Tinkering with Music

Dear friends: I apologise to you for having to put up with a diva like me. That is all.

I am the only child of a music teacher who studied the interpretation of music in detail. At least, that's my excuse.

I like different interpretations of pieces and have been known to listen to the same piece of music interpreted in four completely different ways. Only other music people seem to get this, particularly if I get into an argument with someone about how I prefer X conductor to interpret Y piece and they say actually Z was much better, and you won't be able to shut either of us up for the next hour...

...With this in mind, it's not exactly surprising that I like rearranging pieces too. (It's work, though, and I really don't have the time to spare to be working on full arrangements. Aaargh.)

I suppose part of it is that I come from a very classical background, where technical skill in performing pieces other people have composed is paramount. One can think of Western art music as a series of very technically skilled covers. Western popular music, by contrast, concentrates far more on the production of individual songs rather than their subsequent interpretations (okay, this is very general and doesn't take into account things like TV shows which mostly have contestants performing covers, but I'm trying to draw a contrast here). As such, you see a lot more distinction between an original song and subsequent covers, which are usually seen as inferior.

I think - but I'm not sure if I'm making this up - that radically different song covers are a bit of an unusual thing because of a desire to stay true to the source material. (I suppose parallels could be drawn with the historically informed performance movement, which seeks to recreate pieces as they would have sounded when they were composed.)

This is where things take a radically different turn and I reveal that I'm actually really into folk music! One of the things I value about folk is its ability to keep reinventing and re-interpreting itself, constantly branching out into new genres and re-interpreting old pieces in so many fascinating ways. Maybe it's because of that fearlessness I see under the broad folk umbrella that I, too, become fearless. If I hear a piece where the instrumentation and vocals are godawful but I think the lyrics and chord progression are too good to pass up, the song itself doesn't need to be thrown out but I'll happily experiment with instrumentation and different vocal texture. (While I'm on the subject: your diaphragm, intercostal muscles, pelvic muscles and back muscles all help you to achieve a rich and much more pleasing tone than wheezy whispering which is overdone and not a substitute for actually conveying actual emotions in a song, so please fucking use them more. Also, it will be better for your voice in the long run.)

Come on, it's better than just saying I don't like the song, right?

The point is that I love tinkering. Tinkering is good. It allows you to preserve what you do like and change what you don't. And come on, it's a song, not the fundamental constants of the universe. If you think my interpretation is crap, by all means make a better one. The world won't end and now we have even more music.

Nothing in music is sacred. All is taste. So go out. Experiment. Mess around. Make things that are to your taste and let's have music that innovates.