Saturday, May 01, 2010

What are we?

Some of you may remember that I, as an author, went through a LENGTHY process discovering what I write. It took me years to finally identify who my audience is (11-14 yo girls, especially the gifted ones), what my genre is (Fantasy. Fine. I can admit it now.), what kind of voice and narrative I really produce (vs what I wanted to write. Nope--I don't write lightweight comic novels like I thought I would, and darn it, no matter how I try to avoid it, everything I write is infused with a light spy-thriller-mystery feel even though it's fantasy). It's taken me years to realize that what I'm interested in, what I daydream about, is magic in a way that challenges your cultural assumptions about classic tales, women who are real women (soft, feminine, not street fighters but who are still the absolute, no questions asked hero of the story), and spy stories. I love spy stories. I love magic. Is there any wonder they would come together in my stories?

Anyway, I'm noticing that other artists have to go through that, too.  A friend of mine seems to find all his stories end up comic, even when he's trying to write serious (actually, it's what I LOVE about his books).

Tim has had to define what he does, too. Not for artistic purposes, but in order to make it accessible to potential audiences. You have to stick the right tags on the music (or books) so they come up in the google searches and on the shelves where your potential audience is looking.

So where do I put Tim's stuff? His new stuff, despite the fact that there still are a few comedy/novelty tunes stuck in there (it's in his soul!), I think I would class as rock/pop (not pop-rock, which is it's own thing). Where would I put it on the shelves in a music store? Somewhere around They Might Be Giants old stuff (not their kids' stuff), OkGo, and Queen. Just based purely on the music itself, I think he writes rock music. I can hear the influences of not only the groups I already mentioned but groups like Midnight Oil and Rush (with their complex music and thoughtful, well-crafted lyrics), but with nicer vocals, and with rhythms that borrow ideas from the ska/punk movement and vocal styling that borrows from the ska/swing movement. Still rock in my mind, though.

So it surprised me when he was nominated for a Northern Colorado Music Association Award last week--in the Singer-Songwriter category!

I wracked my brain trying to figure out how he ended up there, and then it dawned on me--music is not only categorized by its sound but also by the ensemble that creates it. Nobody is going to confuse solo piano with full orchestral music even if both are playing Mozart. They are two different things, and lovers of solo piano music don't always love orchestral music (and vice versa).

Rock music is NEVER performed by a solo performer. It's always performed by a band. Not even a guy with backing tracks. Rock is performed by a band.

Solo performers who perform their own compositions are singer-songwriters, never mind if their music doesn't fit what most singer-songwriters perform (thoughtful ballads, voice and guitar).

There are other live loopers out there--lots of them--but their music is heavy on the beat-boxing, heavy on the electronica, heavy on the "house" techno. Most of them are using their voices to do the DJ thing, not using their voices to write melodic songs. And THAT places Tim in the singer-songwriter category. His tunes, while rock-infused, heavily effected, and heavy on the bass and rhythm (and beatboxing), are melodic. They are still SONGS, made to be sung, with melody and harmony.

So the Northern Co. Music Association says he's a singer-songwriter, not a rock band.

It leaves me curiously interested to see where we go from here. I have this sneaky suspicion that we still don't know what's coming for Tim's career.....

No comments: