Corporate Music - How to Compose with no Soul
January 18, 2020 8:07 PM   Subscribe

In this video I explore how corporatism produces soulless music, some of which is amusingly awful! I also explore how tech and oil companies with dubious business practices use music as part of propaganda campaigns to convince the public that they support ecological activism. With some music theory thrown in along the way, I also compose a few kinds of different corporate styles to show the various tropes that exist. Some of it is blundering nonsense. Some of it is a little more sinister. All of it is garbage. Enjoy!

At the other end of the spectrum: HOW TO FUNK IN TWO MINUTES (h/t mfu)
posted by Johnny Wallflower (97 comments total) 82 users marked this as a favorite
 
Announcement.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:34 PM on January 18 [9 favorites]


Cello = Woke
posted by tonycpsu at 8:39 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


“We’re gonna need... monorhythmic piano chords.” Is my new favorite phrase.
posted by johnxlibris at 8:44 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Whistling + Ukulele = friendly, accessible technology/service. Or insurance. Or cars maybe, I don't know. It's freakin everywhere.
posted by cape at 8:45 PM on January 18 [21 favorites]


I am 100% down with this guy, especially around that truly annoying ukulele shit.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:45 PM on January 18 [7 favorites]


And I say that as someone who loves the ukulele.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:46 PM on January 18 [8 favorites]


All I got to say about this is bo-bah-way!
posted by NoMich at 8:48 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


He gets to both of them at the 12:00 mark. :-)

All I got to say about this is bo-bah-way!
I hate myself for liking that piece so much, it was actually really good (corporate music).

Oh man I knew I recognized this guy's voice/accent. He made one of the alltime great UI software analysis videos of all time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKx1wnXClcI

(Sibelius crashed).
posted by cape at 9:09 PM on January 18 [13 favorites]


That was very good. And yes, ukuleles can die in a fire.
posted by awfurby at 9:34 PM on January 18 [2 favorites]


Announcement. yt


shameless self-link

posted by philip-random at 9:38 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Yeah, Negativeland was all over this so long ago.
posted by sjswitzer at 9:41 PM on January 18 [6 favorites]


This guy apparently doesn't like being placed on hold or in a phone queue. Me, I try to get Siri to identify the song so I can look it up on YouTube. Corporate and commercial bed music—his first question is why do we need it? Answer: dead air is not desirable when combined with rhetoric. And people's brains like music. The music bolsters the emotions we are meant to feel.

So why not fill the air with light sounds of synthesizers—rather than a pack of bleating sheep? Because combing through data, we've found that 45% of our potential demographic has had some kind of negative encounter with a sheep, or sheep. What a dumb question. NEXT! Oh wait, that clock says it's drink o'clock! FRIIIIDAAAAYYYYY

Meet you all at Chili's for Happy Hour! WOOOOO TGIF!

wait whaddaya mean its sunday already
posted by not_on_display at 9:55 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


Corporate music sits there in the background - something familiar and friendly air that helps put us in the correct emotional mood to receive the message; the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down delightfully. I love the degree of articulated rage that Tantacrul brings to the subject; especially the idea of humpty dumpty!
posted by rongorongo at 11:08 PM on January 18 [1 favorite]


So why not fill the air with light sounds of synthesizers—rather than a pack of bleating sheep?

¿por qué no los dos?
posted by neckro23 at 11:14 PM on January 18 [5 favorites]


Needs more Coldplay.
posted by mephisjo at 11:19 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


You've clearly never heard cockroach corporate music.
posted by ominous_paws at 11:41 PM on January 18 [3 favorites]


Give one listen to "The Tardigrades Greatest Hits" and you'll have second thoughts about Armageddon.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:49 PM on January 18


Tantacrul is my favourite music theory ish youtuber by some way. The cynicism is perfect.
posted by Dysk at 1:05 AM on January 19


ukulele
posted by thelonius at 1:11 AM on January 19


I call it nothing music. [...] Again, I'm gonna create my own pastiche of this style, which primarily takes its inspiration from the kings of nothing music and fellow Irish compatriots, U2. And specifically, we're going to be drawing from the granddaddy of genericism, the Edge, hallowed be his name, with that incredibly lame guitar delay effect he's known for.
posted by pracowity at 3:45 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


The first corporate piece that actually made me say What The Fuck? out loud the first time I heard it - on a promotional CD-ROM handed out at a developer conference, no less - was this one: Apple II Forever.

