Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Life is Like a Chord Progression

Pick a riff. Any riff. Picking one from an improvisationally-based genre would be easier for this example, but its definitely not a prerequisite for understanding the allegory that is to follow. Or is it a metaphor? Depends how you look at it, I guess, and for how long you apply it. The longer you stretch it above lifes linearism, the more the metaphor becomes and allegory.

Life is like a chord progression. So go ahead and pick your riff. Notice that, no mater which riff you choose, there are some universal qualities that are engendered in the music. It moves, sweeps, flows, changes, rocks, rolls, softens, loudens, switches keys, comes back to the tonic, makes love, and makes hate. Life is really a long, long chord progression.

The world is full of harmony and cacophony, and all we have to do is unravel our headphones and plug in. The entire universe is a sing-song expanse, with lifetimes for verses and worlds for albums. Everyones life is a branch of the musical tree, and everyone has a certain way they deal with feedback.

Ever met a metalhead? Their chord progression is probably minor, borderline middle eastern, and fraught with Black Label Society wails and screams. Hippies are major mode beings, with souls that sing A Box of Rain, even during rainy days. Geeks are attuned to prog-rock and jazz, and the blues is for the Eeyores among us.

Regardless of genre, though, everyones life is like a chord progression. It starts and then it stops. It goes somewhere, comes back, reinvents itself, and plays over again, perhaps to different background music the second time, but always inherently the same. People bemoan their cyclesvicious ones, impossible ones, and cruel onesbut what theyre really bemoaning is the dissonance between their innate chord progression and the external accompaniment. Just like the most elegant Bach fugue would sound terrible if you played it against an abrasive orchestra, each and every person will tire eventually if he/she never finds the right avenue for their music.

Where do chord progressions come from, anyway? An article in the current issue of Spin (with Thom Yorkes pale-yellow countenance grimacing on the cover) quotes a Williamburg-based band called TV on the Radio, which has been criticized for playing free-form music that often seems to generate from, and drive towards, nothingness. But the lead singer made a great point, something along the lines of, but not exactly, The world has too many patterns and structures as it is. We need to have more music where theres beauty, imagination, possibility. Chord progressions, I agree, come from a deep-seated need for structure, for rules and guidance that remain constant while everything else spins arbitrarily around us. Everyone has that home base, and, if your chord progression is getting tiresome, if you feel like your vicious cycles outweigh your bliss, use a little beauty, imagination, and possibility. Maybe switch the key, maybe switch your instrumentkeep your home base intact, but redesign your space. Its like feng-shui (spelling???) for your soul.

No comments: