#1
So it seems to me in metal circles that it is very common that some fans complain about how new bands all seems to sound exactly like old bands and how they should strive to become more original in their sound. I have in my own music writing experience come to realize however that without certain traditional elements incorporated into your music your really aren't able to obtain a certain traditional style thereby confining ones self into sort of a musical box that is hard to get outside of.

My question to you guys especially the ones that hold the view stated is how would you suggest a person write say a Black Metal song in a way that is completely original without doing something similar to what has already been done? If you change all the instrumentation would it still be black metal? If you write riffs in a completely different way doesn't that mean your music will be a completely different entity? If so is that a bad or good thing? Just something I've been thinking about.
#2
A lot of people value originality very highly, but more often than not that leads them to assemble random elements for no more reason than it's never been done before. The reason that certain things have become traditional is because they consistently sound good, and learning what makes them sound good allows people to create things of a similar quality without having to resort to trial and error when intuition isn't enough.

The rejection of traditional 'rules' (really guidelines) that I see very frequently in the name of originality unfortunately means a rejection of generations of learning and development in the art of composition, which I would suggest is why so much avant garde music seems to resort to cliches.

On the other side of that point is the fact that staying too rigidly within the limits of what has worked before results in aimless rehashes of old ideas that usually get more and more formulaic with each iteration. There is also a tendency there to reproduce the surface elements rather than the original idea which those elements where chosen to convey.

So I think the best answer I can provide to your question is study how the music you like is composed, and particularly try to understand why it was composed that way (i.e. what the composer was trying to convey and how they tried to convey it with their composition). The trick is then to apply those methods to new ideas and experiment with ways to modify them without just using randomness and trial and error.

A good example of this would be Beethoven, who made siginificant developments in classical music, including musical form (structure) and aesthetics (for example, expanding the orchestra), and I'm sure in many other ways. Beethoven extensively studied the works of those before him, such as Mozart, but he was able to use what he learned to develop his music beyond what had gone before rather than being limited by it.

As for whether your music will no longer be black metal if you change it enough: no, I don't think it will, but that certainly isn't a bad thing. The term black metal has a fairly specific definition, and if people start to make music that significantly develops beyond black metal it will be reasonable to call that something different. If that thing is actually a progression rather than a regression then it is absolutely a good thing.
#3
Great answer that is much to think about and I appreciate you taking your time to reply. I'll certainly do more studying into what inspired the music to begin with. Which with black metal I think I have a good idea already but I'll dig deeper.
#4
You're welcome. I enjoy thinking through these things myself anyway.

Just to clarify, I don't necesserily mean that you should look for interviews and things like that where the artists explain what they were trying to convey, although that is certainly helpful, because the meaning in music is very often not a specific, conscious idea, but I think all music has some sort of theme or set of emotions behind it, even if the composer never makes a conscious decision about it. Obviously some black metal musicians have talked about what they were trying to convey, such as Varg, and the lyrics give some idea of that too, but sometimes you have to just go with what the music itself seems to convey. I think we could say with some confidence that Immortal were creating music with a theme of warfare without reading an interview or even the song titles or lyrics.

Edit: So the thing to do is to figure out what about their music so powerfully screams warfare, and then if that is something you want to be a theme in your music you will already have some idea of how to do that.
Last edited by Hoodoo Man at Oct 20, 2013,
#5
Really good stuff Hoodoo Man, I agree with you and I enjoyed reading that.

I often think of the progression of musical influences as a sort of calculus. Innovative, legendary bands such as Black Sabbath, Celtic Frost, Bathory represent high-order functions. Their music is very general, so to speak. It has a very strong voice of its own, but it can be stretched, expanded upon, and developed in a plethora of ways. Many others venerate these groups and emulate them with their own flair and style, thus becoming lower-order, more specific functions. This cycle continues until eventually very derivative music (linear functions) propagates itself.

The thing about the lower-order functions is that they are more specific in nature than the innovators and often lack that which made the innovators unique, ground-breaking perennial favorites. Take some "modern" metal band as an example - it's not easy to tell where their style originated; integrating a quadratic function yields a family of cubic functions, not a single cubic function.