It has a stronger Fabulous Chorus and more Fabulous Key Changes than the hit it was clearly ripped off from but somehow manages to project ten times the beige blandness.
posted by flabdablet at 4:13 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


I was so glad he got to that fucking ukelele, or as I think of it, the "Kickstarter Ukelele". Whenever I hear that shit I just reflexively know that someone nearby is watching a kickstarter pitch video. Like the Comic Book Movie Trailer Song, it's just such a glaring indicator.

do you have quirk? we understand; we have quirk too. did you know: guitars, but smol? oh my gosh, we also ride bicycles or aspire to ride bicycles! we're so alike.
posted by phooky at 6:12 AM on January 19 [16 favorites]


On thing corporate music does is provide income for composers who can't otherwise make a buck because nobody wants to pay for "art."
posted by grumpybear69 at 6:14 AM on January 19 [29 favorites]


In defense of The Edge (man that's a dumb name!), that signature delay thing was pretty novel when U2 started writing songs around it....I mean, plenty of people used delay, but I can't think of anyone using it like that. Perhaps it has become a cliche over the years, but as I recall, people thought it was pretty fresh and exciting back in the day.
posted by thelonius at 6:14 AM on January 19 [22 favorites]


Grumpybear69: that’s my thought as well — sure, it’s bland but I’ve read plenty from artists who love the idea of regular paid-on-time corporate work, too. It’s a lot more positive if you think of it as transferring money from corporate marketing budgets to otherwise likely-starving artists.
posted by adamsc at 6:25 AM on January 19 [9 favorites]


I was so glad he got to that fucking ukelele, or as I think of it, the "Kickstarter Ukelele".
The Ukulele has largely taken over from the recorder as the default first instrument to give schoolchildren (cheap, quick to learn, suitable for solo, group or self accompaniment). Kickstarter shares much of the same design goals - hence the match, I guess. I picture alternate world where corporate videos would have been cheaper to make in years past and would have had background music like this. Small mercies.
posted by rongorongo at 6:45 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]


It’s a lot more positive if you think of it as transferring money from corporate marketing budgets to otherwise likely-starving artists.

I would love to try to think that, but I can't stop remembering that damn detail how they wouldn't pay anyone a fucking dime to begin with unless they knew for sure they were making more money than they were spending.

So it's really more like likely starving artists are helping fill corporate coffers because they'd rather have steady work than be broke because no one wants to pay for art.
posted by deadaluspark at 6:45 AM on January 19 [5 favorites]


Oh, gawd, yes, such garbage. Real emotions in the workplace are unwelcome, but a simulacrum of emotion is needed to manipulate people, else the corporate overlords won't get the outcome they desire, which is all of our labor and money for as little as they can get away with paying for it.

Also, I now know why Coldplay's and so much of U2's work bugs me so much. They absolutely do sound "corporate" to me. My reaction to their music is the same as a BP commercial's music: Ugh. Thanks for the funky palate cleanser afterwards!

How is it that so much of the culture of work in the West has come to this, where everything is monstrous, soul-destroying, and fake? Who started this shit? How do we end it?
posted by droplet at 7:10 AM on January 19 [5 favorites]


Who started this shit?

Probably John Locke, when he theorized that there was "Nature of Plenty" meaning he thought nature was essentially infinite, and as such he thought it meant that the English had freedom to practice colonialism endlessly. To me, this idea is the springboard into a modern capitalism with emphasis on infinite growth, through the history of the British Empire.

How do we end it?

