[music-dsp] [OT] unknown sounds

Sampo Syreeni decoy at iki.fi
Sat Apr 28 09:06:31 EDT 2001

On Fri, 27 Apr 2001, James Chandler Jr wrote:

>I'm not using complexity as an ethical value judgement of good or bad.

I know, people on this list are careful enough not to make this mistake
easily. But many musicologists *do* make this precise mistake. It's a
slippery slope. Perhaps we should try some loose, information theory based
formulation of complexity?

>Or more concrete examples-- see how long the average citizen can tolerate
>Frank Zappa or Mahavishnu Orchestra (G).

Zappa is irritating, Cobham is *god*. ;) And of course you're right, few
people have the patience for that sort of thing. But I have a couple of
examples of tunes with relatively high complexity along all of the
aforementioned axes, while still being agreeable to a number of people.

One example is a relatively unknown d'n'b artist called Hefner. The rhythms
aren't very fast, but they're bound to drop anyone the first time around -
lots of breaks, unintuitive little leaps and delays, the sort of thing
that's mostly pure 4/4 but doesn't sound like that. Chords: everything from
the simplest pop sorta no-nonsense tricord to bi- or tri-tonal ambience.
Tuning:  I've yet to hear anything equal tempered from him. Melody: sampled
from all sorts of weird world music. Timbre: anything you can do with the
usual filters, i.e. pretty impressive when applied to sufficiently nasty
chord progressions. So it's complex. Yet everybody I ever played him to
seems to think it's pleasant.

Then there's also the thing about setting - most people are willing to
listen to pretty far out stuff given the right circumstance. I think an
excellent example is the soundtrack of Kubrick's Shining. It's a collage of
Ligeti, Bartok and Penderecki, which means serial, with cluster technique
and some genuine mutilation of the instruments, and still quite a number of
people who wouldn't usually go beyond playlist grade pop seem to live it
intensely when they see the movie.

All this makes me pretty weary of overgeneralization when talking about
musical complexity and preference.

Sampo Syreeni, aka decoy, mailto:decoy at iki.fi, gsm: +358-50-5756111
student/math+cs/helsinki university, http://www.iki.fi/~decoy/front

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