Friday, July 15, 2011

Brush Strokes of Melody

     "Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything." - Plato

     In other words, music is emotion. What we hear influences how we feel.
     I'm extremely picky about music. Although I haven't touched a piano in seven years, and I can't begin to explain music theory, I know what melodies and sounds I am engaged by. I don't like middle C. It irks me. It's too normal and familiar. I don't like bridges. They stink. Just stick with one theme and don't change it in the middle of the song. Opera scares me. Too much repetition gives me a headache. And I don't like music with words.
     Music can best be described and compared to paintings. Like music, paintings play with the viewer's emotions. Our external senses motivate our feelings, and, in turn, our actions to a degree.
     The popular music of today is about as emotive as a Jackson Pollock painting. Don't get me wrong. There are people who are able to project emotions on the paintings, but the paintings in and of themselves have no solid emotion besides methodic chaos. 
     For many years, there has been a steady deformation of the arts that has affected both music and fine art. What we're left with are screaming, amoral or meaningless lyrics, and hollow melodies that appeal to the culture merely because of their prevalence. In art, we're left with "fine art" paintings that are nearly as profound as the Japanese flag.
     What happened?
     Much like the move away from God's calendar, mankind has moved away from an objective truth in favor of a subjective one. There is no longer a fixed meaning in some music and art. The listener or the viewer creates or projects the emotion or the meaning onto the painting or into the music.
     Nevertheless, there are still large quantities of good music out there. Personally, I like instrumental music best. The sound of raw, beautifully emotive music, unpolluted with the human voice has a very captivating aura when preformed well.
Also, I find that epic music is extremely motivating while doing something completely not motivating like calculating the product moment correlation coefficient. Epic music generates an invigorated emotion. Sometimes that vigor is edged with darkness like Hans Zimmer's music from the film, Gladiator. Other times, the vigor of epic music is pierced with rays of cautious hope or conclusivity. (Yes. I made that word up.) I think a good example of this would be Atli Orvarsson's "Return of the Eagle."
     Ludovico Einaudi's piece, "Divenire" could be best interpreted along the lines of Thomas Cole's painting, "The Oxbow."
     Michael W. Smith's instrumental album, Freedom, is an inspiring mix of patriotism and equanimity, similar to Lee Teter's "Vietnam Reflections."
     No matter what we listen to, it can influence how we feel, and, in turn, influence either our outlook, our mood, or even our conduct. Art is not a petty or fruitless invention of mankind. God can use the arts in mighty ways, but the opposite is also true. The arts can be used to break down absolute meaning and eventually degrade entire cultures.
     Music may give a soul to the universe and wings to the mind, but sometimes, music the size of an ostrich may only give the mind wings the size of a sparrow.

     On a completely unrelated note, the formatting on this post is significantly different from that of my previous two posts. To make this post look like the other two, I would need to mess with the messy HTML that specifies fonts. I don't like HTML. It's confusing. In other words, get used to the way that this post looks because you'll be seeing it this way from now on.


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  2. I was thinking of Gladiators, as you began talking of music as emotion. I love the 'bigness' of the sound, it really can make you feel like you're going to burst your skin.
    Unfortunately you're right about 'word-music' these days as a general form. The music has either been simplified to a cookie cutter basic for mass use in Churches or has been magnified into such chaos that it neither adds anything to the lyrics nor creates anything more than a bad headache in the listener. I haven't been able to throw out the lot entirely, though, as you have seemed to be able to. There are yet some obscure artists out there that still know how to accent the beauty of poetic imagery with melodies that rope your heart and imagination. When done well it can be stunning.
    (You should check out the Braveheart soundtrack, it doesn't have the largeness of Gladiators, but its interesting none the less.)