Saturday, September 27, 2008

Guide to Starting a Career in Audio + Jazmine Sullivan

B&H Photo offers a variety of interesting guides. Here's their technical version of "letters to a young artist" for students of audio aspiring to a career in the field.

I don't mean to be a hater, not at all. But I think at some point I feel popular music needs to address more than the various topics that operate under the rose-colored umbrella called love. So we get an album of songs that touch on:
• falling in love
• love betrayed (from the pov of the betrayer as well as the betrayed)
• second thoughts about love left behind
• being a fool in love
• fear of love
• the tragedy of being the other woman, in love.

≈ I think I want a soul song about having to take 3 trains to a job to put food on the table, keep your kids in Payless sneakers, and/or pay your students loans.
≈ How about a love song about finally finding your heart's calling and it not being a romance, but some way you get to meaningfully contribute to your community and feed your soul at the same time?
≈ What about an R&B song about not getting tenure, or not getting that promotion you worked your posterior off for a year to achieve? What about the broken-heartedness suffered by a family getting their house foreclosed on? Or the disappointment in finding a respected supervisor or elder is busy sexually harassing junior co-workers, and not taking care of the emotional needs of his/her family?
≈ What about a love song about a community pulling together to confront corporate environmental injustice? Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project, anyone?

So, really, this isn't hating on Jazmine Sullivan, though I think the Phyllis Hyman comparison might be pushing things (Hyman didn't push that melismatic vocal technique to such a great degree; her technique allowed her to put her emotions right at the front of voice with velvety textures). Sullivan just comes to mind because Giant Step is featuring her release this week. I gotta give props to anyone who can get Missy Elliot to team up with Salt N Pepa on their first single "Need U Bad," plus she's got those richly dense, almost orchestral, horn arrangements on "Lions, Tigers, and Bears." After all, I'm really just musing about the general state of soul music/R&B. Every few years an article comes out lamenting the state of soul, hip hop soul, neo-soul, etc. It's a fair area of contemplation. But it occurs to me that if people want the music to change, it's not just about whether the instrumentation harkens back to Motown or the Philly Soul, or Memphis Stax sound and resultant questions of authenticy, nostalgia and originality. The questions should also deal with how to incorporate new themes, and how to employ instrumentation and arrangements to create works that don't sound banally expository or didactic. But, hey that's just my opinion.

While I'm thinking on music and transformation, here's almost the entirety of Fela Kuti's 1970s hit single about the Nigerian military "Zombie":

Zombie no go go unless you tell him to go
Zombie no go stop unless you tell him to stop

Zombie no go turn unless you tell him to turn
Zombie no go tink unless you tell him to tink

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At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amen. Music's love/lust saturation is why I stay eared to funk music from the 70's. The themes of songs from the Brides of Funkenstein, Stargard, Funkadelic, Parliament are endless. The platinum darling artists of today are afraid to fly. Luckily we have Janelle Monae, Badu, Joi, Rahsaan Patterson, Coltrain, Erik Rico and a few other artists that really use unique perspectives to express themselves...and I like Jazmine, but the album was more typical than I ever expected.

At 8:34 PM, Blogger audiologo said...

Thank you, anonymous, I heard that for real.

At 4:58 AM, Anonymous Lucinda said...

Besides too many love songs, I have to agree that music is in need of some great people with large talents. The purity of the sound is getting lost. Let alone the "darling artists of today are afraid to fly" It's molded to bring about a fear, hate, what's worst than that? The industry needs new writers, artists and producers. We need a new sound that takes a back a few years or changes what we currently have.

The industry needs people and getting into the industry is about knowing people. If you have someone in mind, Recording Connections is about getting connected to those people. And it prepares you as apprentice under the direct supervision of a music industry professional in a real recording studio working on real-world projects.

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