Sunday, August 02, 2015

Singing versus Music

Lana and I had an interesting discussion yesterday about our musical tastes. Hers are much more eclectic than mine. She likes Metallica and Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow and Motley Crue. I hesitate to say it, but she also likes some….disco. Me? I like hard rock and heavy metal. And that’s pretty much it.

In our discussion yesterday, I had a bit of an epiphany about my own musical tastes. That is, I like music that is heavy on the music, and I don’t care about the singing. Lana appreciates both aspects of music, but—for me—the singing is simply…meh. I won’t listen to music just for the sound of the singer’s voice. The music itself has to be catchy and, generally, full of energy and intensity.


I’m going to link to some examples to illustrate my points. First up is “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele. I’ve listened to this song several times with Lana and apparently I always say I like it. However, I never seem to remember it next time Lana mentions it, as she did yesterday. So I went and listened to it with my new thoughts on the subject. It’s a good illustration of my point. First let me say, I really like the singer’s voice modulation in this song. However, “Rolling in the Deep” is about the singing, not the music. In fact, to me, the music is virtually non-existent, and is not really important to the effect of the song. It’s all about the voice. 

In contrast, after watching the Adele video, I felt a need for some heavier stuff. I called up “Albatross” by Corrosion of Conformity. Instantly, a surge of energy swept through me. I became aware of my heartbeat, of the taste in my mouth, of the way my eyes moved in their sockets. My fingers started to drum. Other than the word “albatross,” I scarcely know what the singer is saying in this song. Nor do I care. This song is about the music. The voice is a compliment at best. 

I decided to give another work a listen, and chose “Angel” by Sepultura, which is a remake of a Massive Attack song. The music here starts out very slow. It’s almost non-existent, much like in the Adele song. First there are just the words of the singer. But then the music starts to build, it starts to hammer, it starts to scream. My scalp tingles. My body flushes hot and cold. I didn’t see them but I know my pupils dilated. The voice of the singer is mostly just a shriek now. There’s no Adele level modulation of the voice. In fact, half the time he isn’t singing real words. I don’t care. This is what I listen to music for—the power and the glory. 

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34 comments:

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Charles, I listen to all kinds of music though not much of hard rock and heavy metal or jazz. I like Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow as well as Adele's lead song for "Skyfall." I have been listening to Peter Frampton again these past few days.

Charles Gramlich said...

Prashant, it's probably a better way to be, to enjoy a lot of different kind of music. Lana enjoys it. I't just not in me, I think.

Lana Gramlich said...

That does it. Today is officially "Earth Wind and Fire Day" here at the Hermitage. Mwa ha ha!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

We like the same type of music! Although I lean more towards the progressive rock side of metal.
As a musician, I appreciate good music, especially guitars. But I also pay attention to the lyrics. (I always look up the lyrics of a new band before buying the album. There are certain things I do not want going into my brain.)
I can appreciate other types of music, even if I don't actively listen to them. Except country. Still sounds like nails on a blackboard to me.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lana, don't they sound like Chicago?

Alex, not much for country myself. Especially older country. And Jazz doesn't do much for me.

Richard Prosch said...

I like it when the music and the vocals balance. In hard rock/metal, I think Bruce Dickinson, Dio, Hetfield, a few others, are most often in sync with their bands. Bon Scott has a boogie-woogie sorta thing that worked well with early AC/DC but I don't know how it would work today. Sometimes a band goes one direction and a singer goes another and the collaboration no longer works.

Richard R. said...

My parents used to say all the rock 'n' roll songs sounded alike (they didn't! Not too me!). Hate to say it, but just about all the metal since Black Sabbath sounds the same to me. I listen to rock, blues, jazz, vocal singers from Sinatra to June Christy and so on. I listen to a LOT of classical. No rap, no metal. So it sounds like I'm in the Lara camp. Not that there haven't been a few heavy metal songs that I've liked, but not enough to buy/download them. And yes, the lyrics matter, because almost every song tells a story.

Charles Gramlich said...

Richard Prosch, yeah, I think that is a key for hard rock. The singer's voice shouldn't clash with the music but compliment it. Dio is a good example. David Lee Roth in the early days of Van Halen.

Richard R., interesting how it works. For example, I can't tell Frank Sinatra from Tom Jones, from Dean Martin from Harry Connick Jr. All those songs sound exactly the same to me.

Oscar said...

I enjoyed that post, Charles, even thought I'm a country music fan most of the time.

Sphinx Ink said...

I too prefer the music to the singing, Charles, except the music I prefer is classical. Go, Mozart, Bach, Vivaldi!

Charles Gramlich said...

Oscar, I like Johnny Cash, I'll say that. :)

Sphinx Ink, classical is the metal of its era!

sage said...

Gotta love rock (when I am down, just put on some Pink Floyd, Steely Dan or Yes). I am assuming Lana is younger than you as my wife is younger than me. I was in college when disco came along and ruined AM radio--I hate it and but those who were much younger seem to like it.

Cloudia said...

Interesting, Charles. Chandelier by Sia is another vocal driven song, no?



Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, Lana is about 9 years younger than me. So she definitely grew up in a more disco friendly era.

Cloudia, I don't know that song but I'm guessing so.

X. Dell said...

Hmmm. Don't know how to respond. As a musicologist, I would say the singing is also part of the music (sonic text).

