I was reading a book recently called “How Music Works” by Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne, a man known for his work with pioneering producer and out-of-the-box thinker Brian Eno. In the book the whole first chapter describes in detail his theory on how instead of an inner driving force of emotion or passion being the reason we feel the need to capture our creativity, the art that we make is an “unconscious instinct to make work to fit pre-existing formats”. In other words he believes that instead of music being an outlet for emotion, we unconsciously or consciously make it to fit an already established form because the opportunity is there.
He goes on to give different examples of different venues in which artists would play, you see symphonic orchestra’s in a symphony hall because they were built for people to play symphonies in, and the long reverb times mean that frequent dissonance would occur if the music is not following a straight classical key structure, meaning that more contemporary styles may become irritating and uncomfortable in such an environment. Of course this all speaks for itself, you wouldnt put a drum and bass DJ in a swanky piano bar and you wouldn’t put a contemporary jazz band in a death metal club, but is this really the reason we make music?
I agree that the form is largely shaped by context and context has a huge part to play in the way that the music is made and played, but I think its quite an egotistical view to have if you believe everyone’s desire to make music comes primarily from being in the right circumstances at the right time and wanting to share it with others in their given context. In my eyes the reality is a lot more subjective than that.
Obviously you have some people who make music for that prime reason, they want to make a name for themselves and they want to use music as a tool to make money and that means they generally stick to premade formulas and structures so they can play it safe, which is completely ok, however I think most people’s primary desire to make music comes from the passion they have for that music, whether it be an established genre or something completely out of the box, the passion is there, and that is the universal driving force behind anyone who is serious about making music for the sake of making music, instrumentation, style, context, are all variables that we use to build upon that. To these people recognition, money and any other materialistic attribute’s that come hand in hand with music come secondary to the music itself.
I’d love to know what people think. Context is obviously a hugely important part of music as it often defines the genre and the style but surely its that driving emotional force which is the initial urge to make music in the first place