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Complexity and enjoyment

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Neelus View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Neelus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Complexity and enjoyment
    Posted: October 25 2012 at 15:29
What qualities do you feel makes a song complex to create?  Are these the the same qualities you seek for auditory enjoyment?  Just curious to hear what the prog community comes up with...
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Ambient Hurricanes View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2012 at 21:32
Good topic.

I think that complexity is a requirement for music to be considered progressive rock, but it can be difficult to define as musicians can explore complexity in a number of ways.  A song that is not complex in the traditional melodic/harmonic/rhythmic way can be complex in the intricacy of it's parts, in the timbres it uses, and in the atmospheres it generates.  I'm not even going to try to define how any of those aspects can be complex (I'll let our post rock experts and other more knowledgeable people take that one on) but I think it's important to realize that complexity comes in many more forms than many of us traditionally recognize.
In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a brand new tune.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Zargasheth Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2012 at 21:35
One factor that I feel is responsible for a lot of complexity and (for me) personal enjoyment in music is rhythmic in nature. If a piece of music contains unusual time signatures, or multiple voices playing in differing rhythms, this makes it more complex. Not only do I find the complexity enjoyable, I like the "layering" that results from the interaction of these different rhythms. In general, the presence of many interlocking layers makes music both complex and enjoyable for me, but the rhythmic component of this is one of the most influential aspects.

I would say that complexity (to a point) can hold a listener's attention, because in the absence of a complex arrangement, the music can become either predictable or sparing, both of which can be boring. This isn't to say that sparse music is necessarily boring, because there is a lot of good sparse music as well, but  the presence of complexity can provide enjoyment of its own.
When it comes to music, very little is objective.
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thellama73 View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote thellama73 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2012 at 21:55
Complexity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The most successful prog artists were complex because the existing rock music offered them an insufficient vocabulary to get their ideas across. Complexity for its own sake is rarely enjoyable (to me anyway.)

While I love a lot of very complex music because it challenges me and presents me with things I haven't heard before, sometimes the simplest song can be incredibly powerful.

An example fro one of my favorite musicians:




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Post Options Post Options   Quote SaltyJon Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2012 at 21:59
Rhythmic complexity is a quality I've always enjoyed in music.  It's not necessary, but as a bassist and wannabe drummer, I've always paid particular attention to rhythm (both from within the rhythm section and without). 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Ambient Hurricanes Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 25 2012 at 22:12
Originally posted by thellama73

Complexity is a means to an end, not an end in itself. The most successful prog artists were complex because the existing rock music offered them an insufficient vocabulary to get their ideas across. Complexity for its own sake is rarely enjoyable (to me anyway.)

While I love a lot of very complex music because it challenges me and presents me with things I haven't heard before, sometimes the simplest song can be incredibly powerful.

An example fro one of my favorite musicians:






Amen, here's to that.  Beer
In blood, he's writing the lyrics of a brand new tune.
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Neelus View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Neelus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 26 2012 at 03:40
What makes me enjoy a song, or album, is when it moves me emotionally.  If it manages to move me through multiple different ones, great. I think creating a song/album that can do this very well is, to me, the fundamental of musical complexity, and this makes some songs/albums in a different class to others (to me). I feel there are alot of tools that can be used to create this complexity. I like what ambient hurricane posted regarding the fact that there are many aspects that can be complex in music. I understand that alot of this is subjective, but there does seem to be certain songs/albums/artists that succeed in reaching out to more people than others (even within prog).
One example I can quickly think of is the opening track of The Wall (In the flesh?).  When you hear the first 15 seconds of that track for the first time, you are expecting another space rock standard opener, as on earlier albums like WYWH, and then Gilmore and Mason knocks you out of your seat with a riff that basically sets the tone for the rest of the album.
Fantastic element of surprise, almost fear.  Then the song starts to morph into beauty close to the 1 minute mark with that absolute peach of a riff by Gilmore.  And then at the 1min30sec mark, when the vocals come in, the song starts to take on the space atmospere that the floyd is so well known for, but with more of a mad twist this time around. Absolutely brilliant!  I am not surprised this album had the effect on people that it had. It was so huge, it is almost uncool :)
Most of the albums I enjoy happen to be from the progressive rock era of the late 60s and early 70s, and I feel it is for this reason mostly. The fact that alot of recordings from that time could move me so fantastically.  Artists like Pink Floyd, Caravan, Harmonium, PFM, Rush etc... Absolute masters!