Probably by making usury illegal and a sin again.
posted by deadaluspark at 7:19 AM on January 19 [9 favorites]


droplet... pretty sure the end is going to take care of itself at this point
posted by kokaku at 7:30 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Who started this shit?

Slayer
posted by NoMich at 7:40 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


The first 5 minutes could be skipped.

In defense of The Edge (man that's a dumb name!), that signature delay thing was pretty novel when U2 started writing songs around it....I mean, plenty of people used delay, but I can't think of anyone using it like that. Perhaps it has become a cliche over the years, but as I recall, people thought it was pretty fresh and exciting back in the day.

Back in the early 80s, I was going to a bizarro boarding high school where nearly everyone played, or aspired to play guitar. The reason U2 sounded so fresh and inspirational is because the Edge was instantly recognized as being on about the same level as the rest of us. When you noodle around, before you even know more than a chord or two, on electric guitar, what came out sounded remarkably like what was on those first U2 records that were just coming onto the scene. And we knew it! The delay and stuff was proof that you could play technology when guitar proficiency alone wasn't quite enough. We recognized the Edge for what he was. He was one of us!

I like to make fun of corporate music as much as anyone. But it puts food on the table for many a musician. The town where I live is lousy with really good musicians who can't get a paying gig. You want to be paid for adventuresome and compelling composition? Most pop acts can't even pull that off. Want to get paid? Know your audience.
posted by 2N2222 at 7:45 AM on January 19 [9 favorites]


How is it that so much of the culture of work in the West has come to this, where everything is monstrous, soul-destroying, and fake? Who started this shit?

Advertisers.

How do we end it?

Propaganda.
posted by flabdablet at 7:45 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


In defense of The Edge

Nobody who can play like this is in dire need of defending.

The Edge is the Ringo Starr of guitarists. Plays exactly what the song requires, no less and especially no more. Leaves making the desperate attempt to sound impressive to the lead singer, which is where that belongs.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 AM on January 19 [20 favorites]


I used to work for a very large hospital system that has a such a recognizable corporate music style that you can identify their commercials within the first two notes. There are
a few different compositions but they're always uplifting string driven orchestral pieces with tinkly piano. They seem to be mostly, or maybe all, written by this company.

When you work there, you really get to hate the music because it shows up in all internal videos and even in the hold music for the conference call system. Also the design scheme used in the commercials is used in all corporate branding even down to the powerpoint templates and email signatures. Always that particular color purple.

The cheery uplifting music hides the fact that the hospital system is so disliked that I've been in movie theaters when one of their commercials came up before the trailers and people in the theater booed the screen.
posted by octothorpe at 8:07 AM on January 19 [8 favorites]


Genki Sudo/ World Order - Machine Civilisation

If you're exploring this genre more do checkout the above, Japanese MP/ex-MMA fighter and all round great guy Genki Sudo released a string of bizarre dance/corporate singles featuring dancing salary men.
posted by Damienmce at 8:12 AM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Oh man I knew I recognized this guy's voice/accent. He made one of the alltime great UI software analysis videos of all time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKx1wnXClcI
(Sibelius crashed).


Previously; Previouslissimo.

Also, seconding thirding Negativland as the antidote to this phenomenon.
posted by polytope subirb enby-of-piano-dice at 9:03 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Before we changed to a system that just doesn’t start the call until the host joins, our conference call “waiting for host” music was the first 16 bars of Redbone by Childish Bambino, on a loop.

We ended up using the song in one of our commercials, so me must have had some sort of agreement.

Not going to lie, not too bad for hold music.
posted by sideshow at 9:20 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


On thing corporate music does is provide income for composers who can't otherwise make a buck because nobody wants to pay for "art."

otherwise known as, we have met the enemy and oh, wait a second, I guess that's a mirror. But the pay's okay, so ... whatever. (cue some ukulele music, I guess).

But seriously, a film maker friend of mine who's done well for himself both professionally and artistically was recently asked in a forum what his advice was for young people trying to someway/anyway get into the paying pro side of the biz. "Step one, take any job that pays. Step two, take a moment to look around and fix your focus on that thing that you actually want to do. Think of it as a mountain peak that's maybe rising out of the haze. It might be way off in the distance but remember where it is. Because that's where you're aiming, and there's going to be a lot more fog and haze before you get to it. But that overall direction will now determine which jobs you will or won't take, because if you're not trying to get to some relevant peak, you're going to end up being just another cynical asshole who's in the way of the people who are."

(or words to that effect)

He's a Negativland fan by the way.
posted by philip-random at 9:21 AM on January 19 [5 favorites]


Request for Metafilter upgrade: every FPP can have a theme song that plays while you read the comments. Every comment can have a counter song that you can hear while reading the comment. I’ll let someone else figure out the royalty payments...
posted by njohnson23 at 9:26 AM on January 19 [4 favorites]


The first 5 minutes could be skipped.

came here to say much the same thing. The 5:43 point to be more precise.

As for The Edge, the recent death of Neil Peart got me reflecting on why I sort of gave up on Rush in the early 1980s -- at the absolute peak of their form, many have said. And I suddenly remembered, oh yeah, U2! Those first two albums in particular. The way that brash sound just cut through everything else I was hearing at the time. More than any other band, they dragged me into the 1980s, got me excited about all the changes that were going on. Not that Rush weren't doing much the same thing, but the U2 stuff just felt fresher, fiercer, less tangled up with past concerns. And speaking of corporate evil, U2 mostly weren't getting played on commercial radio. You had to go looking for their stuff elsewhere, which meant you encountered other artists pursuing similar tangents and interests, some to far greater extremes. At some point, I just sort of forgot about Rush ... like an old friend from a country where you used to live.
posted by philip-random at 9:39 AM on January 19 [5 favorites]




Those first two albums in particular. The way that brash sound just cut through everything else I was hearing at the time. More than any other band, they dragged me into the 1980s, got me excited about all the changes that were going on.

I didn't see U2 until they were huge, about 1986, but people I have talked to who saw them much earlier, sometimes as an opening act that they had never heard of, were still in awe of those shows.
posted by thelonius at 9:49 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


I remember that somebody kept playing U2 in the art supply shop I was working part-time at in 1983, so they made an impression on me and have been on the periphery of my musical awareness for pretty much all my adult life but still, the only thing I can associate with them is “..Sunday, Bloddy Sunday...” which seems like an amazing feat to me.
posted by bonobothegreat at 10:48 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Back in the early 80s, I was going to a bizarro boarding high school where nearly everyone played, or aspired to play guitar.

Is this bizarro? Back in the early 80s, I was going to a(n apparently) bizarro boarding high school where nearly everyone played, or aspired to play guitar. The set of "nearly everyone" included me, but I quickly switched to bass to become much more employable.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:51 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


This is wonderful—I'll send it to my music theory students. Fans of the genre might also enjoy Neil Cicierega's underappreciated Twitter bot @PrefabFM, which posts short tracks of production library music from the 80s–90s, along with their descriptions, e.g., NEW ADVENTURE: powerful, dynamic scene with modern rhythm. I think there's a lot of real work to be done on this musical world, with its funny combination of crassness and sincerity.
posted by phetre at 11:06 AM on January 19 [1 favorite]


That bit in the middle made me question my love for the soundtrack to the movie Drive.
posted by Sterros at 11:12 AM on January 19 [2 favorites]


The reason U2 sounded so fresh and inspirational is because the Edge was instantly recognized as being on about the same level as the rest of us.

I once heard a bootleg of U2 covering Neil Young's Southern Man. Partway through the song, Bono said, "We formed a band because we wanted to play songs like this. But we weren't good enough so we had to write our own songs instead. And we still aren't."
posted by suetanvil at 11:32 AM on January 19 [7 favorites]


I am always painfully aware of pharmaceutical commercials use of corporate music...ask your doctor!!

