Thursday, October 21, 2021

Ornamentation overdose

This has been going on a long time.
Another entry in the ongoing real-world musical saga I call “Music didn't suddenly get good when a lot of people learned how to play fast.”

Let's reminisce about another point in history when people would slather creative works— visual, architectural, or musical... clothes, hairstyles, digestive tract— with as much ornamental decoration as possible, rendering the object's structure into a formless mass of exquisitely elaborate froth.

During the Rococo period in 18th c. France, the superprivileged degenerates patronizing the arts were demanding infinitely increasing visual and aural luxury. Direct statement of a creative idea was thought to be howlingly gauche, and art self-vaporized into a swirling sweet-smelling cess-cloud of ornament pirhouetting endlessly around ornament off into the stratosphere, until some people had enough and everyone was executed.

This phenomenon was exemplified in the hideous harpsichord music of the period:

I'll save us some time, I've got actual footage of a 18th c. harpsichordist trying to play a quarter note:

We had a similar thing happening about 20 years ago with some R&B-derived singers, who would dance around for 20 minutes on one syllable before getting to the next actual note in the song. I'd like to present a good example of a drummer committing this type of offense, but that would require me looking around and finding it, which I'm not going to do. You've heard them, you know they're out there. Perhaps drummers don't embellish so much as atomize, turning functionally single notes into long tones, or long tone clusters. 

We all do it at times. It's a big part of Metal drumming. Certainly the whole point of rudimental snare drumming is to embellish a simple march beat. 

So maybe it's not something to totally avoid in our creative playing, so much as to understand what the real center of our musical content is. Which is rhythm and melody*, and some other things that happen strictly in performance, like groove expression. And to understand when we're getting into a jive area that is going to get us all guillotined. 

* - OK, more than that— it's a topic for another day.


  1. Hilarious! And very true. Thanks, I almost spit out my morning coffee!

  2. Great rant !!

  3. I don't think the panda ever did make a mark on that pumpkin.