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Manuel View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Manuel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 26 2012 at 07:27
for me, complexities is mainly a factor product of orchestration ad arrangements. Sometimes musicians get to entangled in complexity, making their music a little dull. complexity is good, provided it conveys the emotions and the ideas the music is meant to express.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote infandous Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 26 2012 at 08:37
I'm in agreement about rhythmical complexity.  I think that is the first thing that draws me into music.  After that though, I look for melodic complexity.  However, I find even fairly simple songs can become quite interesting if the arrangement is complex. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2012 at 09:04
Could be odd time, could be dissonance, could be lots of harmonic or rhythmic changes, could be layers of harmony, plenty of things that could make music complex.   As far as enjoyment, firstly, it's a personal preference and depends on what each one enjoys.  And secondly, it depends on whether the complex arrangements serve the need of the composition or not.  If they are there just for the sake of it, just to make it sound proggy, it's probably going to be more of an irritant than an attraction.  IMHO, it should ideally be done so neatly that you do not even notice the complexity until you start paying attention to the details.  
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Post Options Post Options   Quote dtguitarfan Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2012 at 09:15
For me, I get bored if a composition stays mainly in 4/4 or some other common meter - I'm always looking for changing rhythms and compound time, so that's a big factor for my own personal enjoyment.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 27 2012 at 14:00
Originally posted by Neelus

What qualities do you feel makes a song complex to create?
...
 
All of them and none of them. I hope that it all never becomes so clinical that, what you suggest is all there is to music!
 
Complex, is not hard or difficult and it might be simply something that is inherant in that culture ... but it is more difficult for someone else to play. You will find that most western musicians can not handle the different scales in India ... unless you are a seasoned veteran and enjoy Jon McGlothlin!
 
Originally posted by Neelus

...
  Are these the the same qualities you seek for auditory enjoyment?  Just curious to hear what the prog community comeup with...
 
I don't listen to music because it is "complex" or "simple". I listen to it because the spirit behind it is special and important and valuable to my experience ... not your words! I experience it myself, not through/via someone else. Thus, for me, it is important to remain independent so you can define/illustrate your OWN ability to listen ... and learn to invest in that and EXPAND its abilities.
 
If all you can enjoy is a specific thing, or style, you will miss a lot of beautiful things stated in a different manner ... and I hope that you, one day, will see that a bit better and not worry about ideas and wordings that make it all so clinical that it is not enjoyable anymore.
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

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Post Options Post Options   Quote brainstormer Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 00:31
Music that is imitative is no longer complex.
--
Robert Pearson
Regenerative Music http://www.regenerativemusic.net
Telical Books http://www.telicalbooks.com
ParaMind Brainstorming Software http://www.paramind.net


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Post Options Post Options   Quote appudds Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 01:06
For me, complexity is not just playing technical stuff or odd time signature crazy stuff. Many can do it. It is nowadays not a big deal. But what is complexity is how you are able to bring emotion/feel out of such technical music. That is where your true musicianship lies. There are a lot of bands which have full emotion but no technicality as well as bands that have only technicality but no emotion. How you are able to balance them is where complexity lies. And I feel the genre of progressive is one of the few genres which have been able to do that and that is why prog is so great. From the 70s till date, there are a lot of bands which were able to master that balance and that is why they are legendary. Being a drummer and composer of my band, I tend to make technical stuff as it is fun to play but I don't get the emotion running within me which I get when I play songs of say, Tull or Yes or SB or TA or DT, etc. This is where my other band mates come in to add new dimensions to the music Smile
Hence, this is where I work on to improve myself as a musician on the whole to strive for that perfect balance. 
And I think everyone ought to work on that in order to achieve high complexity in music and to improve themselves as musicians. If you reach that level of complexity, you not only feel happy and enjoy it but also reach another dimension. 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Dayvenkirq Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 02:12
Originally posted by Manuel

for me, complexities is mainly a factor product of orchestration ad arrangements. Sometimes musicians get to entangled in complexity, making their music a little dull. complexity is good, provided it conveys the emotions and the ideas the music is meant to express.

Exactly my thought.
"People tell you life is short. ... No, it's not. Life is long. Especially if you make the wrong decisions." - Chris Rock
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Post Options Post Options   Quote HarbouringTheSoul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 04:36
Complexity subverts the expectations of the listener, which is what can make it so enjoyable. If a song does something that you didn't expect it to do, that can be very satisfying as long as it still makes sense in the context of the song. That said, it can also be very enjoyable for a song to do exactly what you thought it would do.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Sumdeus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 05:03
I don't think music should strive to be complicated exactly, when it does that it gets kinda over the top and without a point. I think most prog is complex simply because the musicians were trying to make interesting music and it ended up complex. I also think it can be complex in many different ways. Some music I made might just be a jam centered around two chords but I would layer so many different parts that I still think it is complex music to take in, even if the structure isn't as complicated as something like Yes or Gentle Giant
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Post Options Post Options   Quote moshkito Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 17:41
Originally posted by HarbouringTheSoul

... as long as it still makes sense in the context of the song. ...
 