It might interest you to know that music isn't universally defined. Many cultures who compose and perform what we would call music don't even have the word 'music.' Instead, singing and instrumental work is usually referred to the activity associated with it. So here, music can be thought of anything from dancing to beer drinking.

On the other hand, there's an increasingly broad definition of the term 'music' by millennials and their kid siblings. Here, the sonic text (whether instrumental or vocal) often takes a back seat to the look, perceived attitude/ideology or lifestyle of the performer. For some audiences, everything I mentioned in that last sentence constitutes music. And you'll quite frequently hear something along the lines of "Such and such has a unique approach to music, even in the way it sounds."

I kid you not.

R.T. said...

I confess that my music preferences are forever locked into the past. I enjoy almost everything between Beethoven and Big Band era music (with Mozart and Benny Goodman being the front-runners), and -- even though I tried to expand my interests -- I never warmed up to any music that has been produced since the 50s with the exception of some music written for stage and screen. Egads! I am a f***ing dinosaur! But there is this: I thank God there are different styles of music for different people, and I shudder to think what life would be like in one of those demented socialist countries (e.g., North Korea) where people can "enjoy" only the music chosen and approved by the government. Can you imagine anything more horrible?

Charles Gramlich said...

X Dell, Oh, I know it's all an aspect of what we typically call music. I just prefer the sonic. But only certain kinds of sonic vibrations will catch me.

R.T., I do like a fair amount of classical. Never could handle Big Band. I don't really like the sounds of horns and wind instruments for the most part.

Erik Donald France said...

Fascinating. "It's all good" -- depending on what "It" is . . .

Ty said...

You kids with your fancy rock and roll music. Why, back in my day we listened to a good organum, or a madrigal, or even a Gregorian chant when we really wanted to rock. And we liked it!

David J. West said...

I love that song "Angel" its powerful!

I have a hard time with some songs if I hate the singer, even if I like the music. If the singer bugs me too much I don't listen. And when it comes to writing (I'm on a Led Zeppelin kick for this book) but I usually listen to instrumental = Two Steps From Hell.

Misha Gericke said...

To me, meaning and music must come together or I'll just be ambivalent about the song. Happens all the time.

Also, I pick up that I listen more deeply to lyrics than most people.

G. B. Miller said...

Back in my younger days (roughly my son's age), it was more about the music. Which was quite normal for me, since in my younger days I used to play a musical instrument, so it became easier to pay attention to the music (rhythm, beat, melody, etc.)

Now, because I listen to 20 times the genres/sub-genres than I did when I was younger, the voice now becomes predominant when I listen to non-commercial music.

Father Nature's Corner

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

I like music of all kinds, but I do love the singing and lyrics. :)

jodi said...

OMG-Team Lana all the way!!! I love Sinatra, Deano, Barry and all those old boys. That's when a song was pure-lyrics and melody!

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, that is the question.

Ty, I do rather like Gregorian chants when I'm in the right mood.

David J., I need to try more instrumental stuff.

Misha, thanks for visiting. I tend to hardly ever know the lyrics other than the title phrase. Sometimes I will pick that up.

G.B., I've never actually listened to a lot of music so I don't think it ever became important to me the way it does for many people.

Bernard, a way in which we differ, my friend



jodi, you and Lana would get along. :)

Riot Kitty said...

I love how you put disco into a smaller font.

I love music, and almost always have it on - many kinds.

BTW did you get my email?

Travis Cody said...

I like your description of how you feel the music. I do the same, but for me the drivers are melody and vocal harmony. I need a melody for my ear to understand, otherwise it ceases to be music to me and just sounds like noise. Tight harmonies that enhance the melody make it all go.

So it's not about style of music or genre or beats or anything. If it's metal with a melody I can understand and some kind of vocal harmony, I dig it.

Greg said...

That's interesting. I never really thought about music that much, about what I like and don't like about it. Maybe I should.

Charles Gramlich said...

Riot Kitty, I couldn't quite make it invisible. :)

Travis Cody, I do often appreciate vocal harmonies, like in Bohemian Rhapsody.

Greg, I tend to think about weird stuff.

Lisa said...

love the way you describe for the power and glory, there are different music listeners, some for the tune, some for the singing and some for the lyrics, I really like Mraz's music but only his old songs, his recents and latest I do not really like, I do love music and love many many songs and singers, I think Dire Straits has the all rounder songs

Charles Gramlich said...

Lisa, I like some Dire straits

Victorian Barbarian said...

Ever listen to Tibetan chants? Wagner? (talking about the power and the glory with both voices and instruments).

Anonymous said...

I laughed at some parts. I especially liked how you chose a smaller font for the you~know~which~genre. Mwah~hah~hah.
I agree: some modern pieces are there just for the voice of a singer, some are for music.
As for me, I am an omnivore in music (although I do not consume anything).
I love renessaince and baroque music, even chorals (chorus music), from Bach through Mozart and Verdi to Puccini and Arvo Pärt and almost everything in between :) You probably know that I sing in a women's choir.
But I like some of the modern music like Metallica, Abba, or Lisa Gerrard as well.
And when I do fitness at home I may turn up some techno.

(I guess the list of composers/bands I dislike would have been shorter...)

Szelsofa

Anonymous said...

Victorian Barbarian,

you are my man with the Tibetian chants. Absolutely relaxing.
Szelsofa