Entertaining versus Musical musicians - More Jeff Berlin

aydee

Platinum Member
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Apologies for inundating you guys with Jeff Berlin's rants-of-the-day on his FB page, but I find the things he discusses of immense relevance to us as muscians, even if we might not agree with some of his views. Here's another edition of Jeffspeak;

" Low standards of playing irritates so many people. I´m a guy who notices things and, unlike a lot of other people with way more tact than I have, I bring it right to the table. TV entertainment doesn´t mean that these people are good actors.

But in music many people can´t make the distinction between entertaining musician s and musical ones. Sometimes the two go hand in hand, but not often. If people would raise their standards about what is good music, then maybe we would hear from better players instead of what I heard about some of the players at the London Show.

Low quality playing ability is alive and well in the music industry (and it sure is alive in music education) and I wish that these things would stop. If¨Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, Music is in the ear of the belistener.

This means that standards and quality of music are rarely to be found because standards and quality don´t exist for some people in the arts. The belistener often doesn’t know what they are belistening to and often can´t telll a good player from a bad one. This is the result that comes when beauty and music don´t include any standards to go with them. Ciao from Jeff" -

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Pollyanna

Platinum Member
I think what he's saying is he sets the bar higher than many people. He could have been more explicit about what he deems acceptable or otherwise.

For instance, is he saying that something like this is bad playing? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4kpHmtA7LOk (I think they're a tight band) ... or what about all the pop done by sessioners? And it's not so easy to judge the musicianship of sequencer and drum machine programmers.

Some music requires "listening chops" and the world of listeners has changed, maybe mostly due to people having less time to become conversant with the arts. The music taste of my coworkers is pretty basic; music is barely on the radar of most of them. And these aren't dumb people.

It's a shame, but ranting and playing blistering fusion (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6at4jSG3cUc) won't change things. He has the ability to get involved with projects that could form a bridge between music and entertainment - viscerally appealing enough for popularity but with depth - but he chooses not to compromise and then complain from the sidelines.
 
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plangentmusic

Guest
Bass is my main instrument and I believe Jeff Berlin is a genius, and perhaps the most gifted bassist alive. He is simply amazing in every way. He has god-like chops, a comprehension of music with unfathomable depth, and he can groove like a mofo. He doesn't play tricks. He's a true virtuoso.

Having said that, his opinions go beyond perspective and into oppressive judgement. All art has an entertainment value and something that is entertaining can also be be art. (Ask Louie Armstrong or the Beatles). That's Berlin's Achilles heel. He doesn't get that. He doesn't want to. He is so beyond mere mortals in ability he can't see the forest through the trees. Nevertheless, I accept it, because...well, he's simply THAT good.

As an aside, Jeff was actually banned from a bass message board, because he couldn't tolerate fools gently. I think that's hilarious -- one of the worlds most accomplished bassists not allowed to post because of some stupid arbitrary posting rule. Some people can not comprehend their own idiocy.

So yeah, Jeff is a little narrow in some ways. But he's so advanced in others, he has to be cut some slack.
 

toddbishop

Platinum Member
I basically agree with him, though I'd like to know what he means by quality. By "good music" he seems to mean "music made by good players", which to me are not necessarily the same thing. What I consider to be a good player is someone with substantial artistic and technical mastery of their instrument, hopefully with a lot of depth and breadth. I don't need that in every type of music when listening for pleasure- often I only need the player to be able to do the piece at hand well or interestingly. Phil Rudd, Lou Reed (as a singer) or Jason Bateman may not represent the zenith of their respective crafts, but they are perfect in their element. Film/TV acting is actually a good illustration of this, since he brought it up: quality in casting certainly != using Laurence Olivier in every role. Non-actor show people or civilians are often cast for their individual qualities or to get a verite/documentary type of feel, to name a couple of reasons- their non-expertise is used as a creative effect by the filmmaker/producer. So I just enjoy King Coffey and Teresa Nervosa for their weird, primitive thing and don't listen thinking "GD, you know who could've done something with this? Thomas Lang."
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
I think he makes sense, probably in this instance too. I agree with Pol though - he's so brilliant that his musical bubble is rather large and in his world things are very defined. He's probably sticking with the Duke Ellington paradigm where Duke says there should only be two kinds of music bins in the record store: good and bad ;)

And then there's what's actually out there....
 

