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Do the Lyrics Not Matter?

Acorn4 20 Jun 09 - 07:27 PM
Peace 21 Jun 09 - 02:10 AM
Darowyn 21 Jun 09 - 04:34 AM
Folknacious 21 Jun 09 - 05:37 AM
Acorn4 21 Jun 09 - 06:26 AM
Will Fly 21 Jun 09 - 06:56 AM
Leadfingers 21 Jun 09 - 08:54 AM
kendall 21 Jun 09 - 09:01 AM
jeddy 21 Jun 09 - 09:10 AM
BB 21 Jun 09 - 09:16 AM
Eve Goldberg 21 Jun 09 - 10:23 AM
gnu 21 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM
McGrath of Harlow 21 Jun 09 - 04:18 PM
Q (Frank Staplin) 21 Jun 09 - 04:44 PM
Tangledwood 21 Jun 09 - 06:51 PM
Weasel 21 Jun 09 - 07:23 PM
GUEST,leeneia 21 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM
kendall 21 Jun 09 - 08:06 PM
Joe_F 21 Jun 09 - 08:55 PM
Eve Goldberg 22 Jun 09 - 12:28 AM
GUEST,leeneia 22 Jun 09 - 08:32 AM
GUEST,leeneia 22 Jun 09 - 08:53 AM
GUEST,Spleen Cringe 22 Jun 09 - 09:35 AM
GUEST 22 Jun 09 - 09:49 AM
GUEST,Tam in Gloucester 22 Jun 09 - 11:50 AM
Acorn4 22 Jun 09 - 11:53 AM
PoppaGator 22 Jun 09 - 01:31 PM
Spleen Cringe 22 Jun 09 - 02:10 PM
GUEST,Shimrod 22 Jun 09 - 02:24 PM
Willie-O 22 Jun 09 - 02:45 PM
Amos 22 Jun 09 - 02:52 PM
olddude 22 Jun 09 - 02:57 PM
Stringsinger 22 Jun 09 - 03:21 PM
Amos 22 Jun 09 - 03:29 PM
GUEST,mg 22 Jun 09 - 03:35 PM
Peace 22 Jun 09 - 04:35 PM
GUEST,mg 22 Jun 09 - 05:22 PM
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Subject: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Acorn4
Date: 20 Jun 09 - 07:27 PM

We're at the "Big Session" Festival at Leicester this weekend. Last night we went to see the Levellers. We were quite keen to see this band because we had quite a bit of "time out" from the folk/music scene at the time they became popular due to work/family etc, and have never actually heard them.

The problem was that we only managed to hear about ten words out of all their lyrics in the whole set. I'm not being a grumpy old fart here and saying it was too loud. I can stand loud OK, but something with the sound made all the words completely inaudible. Obviously bands have a fanbase and many of the people there knew the lyrics off by heart, but for someone who had not heard the band before, it was a bit frustrating.

Their stage act was excellent, but I might as well, to all intents and purposes have been listening to an instrumental set. I would have thought that this was a band who had a message in their songs, but if that is the case, I'm afraid it was completely lost on me.

One or two other bands at the festival seemed to suffer from the same problem, but Breabach's words came over crystal clear as did Eliza Carthy's.

Is it a problem with sound engineers?
Do the band switch up their own instruments after the soundcheck?
Is it when you get drummers involved?


Is it not possible with modern technology to combine loud with audible?

Disgusted of Leicester!


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Peace
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 02:10 AM

A lousy sound technician can completely screw up a performance for the audience. Often they are behind the performers and can't hear a damned thing themselves. Maybe the group didn't do any kind of sound check before the performance. maybe no one told the soundman/woman that the sound levels sucked. Mighta been something like that, Acorn4.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Darowyn
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 04:34 AM

There are styles of music where the lyrics do not matter. Students that I taught, who were proponents of the harder end on the 'Metal' spectrum would regularly mix both recordings and live performances with what I would call the 'lead vocal' at a lower level than the chainsaw distorted guitars- which cause frequency masking in any case.
To me that was a bad technical mistake, but back to back comparisons with commercially recorded tracks submitted as targets showed that inaudible vocals are regarded as part of the genre. The extreme case would be the screamed or grunted vocals often used- clearly meant to be incomprehensible!
The sound that such producers and engineers achieve in this way represent,for them,"energy". A conventionally mixed track with vocals clearly upfront, and EQ levels set to create separation between guitar and voice is thought to lack 'guts'.
I know the Levellers are not Death Metallers, but they are a high energy outfit. If the sound engineer had been given that phrase as a guideline for his mix, the result could well have been as described.
'Blame the sound engineer' is easy to do, but the vast majority of the many sound engineers I know, do exactly what is asked of them- however much it hurts them to do it.
Cheers
Dave


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Folknacious
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 05:37 AM

No, I imagine the Levellers would like you to think that their words mattered but actually they're just part of the noise. Aren't they well past their sell-by date, just a sort of skiffle version of the Clash and definitely not in the same league?

