Sunday, October 15, 2017

Weekend Diversion: Song structure

Most of these Weekend Diversion posts about music have been about songs, artists, that sort of thing. But the way pop music is made and has evolved is interesting, too, and the Internet helps to explore that.

The video above from Vox is the latest in their “Earworm” series. This particular one talks about repetition, and how it’s everywhere in modern pop music. Basically, it’s because we find repetition interesting—though the video doesn’t really explain why we find it interesting. Maybe we just do.

In any case, repetition is used a lot in pop music, and that certainly can’t be by accident. I know that I think repetition is interesting when it goes beyond merely repeating the hook of the song, although that can be good, too. I like repetition of structure, and also mirroring, which I realise is different.

But enough about that—I don’t want to start repeating myself.

The other video, below, is of a TED Talk from some three years ago. Coincidentally, I just saw it this week when it popped up in the “Up Next” list of videos on the righthand side of YouTube. I’m not entirely sure why it was there—it’s totally different in subject matter from the other videos I’d been watching lately—but I’m glad I saw it.

The video explains, as the YouTube Description puts it, how sampling “isn't about ‘hijacking nostalgia wholesale,’ … it’s about inserting yourself into the narrative of a song while also pushing that story forward.” Put another way, sampling is a way of not only creating new works, it’s about building on what’s gone before. The fact that music corporations want to prevent sampling unless huge licensing fees are paid, something not mentioned in the video, means that the opportunities for this sort of creative work can be very limited, especially for new artists.

The way pop music is made and has evolved is interesting. Taken together, these two videos help explain some of what goes into pop music creation, why things sound the way they do, and the creative process behind it all. For me, this will add another layer of appreciation when I hear a new pop song, along with the continuing wish I had musical ability.

Mainly, though, I always think finding out the detailed story behind things is interesting.

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