By The Landord
"If you want to be a different fish, jump out of school … I don't even know what sound is, much less what it's for. It isn't to make money that's for sure … The wind is a very difficult sound to get. It's always changing." - Captain Beefheart
"Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something … Without deviation progress is not possible." - Frank Zappa
"Music is about putting myself in a place that's frightening because I haven't been there before… It’s inherent to keep experimenting all the time. Therefore I keep reaching for instruments I don't particularly know how to play, and then I become excited." - PJ Harvey
What makes a song musically adventurous? Overall, a work that is full of surprises or innovations. It could contain a single defining moment where there is a strange combination of sounds or voices, or a passage of play that you simply can’t define, strange key signatures, multiple sections that jump between styles, narratives and rhythms, or you could choose songs that in every way broke the musical mould. Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa and PJ Harvey are just three examples who constantly experiment in their work, but I try to avoid the word “experiment”. In a wonderfully cringeworthy way, this always reminds me of Derek Small’s Jazz Odyssey:
But who does musical surprise well? Two odd fish from a massive ocean of examples, might be example, the Chicago brother and sister duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger - aka Fiery Furnaces – their work is a true oddity of interesting experiment. Give, for example this nine-minute track some patience and you will discover a different odyssey – of stories, anecdotes, literary reference and other multiple sections and directions, with music that jumps from the bizarre and experimental to the extremely catchy.
But songs don't have to be innovative or adventures all the way through to fit this topic. In the example of the chord change, you might consider those rabbity old Cockney mates Chaz and Dave. You might not think there’s anything adventurous about their music, but they have always been underrated in their musicianship. In this song, the chord change moments here certainly please me, because they capture the apparent changeability of the “darling” Chas fails to please. In musical terms it captures a state of emotional flux that still sounds so normal and fluidly easy on the ear.
At The Song Bar, we can go anywhere we like, so let's go from Chas to the classical canon. Classical music’s history is full of musical adventures alongside conservatism and tradition. Mozart for example, as portrayed in the poetically licensed but very enthralling film Amadeus, was criticised for composing with “too many notes”, but this still captures how his work took the world by storm because it broke the mould.
The 20th century heard more musical adventure than any before it, and in classical terms, and perhaps none more so than in the work of Béla Bartók. and Igor Stravinsky. The latter’s Rite of Spring completely broke the mould - it was received with almost riotous bewilderment after its 1913 premiere in Paris. The composer had created something so startlingly new, he could only explained it had no influences, and that he was simply “the vessel through which The Rite passed”.
Leading us through this strange forest of chord changes, musical innovation and surprise, let’s welcome back our old friend, the fantastic flatfrog, another Song Bar guru debutant, who in a previous place did a very "Gouda" job on cheesy songs that were so bad they were brilliant. I'm sure there will surely be no shortage of oddities for him this time …
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