his music always made you think; it never made you smile
February 4, 2019 6:50 AM   Subscribe

(Gimme Some of That) Ol' Atonal Music (SLYT) - a country singer celebrates the work of his father, a modernist composer. By Merle Hazard (previously on mefi)
posted by moonmilk (14 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Alison Brown's banjo solo really elevates this. And my favorite line is, "It was hard to sing if you rehearsed, impossible by sight." Bravo.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 6:56 AM on February 4, 2019 [7 favorites]

This is hilarious! Great video production too.
posted by demiurge at 6:58 AM on February 4, 2019

Merleā€™s daddy was a coal miner. His momma was a certified financial planner.

posted by thelonius at 7:16 AM on February 4, 2019

The Cage reference was especially funny.
posted by signal at 7:27 AM on February 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

That's hilarious! Reminds me of a 12-tone composer genius kid I knew in high school, who said once when some of us were listening to some of his stuff, "Ha! Let's see them tap their feet to THIS!"
posted by luaz at 7:43 AM on February 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

As an art-damaged enthusiast of the musical avant-garde, I approve of this.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 9:44 AM on February 4, 2019 [4 favorites]

That was pretty delightful! I like how it avoids trashing atonal music and actually provides a competent rundown of what people might like or not like about it.

My only quibble is the part where he described atonal music as not being joyful, and being about the brain more than emotion. I don't think that's necessarily the case, it's just a matter of perspective and acculturation.

I found a link to a basic primer of atonality for a class. It includes the following, which gets at what I'm talking about by centering the (joy/emotion/beauty) people can feel from this music:
Needless, to say, getting rid of functional tonality provoked critics and listeners used to the age old conventions of music. However, proponents of the music liked it because it forces the listeners to hear and appreciate random sounds or tones more than the manipulation of musical tones into predictable patterns, which altogether betray too much of the human ego (which is not "natural"). That brings me back to John Cage. Remember him from the beginning of the course when we asked the question, What is music? Cage's answer was a performance of silence, whereby his composition for piano never produced a single note. The idea is that anything and everything, even the sounds in the physical environment around us, can be music, if a listener wants to call it that, especially if there is no human ego involved in writing it. Cage fits the idea of non existent functional tonality. The listener can listen to seemingly random notes (or random raindrops on a roof) of so-called music without having to interpret a story or series of functional relationships. It is about the sounds themselves, not the will and ego of a composer. Sometimes, that is the best way to hear music as one of many different ways.

This is where we get back into the philosophical realm of music. The class has turned full circle. With all the above in mind, I encourage you to be open minded about music. Someday, when there is a heavy rain, sit in a garage under a tin roof. Listen, expecting to hear music or rhythmic patterns. Maybe you will. If you do not, put those expectations aside and simply listen to the sound, its qualities, what it does, and how it behaves. In any case, be more aware of what enters your ears, whether it be words with precise meanings or sounds (one may call these music or not), which can be interpreted in any number of ways by the mind and emotions. There is no definition of music other than what you make it and how you enjoy it, but always take an enlightened approach to it. Try not to subordinate music to the background, but find something special in it that brings it to the forefront. It is one of those rare things we have to enrich life, make it into something more than the tedium of a day-to-day existence. So take advantage of that gift.
posted by naju at 10:20 AM on February 4, 2019 [6 favorites]

(That quote probably needs a lot of caveats - I personally think there's an important distinction between Schoenberg's atonality in the proper sense, lacking a tonal center, and John Cage's approach which I would describe more as focused on indeterminacy or acausality)
posted by naju at 10:29 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's kind of a pity that John Cage gets reduced to a joke based solely on 4'33". He did in fact write other pieces that included notes, some of which are quite lovely, and others of which are pretty interesting to listen to.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 10:35 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

that banjo solo is my new artists statement
posted by aparrish at 11:49 AM on February 4, 2019 [5 favorites]

Fake banjo solo. I'm pretty sure she repeated the C# before returning to the beginning of the row.
posted by charlesminus at 2:32 PM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Woah, that was awesome! Next he should do one about how equal temperament is bullshit...
posted by Coaticass at 4:57 PM on February 4, 2019

You might also like microtonal music (previously) where an octave is divided into something other than 12 equally spaced intervals (or "12edo", for 12 equal divisions of an octave).

Here's John Schneider playing some Harry Partch (43edo) at Country Music Weekly.

To my newish ears, at least, it's surprising how a choir in 17edo (where every note except the tonic is different from equal temperament) sounds pretty "normal" until suddenly... it doesn't, and there's kind of a new chord chromatically in between major and minor of the same key.
posted by kurumi at 8:26 PM on February 4, 2019

Behind the Music (Washington Post)
posted by moonmilk at 8:14 AM on February 10, 2019

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