To me, commercial ukulele music is equivalent to Comic Sans.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:53 AM on January 19 [6 favorites]


Is this bizarro?

You have no fucking idea.

By my reckoning, this was an institution adept at producing artists and authoritarians. And a distressingly notorious line of detestable men. I knew, and was taught by, several infamous examples who were involved in running the place and/or alumni.

There is nothing about this school that wasn't completely bizarro. How it drew so many musically talented boys is just one of the many curious branches to this twisted tree.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:00 PM on January 19


OK yes, ok i must share

Andy Fink - Corporate Report is a series of "session musician" recordings from the 70s and 80s.

Session musicians were amazing. Highly skilled musicians who could lay down a backing track right the first time. Fine folks who would jam the hell out of your corporate composition, before synth libraries were a thing. Before you could move some shapes around on a computer screen, you needed a human to actually play that repetitive guitar progression - and they did, and they did the hell out of it.

Andy Fink - whoever that is - seems to have scraped through some libraries of these tracks, cleaned, remixed, balanced the levels, to make them sound AMAZING. seriously, this is my fucking jam.

Corporate report vol 1

Corporate report vol 2 (my personal favorite)
Corporate report vol 3 (wait maybe this one is my favorite?)
Corporate report vol 4.
posted by rebent at 12:23 PM on January 19 [17 favorites]


RE: Corporate Report

To quote a friend, when sharing with him (we've been discussing the links for while):

"You should listen to the KPM Library Music. Library Music is what that music is commonly referred to, because they were released in big libraries for production. Production Music/Library Music. But the KPM Library is outstanding.

Edgar Wright used a fair bit of the KPM library in Spaced because it's so cheap to clear, and often is also very good.
"

He sent along these excellent links that proved his point:

KPM Vol. 1

Keith Mansfield - Incidental Backcloth No.3

So I suppose not all corporate music used to be totally terrible?
posted by deadaluspark at 12:39 PM on January 19 [9 favorites]


I once was waiting for the host to start the meeting, and this was playing:

10 Genre Variations on "I'm On Hold" - Postmodern Jukebox (Official Hold Music of UberConference)
posted by XtinaS at 12:52 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Ah, I went to my bookmarks for a vintage early 80's corporate demo reel and it's gone now. It was by the late Ricky Keller - Atlanta studio bassist extraordinaire, Bruce Hampton bassist (in Late Bronze Age and other bands) and, finally, producer.
posted by thelonius at 1:19 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Library Music is what that music is commonly referred to, because they were released in big libraries for production.

Slight correction: it's music made for the libraries of production companies. Also called stock music, "stock" as in inventory.
posted by rhizome at 1:36 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Interesting, looks like Wikipedia chose Production Music as their moniker for it, as both Library Music and Stock Music redirect to Production Music.
posted by deadaluspark at 1:39 PM on January 19 [1 favorite]


Archive.org has production music oozing out of it. This has historical value, folks.
posted by not_on_display at 1:48 PM on January 19 [7 favorites]


I wish sombody'd go back to British Pathé style music. (about a minute in, there's a bit of cake icing handiwork worth checking out)
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:52 PM on January 19 [4 favorites]


Deep Philosophical Video
posted by Rhaomi at 2:01 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


U2 sounds on ukulele
posted by spitbull at 3:40 PM on January 19 [2 favorites]


Oh yeah, I'll chime in for some more vintage KPM library tracks, the unobtrusive mellow quasi-jazz-funk flow was a minor hit for aging ironic jaded hipsters somewhat like myself, loosely related to Muzak tm, (& parodies by Negativland).

I liked the Tantacrul video, I felt a twinge when he started to reference Adorno, who has funny ideas about music (which I don't quite understand). There's quite some bunch of cultural theory about alienation that could be woven in here...

(I have mixed feelings about U2; I liked their first few albums; then their breakthrough big hits were overexposed; their personas grate a bit (Clayton seems more earthy); The Edge has this minimalist guitar style with many echo pedals that speak on his behalf, which young guitarists often envy).
posted by ovvl at 4:57 PM on January 19


This guy is the Adam Curtis of music.