I wish I could have gone to the Big Session as there were lots of bands I'd have liked to have seen. I just noticed in the small print that Blyth Power are/were playing. Did anybody see them? Now there's a band where the words matter, amazing historical epics, written and sung by the drummer. Could you hear them?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Acorn4
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 06:26 AM

Blyth Power were about 50/50 in terms of hearing the lyrics -great lead vocalist/drummer with shades of Meatloaf in places.

The vanishing lyrics can't be blamed on the same sound people, as they were in the Marquee not the De Montfort.

I was not necessarily blaming the sound engineers in the initial post but just asking the question. I was talking to one of our local sound people yesterday, and he says sometimes bands take the law into their own hands and make their job difficult.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Will Fly
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 06:56 AM

All sorts of reasons cause this. My theory is that, after the rehearsal mix was done and the instrument and vocals set, the band actually changed things during the live performance - i.e., turned up the instruments to the point where they obscured the vocals.

The other possibility, s I well know from many years in the business, is that a full marquee/stadium/performance area sounds quite different empty (rehearsal mode) than well full (performance mode), and that the sound engineers weren't compensating.

I had a similar experience with Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes at the Fairfield Halls in Croydon - absolutely ear-splitting - and spoiled what was great music.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Leadfingers
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 08:54 AM

For ANYTHING 'Folk' the lyrics DO Matter , and any folk performance that does NOT follow this basic premis is belittling the music and letting the audience down .


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: kendall
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 09:01 AM

Lyrics IS EVERYTHING.Otherwise it's like reading a book with no words.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: jeddy
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 09:10 AM

i know it is east to blame the sound man, but every fairport gig i have ever heard has sounded terrible.

the levellers are very word and lyric concious and i think that maybe they didn't know that the sound out front was different to the sound through the monitors.

we haven't seen blyth power for years and would love to catch up with them, you have got good taste FOLK!!!

take care all

jade x x


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: BB
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 09:16 AM

IMO, that's what folk is about - if it's got words, you should be putting those across to the audience, otherwise it might just as well be another genre.

Case in point - went to see Faustus last Friday, a high energy trio if ever there was one! But their arrangements and levels are designed to put the words over - fantastic!

Barbara


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 10:23 AM

"Lyrics IS EVERYTHING.Otherwise it's like reading a book with no words."

While that's true for a lot of acoustic/folk/roots music, it's not true for all music. Right now, I'm listening to very old blues recordings from the 1920's, and I have to say that on some of the songs, the words are a little unintelligible, partly because of recording technology and partly because of idiomatic language and singing style. But I still love it, because I get a certain feeling from the music, and the instrumentation, and even all the pops and scratches on the recordings.

But beyond that, there are many, many kinds of music that are built on GROOVE. Blues can certainly have it, as can old-time stringband music, R&B, rock n' roll, world music, etc.

When I listen to music in other languages, I understand none of the lyrics, but I respond to the feel, the melody, the interplay of the instruments and voices, and the emotional ups and downs in the music. There is a LOT communicated without words.

It's also a personal orientation. My partner simply doesn't attend to lyrics very much - she gets captured by the melody and feel without listening to the words at all. Different strokes for different folks!


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: gnu
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 03:49 PM

Folk is ABOUT lyrics. Other genres... whatever.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: McGrath of Harlow
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 04:18 PM

There are styles of music where the lyrics do not matter. If the lyrics don't matter, the song don't matter.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Q (Frank Staplin)
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 04:44 PM

I have listened to some of the youtube stuff recommended here and quickly clicked off because the beat, drums or whatever, covered up whatever music was there.
Much of what passes as music, rock metal or whatever they call it, is just noise.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Tangledwood
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 06:51 PM

At a small indoor concert on the weekend the music was great but many of the lyrics were hard to hear over the instruments. As I was sitting very near the front I was able to hear the performers directly to some extent as well as from the speakers. It seemed to me that the singers were singing to themselves with the microphone half an inch away. In an unplugged environment the front row may have heard them but not those at the back. Perhaps some singers need to learn to project more, although being too loud in a microphone is not good either. Presumably this is part of the stage craft that has to be learned?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Weasel
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 07:23 PM

As a backing group we regularly used to turn up to "sound checks" hours before the actual gig. At the end of the sound check, the keyboard man would turn up the knob on his machine and obliterate the lot of us.

