Music/Jazz/Opinion/Comments/Business GREG HENRY WATERS NEWSLETTER July 2004
Objective: This newsletter came out of my experiences dealing in a new culture and a new history. The purpose of the newsletter is to provoke serious thought about musical art. What is it? Where should it be going? In addition, what is going on in China? I write about my personal experiences and my thoughts about them.
Write: Greg@cmporg.org for your comments http://greghenrywaters.com
Please send me e-mail requesting removal from this list if not wanted.
Letter in Four Parts
Letter from Greg, Woody, Message Board Comments, and Woody
Topic and Goal: I hope this gives you and awareness of current music trends and helps you make decisions about your viewpoint and opinion for real musicians and real music what ever that is to you.
You hit the nail on the head. It is hard to talk about music without someone getting upset about something or giving an opinion that no one cares about or is simply so far away from the original statement it has nothing to do with the original question.
The problem with music is that musicians follow rules that they decide is music whether it is jazz or classical or pop or Blues they have a set of rules to follow. I have a friend who was a great blues, jazz, R & B Player from Detroit settled in NYC that performed with a blues band in the Village.
He was telling me that he got bored playing the blues changes and started to play other changes, harmony, with the songs other than the basic chords. The band could not accept his creativity and fired him for trying to express himself in and individual way. This goes on in any form of music people are not allowed to be creative. I do not know what the answer is about this one, but I have had this problem all my life. People have had a comment when they watch me perform you do not move you just stand there. Well, the music is the center of attention not me is my answer.
With the lack of music education in the schools there is not any answer to this question. There is just too much ignorance out there for music.
The vocal nightmare is a nightmare and has hurt music in so many ways. They now call vocalist jazz musicians. To me this is such a joke it is too me just another way to sell more records and to promote the publishing rights of the publishing companies to make more money.
It has nothing to do with music. This was the great shock to me after living in NYC for so many years. All NYC is about is how to make more money using whatever market segment they could come up with. It was never about art or culture. This is the strange point about NYC. You can see this idea every night on David Letterman show the band that plays everything and nothing at the same time. This is NYC music. This is why I do not miss it.
When I was home for a few months I went to the union to watch a rehearsal band perform. I could only sit there for 15 minutes and had to get up. Because it was never about music it was about making money and having relationships with other musicians to get gigs. It was the Broadway musician's rehearsal bands. A lot of musicians are victims of the market place and we can do anything about it either join it for awhile or jump out of it. Charles Ives sold insurance to be creative.
"saying that the music that I "hate"
This quote reminds of a Dr. of Musicology that was giving an official statement that hip hop was a creative form of black music and was equal to any other class of music. Now what is one to say of this statement? I do not know. Perhaps you could tell me? Opinions about music are really out there. I just say J. S. Bach started the well tempered tuning system and wrote the greatest music for it. He is the universal standard and there isn't anything else. But maybe I am the same as Dr. Musicology.
I had a comment from a composer here in China said after listening to my Tone Poem from China. You compose music like Bach. Well, what a nice compliment to me. My composition teacher said that composing free counter point was the most difficult thing to do in music composition.
Making money! "hip - hop if I thought it was so easy. (I never said it was easy, and my main concern was the absence of musicians in R&B, not rap."
Woody, with the computer you do not need any musicians the computer produces everything. It is all about money and the musicians never see any of it. Here in China I can work if I am willing to work for 10 dollars a night. I am not that hungry, yet.
This is my point everybody has an opinion. I am so sick of hearing other people's opinion is the reason for my newsletter. I want to write my viewpoint. So maybe I can make other people sick like they have made me sick. This doesn't sound nice but why cannot I have a voice in the world arena the people who are voicing their opinion are not qualified to speak out yet they have the floor. You cannot speak out because it is not socially acceptable is the answer. But they are speaking out with their bull. Just control and more control the power elite just care about the control and not the end product.
When I was in Chicago I met them and talked to them. They were interested in me but I was busy getting my masters degree and could not take time to listen to them. But they were great musicians and produced wonderful music. In Acapulco they have a big following in the singing clubs. I heard their music a lot. It was good to hear something that was trying to be substantial in their own right putting all the elements of jazz, pop, and show music together into one performance. Now we are down to a drum and talking. But I was listening to Richard Wagner the other day and could not take that too.
"music that has no musicians"
Well, this is the trend of today I do not know what to do about it. We have to get rid of all the music devices if we want to bring musicians back. CD players, recorders, TV, etc.
Well, we have to write what we believe to keep the ignorance from our doorstep. This is all we can do. Even Bill Clinton said I did it because I could do it. Without sex there would be no people. What are people getting so upset about it. It is natural. Cannot two adults make a choice. Ben Franklin had a lot of friends in French and he was one of the most influential Americans in the history of our country.
Greg Henry Waters
Sent: Wednesday, June 16, 2004 1:52 PM To: Greg Henry Waters Subject: Re: Letter from Harold and My comments about NYC and Music China News
Hey, Greg, you'd be amused to read the comments of a guy on another message board The topic was music - other than jazz - that we're listening to. On a typical day, I'll listen to three radio stations - one university station that specializes in jazz, a commercial station that plays pop, rock and oldies, and another commercial station that plays R&B with some elements of hip-hop.
