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Why is Heavy Metal an Acquired Taste?

Who wrote the first metal song?

Forget Sabbath. Blue Cheer? Yeah right. Not even Celtic Frost has anything on Igor Stravinsky.

Back in the misty land before vinyl, Stravinsky wanted to challenge his audience like never before. He wanted to reshape the public's opinion of what a song could be.

On May 29th, 1913 he premiered The Rite of Spring (Wikipedia).

There was a riot.

Police couldn't stop the fights. It was a classical mosh pit.

What was so different about this piece? Classical concerts are't really known for these shenanigans. The few times I've been they feel so proper that even clapping seems inappropriate.

First off, this piece features heavy doses of dissonance and polyrhythms. Sound familiar?

(side note, one year later The Rite of Spring was a smash hit with the public. That's like Blues Clues featuring Slayer as a musical guest)

When music is totally predictable and simple, it's reallllly boring. When music is totally unpredictable, it's stressful because your brain is trying desperately to find patterns in the chaos. (Previous Post) The music that really takes us over is music that walks the thin line between predictable and unpredictable.

All your expectations for what music can actually be and do are constructed from what you've heard in the past. As you become more and more enthralled with music, your library of knowledge grows. There's a reason that effective children's songs are simple and repetitive. Kids don't have the vast mental library of musical ideas like adults do. Because of this, the songs are simple and pleasing so the patterns are easily recognizable. (Infants smile when they hear perfect fifths and frown when they hear diminished fifths. Can't find the article at the moment.)

Now take that same baby and have it grow up with dad playing Judas Priest and Opeth on the ride to daycare and the child will start to become more familiar with the patterns and cliches of metal. The child would, so to speak, build up a tolerance for thrash, scream and lyrics a teenger would write in the margins of history homework.

Metal is an acquired taste because things like dissonance and polyrhythms don't come naturally, especially to non-musicians. It's all about developing an understanding of the bitter flavors of the beer and how they play off each other to create a symphony of hops and alcohol.

So you see, liking metal is a sign of sophisticated taste! (Haha, kidding!)

Hat tip to Radiolab for introducing me to the Rite of Spring. If you want to REALLY stretch your brain with one of the best produced podcasts on the planet, I HIGHLY recommend you start listening.


Selling Guitars for Pain and Profit

It hurt. A lot.

I barely let go.

Unh, so good. So good. I got youuuu!
Recently I sold my first custom guitar and the empty-nest feelings began right away. I loved this guitar. It was lightweight (what with all the holes drilled into it), had a diiiiiiirty metalicious tone and looked really freaking sweet. It felt magic as soon as I played the first note on it. Hell, every single track on our first album was done on this bass. (For my sound engineer readers, it was recorded straight through a DI box. That's it!)

I was proud.

But I wasn't prepared to get multiple offers on it so quick. Wow. I knew it was good for me but the fact that someone wanted to buy it without me even asking... I was flattered and defensive at the same time, haha. Flattered that it was good, but defensive because of all the attachment I had to this guy. It was my bass.

I decided to sell it anyway.

Art is a gift to be shared with the world. That's the joy of being an artist, seeding the world with beauty. It's a gift.

Which is all well and good, but this was my guitar! What actually made me decide to share it is that it served our long-term business strategy. 

    1. This guitar is a billion times better than a business card. When people see something far out of the ordinary they often have to ask "What the hell is that?" And then the owner of the guitar spreads the word about Onward We March and the guy who built the guitar. Word of mouth, baby. Marketing is best when you're clients do it for you. You don't even have to put on pants!

    2. This guitar meant more than a sale. I absolutely adored it so I was initially reluctant to let it go. The guitar had value. The buyer understood this. And then I decided to give it up. Relationships are built off of exchanging value, be it in the form of good conversation, rides to work, time spent, or guitars. This is a relationship that I definitely wanted to continue. Selling my beloved guitar was an exercise in relationship-building.

Nurture your most important relationships, even if it's difficult. The gifts you give will come back to you twofold. Relationships are all you've got. 


