ThoughtStorms Wiki

Context : MusicalStuff

Quora Answer : Why do musical artists - even the best ones - lose their ability to write a memorable new melody, far before they lose the ability to sing or play?

May 3, 2020

I'm not sure they lose the ability.

But I think something parallel happens.

Good melodies are often very simple and, perhaps, clichéd.

You need a really simple sequence of notes for it to resonate with a lot of listeners. So young artists who are still working things out, and listening with fresh ears, are happy when they hit on a great tune that people like. Even when it's really corny.

As they get older, though, and more skilled and their knowledge gets more sophisticated, they are less happy with simple and clichéd. They want music that demonstrates their greater theoretical understanding and more subtle or more virtuoso technique. Music that demonstrates their ability to go beyond cliché and innovate.

The mature musician thinks he's playing a great melody. But in a not too crassly "obvious" or repetitive way. A melody subtly submerged within an inexhaustible river of inventive variations and teasing at daring colourful or rich harmonies with admirable economy through a few choice hints.

And for some listeners, that's what they hear. But most people can't hear the forest for the trees, and it sounds to them like tuneless noodling.

Quora Answer : Why is youth so important to musical creativity? Movie makers, painters, writers etc. can make great works of art in middle age, but when it comes to musicians the cut off point is around 40 years of age. More like 30 when it comes to peak ability.

Jun 3, 2020

I've written one answer about this, here : Phil Jones (He / Him)'s answer to Pop Music: I know there are exceptions, but why do lots of song writers write their best tunes when they are young?

I think that answer is an important part of it.

But there's more we can elaborate on.

Alex Johnston is right that it's more a phenomenon seen with pop musicians.

And the first thing to notice there is that "pop music" is "young people culture"

In other words, pop musicians are doing more than making music. They are "role models" or "pathfinders" for young people who are still forming an identity.

Most people who find success in that area just ARE young, because you need to be young for the young consumers of pop to be able to identify with you.

So ... the creativity of young people is highlighted by pop culture.

Older musicians in rock and electronica etc. might well be doing great and creative work. But relatively fewer people are paying attention to them or noticing.

Secondly, there is some physical stamina and fitness required for certain kinds of popular music. Rock stage shows are pretty energetic. Rock and pop touring schedules are (by all accounts) pretty gruelling.

If being a great pop musician means playing live. Then, sure, you'll see younger people at their peak. Because the older musicians are going to settle down to a quieter life.

No reason that this quieter life can't involve creative composing though.

Another piece of the jigsaw is that younger people tend to have social lives which involve being exposed to more influences. This is true of listeners. You go out for the sake of going out, whether to a bar or a gig, and hear new bands and DJs. Friends at college give you mixtapes of obscure music you never heard of.

When you are older, you stay at home more. Are more responsible for what you listen to. It's more down to you to find all the new ideas and take them on board. The same is probably true to musicians to an extent. Once you are locked into your particular groove, with a particular community, unless you challenge yourself to get out of it, you might find your horizons of what's possible shrinking.

There's probably commercial incentives behind that too. If you've had 10 years as a particular kind of rock musician, nobody (your fans and management company) wants you to go off and make your attempt at a trap mixtape.

Quora Answer : What makes a music composer lose the ability to write a catchy song, and why does every great artist end up doing bad music?

Jan 30

Generally it's not so much that good artists start making bad music, as that they get stuck making the music that worked for them in the past. But that has diminishing returns, both artistically and in terms of delighting people.

In the past, their particular take was new and exciting. It captured the zeitgeist. It inspired fervent fans.

But inevitably, after 10 or more years of people making music like that, the general listening population are not so surprised or impressed by it. The music that was once fresh and shocking has become a cliche or a formula. People have heard too much of it and moved on.

And now the artist is caught in a dilemma. If they keep to the same formula, people are bored. And if they change the formula, people who loved them for their earlier work are disappointed.

I think it's very hard for an artist to escape this trap. The world wants something different and their fans want more of the same.

They try to change, and stay relevant. But now they are racing to follow fashions, rather than being lauded as the inventor of them.

One temptation is to try to become more "sophisticated". After all, as an older artist, they have refined their technique and increased their understanding. But making "sophisticated" music loses the directness and immediacy and "accessibility" of their earlier work. It's not so catchy. Even if older, more musically educated listeners nod their heads approvingly.

Or the artists tries to stick to, return to the rawness of their youth. But that simplicity was also the product of a kind of gauche naivety. Which was charming for a 20 year old. But looks calculated or pathetic on a 50 year old. A 50 year old can't sing about the carefree irresponsibilities and emotional turmoil of youth, without looking like a total fool.

As artists age, we require them to do the almost impossible. To be the same and different. Remind us of the excitement and charm they had as youths, while inhabiting their age well. To continue to be original and innovative, without throwing out all the things we liked. And when they fail, we hate them for running out of steam if they repeat themselves. And hate them for losing the plot if they don't.

There are artists that manage that. The continuity and freshness. Some of the artists who do are my favourites..

But it's bloody hard. Much harder than just being a bright young thing, making an impression with a good tune, at the forefront of fashion when you are 20.

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