and voice leading, for instance.



Quote:
Originally Posted by CheeseForSteeze View Post
Working within a framework of theory doesn't make music necessarily bad; but it will almost certainly be so if the listener doesn't step back and just hear the song as a whole.
Again, I don't understand what you mean. First of all, I completely agree with the first part of the sentence, but then you put focus on the listener... The listener might hear or not the song as a whole independently of how the composer sat down and put it together... Again "it depends on the listener".

Working within a framework of concious theory (even if you don't know you're doing it, you're always carrying some theory baggage, it's impossible to escape what others have done) intends for you to achieve some kind of unity in a given piece. If you're making a song, the fact that it is ONE son has to be determined by some relation of the events that happen in it... even if they're opposite or contrasting (First of the year has contrasting events, for example, but they work as a unity for sure).

The fact that the listener can determine if something is either good or bad is highly debatable... What i won't argue with is that the listener can say if they like/dislike something. But something being liked, and something being good... two completely different things.


Do you really think that Blink 182 and Skrillex are far appart regarding innovation, risk and creativity?
This particular song by skrillex repeats the same chord progression like 10 times..!
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Old 08-02-2012, 10:19 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Rorschach View Post
Exactly...
Using a narrow definition. I'm not exactly sure what would qualify as good music? It would likely sound alien and dissonant to our ears because it seems the definition is whether or not it uses any pre-defined "rules" about songwriting. The entire history of music is based on pitches separated into 12 equal (on a logarithmic) intervals that scale between multiples of some frequencies. It's only with the advent of modern music "synthesis" have there been limited use of frequencies outside this domain. i.e. pitches that would be considered out of tunes, usually 5 or 10 cents.

Is all music bad because it's only operated in this narrow spectrum of sound?

The point being that the use or lack of use of certain elements doesn't make music (or its songwriting) inherently good or bad. The use of a "mold" doesn't make something inherently good or bad. A very unoriginal and derivative piece of music could very well be much better written than something entirely experimental.

Quote:
What? Jazz was created by negroes who "learned" classical music. They used many elements of it, adding, not ignoring.
This is a huge discussion in and of itself but ragtime borrow heavily from African and Caribbean music traditions which use elements that simply were not present in European music. I'm sure music traditionalists thought "swing time", for instance, was garbage and even to this day, it pretty much remains relegated to genres ranging from what could be considered avant garde through non-mainstream. Nor were they ever incorporated into Classical music.

We now can study the "blues scale" in terms of Western music notation, but it was invented outside of it. It is notated in what we consider a pentatonic and heptatonic scales and Western music (at that time) predicated on octatonic scales exclusively. This is a common difference between Western music and the music of the world; Eastern Asian music, for example, is almost predominately written in what Western music now calls pentatonic scales.

Jazz differs in many other ways (use of 3rd intervals primarily instead of perfect fifths) and shoehorning its tendencies back into a Western perspective doesn't necessarily make it derived from Western Theory.

So as it relates to the main point, this doesn't somehow make Jazz songwriters inherently "better" than Western music writers just because they aren't using a Classical foundation. I don't necessarily agree with this notion that something being anti-derivative makes it better.

Quote:
I don't understand what you mean about the arpeggiator and all... I think we're saying kind of the same thing?
Originally you claimed that there is "no real melody" in the original arrangement but it's there. It has to be because the piano arrangement only uses elements present in the original; there's no new music added. He's simply emphasizing it by making absent other elements. The arpeggiator module is just a way to shortcut and program music (instead of writing an entire scale, you assign a root and it generates the notes of the scale or arpeggio based on the rhythm and key you tell it) and I bring it up only because it could be possible that those melodies that the piano arrangement emphasizes were written incidentally.

Quote:
Yes, I agree, but also that depends on the listener. It's not something objective and measurable, like harmony and voice leading, for instance.
Nothing really important about music is objective; the objective elements are just the tools to understanding what is possible about music (i.e. what has already been done). Music, by it's very nature, is about breaking some of those rules and in doing so, communicating ideas.

Quote:
Again, I don't understand what you mean. First of all, I completely agree with the first part of the sentence, but then you put focus on the listener... The listener might hear or not the song as a whole independently of how the composer sat down and put it together... Again "it depends on the listener".
It simply means that if you sit down and listen to music for only the technical, objective elements, the presence of certain tools, you can't enjoy it for what it is. Lots of music is written only to be as complicated as possible and incorporate as many different musical elements as possible. Take Yngwie Malmsteen's guitar work, for example. Very technical, yes, but in the end it's just but a bunch of arpeggios in different modes written in a straightforward progression. When you just listen to it, it doesn't sound interesting or resonate with the listener.

Music is ultimately the expression of an idea to the listener by use of sound. If the writer forsakes this and uses music as a means to simply write more technical music, that makes him a poor songwriter.

Quote:
The fact that the listener can determine if something is either good or bad is highly debatable... What i won't argue with is that the listener can say if they like/dislike something. But something being liked, and something being good... two completely different things.
Because music is just the expression of an idea, if the listener takes away very vivid and detailed idea, even if misinterpreted, the songwriter has achieved what he was supposed to. The more people the songwriter connects with on this level, the better his music is. People tend to connect with music they like exclusively, but not always.