Cheers (and if anyone knows who I am and is putting two and two together - no, I don't mean you)


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 07:25 PM

Here's one thing about lyrics.

People who know the lyrics already understand them when the sound's bad. Or maybe their brains fill in for them, and they think they understand them. Anyhow, a sound person who's worked with the band before will have a hard time noticing that the words can't be understood.

For example, I remember a concert by a visiting Scottish folk band where the only words I understood were those that they'd told me about in the introduction. My theory is that the sound is too loud. It hits the walls, bounces back, and mixes with the new sound to produce a cottony mass of vibrations.

And it's not just a matter of money. I went to a pro performance of 'Phantom of the Opera' where the only song lyrics I understood From The Whole Show were 'tum te tum te tum te of the night." Probably everybody else there owned the album, had read the words, and listened to the songs over and over. So they had no problem with it.

Are you familiar with archy the cockroach? I believe it was he who said, 'mehitabel both our professions are being ruined by amateurs.'
That applies to traditional music, too.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: kendall
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 08:06 PM

Definition of folk music "Heavy Mental"


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Joe_F
Date: 21 Jun 09 - 08:55 PM

I have repeatedly had the experience, sitting in an auditorium, of understanding the conversation on the stage before the performance, but hearing the sound system turn the performance itself to mush. Turn the damn thing off!


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Eve Goldberg
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 12:28 AM

I don't disagree that for many types of folk music the lyrics are very important. I was just pointing out that for some kinds of folk music, they aren't as important -- I think of stringband music as a kind of folk music, and so is blues and many kinds of international music or world music.

I'm saying that as a songwriter to whom the lyrics of my songs are VERY important, believe me. And there's nothing more frustrating than trying to listen to music where you are meant to focus on the lyrics and you can't hear them, so I'm in total agreeement with all that.

I was just pointing out that not all forms of folk music are so heavily dependent on lyrics.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 08:32 AM

This is true. Some dance tunes suffer from 'lyrics' which were merely doggerel (often rather nasty) so that fiddlers could remember how they go. I'd love to see such words deep-sixed.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,leeneia
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 08:53 AM

I've had second thoughts on the question of amplification. It's not just the sound system that makes words fuzzy.

A guest had just posted, asking for help with the lyrics to a song called Cedars of Lebanon. (http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=121741&messages=3) He gave a link to a recording. The recording has one man singing the song with a guitar. Sound level is normal, but I can't understand half of it.

Do singers like that choose to be unintelligable? Are they naive, or are they trying to prove something?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,Spleen Cringe
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 09:35 AM

Folk is ABOUT lyrics

Folk song? Yup, I'd agree with you. But folk music? Not really: it's also about jigs and reels and hornpipes and polkas and all sorts of things with nary a couplet in sight...

And, to be honest, with some of the singer-songwriters I've heard recently, anything the sound engineer can do to obscure the words is doing them a real favour...


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 09:49 AM

Whack fol the diddle fol the di dol day


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,Tam in Gloucester
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 11:50 AM

Mouth music - but if you are political the polemic rather dilutes without words. Buy the CD and read the lyrics - how egalitarian is that?

Having said that Paul Brady did a lot of very meaningful politico-musical stuff at Shrewsbury. Now it might have been that it just wasn't entertaining, or that it was the last concert of the Monday. But in truth it was because he was so loud you could hear it at the food tents. And probably discern more there.

Because the organisers want it that loud - despite laws to the effect. That's why.

Now shall we ram opinions down your throat at jet engine volume (90dB)?
Would you have any empathy with a political diatribe that is shouted at you?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Acorn4
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 11:53 AM

I remember a couple of instances in which the Mrs Ackroyd Band have been a victim of bad sound. Les Barker's lyrics need to be heard, and it was fine for those who know the songs, but I saw many of the casual "non folky" audiences obviously with everything going totally over their heads.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: PoppaGator
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 01:31 PM

I've always been a bit deficient at discerning lyrics; I suppose that my natural reaction is to respond primarily to sound at first (not just the melody, but the texture of the instrumental sound, even the phonetic sound of the words without reference to their meaning).

