A Little Bit of Music Theory and Suddenly I Have Opinions

Premature opinions, maybe, but whatever, I claim no expertise! Worth listing to, probably not, but I felt like writing them anyway, so here we go.

I’ve been learning a bit of music theory lately, Nothing to deep really just the basics I never bothered with before. I am really enjoying it! Along the way I have gotten some good info and entertainment from this guy, Rick Beato. However, while he has hinted at this sentiment many times in his other material in this video I felt he went into bad territory. It’s not that he is completely wrong, and this isn’t me coming to the defense of most of the pop music on the radio either, but at the same time his critique of modern pop music has some very strong ‘OK, Boomer’ energy that I was having a hard time putting my finger on.

Yesterday my new instrument arrived. It a little mini analog synth, and had a great time playing around. I took some time to actually learn a some of what is happening when I twist the envelope and filter knobs on this little synthesizer, and, whadayakknow, it got me thinking more about sound stuff, and coming off of that I think I have part of a why the “modern pop is boring” is incomplete.

Stylophone X-1 run through old Crate practice guitar amp

Can it be as simple as previous generations explored and experimented with scales and keys more; Interesting variations of frequency was both novel within reach to them, but modern musicians are experimenting much more with the wave shape itself?

From my own playing around I notice that adding to much variation between notes can actually distract from the variation that and expression that is being done _within_ notes, meaning simplistic chord progressions and familiar melody patterns can be a feature not a bug.

If your perception is tuned to primarily hear sophistication and expression by the pattern of changing notes, a lot of modern music is going to sound uninspired to you.

On the other hand, if your perception is tuned to hear sophistication and expression within the waves of a more simplistic note pattern, then a ‘musically complex’ song might feel similarly uninspired.

So here is the thing. I recognize I am new to thinking on this level about music, I probably am not even using the right vocabulary, or maybe using the right vocabulary incorrectly. So many Grains of salt, alright?!

On the topic of sound engineering and music history stuff: if you got a fruity TV subscription for the sake of Ted Spasso anyway, go check out “Watch the Sound”. It is pretty good!

P.S. Had I seen this guys guys response I could have skipped this post probably. He seems to have a much better grasp of the concepts and terminology than I do — no surprise. YouTube rabbit holes aren’t always a bad thing.

Voter suppression is more than just blocking votes

This video really just scratches the surface of the current voter suppression push, There are certainly better sources out there…

If I were outlining the topic of voter suppression I would definitely cover things like:

  • The Reconstruction era and Jim Crow era. How voter suppression was done back then, its alarming effectiveness, and its massive lasting impacts
  • How the term “election integrity” has definitely evolved into an effective racist dog-whistle
  • How voter suppression is a multi pronged strategy; the aim is not just stopping votes themselves, but also sapping the power of the votes you can’t stop outright but generally don’t like
  • The role of gerrymandering in suppressing the power of a vote
  • The inordinate smallness of the US house of representative, and how redistricting after the recent census also dilutes representation of millions of more urban citizens why amplifying the representation of thousands of more rural or suburban citizens. – ie. the 435 cap was a voter suppression rule that passed a hundred years ago, but is still paying new dividends. And, how this arbitrary cap and the automatic redistricting it entails, might all by itself – without even the need for new voter suppression laws – result in the GOP winning the house in 2022 and the presidency in 2024 because of the way it redistributes house seats and consequently electoral college votes
  • The lack of representation of US citizen in DC and Puerto Rico – their lack of senators significantly suppresses their political power in 2 branches of government since senate seats also count towards Electoral College votes
  • How single winner districts leaves nearly half of the population in any given area without meaningful representation – an effect heavily amplified and purposely leveraged by those doing gerrymandering
  • How First past the post voting system along with closed party primaries amplifies the negative effects of both gerrymandering and single winner districts by selecting for more polarized candidates

Gonna be frank. I am losing hope in the trajectory of US to be a functioning democracy. I didn’t have a lot of hope in a Biden administration to start with, honestly, but a thin majority by the Democrats had imparted some hope towards reforms that could have slowed or potentially reversed the decent into fascism the GOP would drag us into. But that is withering quickly. The filibuster isn’t even the only hurdle. Plenty of democrats don’t want or see (or don’t want to see?) the need for crucial democracy reforms – Biden chief among them! Meanwhile the GOP is becoming ever more blatant in their comfort level in fighting for and exerting minority rule.

