Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Less is More

Not that my opinion matters much but I dislike modern gospel music. The Kirk Franklins of the world are an absolute knob turner for me but different strokes for different folks I guess.

I suppose I'm just a purist who still believes that less is more. To me, having less brings out the most creativity within the human spirit. The less you have to work with, the more you have to rely on yourself to make things happen.

For this reason, I lean on the traditional side of gospel which offers a more pure and authentic sound. A sound that takes work from the vocalist on both his singing and listening. Vocalists like the Swan Silvertones who were so in touch with each other, it's almost like they were one man with several mouths to sing with.

The history of Gospel music is somewhat of a mystery. Mainly because the folks that created it were forbidden to read or write during it's evolution. Even the great lover of sociology and music himself, Alan Lomax, had a tough time figuring out where it developed within the U.S. speculating that it's origins were strongest in the Carolinas.

The facts of gospel music can be determined by just listening. The songs themselves sound very similar to work songs. A call and answer method using a lead to call and a group to answer. Chain gang workers and cotton farmers used these songs to help boost spirits within the working environment. Slaves were forbidden to use their musical instruments a lot of times and given their lack of funds in general, had to create something from nothing within their churches. This is when the form of gospel sung in a cappella (pronounced ah kuh-pel-uh) became it's very own art form and would spark the fire which gave birth to soul music. The term "a cappella"  simply means vocals only. No help from musical instruments.

What we all really miss these days with modern music is the amount of discipline it takes to produce authentic quality. Most if not all of the current music is not created by the artist/band as it's the engineer who holds the keys for the way a record sounds. If the vocalist is out of tune, no problem. The audio software fixes the issues and creates even better vocal tones for the next fifteen year old super star.

It's the same for photography with all the magazines you see at the grocery store.  Hours are spent shaping and fixing the way a woman looks for a cover shot. I know this to be true as I'm a manipulator of communications and it's my job to make everything look pretty. Photography is no exception.

The Landis Family from Creedmoor, North Carolina are probably one of the best examples of gospel sung in it's purest form. The entire family is musical but the Landis brothers represent incredible talent showcasing their ability to sing as one unit. It's a lost art form now as even traditional gospel is difficult to find. The pressures of more money to be made from a younger market have been slowly killing the old ways. The ways that made far more with much less.

Word to you my brothers and sisters. If they don't have gospel in Heaven, I ain't going.


  1. You know, Edwin, everybody wants everything cheap, fast & good but you can only have 2 of the 3....take your pick. I have found this rule to be true in ALL areas of life!

  2. This is true on many things. Especially food as we have been known to put just about anything in our mouths from a cheap fast food joint. Especially if you're on a road trip. However, the point I'm trying to make here has more to do with the amount of money spent on an artist that has very little talent. They lack the age and the discipline that it takes to make a great musician. Millions of dollars are spent on marketing some bozo that has great hair. Or in some cases, shaves it and then checks herself into rehab. So please don't discount the amount of investment made in mediocre talent with my above topic. Marketing and selling music has become more about producing something that's not even made by a human.