What's the Frame?

Note: I realize I'm digging in to a little more psychology than usual, but as we're finishing the mixing process for The Golden Vine it's becoming more and more clear that understanding group dynamics is of the utmost importance in creative endeavors. That being said, let's get on with it.

So I foreshadowed a little bit. 

In last week's post on addressing negotiation issues from a logical versus emotional standpoint, I exposed you to this week's concept: Framing. A frame is the name for the biases and preconceptions that people view a certain issue through, thus affecting their overall judgement of the issue. Framing is the process of choosing how one presents an issue by imposing a certain frame upon the issue. For example, last week I described logical versus emotional resistance in dealing with people. The frame that was implied in my discussion was that this is the way to interpret the examples I presented, leading you to further apply this (logic versus emotions) mindset to other real-world problems. Although it was a very obvious example, the way I presented my Phở joke in the last post is another good example of framing.

While I really do believe that the frame I presented last week is useful, always be aware of how issues are being framed and how that is an attempt to influence your thinking. There are millions of ways to approach every problem, framing is a tool that can just as easily lead you to a good conclusion as lead to astray. Logic versus emotion is a useful frame, but if we take it as the only frame then we miss the true robustness of a question. What if the someone acts in a grey area between reason and emotion?

Let's look at some more examples of framing and see how that affects us.

Example A: You're playing around on an excellent bass at a music store and you start chatting with a guy next to you who mentions he plays 6 instruments. You only play the good one (bass guitar). He asks why you don't play more instruments. 

Notice the frame taken by the multi-instrumentalist; "Playing multiple instruments is good." Is it? Does it matter that you can play a djembe? It does if you recorded every track on your album. It doesn't if you're a live band and can physically only play one instrument at a time. What about the amount of practice time you have available per instrument; is it possible to be amazing at multiple instruments? Does being good at one instrument make you better at another?

The questions keep piling up when you question the frame the six-instruments guy uses. The big question: How does this frame affect your answer? Would you be apologetic for playing only one? Would you be proud? Would you make excuses?

These are the considerations you should take when evaluating a frame.

Example B: You finish your conversation with the six-instruments guy and are approached by a salesperson. She begins to talk to you about what you're looking for in a bass guitar and makes the statement, "So how's the sustain on your current guitar?" 

Frame: "Sustain in what you should be concerned about in your next guitar." Every good salesperson knows how to frame a question perfect to get their customer to start thinking their way. Is sustain even relevant for your music? Punk rock doesn't need sustain, everything is eighth notes! How much more do guitars with "good sustain" cost?

How does the way this question is framed affect your answer? It's not hard to envision how the salesperson wants the conversation to go from here.


That's a primer on framing. We'll be coming back to this.



Logic And Emotions

It's no secret that every person has a different world view and different way of approaching problems. Some people think Phở is one of the best foods on the planet and other people are entirely wrong about everything. It's the nature of dealing with people.

When trying to persuade people to our viewpoint, we must first understand how they view the world. It is only then that we can actually speak in a language that they will understand. 

One way of framing this problem is whether people rationalize their decision on an issue through logical or emotional terms. This is a key indicator of how best to talk to the person on the issue.

Make a guess at how best to talk to your fellow band mate who says these statements:

"I don't know guys. Adding the E-bow sustain during the ballad section of the song clashes with the fluid, legato 6/8 feel of the section." - Example A

"Of course this part needs a bass solo! I just bought this brand new Modulus and I spent last weekend practicing non-stop" - Example B

Sure they're cheesy examples, but you get the point I'm trying to convey. When someone has told you (explicitly or implicitly) how they evaluated the merits of their position, they're conveying how you will have to talk to them. Would the person in example A really care if you got the EBow because you saw another band do it and it sounded cool? How do you think the person in example B would react if you started trying to explain the idea of "sunk costs"?

When you're trying to talk to people about their positions, make sure you speak the same language. Otherwise you're wasting breath.


Here's a quick article by Eric Barker with some research showing when it's important to say "I think" versus "I feel".