Odd-Arne Oseberg

Platinum Member
I can agree with Jeff on a lot of things, I even studied at his school for a year. He has an incredible ear for harmony.

However, there are a lot of things he doesn't understand and personally I don't find him all that "musical."
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I agree there's a ton of processed crap out there, but I think Jeff's disregarding that & referring to what you & I would find to be mostly pretty good stuff. If I'm right on that, he's advocating elite music for elite ears. That's fine, but the audience will be forever small, & eventually propped up by public finance like opera & similar select musical based art forms. Let's face it, he's against the vast majority of popular music, & certainly anything he believes to be beneath his own high playing standards.

I think he needs to chill a bit, then maybe he'll let himself go & actually look for beauty rather than costantly digging to find fault.
 

bigd

Silver Member
If he's really concerned with playing and supporting true elite music then let him get a gig with one of the symphony orchestras. The true elite musicians of america are struggling more then ever. Symphonies are going bankrupt and fewer patrons are attending then ever. As for music educators not being up to his standards, let him go discuss music with one of the professors at a true music conservatory. I wish him luck in that.
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
As unpalatable as some of his statements are, I totally support his intentions.

I am assuming his intentions are to try to embarass, if necessary, people into realizing that the quality of music is on a downward spiral.

I applaud him for taking an unpopular view, somebody has to fight the status quo. Music needs voices like his to counter the tide of mediocrity, even if it's a whisper among a crowd.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
Having said that, his opinions go beyond perspective and into oppressive judgement. All art has an entertainment value and something that is entertaining can also be be art. (Ask Louie Armstrong or the Beatles). That's Berlin's Achilles heel. He doesn't get that. He doesn't want to. He is so beyond mere mortals in ability he can't see the forest through the trees.
I've never heard of Jeff Berlin, but he apparently fits into the category of artiste, which is just an artist, but snootier. They typically loathe the concept of entertaining with their music, as if they're a circus elephant. It's those types who, after I see them play, will make a point to say that I was entertained. I do not suffer 'genuises' gladly.

Players are entitled to pursue the path they want, just as the public is entitled to listen to and appreciate what they want. For Jeff to tell others what is good, bad or entertaining shows tremendous arrogance and disrespect. How nice for him that he's so amazing. But I repeat, I do not suffer 'genuises' gladly.

Bermuda
 

keep it simple

Platinum Member
I've never heard of Jeff Berlin, but he apparently fits into the category of artiste, which is just an artist, but snootier. They typically loathe the concept of entertaining with their music, as if they're a circus elephant. It's those types who, after I see them play, will make a point to say that I was entertained. I do not suffer 'genuises' gladly.

Players are entitled to pursue the path they want, just as the public is entitled to listen to and appreciate what they want. For Jeff to tell others what is good, bad or entertaining shows tremendous arrogance and disrespect. How nice for him that he's so amazing. But I repeat, I do not suffer 'genuises' gladly.

Bermuda
Jon, you just put down my thoughts much better than I did in my earlier post. I don't take his rants as putting down manufactured record company processed fodder (I think we all have that feeling to some extent), he's putting down everything that he regards as beneath him. As far as I gather, that's just about eveything, including a lot of stuff I find beauty in. Although I think it's great to strive for better standards, there's no way I'm being told what is & what isn't good enough for me to appreciate.
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Entertainer vs Musician is something I used to think of as a difference when I was kid.

Then once you get into the music world, the line is so blurred, that you realize it doesn't exist.

There is a lot of cheesy music out there that requires a lot of skill to pull off, and there is a lot of technically amazing music that is pretty cheesy to listen to. Some music maybe cheesy but still fun. Some bands may have great "musician" oriented material, but it's their one "entertaining" song that they become known for. Some musicians have amazing chops, but only get paid to play basic 2 and 4 type stuff.
 

Spreggy

Silver Member
If I may be so bold as to spout (tongue in cheek) insensitive rantings in the style of Mr. Berlin, it's no surprise to me that a fusion player thinks the world should be enthralled with that often nonsensical over-soloed themeless mass of "look what I can do" called Jazz Fusion. Just listen to all those notes!

