Sunday, April 10, 2011

Where the music comes from

Spent much of the day viewing videos of very young people playing and singing very old songs from the Appalachian tradition. None of them are really good enough for this blog -- yet -- but they will be someday. And likely by that time they will be doing their own originals as well as traditionals -- originals which will invariably be influenced by whatever is currently on the air as country, pop, and rock, but which will have that traditional influence also to move it beyond whatever the current flavor-of-the-day is.

I am firmly of the opinion that innovation comes from having a firm grasp of what has come before. Only by knowing what has come before can you boldly go where no one has gone before. Otherwise you end up sounding like a derivative of only what little you *do* know. So if you are a musician and all you know is post-Beatles pop and rock, or, worse yet, only post-Nirvana pop and rock, everything you do will sound like a derivative of the Beatles or Nirvana. That's not because you set out to sound derivative, it's because that's just how things work -- where you end up depends upon where you started. If you started in Hawaii and started driving, you aren't going to end up in Los Angeles no matter how far you drive.

I don't think it's an accident that the Rolling Stones started as a bar band for playing American blues, not as a rock band. By steeping themselves in that tradition far removed from the then-current state of rock and pop, they ended up creating a new sound that was far edgier than any of their contemporaries. I mean, "Paint It Black". I cannot imagine someone whose sole exposure to music was girl bands and Donovan writing "Paint It Black" or "Sympathy for the Devil". Just not happenin'. But they'd stood at the crossroads themselves, so...

-- Badtux the Music Penguin


  1. As a heavy metal fan for forty years, I have to ask, why no Zydeco?

    Sometimes, that is just what the doctor ordered.
    I watched some young girl a while back that just about broke my heart, she was so good.

    Yeah, I know, I'm a bit "different" sometimes.Eclectic even.

  2. Oof! You're right, I would see zydeco live regularly when I was living in Louisiana, but somehow none of that has made it here onto the blog. I shall have to remedy that, sir!

    - Badtux the Apologetic Penguin


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