David Frank

music production

Am I Alone

| 11 Comments

Last night I was laying there sleepless thinking about the affairs of the day. I had called my music publisher in search of a copy of a System song Mic Murphy and I had done called “Why you Wanna Hurt Me”. It was a B side of a single from our album Rhythm and Romance. In the process, Peter, who is curator of the music library at Sony/ATV/EMI publishing, told me that he had just been listening to “Juicy Fruit” a song I had done quite bit of synthesizer arranging and playing on. Juicy Fruit’s track had also become “Juicy” by Notorious BIG a few years later.
That got me thinking about musical devices. In Juicy Fruit I had come up with an out of tempo arpeggio-like ascending pattern that, now that I think of it, was very thematic with the subject matter of the original song. Slowing the tempo of the DSX sequencer down and starting very slowly I played the pattern without quantization and gradually sped up as I approached the top of the keyboard and then repeated the pattern in the top octave a number of times thinking we would fade it out each time while recording to tape. Then I sped the tempo up. There were no delay FXs used.
I started thinking about the chord scale texture within the the arpeggiated pattern and how it related to the chords in “Juicy Fruit” and then my mind wandered to the last chord of Chopin’s Prelude in F major sometimes called the ‘Butterfly’ and the way it’s last chord is an F dominant 7 which makes it almost like the ending to a Blues/Rock song (written circa 1824 !!) and then the end of Chopin’s revolutionary etude rang in my head…My mind wandered around thinking of other musical perfections and anomolies that I celebrate the existence of….and then I suddenly felt very alone. Was I the only one left who thought about this stuff? In a world filled with time stretched ascending portamento-izes buildups to drops that impact with sub bass, are the subtleties and the possibilities of intricate beauty and meaning in harmonic motion being left behind in favor of simplistic manipulation of kinda cool features of software programs??
I am definitely in favor of computer related technical virtuosity and rhythmic urgency and feel. I believe in using technical possibilities even if they involve no skill or playing technique. If it sounds good who cares! I have spent many an hour trying to get the perfect sweep or noise crash into or out of a chorus or verse or alternatively have found it in an instant in a library or a turn of a knob or slight mouse movement. I know that pure excitement has its place and some songs or musical entities are meant to be just that. But am I alone in my appreciation of an emotionally stirring musical chord/melodic progression or simple yet profound harmonically derived musical device. If you feel as I feel (anyone see V for Vendetta? ;-) )
than it’s time to write more music!! We can move it all forward with just one hit song.

Playing technique, harmonic knowledge and fluency combined with a thorough understanding and fluidity on your software instruments and DAW will win the day.

Hope I’m not alone.

11 Comments

  1. Let’s hope that tension/release comes back to pop music, instead of the one-note sound with no “parts.” That’s the stagnation IMO, the verse and chorus are the same and it’s just wallpaper. Once we have parts again there can be the kind of tension you can create with adult chords.

  2. You’re not alone David, perhaps you realised that when I emailed the other day?
    If and when the mainstream will come back to “musical” music, who can say?
    It is definitely a struggle to find music that combines musicality AND interesting sounds and production values these days…. the jazzy people who know theory seem so happy with very hackneyed sounds and arrangements….. but it’s up to people like you to make it happen :)

    • Thanks Ed, I’ll do my best. …and I know what you mean. There are many creative people doing great things from all sorts of different sonic directions and hopefully having a great time doing it.

  3. David,

    I read your post above…and…so many snippets of previous conversations I’ve had with musicians came rushing back. You are FAR from being alone on this. I am repeatedly rivited in interest when you bring the compositions of The System soooo much more alive by delving into the background of what went into writing/arranging/composing these tracks…. I love it!