By the way I've been looking for piano sheet music for common telephone hold songs. If anyone knows where I can find that please PM me! When I'm entertaining I want to sneak one into a set, to see if anyone raises throws any quizzical looks.
posted by hypnogogue at 7:27 PM on January 19


I’ve played in multiple rock bands, produced what I feel is a respectable body of work in the world of electronic music, and released material on both digital & analog formats.

Guess how I financed a large portion of these creative pursuits?

Yes, by writing radio jingles and corporate video soundtracks.

A paying gig is a paying gig, and this guy could stand to be less pious about it all.
posted by tantrumthecat at 8:00 PM on January 19 [6 favorites]


Yep, playing music and getting paid is the sweet spot for a musician. It requires more than just talent. A bit of luck and a lot of gumption go a long way.
posted by sjswitzer at 8:30 PM on January 19


Artists making bland-per-brief-requirement corporate graphics are in much the same position. Don't ding the artists, ding the cowardly C suite fuckers who demand this shit.
posted by flabdablet at 8:36 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]


Indeed, there could be an exactly parallel post about the visual style of drug ads. (And probably has been.)
posted by sjswitzer at 9:00 PM on January 19


These soulless musical space-fillers are much better in my mind than the practice of corporations licensing songs with actual artistic merit for their ads. Nothing ruins a song you love more than having it become the jingle for a car commercial.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:16 PM on January 19 [3 favorites]




A paying gig is a paying gig, and this guy could stand to be less pious about it all.

I don't remember anywhere where he has a single negative word to say about the people composing these pieces (mostly because he doesn't have a single thing to say about them at all). He's got lots of comments on corporatism, on the evils of modern business, on the companies themselves, but none about the workers (except to say that the setting and context demand the kind of output he's describing of anyone working there, which to me is suggesting pretty strongly that he doesn't hold the composers responsible, but the C-suite and corporate environment itself).
posted by Dysk at 2:14 AM on January 20 [5 favorites]


A thread on soulless corporate music would hardly be complete without the MAXIMUM PERFORMANCE MUSIC of BUSINESSFUNK.
posted by transitional procedures at 3:01 AM on January 20 [6 favorites]


As someone who's taken a few long-haul flights on UAE airlines over the years this is so relatable. It's the soundtrack of the unskippable intros to inflight movies, and of the corporate ads aimed at business types who are actually flying to Dubai and Abu Dhabi rather than transiting through.

Great channel. His takedown of that study of how pop music is supposedly getting worse is also terrific.
posted by rory at 3:11 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


I don't know too many composers but I do know quite a few photographers and filmmakers and I definitely don't begrudge them when they get corporate gigs. People have to eat.
posted by octothorpe at 5:22 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Sure - but I've done plenty of bland work-for-hire too, and it's possible to think both "I'm glad I got paid to produce that garbage" and also "I wish I didn't have to produce garbage in order to get paid."
posted by showbiz_liz at 6:35 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


I posted that BUSINESSFUNK link on Slack as a gag once, and one coworker got really into it.
posted by thelonius at 7:04 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


The Edge has this minimalist guitar style with many echo pedals that speak on his behalf

In This Might Get Loud he sort-of-sheepishly ackowledges that, showing what a lick sounds like with and without his enormous bank of gear.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 7:53 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


In This Might Get Loud he sort-of-sheepishly ackowledges that, showing what a lick sounds like with and without his enormous bank of gear. Even playing 2 chords and dancing on the wah-wah pedal (which is very much an active part of that riff) is harder than you might think, but then again, so much of guitar playing is multitracking lots of guitars (so many bands have a mostly unacknowledged 3rd guitarist hanging out in the back on stage) that the way the Edge makes small riffs sound big is pretty impressive.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:38 AM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I didn't get the sense that he was shitting on the people who compose the pieces. The whole video seemed to be about how corporations seek out anodyne, meaningless pieces on purpose to serve the specific goal of being audio wallpaper that makes the corporate message slightly more digestible. It didn't seem to malign the artistic credentials of the people who make it at all. It's not like the musicians and producers are leading the charge on these music trends anyways.
posted by chrominance at 9:25 AM on January 20 [4 favorites]


