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Old 08-20-2014, 05:35 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Red face Long songs?

How do you feel about "long" songs? Long is a purely subjective term, especially when it comes to music which is as subjective as any artform.
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Old 08-20-2014, 06:47 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I think it depends on whether or not the music sounds as if it tells a story. I'm not sure how to word that, but as if it sounds like there's a solid beginning, middle, and end, with dramatic variations and smooth transitions.

One of my favorites that I've always wanted/needed to listen through til the end, no matter what -

Roxy Music - The Bogus Man

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Old 08-21-2014, 04:38 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Default Long song

Yeah, you're spot on. When the music really tells a story, it doesn't matter how long the song is. At least not to me, as long as the story is appealing. I guess the same principle goes for movies. You know you won't watch an 1.5 hour movie if the movie does not appeal to you, but when you really dig the movie, man, you want it to go on forever! Maybe I'm way out comparing movies to music? That's how I view it, anyway.
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Old 11-13-2014, 09:39 AM   #4 (permalink)
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If I may reopen an elderly thread, I would say that a "story," or Western approach of clear beginning, middle, end; with a general introduction, climax, and resolution is far more limiting to the length of a piece.

Take a generic piece of 20th/21st Century orchestral music. There's a limit to HOW long you can drag out that "story" before it's just "too long."

However, take a more eastern approach, and go for music that does NOT progress, like a long free-form jam session, or Theater of Eternal Music, or a great deal of traditional and classica musics from the Indo-Arabian area; That stuff can go on, more or less unchanging for hours, and you never tire of it.

With progressing, "story" music, the music is only interesting for as long as you can continue introducing and developing ideas. Repeat yourself too much, and the piece becomes redundant and tiring.

However, the constant nature of NON-storytelling music, allows the listener to keep finding new things in the music. If you listen to a multi-timbral drone for two hours, you just keep finding slight variations, you just keep finding new harmonics you didn't hear before, and the music pulls you in and... well, there's a reason drone-based musics are often associated with trance-like states.

I would say that a story-telling, beginning, middle, end, well crafted type "song" is definitely limited by its material. For a pop/rock-type tune, that limit might be 5-10 minutes, maybe 15, before you really tire of it. For a symphony, the limit might be in the more Mahlerian range of 2-3 hours.

But for music that intentionally does NOT progress, that has NO story to tell, there is really only the limit of the needs of your daily life. The question is not, how long can the music interest you and provide a backdrop to your time, but how much time can you afford to spend with the music.
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Old 11-13-2014, 10:17 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Regarding primarily western genres, rock, metal, blues etc...

I think most of the time it really just depends on whether or not the song can keep your attention start to finish, it has to be consistently interesting or at least, in the case of atmospheric / drone styles, infectious. A few days ago I had a conversation about this with a good musician friend who is primarily into classic rock (typically 3 - 5 minute tracks), we were talking about Pallbearer's new album Foundations of Burden. His main complaint about the album, although he does like it as a whole, is that he found the songs too long (most of the tracks exceeding 10 minutes). But he wasn't complaining that they were droning on and losing direction or focus, he was complaining that he could only listen to 2 or 3 tracks max before he arrived at school (he, like many other people, saves albums for highway driving). Obviously that's not a problem with the music, it's a problem with how much time he allocates for listening, but I think that does say something about why a lot of people prefer 3 - 5 minute verse / chorus / verse / chorus / bridge / chorus rock fixes over elaborate story-telling tracks. Most people just don't care to sit down with an album for 45 minutes to an hour uninterrupted. However when they do have that time, and they do give it a chance, I bet the same people complaining about the songs being too long will change their mind. Give the music more time to feed you and you'll have more to chew on.

When it comes to writing long music, again I'm talking primarily about western genres, I think a band ought to be rather careful with length. There's no use dragging things on for unnecessarily long periods of time unless they were designed to be effective in that sort of structure. It's easy for songwriting to take a sharp turn from expression to self-indulgence, sure 2 minute long guitar solos are fun as hell for you, but it may not be nearly as fun for a listener if it feels out of place. It works for Freebird because the first half of the song sets you up for that, you anticipate it, the song has a chance to explain itself before meandering off into a massive instrumental climax. If you took that same solo and dropped it off after the first chorus you'd find the listener waiting for the rest of the band to finish what they had to say. Structure matters a lot for long rock music, you need to be careful where you place things, the longer the track the more carefully it must be arranged.

Anyway, long songs can be great if they're handled correctly by the songwriters, long songs work better in some styles than others, long songs ought to be given the time to explain themselves fully, musicians should be weary of meandering off into self-indulgence when writing songs, the most effective long songs are songs that maintain a sense of expression throughout, the listener should be compelled to complete the track and that requires capturing their interest and holding it, either through evolution of song structure / progressively elaborating on ideas or complexity of texture / intricacy of rhythm.
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Old 11-13-2014, 10:27 AM   #6 (permalink)
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I'll submit this as an example of a long song that has all of the qualities that make them work.

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Old 11-13-2014, 12:13 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Just to clarify, when we talk about long songs (In the experimental/avante garde forum) Are we focussing on things that can really be considered songs, and only in a Western blues-tradition sense, e.g. rock, blues, pop, hip-hop, reggae, dub, etc, or are we talking about pieces of music more generally, ranging from Andalusian Ma'Lùf, to Gamalan Ensembles, to Glitch, to Musique Concrete, to Rennaisance Chant, to...

I was speaking about progressive, avant garde, possibly experimental music in general, assuming "song" was just a bit of unspecific language. If that usage of "song" was meant to mean speficially something more like, "a short poem or other set of words set to music or meant to be sung," and if we are assuming a Western Popular music basis rather than a more inclusive one, then my answer would be completely different.
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Old 11-13-2014, 12:19 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I figured we were just speaking of songs that are considered long, regardless of genre (I didn't realize this thread was in the experimental board specifically), that's why I clarified which genres I was referring too. I think it was pretty clear in your post that you were referring to experimental styles. The OP was pretty vague regarding styles and the first reply was Roxy Music so I figured addressing western rock styles was fair game and would nicely contrast your post about more adventurous styles.
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Old 11-13-2014, 01:06 PM   #9 (permalink)
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No, I assumed anything was fair game, but I belatedly realized everyone was discussing, basically, Rock-based musics, with The Flower Kings being about as Out as it got. Just making sure I wasn't repeatedly derailing the intended flow of conversation...

I wasn't really talking about adventurous styles, though, just music in general. I was actually thinking mainly about some very ancient traditions in a majority of non-Western European cultures, where long, unchanging music is highly prevalent. Fun stuff, that.
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Old 11-13-2014, 02:01 PM   #10 (permalink)
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There's that question that's been bugging me: Why are there some long, monotonous songs that are extremely boring and others, while also long and monotonous, that are hypnotic and beautiful. I often try to analyze my feelings when listening to such music and just can't. Some songs work, some don't. (But I guess that can be applied to any kind of music.)
Generally I often do enjoy tracks that range from 10-20 minutes to an hour and longer, when I have the time and am in the mood. Not just the hypnotic kind of course, some variation is also always most welcome.
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