Music Teacher's Helper Blog

The 20th century gave birth to many dreams and ideas about the future like electronic music, how it could look like and wether it was good or bad, it always seemed a little alien compared to what we are used to. This started happening in many areas including of course technological research and different areas of cience.

As the world was subject to an impressive amount of change from the beginning of the 20th century to the beginning of the 21st century, people began to express more and more their feelings of excitement or anguish about the future, with movies, literature, paintings, and of course music. Every single form of art moved by the technological advances both ideally and literally.

Electronic Music

electronic

Synthersizers were a big part of this genre in the beginning as it managed to bring a more machine like sound, something that distanced itself from the very human and organic sounds of traditional instruments. This allowed musicians to reinvent the way music was in the 80s, with so many ideas of the future, music also took a giant leap and explored new ground in ways to make, record and even sell music.

But as years went by electronic music made another big leap towards computers, and now electronic music is one of the biggest most heard genres, not only because there are so many artists using samples and PCs to make music, but because of what it inspires and what it really means to make and listen to electronic music.

Why Should We Listen To It?

Listening to some artists or types of music does not mean you have to love it, however there are times when we appreciate something because of it’s cultural or historical impact, rather than entertainment value. Of course it could get you hooked too. In this case, there is no doubt that electronic music marks a new era in music as a whole in many ways.

A few decades ago, it would have been ridiculous to think that music could be made with a computer, much less produce, and make whole records with just one computer. A studio is no longer necessary for some genres of music, of course if more traditional instruments and natural sounds are needed, there is still the need of proper acoustic and a studio. However it is now possible to do everything from your computer, and electronic music tends to be like this.

There is an interesting aspect about this genre, which is that, while it’s not a natural organic sound, that is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s different, and sound works in a different way. Sound are not just waves, sounds in a computer are numbers, and numbers work in a different way, but it allows for easier manipulation..

Machine Beat

What does it feel like to listen to electronic music? It can be quite varied, but there is a recurring factor in every composition of electronic music, and that is something that can’t be changed, because it comes from the nature of its origin, it’s all artificial, it’s a machine that is making the sounds, and the musician operates, works with the machine as if it were a band member in order to create a musical piece. The feeling of something perfect, artificial, it’s there and that’s what is so strange about it, but at the same time so engaging. One of the reasons electronic music has had so much success is that it manages to sync the rythm of large crowds, this feeling of happiness and energy comes from the fact that machines don’t skip a beat, they don’t make mistakes, you can feel sounds going forward and everything just falls into place like a perfect algorithm.

That’s also the reason why experimenting with music that can channel this feelings is so interesting, because it allows very complex structures and feelings to be in a composition, integrate the perfection of a machine with the flawed perfection of musical structure and order of human beings is still something new, but as any new ground, it has to be conquered and as musicians we have to make the most of each era, make new was of composing and learning new ways to experiment with sounds.

Electronic music is part of our culture, it’s very young and it’s very much alive, to ignore it would be stubborn from our part and we as musicians would be missing great oportunities of our time.

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There is nothing like a live performance, while making records and streaming music is usually the way that music gets to a large amount of people, there is something about it being played and heard in the moment that makes a deeper bond and greater connection with the audience.

Jack White has an interesting “rule” when it comes to playing live. Live performances usually follow a setlist, which is the order of songs to play during the show, however Jack White doesn’t follow this structure, and the reason behind it is that he believes that the crowd and the player sometimes feel a certain way and other times react differently, the way he does it is that depending on how the crowd reacts or feels, he will then react with a song.

I want the show to be alive,” he says. “And I want each show to be different so that the crowd is in control of what’s really happening onstage, whether they know it or not.

Jack White

He thinks that there is a connection that arises during shows on stage that makes musicians feel in sync even if they don’t know eachother very well.

Maybe one day, it’d be interesting to do a tour where none of the musicians are allowed to speak to each other. They only see each other onstage. That would be an interesting experiment.

Jack White

This makes the experience even more unique as the musician and the crowd interact in the same way a band reacts to improvisation.

Live Performance and Improvisation

Improvisation is also an important part of the live act, not just as a planned part of the show but also as a way of dealing with unforeseen events such as a string breaking or tumble on stage, or some sound malfunction. The idea of going prepared and with specific orders in mind can only take you so far, there is a whole other reality when everything is happening.