You say that, but at lunch I heard music compositions by (I think) Pink, Justin Bieber, and someone else that I didn't quite recognize (Kelly Clarkson maybe?) that sounded (minus the vocals) just like corporate music, so no he only maligned corporations (and U2) but people wearing business suits and dreaming about accounting are not making this music, and I think the small number of big name producers are in fact leading these trends, its just that the vocals of professionals who maybe do care a bit more are mostly covering it up.
posted by The_Vegetables at 10:13 AM on January 20


Well, if we're doing catastrophic gear failure and U2, here's Bill Bailey's take.

(Bonus Kraftwerk tribute.)
posted by Devonian at 11:07 AM on January 20 [2 favorites]


We were so well-behaved about not yucking yums in the recent U2 and Rush threads. Gloves off here, I guess? :)
posted by sjswitzer at 5:44 PM on January 20


he sort-of-sheepishly ackowledges that, showing what a lick sounds like with and without his enormous bank of gear

I think there's a legitimate argument to be made that the enormous bank of gear is a vital part of his instrument. He doesn't play the guitar, he plays the augmented guitar. Trying to do this without pedals and amp strikes me as somewhat point-missing, if brave; the effects make the piece and the choice of vibrating string assembly to feed them matters rather less, as this friendly, accessible version clearly shows.

Roger Waters puts a similar argument.
posted by flabdablet at 7:04 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Studio, rack equipment, and pedal board. All of these have been under the "instruments" umbrella since at least Joe Meek (personal landmark only), and if that's too tenuous then how is a pedal board different than a synthesizer? It's just a different signal input and the noise doohickeys are split into a bunch of little boxes with footswitches and knobs and whatnot. One of the most revered analog synthesizers, the Oberheim Xpander, does not have a keyboard.
posted by rhizome at 7:12 PM on January 20 [1 favorite]


Gloves off here, I guess?

Bring me your yucks and I shall yum them. Unless of course they're objectively awful, in which case I will simply fail to respond. I'm your little yuck canary.
posted by flabdablet at 7:47 PM on January 20


I heard music compositions by (I think) Pink, Justin Bieber, and someone else that I didn't quite recognize (Kelly Clarkson maybe?) that sounded (minus the vocals) just like corporate music,

They might sound similar, but they are going to have some pretty key differences. They are generally going to have some kind of development through the song. If nothing else, there'll be verse sections, and chorus sections. There's no Humpty Dumpty sitting, sitting, sitting, sitting... sitting... still sitting, etc.

And in a sense, this is how all corporate art, design, and general presentation works. Take the surface elements of actual artistic expression, of something that people actually like, and then crush it flat into meaningless nothing with no substance, soul, emotion, or message. Corporate music kind of aesthetically resembles real music on a very surface level, just like corporate cause marketing resembles people actually caring about things, being passionate about their beliefs, but only on a very very shallow level. It's a weird fetishism of form, while excising all of the function that that form was developed to serve.

Which is why you get corporate music with similar kind of timbres, tempi, and surface 'sound' as fairly popular real music, but with everything else that those aesthetic decisions were in service of or underpinned in the popular music removed.
posted by Dysk at 3:05 AM on January 21 [5 favorites]




They might sound similar, but they are going to have some pretty key differences. They are generally going to have some kind of development through the song. If nothing else, there'll be verse sections, and chorus sections. There's no Humpty Dumpty sitting, sitting, sitting, sitting... sitting... still sitting, etc.

But the difference is a real song is 3 minutes long, not 45 seconds like corporate music, and also not meant to be played in an endless loop. And dance music genres barely have those at all, choruses are often breaks in the middle of a very long possibly very repetitive track.