Now, I certainly do appreciate well-written lyrics once thay have caught my attention, and I am in general a fairly verbal person who probably reads and writes a bit more than the everage human. But when listening to songs, I don't seem to concentrate of the lyrical content. In many cases, I'll listen to a given piece many times over before fully hearing the lyrics, and only then begin to appreciate those words as an additional dimension of a song whose melody and sound/delivery/ambience I've already learned to appreciate.

Now, when I select songs to perform, lyrical content becomes more important. I believe that we all are at our best when singing words that mean somethihng to us, so we naturally select songs that express our personal feelings and beliefs.

As a listener, I am not always immediately concerned with a given song's lyrical message, but I think it's important that the singer feels a degree of urgency about that message. While I may not hear the lyric in word-for-word detail, I need to hear (or "sense") the singer's commitment and feeling.

That's why we are able to respond to songs sung in languages we don't understand, to scratchy old recordings of performances in unfamiliar dialects, etc. While we may not understand every word, we should be able to understand the performer's feeling.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Spleen Cringe
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 02:10 PM

Excellent post, PG.


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,Shimrod
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 02:24 PM

How did we ever get to a stage where some people seem to consider that the lyrics of a SONG are not important?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Willie-O
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 02:45 PM

Can anyone tell me what diddy wah diddy means?


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Amos
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 02:52 PM

Yes, someone can, Will; but he's hard to get in touch with as he is currently working hard on the second edition of the Book of Love.



A


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: olddude
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 02:57 PM

thats a shame, as Kendall pointed out on radio, Folk music is all about the lyrics ... a shame


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Stringsinger
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 03:21 PM

Problem....lyric writing is becoming a lost art. Much of it in contemporary songwriting
is slip-shod, poorly crafted and brimming with preachy generalities.

The beauty of folk song is that the lyrics are concise, trenchant, pared-down and basically the way people of the time speak. They are also highly descriptive without being verbose or abstruse. In short, they communicate. Sometimes they need footnotes if the references are dated.

Folk-like songs usually follow the model of a traditional folk song in the lyric.

Usually, the songs tell a story that's coherent. Sometimes a text is collated from different variants. This is done to keep the story in tact.

A songwriter can write a "folk-like" song and if he/she is good, it can sound authentic.
Usually, that songwriter should have some acquaintance with traditional folk song lyrics to
sound sincere. Or you could write songs like they did in "A Mighty Wind".

Frank Hamilton


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Amos
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 03:29 PM

LOL, Frank. But a telling point--the poignant immediacy of really well-grown lyrics started being adulterated when commercial groups discovered they could synthesize the flavor the way Poptarts synthesize "strawberry". Same thing's true of commercial agriculture--you can get volume, and profit, but you sure do make a devil's bargain as far as richness is concerned.

Don't get me wrong -- modern numbers sometimes have really telling and relevant lyrics to them (I am, of course, thinking of Dylan among others) but they occur in a flood of organized songs, written for different reasons, by a different kind of singer, in a different kind of time-stream.


A


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 03:35 PM

I am with PoppaGator. Sometimes I get the general gist of them but I do not really listen with an ear to them. I just now found out that the Foggy Dew was not referring to a City Pharoah that died. I had a sort of confushed image in my head..it was really to a city fair road I I guess. I like lyrics but I listen to the overall music more and create little pictures I guess rather than a complete story. mg


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: Peace
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 04:35 PM

"'Blame the sound engineer' is easy to do, but the vast majority of the many sound engineers I know, do exactly what is asked of them- however much it hurts them to do it."

Couldn't agree more, Dave. I try my best to do sound checks BEFORE the performance. It isn't always possible, but folks, when the engineer asks, just do it. It's worth it in the final analysis. If you don't (and you've had the opportunity), ya get what ya deserve.

BM


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Subject: RE: Do the Lyrics Not Matter?
From: GUEST,mg
Date: 22 Jun 09 - 05:22 PM

Sometimes the fact that a song is written is more important than how good or bad it is. I have a new one called Iranian rose which has a cliche in every line but nevertheless I shall post it because you never know when someone can get a bit of comfort from something. mg


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