Thus, the most effective way to create art that resembles the great achievements of the ancients is to study those high-order functions as opposed to their derivatives. That is not to say that the first few generations of derivatives lack value; they often create more extreme and specific sub-genres that have their own merits. However, after enough derivations, the zero function results, and this of course has no value. So basically, if you want to make black metal like Darkthrone, you don't just study Darkthrone. You study Celtic Frost and Bathory.
Last edited by P1ayingW1thF1re at Oct 20, 2013,
#6
Very interesting concept. I've always had that notion anyway even if only subconsciously but to see it put into words helps to clarify what it is I should be trying to do, good stuff.
#7
The itch to be original is an affectation caused by a lack of talent.
The modernist thirst for originality makes the mediocre artist believe that the secret of originality consists simply in being different.


- Nicolás Gómez Dávila
I’m not the man I used to be, I... I can’t go back to Arkham.

I... I should return to Arkham.


Among the churchyard’s mouldering stones I recognise a name – my own.
I have come home to Arkham.

#8
@P1ayingW1thF1re: Are you a mathematician or something? It's good to see another one here. I was actually at a PHD seminar on Monday and the guy presenting stuff on the Willmore Conjecture had a t-shirt that said "Satan plays Speed Metal". People laughed at him but I cheered him on.

Anyway, onto the actual topic. I value both Originality and Tradition but the execution of those two is more important.

For example, if you were in a band of some sort and had no intention of working on the originality component, then you'd better be doing a damn fine job of whatever style you're in. Similarly, if you are in a full Avante-Garde mode, then I still need some sort of theme to latch onto if I am to enjoy it.

On another note, I do have to disagree with P1ayingW1thF1re in his last note about studying the bigger more general bands. Niels Bohr (yeah I know he is a physicist, shut up! ) once said that the key to success was finding a very small area and making lots of mistakes in said area. To keep with the maths analogy, lets say you pick a really popular topic maths to study/research in. What you'll find is that unless your talents far exceed your peers, you will be squashed by the sheer overpopulation of people working in the same field. On the other hand if you pick something more obscure (so bands/artists that aren't so popular) like a really specific topic in Control Theory or Harmonic Analysis then you have more headway in making some form of progress. I take a similar approach in my listening tastes.

Hope that was insightful. No hard feelings on anyone either. Merely trying to be intellectually enlightened.
#9
I'm writing my dissertation about this subject. Definitely nabbing some of this
Quote by duncang
maybe it's because i secrely agree that tracedin inymballsackistheb best album ever


he's got the fire and the fury,
at his command
well you don't have to worry,
if you hold onto jesus' hand
#10
Quote by P1ayingW1thF1re
Really good stuff Hoodoo Man, I agree with you and I enjoyed reading that.

Thank you

I like your analogy, though I do think that HaydenHohns is onto something with the idea of taking a narrow focus and expanding upon it as well. I think there is truth in both. Darkthrone streamlined the ideas of Bathory and Celtic Frost by narrowing the focus a little, and through that helped (along with Mayhem, Burzum et al) to create a new, versatile language. On the other hand bands like Dark Funeral reduced the Transilvanian Hunger sound down to just tremolo picked melody lines over blast beats and used that to make sort of inoffensive background music.

I definitely want to read more about Dávila, because those quotes are great.

Also, ctfod, would you be willing to post your dissertation when it's finished for us to read?
#11
Yeah, once it's all been marked and everything
Quote by duncang
maybe it's because i secrely agree that tracedin inymballsackistheb best album ever


he's got the fire and the fury,
at his command
well you don't have to worry,
if you hold onto jesus' hand
#13
Quote by ctfod
Yeah, once it's all been marked and everything

Yeah I figured you should wait till at least then because it could cause confusion if the markers search the internet to check for plagiarism, which I know some do.
#14
Quote by Hoodoo Man
I definitely want to read more about Dávila, because those quotes are great.
Quote by BL1NDSIDE-J
Also interested in reading Davila.
Too bad there are no extensive English translations of his works. If you know Spanish or German, you're in luck.
I’m not the man I used to be, I... I can’t go back to Arkham.

I... I should return to Arkham.


Among the churchyard’s mouldering stones I recognise a name – my own.
I have come home to Arkham.

#15
As far as I see it, it is the same as modern art.

What is the difference between impressionism and modern art in general, and the art of an idiot who has thrown paint at the wall.

The Modern Artist does what he does through intent and study, philosophy and thought and can probably, if pressed, draw your a pretty landscape.

The idiot is just throwing paint at the wall.