Of course depending on the music genre, there is a different approach to these situations, for example, Rock is a lot more malleable and free in terms of improvisation and “going with the flow” but on the other hand, a string quartet has to follow a strict pattern in which every sound and every movement needs to line up. The way a Rock band deals with a broken string could be with humor, rage and even keep playing without any concerns whatsoever, but in a string quartet, if a string were to break (which is highly unlikely) the piece could not go on. That is not to say that one live experience is better than the other, it’s just a different thing

It is important to remember that classical music once welcomed improvisation into their performances, mostly piano composers, but why isn’t it a common thing now?

The great piano composers were all fluent improvisers. Bach, Mozart, Chopin and so many others are reported to have improvised to audiences regularly. Beethoven’s improvisation duel against Daniel Steibelt, which he won to become the most lauded improviser in Vienna, proves this point whilst it also demonstrates how many virtuoso pianists of the time were skilled improvisers. So when did improvisation cease to be part of the job description for classical pianists, and why?

Phil Best

The reason is not really a strong one, in reality what happened was a combination between the separation of composer/performer and the idea from the 20th century of bringing all the music to the most faithful interpratation possible.

While there are still some pianists such as Robert Levin and Gabriela Montero, it’s not a very regular thing to happen today.

There is much to talk about when it comes to live performances, but it’s good to remember that some of the things that happen in those situations cannot be reproduced or copied, every show, every event is a one in a lifetime thing.

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There has been lots of research surrounding music’s healing capabilities, some spiritual and some medical and cientific, due to its effects on the human mind and body, but this is an ongoing dialogue that never ceases to amaze, because there are indeed some uses of music that can help with our health.

The human brain and nervous system are hard-wired to distinguish music from noise and to respond to rhythm and repetition, tones and tunes. Is this a biologic accident, or does it serve a purpose? It’s not possible to say. Still, a varied group of studies suggests that music may enhance human health and performance.

Harvard Health Publishing

The Brain and The Mind

Mind

This is the area where research has been more extensive and profound, there is a focus on this area because it’s where music has it’s most direct consecuences.

The neurobiology of music is a highly specialized field. But music also has major effects on many aspects of health, ranging from memory and mood to cardiovascular function and athletic performance.

Harvard Health Publishing

If it affects the mind it will affect the body but more on that later. There has been an increase of interest towards the importance of music in the area of psychology since the mid XX century, however studies of music and their consecuences in human behaviour dates back to the studies of ancient greeks,

Meditation

There are many exercises such as Yoga and Tai chi that uses music as a method of relaxation and helping the mind be free to embrace the activity

Music and meditation has its origin in religious music, due to the general alignment and meaning of the compositions.

Body

There are also many phisical reactions to music involving the heart, blood pressure and of course the most common “goose bumps”

Research has shown that music may influence central physiological variables like blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, EEG measurements, body temperature and galvanic skin response. Music influences immune and endocrine function. The existing research literature shows growing knowledge of how music can ameliorate pain, anxiety, nausea, fatigue and depression. There is less research done on how music, and what type of music, is utilized and administered specifically for optimum effect in specific clinical situations.

PubMed.gov

Concerning what type of music and how it does what it does, many believe it might be different for each person, depending on what type of lives they have and how they think and live as an individual. The fact that there are phisical effects is universal, but how, it depends.

Music Genres: Mind and Body

Music is healthy in many ways, and it has been like that for centuries. Each person finds its way into different types of music that fits their needs or rather, the lack of something in their lives, for example. Someone that listens to heavy metal, may not be a violent person, actually, it’s a way to counter negative feelings.

A thesis based on case studies shows that listening to music (heavy metal included) helps people who have been traumatized. It helps them regulate their emotions, overcome suicidal thoughts, and occupy their sensory environment.

Cognitiontoday.com

For example techno music has another set of common effects related to energy.

Further, due to the techno-music induced biological effects and its proven ability to increase endurance and buffer the immediate negative effects of exercise, it is easy to understand the strong link between techno and all-night dancing.

djbroadcast.net

The effects music has on our bodies is much greater than people would think, and it can be dismissed as just being entertained, but it goes beyond that, and even more, there is still some mistery surrounding this, and only time and experience might will say if it’s something that can be fully understood.

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