My "Classical Music" style

When I was young I played trombone... well, I still play the trombone on occasion, but that's not the point. When I was young and playing the trombone I was exposed to a variety of different music styles. The concert band played mostly classical music, but occasionally band tunes from the likes of Souza. The stage band played jazz tunes from the big band era to modern Dave Brubeck and Chuck Mangione. Outside of band there was disco, which was great for dancing but not something I actually listened to, or other popular music from people like Miami Sound Machine or the harder edged anthem rock bands like Kansas, Styx, Yes, Led Zeppelin (the list goes on). Without realising it, these sounds affected my musical tastes, interests and have crept into my compositions.

My classical compositional background leads me to want to score the music, so very little of anything I write isn't done with notation software at some point. (I rather enjoy putting the little black dots on the screen.) Still, there are elements of these other artists that affect what I write and in some respect how I write.

Sometimes I sit at the piano (without a formal education in how to play it properly) and bang away at things that I think sound good. If I hit on something I really like, I jot it down (to be input into the computer later). These bangings come in three forms, deep pounding, full, rich chords like you might hear out of Holst's The Planets or some late 70's anthem rock song, jarring rhythms reminiscent of Brubeck's Take Five or lyrical and highly melodic as you might find with Chopin or Miami Sound Machine. You're probably cringing to think I put the two of those in the same category, but I really love Chopin wove his melodies and harmonies together, and when I listen to Miami Sound Machine I find their melodies and the rhythmic interplay of the accompaniment to be very similar to what Chopin did.

Philip Glass, Steven Reich and the other's of the minimalist school speak of the influence rock and roll had on their musical tastes, so it shouldn't surprise me to find the music of my generation the late 70's, early 80's has done the same with me. For me, however, rather than see these influences of popular and classical as coming from different worlds, I am finding the similarities.

Holst, Dvorak, Shostakovich all dealt with melodies and strong layered sounds. Led Zeppelin certainly has layers to its music and you have to admit a bar chord with a bit of distortion is certainly a strong sound - and what would "Stairway to Heaven" be without it's melody - which is learned by every guitarist on the face of the earth. Maybe the overall structures of the pieces are different, although Holst certainly wrote a number of strophic hymns, it wasn't really a form he used for his major classical works. But I think if you analyze Kansas "Leftoverture" you'll find more than just strophic structures too.

Brubeck's Take Five is still one of my all time favourite pieces. I just love the 5/4 metre. How interesting that Holst used irregular metres in Mars.

As I prepare to present to the world (or at least to Edinburgh) my music in a formal way, I am doing so with the understanding my musical background is not just built on old, dead composers, but some very recent, live ones as well. And their musical history is not so far from those dead composers to unrecognisable. I hope the my music celebrates all that's wonderful in the old and new, a blending of them in such a way to create yet again something newer - which may be influential to others.


El Spud said…
It's funny you should write this as I'm sure the classical sounds filter through (unrecogonizably) into my stuff. Consider the guitar solo (two guitars in harmony) on Butterfly. Barret took it to the next level with his refinement but the complimemtary melodic idea is there...
Chip said…
Barrett certainly has a classical background with his university studies. He didn't finish his degree, but it was obvious working with him years ago how much that influenced his work. Your own music, while having flavours of the fab four and other "older" legends, also has an air of classical feeling to it - and not just Butterfly.

For those of you who don't know Shay and Barrett, Mission 101 or their Album Sky Blue - you can go here:

Good friends and better music!

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