I think it's the same with music, you can mash a keyboard use dissonant leads and say it's "original" and "experimental" but that doesn't mean it's good or intelligent.
All I want is for everyone to go to hell...
...It's the last place I was seen before I lost myself



Quote by DisarmGoliath
You can be the deputy llamma of the recordings forum!
Last edited by ChemicalFire at Oct 22, 2013,
#16
Excellent thread, best one around here in a while, methinks.
Quote by HaydenHohns
@P1ayingW1thF1re: Are you a mathematician or something? It's good to see another one here.

Sort of, but not really. I am studying civil engineering at the undergraduate level.

I was actually at a PHD seminar on Monday and the guy presenting stuff on the Willmore Conjecture had a t-shirt that said "Satan plays Speed Metal". People laughed at him but I cheered him on.

Haha, that is awesome.

On another note, I do have to disagree with P1ayingW1thF1re in his last note about studying the bigger more general bands. Niels Bohr (yeah I know he is a physicist, shut up! ) once said that the key to success was finding a very small area and making lots of mistakes in said area. To keep with the maths analogy, lets say you pick a really popular topic maths to study/research in. What you'll find is that unless your talents far exceed your peers, you will be squashed by the sheer overpopulation of people working in the same field. On the other hand if you pick something more obscure (so bands/artists that aren't so popular) like a really specific topic in Control Theory or Harmonic Analysis then you have more headway in making some form of progress. I take a similar approach in my listening tastes.

I was speaking from personal experience; when I try to write music in the style of some particular band, I often find that my result is more derivative or simple than the subject of study. I suppose that I should not have generalized.

I believe that the competition of which you speak is a positive force because it weeds out the weak musical artists and acts as a quality control. Many individuals who would otherwise be drowned by the ultimately superior do in fact seek out more specific areas in which they can flourish and create works of strong vision and message (see below). So I agree with your observation, an ideal system maximizes each person's unique abilities.

I assert that the phenomenon of very specific niche bands is the result of an innate creative palette in each artist (+ some influence from environment I guess...you know, nature vs. nurture). That is not to say that there is no room for improvement and learning, but some people are simply better at writing certain kinds of music than others, so of course those people choose to concentrate on their aptitudes. This is probably the root of all unique musical identities, from the legendary, more "general" bands that I spoke of previously to the most specific niche artists that create their own opuses of merit. They end up doing so because they have the capacity to do so, and realize that capacity.

Hmm, this is all coming from the perspective that artists write music that simply comes naturally to them; they are not forcibly attempting to emulate any of their idols, even though they do draw strong influence from them. If an artist's work ends up sounding like that of another, but it has a voice of its own so that it is not inferior and immediately dominated by its predecessor, so be it. There is a difference between "I really like the atmosphere created by x band, I will study how they produce that and use it to my own end" and "I want to recreate the work of x band." In the case of the latter...if you don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said, just be a tribute band instead of wasting people's time I guess.

Crap artists, of course, deserve to decay out of existence. There is no place for them anywhere. Perhaps from this lack of talent and ability springs the behavior typical of bands that are original for the sake of being original - their uniqueness is the only way in which they can forge a name for themselves. Fucking hipsters. Kepulix's quotes address this.
Last edited by P1ayingW1thF1re at Oct 22, 2013,
#17
Quote by Kepulix
Too bad there are no extensive English translations of his works. If you know Spanish or German, you're in luck.

I don't, unfortunately. I might be able to get some of the sense but not the meaning.

Quote by ChemicalFire
As far as I see it, it is the same as modern art.

What is the difference between impressionism and modern art in general, and the art of an idiot who has thrown paint at the wall.

The Modern Artist does what he does through intent and study, philosophy and thought and can probably, if pressed, draw your a pretty landscape.

The idiot is just throwing paint at the wall.

I think it's the same with music, you can mash a keyboard use dissonant leads and say it's "original" and "experimental" but that doesn't mean it's good or intelligent.

That's an interesting thought. I don't think you are trying to make this point, but there is a suggestion there that intent is more important than results, so an intentional paint splat is art but an identical paint splat made by accident isn't. Like I said, I'm not saying that you think this, but I think some people do. That has a lot to do with why people will accept low standards of modern art, and why there is a pile of bricks in the Tate in Liverpool. Anything can be art, apparently.