Quote:
Do you really think that Blink 182 and Skrillex are far appart regarding innovation, risk and creativity?
This particular song by skrillex repeats the same chord progression like 10 times..!
Those elements are only one aspect that songwriting might address. My point was that you said that the elements of the melody were not obvious in the original arrangement - this point had more to do with the context of how many different music ideas are interlayered simultaneously. To take that out of context and think it to be a more broad look and comparison of their musical creativity is dishonest at best.

I always like the comments about repetition. Music is a balance between chaos and order, repetition and progression. To imply something might be better or worse because it located at a particular point along this spectrum is kind of silly. It'd be like saying I don't like Kirk Hammett's guitar work because he writes a lot in E minor. Most of the electronica genre stems from a groundwork where music performances were measured in days and hours, not minutes and seconds. Old, old trance (like from the late 80's and early 90's) is *very* repetitive but very rewarding because it works by slowly layering and adding elements. It's kind of like watching a time lapse of the world being born.

I probably should clarify that this wasn't necessarily to discuss whether or not he is a good songwriter in any absolute sense, but rather, to look at elements of his songwriting that people might find surprising.

edit: I appreciate your thoughts in this discussion and would like to hear what else you think about the topic or music writing in general.

Last edited by CheeseForSteeze; 08-02-2012 at 10:28 AM.
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Old 08-03-2012, 01:11 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Man... we're getting deep!

First off: about skrillex, you agree with my point (the arrangement being "better" than the actual song) when you say this: "He's simply emphasizing it by making absent other elements."
Like i said on my first reply: Melody in this song comes from the voices in the different chords and how they link, the arrangement the pianist does makes a few choices that are great, he made focus in a few lines that work great, which are not so easy to listen in the actual song.

Skrillex could have worked the arpeggiator a bit better, and more in detail, but he didn't. The pianist did, and hence got a better result from the original chord progression... which, again, it's not the most original.


Now, with that out of the way let's go into deep!

you make a few broad statements, like: The entire history of music is based on pitches separated into 12 equal (on a logarithmic) intervals that scale between multiples of some frequencies.

I assume (reading what you write afterwards about other cultures and stuff) that you refer to what could be commonly known as "classical music". Even assuming that, this is still wrong, Pitagoras established the famous "pythagoream choma". Equal temperament (what you're referring to) was studied for years and years... The Well Tempered Clavier, by Bach, is a study on how to deal with that "distance" in frequencies, which is not always the same. A violinist won't use the same fifths as a pianist or a guitarist when playing on their own. Neither will a singer, or anyone who hasn't a mechanical system that makes them. Distances between intervals is not and has not been always the same.

If you were actually referring to "the whole music history" for real, get to youtube and search for proper hindu music, they split the octave in many more intervals than 12.


JAZZ

Jazz is a mixture of elements, a great one for that... BUT, it has some "classical" elements there, specially regarding form. Even if it doesn't, why does Caribbean or African music deny "classical" music? Classical music deals with dissonance in many many ways, depending on the period and the composer... and some of those ways of dealing with dissonance are common to many other cultures' music. In fact, the music that openly "opposed" every rule in the classical book was classical music itself, when Arnold and his friends started with the dodecaphonic system, etc.
Jazz opposed classical music from a more social point of view, yes, but from the musical point of view, they have many things in common.

Also: Debussy was writing in 5 and 6-tone scales before Jazz was in any scene. So was Satie.

And saving the best for last:

This usually happens, and it happened to me before that many people tend to associate good music with:
-techinical music
-"classical" music
-music that is not very popular
-music that is difficult to listen to
-music that sounds plain awful

I haven't said it before, so i'll say it now: I DON'T THINK THAT WAY...
Yes, there are music of all those characteristics that is good, but there are also silly songs that are good, or extremely popular ones, or easy to listen to or written by a guy who can't read music... Good music is GOOD MUSIC, there are no stylistic characteristics that can make something be good... Style comes into play, tho. I wouldn't say that a gospel hymn and a traditional chinese song play in the same category, but they can both be good, potentially... get my point?

Repetition won't make something bad... but it won't make it good either.

In art, there's no formula to be successful. That doesn't mean there aren't good or bad pieces. The elements that define quality in music are many, most of which are objective, and all of them matter. This being said, that doesn't mean you'll be either successful, famous, rich or get to many people doing something good. You can do shit music and get to millions' soul. That won't make your music good tho.


I like what you say here:
I probably should clarify that this wasn't necessarily to discuss whether or not he is a good songwriter in any absolute sense, but rather, to look at elements of his songwriting that people might find surprising.

Yes! absolutely. Good music has that "surprise" element... Rules come into place here, then. If you disregard 100% of what's familiar to people's ear, how can you surprise them? They'll get bored 10" into the song if they can't relate to anything you're doing. Cultural knowledge goes deeper than we think. It is impossible, anyway (specially after what happened in art between the 50s and today), to do something that is completely the opposite of anything...


And i finish with this:
you say: Because music is just the expression of an idea, if the listener takes away very vivid and detailed idea, even if misinterpreted, the songwriter has achieved what he was supposed to. The more people the songwriter connects with on this level, the better his music is. People tend to connect with music they like exclusively, but not always.

and I ask: Is (the guy/girl who writes for) Justin Bieber a better songwriter than Miles Davis, or (the guy/girl who writes for) Lady Gaga a better songwriter than Peter Gabriel?
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