Thoughts on music

Loudness wars

This problem is apparent to many a music lover. For now here are just a few pointers.

Minor darkness

Music serves a number of purposes. It's not my intention to try and define which purposes are 'allowed' and how exactly they are defined, but I believe one major reason why people listen to music is that it makes them feel better. In this light I find it depressing that so much of current music is dark and dismal. Isn't there enough agony in the world already?

In a sense, this all harks back to the days when Christian church was the main producer and consumer of serious music. The minor scale was deemed the one and true scale, and major scales were considered profane or outright lecherous. Even today we associate extensive use of major scales with hollow childishness, and serious music is more often than not somewhat dismal.

Of course, the inducement of happiness is far from the only function of music, and even that makes use of ambiguous and alternating scales. For example, blues scales are considered most enjoyable in all Western music, according to some studies, and they are hard to pin down as either major or minor. But even such ambiguity is falling out of fashion in these dark and 'gothic' times.

Talking about other functions of music, I often think of expressing emotions or thoughts that are hard to deliver by other means. I guess whenever I write a consistently sad song, it is an emotional outlet (see also: Talvisuru), whereas most of the ideas I want to say require more ambiguous scales (e.g. Guitar Forms).

Anyway. I think it's perfectly acceptable to make and listen to the dark side of musical force, but why the heck do they play it at parties? They're supposed to be events for enjoying life, or what?

Interestingly, this relates to the distinction between hard rock and heavy rock, something that I found hard to see back in my pre-teens. I liked the kind of music that people called hard rock, and didn't care so much for heavy rock. This preference still holds BTW :) I had a vague distinguishing idea that hard rock is more 'andante' and uplifting, whereas heavy rock was kind of pushy and forceful. Only later I've realized the simple fact that hard rock is usually played in a major key, and heavy rock in minor.


First of all, 'hook' as a musical term is most definitely a buzzword. It's a magic word that is thrown around whenever makers of pop music tell about the process of writing a new song, and it's rarely well defined.

The problem with hooks, whether in music or any other application of style, is that anything that initially stands out of the whole is probably annoying in the long run. Pop tunes with strong hooks sound great the first time, but aren't likely to sound good after a number of times.

A more subtle problem with hooks is that they detract attention from the less intrusive parts of music. I used to say that commercial music is like a prostitute, in that it gives you only what you think you want, and hence it is so boring. Music is interesting when it is more like a real person, leading an unpredictable life of its own.


Ambient is the kind of music that isn't going anywhere and doesn't have a destination or a tension to release. It just is. The complete opposite of pop music. It's also the antithesis of hooks. Some people, notably Brian Eno who is one of the authorities of the field, define ambient in terms of background function, but nothing could be further from my idea of ambient. It's a demanding listening, not something to be taken lightly in the background.

Progressive $genre

Art should be progressive and explorative by nature. Any artform that needs explicitly to declare itself as "progressive" is hopelessly antiquated and ossified.

It's unfortunately that there are some legitimate genres with the name "progressive" in them. For example, I think that 'progressive rock' is a genre in its own right, instead of a despreate cry from the rock circles to prove that they are evolving. Good thing it's also known as 'proge'.

Of course, in cases like progressive rock there is clearly a lineage of evolution to follow. But if you follow that logic, everything is simply a progression of something earlier. Don't you agree, my fellow progressive apes?

Risto A. Paju