To say that the DX7’s arrival was earth-shaking would be no exaggeration: the affordable price, sound palette, and physical feel of the instrument combined to make the DX7 the new must-have instrument in every studio, garage, and university music department in the U.S. and the U.K.
In so many cases, when we’re wondering “what makes it sound ____?” where ____ is Christmas, or metal, or Irish, or whatever, the answer lies not so much in the harmonies, but the timbres. Timbre is probably the most immediate aspect of our musical experience. Why shortchange it in our analyses?
How do we make something sound ’80s? When today’s millennials—who were only infants or children in the ’80s—recreate an ’80s sound, how does it compare to an authentically ’80s sound? What elements of the ’70s or the ’90s get misremembered as an ’80s phenomenon? All these questions are discussed in the the latest Pop Unmuted episode.
The critique of binaries as being over-generalizing is leveled at me a lot. But McAdams 1999 shows that perhaps this isn’t actually a damaging oversimplification.
It’s funny what we identify with and how we situate ourselves when we research an era of the past.
I’ve removed this post, which was from 2016 (!), because my approach to timbre has evolved a lot. Readers should check out my MTO article instead, which was published in 2020. You can find more publications (all of which was published later than this blog post) on my Research page.
After reading roughly 10,000 articles and books about the analysis of timbre, I can say with confidence this is how all of them start out. So here’s my own explanation of timbre’s DEAL. Timbre is more colloquially known as “tone color.” Imagine two different instruments, e.g., a violin and a trumpet, playing the same exact note… Continue reading WHAT is the DEAL with TIMBRE?