Either way, it's kind of an interesting concept, when people discuss the 'simplifying' of pop music, that moving the chorus up sooner and having more dramatic changes in the intro is part of the 'simplification', but has not yet lead to shorter songs. I posit that corporate music is what that would sound like.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:12 AM on January 21


But the difference is a real song is 3 minutes long, not 45 seconds like corporate music

Eh, maybe in the genres that corporate music borrows its aesthetic from, but there are a lot of short songs (and minute plus commercials and sales/corporate presentation videos) out there.
posted by Dysk at 7:19 AM on January 21


I don't think the "real" songs are three minutes thing is holding all that steady in a lot of what people choose to listen to, the pop song 3-5 minute ideal is still out there, in part because of the ease of selling the songs ironically enough, but there's a lot of music being chosen that isn't like that at all, some of which is a lot closer to the corporate style than one might have expected not that long ago. Things like the popularity of "Chill" music and incidental music from video games often seem to edge pretty close to the minimal development, simplified instrumentation concept corporations use to sell their ideology.

That isn't entirely surprising I suppose given how many people treat music as a background track to almost everything they do, so complexity would be unwelcome in many activities for being too much of a distraction. That method of consumption and its closeness to corporate music use, along with many other things from current values around the arts, are a bit worrisome in an unclear way for what it might portend and could use further exploration to draw out the better and worse implications of it all. I personally don't think it's clear what it all suggests yet, so I'm not ready to either wholly condemn or accept it at this point, but keep a wary eye on it all.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:07 AM on January 21 [3 favorites]


Things like the popularity of "Chill" music and incidental music from video games

Vaporwave, lo-fi hip-hop, et. al. immediately sprang to mind when I was listening to the initial video in the thread about corporate music.

There is actually a large volume of popular modern music where the songs are a minute and a half or less.
posted by deadaluspark at 8:14 AM on January 21 [1 favorite]


There is actually a large volume of popular modern music where the songs are a minute and a half or less.

Yup, it's called grindcore.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:43 AM on January 21 [2 favorites]


I don't think the "real" songs are three minutes thing is holding all that steady

Hey Joe 1:08 (not counting spoken word intro and outro)
posted by flabdablet at 12:27 AM on January 22


I heard music compositions by (I think) Pink, Justin Bieber, and someone else that I didn't quite recognize (Kelly Clarkson maybe?) that sounded (minus the vocals) just like corporate music,

Also, as the video makes quite clear, some types of corporate music sound superficially like U2. That doesn't mean that U2 are corporate music. I quite like U2, but even if you don't, and you think the Edge's guitar effects suck, they are still a rock/pop band making rock/pop music, whose aesthetic and 'sound' corporate music sometimes borrows. This is fairly obvious and, based on the comments here, I'd say pretty uncontroversial too.

So exactly the same logic applies to Bieber and Clarkson and Pink (really? I'm not that up on modern pop, but Pink is generally a lot... brasher, isn't she?) but for some reason that isn't obvious, that is controversial?
posted by Dysk at 3:12 AM on January 22


Say what you like about Justin Bieber, at least he...

Nah, I got nothin.
posted by flabdablet at 4:07 AM on January 22


The thing about the Humpty Dumpty quality that big me isn't that it's sitting,..sitting... but that it's like a sonic barber pole; designed to give the illusion that it's forever building.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:10 AM on January 22 [2 favorites]




Does anybody else have ears that simply don't let them hear Shepard tones as continually rising or falling? I've always heard them as a slow whoinggg.... whoinggg... whoinggg... repeating tune rather than any kind of consistent tone.

The exact pitch where my brain puts the join between repeats does vary depending on the timbre of the particular recording, but it's always been there and it's always at a consistent pitch within any given listening session.
posted by flabdablet at 9:38 AM on January 22


Manic Pixie Dream Ukulele
posted by clawsoon at 12:34 PM on January 22 [1 favorite]


« Older The women of Shaheen Bagh protest against India's...   |   How much of us is just... random? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments