Monday, March 31, 2008

Hearing But Not Listening: Part 3

This is part three of a two part series. Confused? I didn’t intend to write this article, but I’m being pulled back toward my roots, and I think you’ll find it interesting. See the bottom of the article for links to the first two articles in the series.

Certain tunes mark chapters of my life. It's probably the same for you. Even if you don’t share my passion for music, you still have your favorites that bring back specific memories from your journey. You hear a song and it takes you back to high school, or a special person, or it ignites a whole set of feelings stirring inside of you. A specific tune transports you back to that early salsa class, your first great dance with someone, or a summer trip across the country.

When I was writing the original articles for this listening series, I remembered one song in the back of my mind that started me listening to vocals decades ago. I knew it was a Kenny Loggins tune but couldn’t recall the song title, or the specific album. I could still hear the feel of the tune in my head, although I couldn’t remember the specifics.

After publishing the articles, it kept bugging me, so I did a Google search and found the tune that started my vocal listening years ago.

Kenny Logins: Enter My Dream

In the 20th Century, when I was a young adult, music was on vinyl disks called records or albums, and I purchased hundreds of them before I was twenty. When I was 17 or so, Steve Gadd and Harvey Mason were among my favorite drummers, and they were the session players on Kenny Loggins' first solo album titled “Celebrate Me Home.” I originally purchased the album for the drummers (and because Bob James was playing piano and producing).

The groove on “Enter My Dream” fascinated me, and it still does today. It has a reggae influence and I was studying Latin music variations at the time. I was also learning how difficult it was to play slow, controlled, and dynamic, while creating a feel without rushing the time. This tune is an amazing example of laying back and creating a great groove, without rushing or getting in the way. The song breaths and feels effortless, like a work of art. In the process of listening to the drum track a few hundred times, I was drawn into figuring out the vocals in the last part of the tune.

From around the 3:45 time mark until the final fade, the voices ebb and flow, adding layers on a set of interesting overlapping lines. The voices sound like a dream, with rich harmonies creating a floating feel. I couldn’t figure out what they were saying at first, other than maybe the top layer. It was all a big mess of sounds, but I knew they were saying something related to the dream, and I couldn’t figure out any of the words.

Over many hours, I starting being able to selectively listen to the different voices, figuring out the words and enjoying the textures created as they overlapped each other. My ability to separate musical layers in my mental ear began when I spent so much time breaking down this song, and it started me on a quest that I still enjoy today.

Most people won’t enjoy this tune like I do, because being able to hear some of the lower layers took me so many hours of listening. But the drum track still impresses me today, especially since I know the difficulty in playing such a great feel at that tempo. (I also love the “Lucky Lady” track on that album; what a great rhythm section!)

I hope you enjoy my starting point in my musical journey, but finding your own is more important. Find something that intrigues you and that you enjoy and listen to it hundreds of times. Check out one of my early articles titled “Listening to Music: 100 Times or More” for more insights.

Let me know the tunes you enjoy that help you fine-tune your listening. I'm sure you have some that bookmark your life as well.

This is part three of a two part series. I never intended to write this article but I decided it made sense to outline my personal starting point, hoping it inspires you to find something you love and can enjoy as you grow.

Here are links to the previous articles in this series:
Hearing But Not Listening: Part 1
Hearing But Not Listening: Part 2

The difference between genious and stupidity is that
genius has its limits.
--Sam Carbin

1 comment:

  1. Well i would say that the problem is far worse.I have danced with people who dance on 1 and 2 for them the listening to a song,the rhythm is out of question they only do what they've learned in a class,they can't just relax and dance.
    I've also danced with people who tell me that they just listen to the music,they are able to improvise as it doesn't come from a lesson but from listening to the music,the rhythm and it's far easier to follow.


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Don Baarns - Unlikely Salsero