I really think that this is exactly what populist and commercial tastes are all about. And when all one can say is discuss the "context of a song", you lose sight of the complexity! Why? ... a "song" is one of the simplistic forms of music there is!
 
So sorry ... that would suggest that this discussion is not progressive and is not about music ... just about one little facet in music that popular music experts do not like to admit is much more simplistic than REAL music out there, and acredit some rock music by people that DEFINITLY know the difference and were not interested in a simplistic format!
 
In general, adding complexity to a "song" is a waste of time ... you do not have enough time to develop the theme and make it work within the 3, 4 or 5 minute context for your ears ... so why bother with more experienced and better musicianship (or music for that matter) ... when just a top ten singer that simply has a voice with some good notes on it, and has no ability to extend that beyond the "pop song" singing routines.
 
Enjoyment has nothing to do with complexity or simplicity ... or next thing you gonna tell me that you having ___ with your girlfriend is a complex song .. ohhh yeah ... you have to get her flowers, make sure you do not spit on the carpet, that you do not show up late when she's ready to __________ .... your analogy is silly ... please see that, so you can FREE the music to live ... think of the music as a person ... so you will be saying that the complexity makes sense as long as it is within this person named ... your girlfriend ... kinda silly ... 
 
There is no such thing as "as long as it makes sense in the song" ... and specially when almost all of the 20th century history of music has been about countering the process and the standard that it was defined by ... and then rock and jazz got here, and they set the music back 300 years with its simplicity ... because you certainly are not talking about a guitarist that does 10 to 15 minute pieces, or a violinist that does that ... !!!


Edited by moshkito - October 28 2012 at 17:52
... none of the hits, none of the time ... you might actually find your own art, or self, and forego lousy heroes or Guru's!

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Post Options Post Options   Quote HarbouringTheSoul Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 18:18
I would like to give an in-depth answer to your post, but quite frankly I'm not sure if I correctly understood a single word you said. A little, uh, coherence would be appreciated. So let me just say this: When I say "song", I mean it colloquially, in the broadest possible (and admittedly inaccurate) sense. The definition of a "song" requires that it have vocals, but like many other people I incorrectly refer to all types of compositions in rock music as "songs". A bad habit, if you will. By the way, this also disproves your claim that a song is a simplistic form of music: It's not a form at all. Any composition with vocals is a song, regardless of its content or complexity.

What I meant with "as long as it still makes sense in the context of the song" is that complexity should always be in service of the composition. Subverting expectations is good as long as the composition still follows an internal logic. A bunch of non-sequiturs make for a very complex composition, but also a very incoherent one. I'm not saying that something is only complex when it's enjoyable. I'm saying that complexity is only good when it's enjoyable. Complexity is not a virtue by itself, it is a tool like any other that can be employed to good or bad effect.

And that rock music reversed or set back the development of music is an odd thing to say in a progressive rock forum. If that is indeed so, the music we all enjoy must be a futile exercise is developing a genre that is degenerated and useless to begin with.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote rogerthat Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: October 28 2012 at 20:55
^^^  I have had this problem a few times before on this forum while using the words "song" or "songwriting" because, like you, I tend to use them broadly and not specifically w.r.t the likes of Burt Bacharach.   There exists a certain viewpoint that looks at 'progressive' purely from the standpoint of liberating composition from the limitations of "song" and from such a perspective jazz and rock would look like a step backwards than forwards.  But I'd rather look at all the shades of expression they added to music, at all the new sounds they've brought.  

His point is well made (but expressed unfortunately in a confusing manner), though, that adding complexity to a song in the strict sense of the word is pointless.  Which is why I rarely find prog vocals particularly sumptuous for my taste - it can't be when the vocal sections are just interjected between long instrumental passages.  The argument I have heard to that is that's like opera but it's not strictly like opera either.  It's an unorthodox structure, like others prog devised in the 70s for its peculiar needs, but one that ultimately doesn't really let the singer shine.  In that case, why have a singer at all...just have instrumental compositions which might facilitate deeper development of good musical ideas.
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