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Music That Vomits Heartfelt Wailing
Bare music
Sun, 07 Jan, 2024 09.07 UTC

I recall a conversation I had with Jeremy in 2013 that can be vaguely associated with the so-called music of the spheres. Jeremy was searching for music with no emotional content. His reasons were slightly different than my own, but the search itself is similar. And in addition to the search itself, I aim to CREATE music without emotional content, or, rather, with an emotional content so vague or abstract that it won’t be something enforced onto the listener. I think Jeremy’s search originated in the distraction he felt from enforced emotion in music. He was looking for two things: music to work to and music for listening that was intellectually stimulating. I don’t discount the fact that he may also look for subtle emotional emanations in his listening preferences, especially those of a dark and disturbing nature, since he is also subject to the annoyance of sloshing chemicals in his brain, but it been clear to me since that time that music that vomits heartfelt wailing isn’t much to his taste.

The connection I mentioned to music exuded from planetary movements is that they are types of bare music. I call it bare music because the lack of emotional content in the music is such that the listener must overlay, whether consciously or not, a layer of feeling onto it. No matter what the pseudo-philosophical poppycock surrounding the music of the spheres might mention, planetary (and even stellar!) movement music, interpreted, of course, by sensors made by mankind, is an extreme example of bare music. There is absolutely no implied emotional content. Any resulting feeling is placed upon it by the listener.

Glancing back at one of the topics of the previous entry, a piece of bare music can be seen as a prompt. How the listener processes the music emotionally (whether they create something accordingly or not) is the result of following the prompt. Prompts are by nature vague, so bare music can be an ideal prompt. I suggest all of you poetry groups on Mastodon (or on / in any other environment) hand out poetry assignments with each Flavigula “piece” on the Gunge album - see the Flavigula Funkwhale - and each one in order. In fact, every piece is likely to inspire a week, a month or even an epoch’s worth of poems. So several lifetimes can be consumed by these bare music prompts. Get to it!

For me, the process of creating music must be a vague endeavour. Any mental storyboard could taint the sonic outpouring with personal emotive landscapes, though in truth, I may be the only one to recognize them. Such terrain may be opaque to listeners of the finished piece, resulting just as well with a piece of bare music. So, I take that back. A mental storyboard might work well enough as a template for sonic exploration. I know that my fumbling “friend” Christian associates all sorts of visual and “plottish” elements to the atmospheric and wholly instrumental music he writes. None of these prepared landscapes remain in the results I’ve heard, however. Had he not told me about his composition process, I’d never imagine what he was imagining during the composition process. Thus, in these cases, he produces adequate bare music.

The point is that the focus in composition should be elements that stimulate, though only stimulate abstractly. This is in direct contrast to any emotional wailing (and I’m not just referring to vocals). Avoiding common chord progressions and especially common cadences is recommended. Let melodic phrases be short, repetitious, transformed often and certainly not sing-songy. Sing-songy hovno distracts from abstraction. Sing-songy content has an altogether different purpose, quite distinct from bare music. That’s not to say that melodies should not be memorable. Of course, memorable is a term that differs in reference to music depending on the person and their listening “competence”. It’s certainly possible that a good chunk of the populace only gets sing-songy melodies stuck in their head. This chunk of the populace will soon be consigned to the pit. But, returning to the point - that’s not to say that melodies should not be memorable. A good rule is to just not have them follow too many sequential triadic tones. When I come back to a piece after one of its resting phases and its melodies call to me yet don’t strike me as saccharine, I am satisfied.

And I write all of this whilst listening to Lifehouse! Ha! It’s certainly distracting.

Ideas that I have of texture and rhythm are not as well formed in the context of bare music. Much like the aforementioned “friend”, I fumble about a bit when it comes to these two things. Perhaps fumble isn’t the correct word. A better description of what I do rhythmically, besides avoiding commonalities, is sparsity and subtle shifting of meter and tempo. I resist adding too much swing, as I find it brings too much focus to the rhythm itself. I also find myself revising rhythmic elements more than harmonic or melodic elements. I haven’t completely found my rhythmic style yet. Texture is another beast, best left to other writings.

Or perhaps Lifehouse has defeated me!

Along with martens, goulish goats and the rippling fen -
these writings 1993-2023 by Bob Murry Shelton are licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

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