[LAU] OT: Subconscious Affecting Music

Rob lau at kudla.org
Thu Aug 26 18:17:29 UTC 2010

On Thursday 26 August 2010 08:38, Patrick Shirkey wrote:
> How about a test instead. Listen to 10 of the latest club remixes of the
> latest Pop music from the last 3 years and tell me if you can spot the
> compositional technique therein? It's mostly centered around certain
>  very similar synth and drum patterns and is complemented by the use of
>  sexually suggestive breathy female vocal tracks/samples and aggressive
>  dumbed down male lyrics.

I started going out to clubs regularly in about 1990 and those elements 
were already there.  The beats have evolved over the decades but I even 
remember hearing New Order remixes from the late 80s with the suggestive, 
breathy female vocal samples... not to mention everything ever produced by 
Enigma from '91 on.  

I would argue that what you're describing goes as far back as disco, and 
it's the ascendancy of club culture in the present day that attracted your 
attention to it.  Of course they all have pretty much the same beat.  So 
did disco.  So did electronic pop in the mid-80s.  So did house music.  I 
knew someone who got really, really turned on by a remix of the throwaway 
novelty single "People Are Still Having Sex" about 20 years ago.  It had 
the same beat as everything else at the time so it was in everyone's mix 
for a couple of months, and featured the sound of a woman whispering 
"Hello, lover" repeatedly throughout the track.

On the other hand, 10 years before that, when I was still in elementary 
school, I had a girlfriend whose dad had a tape of disco stuff that all 
sounded like "More More More" by Andrea True Connection, but with fewer 
lyrics and more moaning.  He was embarrassed when we made fun of it, 
leading me to suspect he was into it for not-purely-musical reasons.

As you observed in your last post, the clubs I go to may not exactly be 
mainstream, and certainly most of the people there aren't going to react 
sexually to breathy female anything.  But that stuff still gets played, 
often gets played there long before DJs in what you describe as mainstream 
clubs have even heard of it, and has been for decades.  Timbaland may have 
added his own spin to it, but so did Giorgio Moroder (who may have invented 
the model), Stock/Aitken/Waterman, and so on through the years.  In another 
couple years someone will come up with an even 'sexier' beat and bassline 
and even breathier female vocal talent, and someone else will be wishing he 
could use the same technique for, er, 'good'.

I can't speak to the aggressive hip-hop stuff, because I generally leave if 
too much of that stuff gets played.

To sum up, I think the best way to positively affect people's lives through 
music isn't to try to come up with some scientific formula for imparting 
intelligence, tolerance, etc. subliminally through beats, but through 
writing songs embodying the qualities you wish to impart.  Make them close 
enough in sound to everything else that they slip underneath the radar 
while also being catchy and novel enough so that everyone (well, everyone 
who plays non-major-label stuff) plays them.

I think that'll be easier and more effective than finding and subverting a 
magic formula.


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