I would say that the difference between good abstract art and bad abstract art is how effectively the art conveys meaning, although that does run into the problem that we could interpret a piece of abstract art as being full of meaning when actually it was the result of someone, as you said, throwing paint at the wall. I think though that the chances of randomness throwing up good looking abstract art are much lower than the controlled efforts of a skilled artist.

In terms of how this applies to music, it comes back to how randomness can occasionally throw up something that sounds like it has structure and themes, but not nearly as consistently as composing with structure and themes in mind can.

Quote by P1ayingW1thF1re
Perhaps from this lack of talent and ability springs the behavior typical of bands that are original for the sake of being original - their uniqueness is the only way in which they can forge a name for themselves. ****ing hipsters.

Haha, I think this is part of the very essence of hipsters.
#18
Quote by Hoodoo Man
That's an interesting thought. I don't think you are trying to make this point, but there is a suggestion there that intent is more important than results, so an intentional paint splat is art but an identical paint splat made by accident isn't. Like I said, I'm not saying that you think this, but I think some people do. That has a lot to do with why people will accept low standards of modern art, and why there is a pile of bricks in the Tate in Liverpool. Anything can be art, apparently.

I would say that the difference between good abstract art and bad abstract art is how effectively the art conveys meaning, although that does run into the problem that we could interpret a piece of abstract art as being full of meaning when actually it was the result of someone, as you said, throwing paint at the wall. I think though that the chances of randomness throwing up good looking abstract art are much lower than the controlled efforts of a skilled artist.

In terms of how this applies to music, it comes back to how randomness can occasionally throw up something that sounds like it has structure and themes, but not nearly as consistently as composing with structure and themes in mind can.

Intent is but a means to an end, as is ability. The combination of intent, musical ability, instrumental ability, and individual creative palette is the most effective way to create a work that conveys some specific desired meaning. Intent and vision without ability prevents the fruition of a piece that is clear in its statements. Ability without intent and vision leads to shallow exhibitions of technical display or extended forays into complex musical structures without actually accomplishing anything. Indeed it is true that total randomness can create a work of genius! But this is unlikely. When all of the above elements occur together, the creation of the work of genius is more probable.
#19
This thread has really exceeded my expectations of the quality of discussion available on this forum thanks guys!
#20
Hey, wasn't the DLA saying this way back?
lstfm

I'm a Nazi, baby
I'm a Nazi, yes I am
I'm a Nazi schatzi, you know I'll fight for the Fatherland
#21
Quote by The Wildchild
Hey, wasn't the DLA saying this way back?

Yes, I believe there is a certain degree of overlap between the ideas expressed in this thread and those presented at the DLA. Why do you ask?
Last edited by P1ayingW1thF1re at Oct 22, 2013,
#25
@P1ayingW1thF1re:

Sort of, but not really. I am studying civil engineering at the undergraduate level.


Cool. I'm doing a dual degree in (Analytical/Applied) Mathematics and Electrical Engineering.

I also agree that this discussion is good and everything else you said.

Another thing, imagine if everyone see wrote music that was inspired popular bands. Then I would say that music would grow stale as everyone is using the same source. As long as your obscure sources are not too derivative of their influences, then you're set for killer music. It's the one reason why I would say the internet is helping music is the ability to freely make music available to the entire world. Imagine what would have happened to Western Art Music if worldwide instant communication was available that allowed posting manuscripts or something. Music would be very different.

@ctfod: I would also be interested in seeing this dissertation of yours once completed/marked.
#27
Quote by HaydenHohns

On another note, I do have to disagree with P1ayingW1thF1re in his last note about studying the bigger more general bands. Niels Bohr (yeah I know he is a physicist, shut up! ) once said that the key to success was finding a very small area and making lots of mistakes in said area. To keep with the maths analogy, lets say you pick a really popular topic maths to study/research in. What you'll find is that unless your talents far exceed your peers, you will be squashed by the sheer overpopulation of people working in the same field. On the other hand if you pick something more obscure (so bands/artists that aren't so popular) like a really specific topic in Control Theory or Harmonic Analysis then you have more headway in making some form of progress. I take a similar approach in my listening tastes.

Hope that was insightful. No hard feelings on anyone either. Merely trying to be intellectually enlightened.

I think what he was getting at was that you have to study the originators of a style in order to understand how those who came after differ. To fully understand how Darkthrone's sound works, you have to understand who their influences were so that you can see where they deviated.