On the board, I noted how fascinated - and disturbed -I was that while the jazz and pop stations still played music that gave us a sense of the group, the R&B stations might play 3 songs out of 20 that have a guitar or acoustic piano. Almost everything is vocals over a lame (if not monotonous) bass line and drum loops. Some songs have keyboards, but that's about it. I questioned what happened to the musicians. So this other guy comes on and goes off on me, telling me I don't know nothing about hip-hop and can't appreciate it because I expect everything to adhere to the standards of jazz. And, of course, he made a point of saying that the music that I "hate" - note: I never said anything about hating the songs that were played - was made by people who are successful (I assume he meant financially). And then he challenged me to be successful at hip-hop if I thought it was so easy. (I never said it was easy, and my main concern was the absence of musicians in R&B, not rap. What I did do was question whether no one in contemporary R&B is creative enough to include musicians in their songwriting.) Sure, they've found a formula for success that works for them. But as a black person who grew up listening to The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, the Commodores, Earth Wind & Fire among many others - groups that if the singers didn't also play instruments, they were backed by bands, if not full orchestras - I find it very bothersome that with the exception of a few songs by Outkast, R Kelly and songs recorded at least as far back as the 1980s, the only thing getting played on this "black" station is music that has no musicians. It began as an innocent observation about the distinction between the presence of musicians in rock, pop and jazz and the absence of guitarists and pianists in modern R&B, but it has evolved into a duel between them, who thinks I'm a bigot against hip-hop because I'm old and don't connect with beat-driven music or because I'm a jazz snob, and yours truly.
If you're interested, you can check us out at http://www.magicisland.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=forum;f=8
Click the "What you're listening to, NOT c-jazz in '04" thread.
Greg, I am so glad you wrote me. Yeah, I totally misread your comments on the board, I guess because of the content of the original discussion, but I see we're very much in agreement on this matter. Funny you mention Letterman. My wife and I have had this conversation many times. No doubt, Paul Shafer and Co. are fine musicians. But you're right on the money. At times, they make music, but more often than not, it's just noise - like each member is trying to out-blare the others.
Occasionally, there's a recognizable song there. But most of the time, they're just loud. I hate that. I remember reading Spyro Gyra's Jay Beckenstein - I believe it was in Downbeat magazine - saying that the group does not endear itself to fans who like bands that jump around on stage and trash hotel rooms. They're not about that. That's one of the many reasons I love them so. They play, and very well as a unit. The individuals get their moments to solo, but there's always a sense of group. And that's the point I was trying to make on the other board about the state of R&B. The songs are okay to some degree, and the vocals are fine - save for those where the radio has to silence the lyrics for profanity - but there are no groups, so to speak in that genre.
We've always had singers/vocalists in popular music who didn't play instruments and didn't write their own songs. I suspect we'll always have those. But the difference between then and now - and between today's R&B and what I hear on the pop and jazz stations - is that the singers aren't even backed up by bands any more. It's like you said - one or two guys with a keyboard and a computer, and too often, they're satisfied with just mimicking the sounds of the drums and the bass, and nothing else. If they're commercially successful doing that, so be it. But I have to wonder about the young guitarists, pianists and other musicians who like R&B but can't get work because the industry doesn't want them. Not everybody can sing, and not everybody has a knack of rhyme. America is on the verge of losing a great musical treasure if we can't get young people instead in playing instruments as part of an ensemble.
I hope you don't mind, but I copied the text of your reply and pasted it on the other message board. Unwittingly, the guy who's been critical of my interest in "real drums" made your case and mine by continuing to bring up the fact that those people, meaning Usher and others of the genre, are financially successful. As to this comment: "This quote reminds of a Dr. of Musicology that was giving an official statement that hip hop was a creative form of black music and was equal to any other class of music. Now what is one to say of this statement?" Well, I suppose it's equal in the sense that it is an art form and there are, those who make it have just as much right as anyone else to produce and market it. However, I differ with the doc on the idea that it's creative. There's nothing creative about a 4-beat drum loop that doesn't change for the entire 4 minutes of a song. There's nothing creative about putting your rhyme to a rhythm and having some computer jock fill in the loops and bass patterns. Further, a lot of what passes for music in the hip-hop culture is nothing but copycat. The words may vary slightly, but the formula is so rigid that any kid who can get into a recording studio thinks he can make a record that sells. And peer pressure, particularly the lockstep mentality of black children in my community, is such that all you need is for one to play it and pass it around, and they all will love it - even if they have no clue what they love or why.
I hope this gives you and awareness of current music trends and helps you make decisions about your viewpoint and opinion for real musicians and real music what ever that is.
Composing with the Computer by Greg Henry Waters
For a composer the computer makes my life much easier and I can move much faster. Do not have copy out parts, transpose, orchestrate each part, copy out a score, rehearse the musicians, find musicians with enough ability, raise money to get a performance etc. and finally copy out the parts for performance. I do not have a 13 piece band now so I do not have to worry about that either. The music is in a library at the University of North Texas sitting in boxes waiting for someone to explore.
The computer does this all for me now thanks to the hard working programmers who made Band in the Box, Home Studio, Finale and Sibelius.
Never really liked Sibelius's music though. Thought it was always too heavy and slow not light like Mozart.
When I listen to my alto playing and hear all those fast notes I play and wonder how I did that or my flute playing how did I do that where did it come from?
I spent all day yesterday putting my woody newsletter on my site and listening for mistakes in my recordings wondering if I should re-record the song or songs.
I do not know if we can help the music business become more music orientated but we can try.
Always Greg Henry Waters .com