Pointless versus Pointed Musical Complexity

Posted: November 5, 2017 in Music
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One of my recent musical projects crashed and burned because one of the other band members (a great guy and great player, who I consider a friend) wanted to do what the rest of us considered pointless, time-wasting rehearsals on needlessly complex versions of covers.

(Covers? I mean come on. Give me a break! Unless you’re doing something as brilliant as Devo’s cover of “Satisfaction,” why even bother?)

For example, take the Junior Parker tune “Mystery Train,” that Elvis made famous.

Standard 12-bar blues done in straight time.

Well, why on earth do it as a 14-bar tune and then drop back to 12-bar form for _one_ of the solos? No point as far as yours truly and the rest of the guys could see. A needlessly complex time waste (in rehearsal) that no one would ever notice.

How useless and pointless.

Then we get to the complex shit that makes sense.

Let’s take probably the most complex tune time-wise ever recorded: “The Dance of Maya,” by the Mahavishnu Orchestra, on the “Inner Mounting Flame” album. (I could be, and probably am, wrong about some of the particulars — hey! I’m a guitar player, not a drummer!)

It starts out in a straightforward compound meter 10/4 time (3+3+4), then goes to a straightforward swung 20/8 time (1… a 2 … a 3… a 4… a 5… 6…7 and), then goes double time on it, then drops back to the relaxed 20/8 time, and then superimposes the 20/8 on the 10/4.) Over and out. It’s unimaginable in any other form.

Absolutely brilliant. It just works. Blows you (at least me) away.

Pointless complexity is useless. True complexity can be beautiful.

 

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