Why “Am I a good person?” isn’t the right question

I think a lot of people will ask themselves, “am I a good person”? It’s not the worst question; certainly a classic! The kind of question that might be lobbed at Jesus or other religious figures throughout time. Surprise, they often dodged giving any kind of direct answer.

If people answer it in their own mind, I mean, people with self esteem issues aside, I bet way to many come up with something pretty mundane like, “Better than some, worse than plenty, but probably not too different from many like me who had lived through the exact same stuff.” A true enough non-answer if ever there were one.

What if the problem is the question itself. It feels simple and like it should have a clear answer, but bad questions often disguise themselves as such.

The question just doesn’t lead to much… good. Plus it has a number of problems. It frames goodness as binary, which it isn’t. It frames goodness as static, which it isn’t. (ie. if you are “good” at the point of time of answering must you always then be good?) Additionally, whatever answer you come up with for it it doesn’t give you much outcome for moving forward.

A better and more meaningful question might be, “how can I be better than the person I would have been if I were just following the the path otherwise laid out for me.”

Contextualizing Discordant Notes

I saw a post on social media. Something like:

“Yesterday mowing the lawn a bee stung me. The bee died. I finished mowing. A wasted effort on his part? I could’ve been his friend… Perhaps a life lesson is hidden in there somewhere.”

Not political, not controversial, not mean spirited or sarcastic, and yet my typical contrarian thinking kicked in.

Perspective of the bee maybe: A monster, unprovoked in any way, is indiscriminately and violently chopping down all the flowers; the clover I am trying to feed from today, and the oxalis I was hoping to enjoy tomorrow, and the creeping charlie I was looking forward to feasting on next week. This shall not stand!

Are there lessons about friendship and peace as the original post suggested? Of course, easy ones that were obviously implied, and yet do those lessons have an insidious side. To accept them is to simplistically gloss over a (very possible) broader context of the situation. Seems to me that the angle on it that inharmonious existence with, in this case nature, is bound to have some discordant notes is at least also valid, if not more valid!

Portraying such discordant notes as emanating from unjustified sources is a common practice – sometimes a tactic.

Midi keyboard & beep boop music

I’ve been wanting to tinker with using my computer to make / modify music for a few years, but finally got myself a dedicated MIDI keyboard, and spent good chucks of the last two weekends learning how synths, and DAWs, and audio interfaces all work. Yeesh! Kind of a lot it turns out. Anyway, I now have it working well enough and just enough understanding to actually jam out a bit.

Looking into better mics. Need to learn to balance sound better – though youTube’s processing did make it quite a bit worse than it was in the original recording. Oh well. Just for fun anyway.

All open source software by the way!

Equal treatment under the law

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.” — Anatole France

This statement is clever in how it reveals a potent lie embedded within an plain indisputable truth. Are rich and poor treated the same under such a legal system, clearly not, but technically yes.

Now, with that in mind, there is a lot of ground covered in the tax leak articles being published by ProPublica over the last month. And a primary defense I have seen is that the tax code isn’t exactly being violated.

The flimsiness of the excuse – that they are paying all the taxes they legally owe – isn’t obvious to a lot of people: weak tax rules for the super-rich, isn’t merely because the IRS forgot to close loopholes or Congress didn’t pass a law. The uber-rich co-opt regulators and lawmakers to concoct legal schemes that operate to their distinct advantage. There are a plethora of laws that punish the poor, and a alarming lack of laws that constrain the rich. This is no accident! It’s corruption, of course, but except in some esoteric points probably not technically illegal. Tale as old as time?

Let’s give tennis a try

Well, my boys have decided to give tennis a go. We’ve gone to play a few time recently after I dug these old rackets out of storage.

Tonight a new first; new grips.

Interesting how them doing this repair themselves gave them some pride in their equipment, and they are even more excited to go play again soon.