    The advent of DAWs…so packed with features, the continual development of sample libraries, make it so easy (many times) to compose music that (as you alluded to above), it seems the roads you take, are not often traveled by many composers of genres electronic these days. Being a guitarist for most of my life (and a bassist as well), I’ve been using Logic for almost ten years now, and embrace it, along with the use of samples, but I *hear* what you are saying. There are MANY people composing (to me) good music, electronically, without traveling the paths you do (as u said above)

    Sorry for the long reply! I look forward to your continued insight…look over your shoulder…there’s a crowd!

  4. Pingback: Pathways to music composition (tech and otherwise) in 2013 « Vibes and Scribes

  5. Yes Mr. Frank! I agree with u and u are not alone! Sometimes a different perspective on things sparks more ideas. Even tho it may not receive respect early on it is needed! We need people like u to keep thinking outside the box!

  6. When are you going to write another monster track for Chaka Khan. She’s old school, but she like you is alone as a legendary veteran artist, who is still ALIVE and vital to the music scene. I know she’s planning to release a series of EPs this summer and fall. It would be great if you’d reach out to her to see if she’s interested in adding some new ‘David Frank’ excitement in her repertoire. She could sure use a great song about now.

    For today’s Chaka, the message has to be empowering or spiritual – lifting us up. As much as the lyric should do that, why not have a track the moves the spirit or soul as well. Chaka’s the one to do it!

    Looking back, my favorite tracks with your signature are: Pleasure Seekers, Don’t Disturb This Groove, I Feel For You (Bass Lines) and This Is My Night (Chaka Khan) and Midnight Special.

  7. I have been mulling Debussy’s “La fille aux cheveux de lin” and Debussy’s incredibly subtle use of voicing to develop tension throughout the song. It’ll take me a while to actually process and internalize it. I have also been listening heavily to 80′s boogie, realizing that it was a somewhat unique era of music where both electronic “special FX” and harmonic devices of tension and release were employed simultaneously, creating for very pleasantly dramatic music. I think you need both devices. People who obviously jump to mind who execute this well are D-Train, Cameo, B.B.&Q. Band, the Whispers, Shalamar, yourself (obviously lol) and many many others. I’ve also come across some of the music released on smaller labels, especially towards the mid-late 80′s, and there was also a clear trend towards somewhat simplistic a-harmonic builds and drops. As much as I like early house and latin freestyle music, I think the lack of deep musical understanding by many of those artists limited them to special FX devices, which isn’t to judge them at all. I think the accessibility of the technology is at least partly responsible for the contemporary skew towards the “build-drop” model of dance music. It’s easy to execute, and easy to understand as a listener.

    But there is also a clear trend in the underground towards harmonic subtlety as kids who grew up playing instruments notice the lack of emotionally or musically satisfying electronic and dance music being released on major labels, and decide to start making their own music. The low barrier of entry into electronic music helps everyone gain access, for better or worse, though I think mostly for the better.

    Thanks for the stimulating post! I feel inspired. Time to make music.

    • Glad you are inspired! Yes I agree with you. The low (musical understanding) barrier is mostly for the better and has always been there in some form even before electronic music existed. There are so many songs/productions with very simple sonic palette and harmonic contend but combined with Lyrics which range for the brilliantly insightful to clever use of word play to beautiful image evoking panorama they become among the best works of art and often just plain out smash hits.

      BTW love Debussy. I play Jardin sous la Pluie fairly well (but not as well as I’d like…) and it’s interesting to note all developing musical”theory of the day” that he incorporated into his pieces: In a most musical way! whole tone,modal and cromatic scale motifs,parallel chords etc. He obvious had a blast!

  8. Mr. Frank – you are not alone! I am fascinated by chords and chord progressions. When I write, I always try to include as many interesting chords as the song will allow. I am no expert but I know I like to hear unusual chord structures. I think your comments also highlight something else – I have written some songs which do not fit today’s “in” music. It seems like I have no audience and have not had many persons willing to assist me in pushing the songs – since they are not what is happening today.

  9. Your arrangements and synthesized bass goes into the soul of my bones! I absolutely hunger for your sounds. I love to feel music without it needing volume.

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