I understand what he's saying on certain levels, I can't believe the "Diva surrounded by 7 effeminate dancers" genre sells tickets, but there it is. Or shoe gazers, or any wall-of-sound style modern rock band, or new bands that start every song with a guitar wank-wank-wank riff, etc etc ad nauseum. But somebody is out there voting with their wallets, so who am I to judge what other people think?

I disagree with his quip on music education. I sell all day to shops that sell to school aged players, and I can tell you first hand that classical music training is alive and well in the US of A. Our local school district has an amazing program that my kids were fortunate to be a part of, and the city is surrounded by schools that are at the same level.

Everybody can tell the difference between good players and entertaining posers, many just don't give a crap, they wanna have a good time, and as Zappa says, hey whatever you wanna do for a good time let's get on with it as long as it doesn't cause a murder.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
He clearly gets the theory and mechanics of playing better than the vast majority of players and of course, listeners. So that entitles him to belittle the musical tastes of just about every player and listener? I can't see the symmetry in that. His head is incredibly large and firmly wedged up into his dank region.

I hate when any players start dictating what is good and bad, as if by virtue of their learned knowledge, they can somehow invalidate what sonics resonate with me. I know we've batted it around a thousand times on this forum, but I still do not buy into the idea that art is not subjective. I think these arguments confuse "art" with "technical skill" and learned knowledge because while there may often be considerable overlap, they can be teased apart.
 

Naigewron

Platinum Member
Am I understanding him right? Is he really saying that someone can't be both musical and entertaining? I prefer musicians who have both these qualities.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
But somebody is out there voting with their wallets, so who am I to judge what other people think?
Exactly, but Jeff sounds like he does need to judge others, and he undoubtedly invokes the McDonald's defense when doing so: just because McDonald's sells billions of hamburgers doesn't mean they make the best hamburger.

Again, what 'best' means to one person is not what it means to the next. What's the best snare? The best cymbal? The best car? The best band? The answer is, it varies, and ultimately, each person decides what's best for him or her. But the drum company, or car company, or band's record label doesn't make the decision about what's best for the end user... and neither does Jeff.

Sheesh, 2 hours ago I'd never even heard of Jeff Berlin. Maybe I should explore his music to get a better idea? Nah, I'd probably just be entertained, and he'd hate me for that.

Bermuda
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Right, because even this catchy little work of genius couldn't be saved by the combined efforts of Steve Smith and Neil whatshisname... I assume that this is what passes for good music in Mr. Berlin's world.

I don't get that kind of cornball crap wankery. If that's good music, then I'm happy about liking the inferior stuff.
 

paistemage

Senior Member
It's difficult.

To ME, I love all types of music, no matter what technical proficency level the players are at. In this day an age of electronic composition, what level the producer is at as well, as far as technical proficency.

That being said a LOT of music nowadays is garbage and a discredit to the artform. It is subjective, what I like may not be what you like. I like Morphine,Wu tang clan, fantomas, melvins, miles davis and rachmaninoff all for various reasons.

People making songs about grills, their teeth, or maybe the fact that they are drunk in a club is ridiculous.

I expect MORE from my music. Not over produced banal emotionless music. Duh.

I don't feel the guycomes off as arrogant. He is just a player who is very skilled commenting on the dumbed down version of a lot of music nowadays.

Ludacris talking getting people int heir birthday suits is a LOT different than say MINOR THREAT talking about bottled violence.

I love simple music. Son House, John lee hooker, any blues really or even the MISFITS.

Complicated compositions aren't immediately delegated to greatness.

Portishead is not as complex as Emperor, as a band. "Sworn," off Emperors 9 equilibrium album is amazing, and Portishead's entire album, third is revolutionary.

Instead of saying the guy is full of hot air and ego, take a look from his perspective. The way I read it, is that he is saying a lot of people don't seem to be trying to making music for musics sake, its more about the product, a catchphrase, etc.

Ron Carter, one of the best bass palyers ever, next to good old Les, would probrably not think that "Kesha" making a song about being drunk in the VIP makes more sense on an emotional level than say "Blue and Green."

People will herd towards the next product, don't take into context the players perspective, and if it has a good beat and they can dance , they will buy it.

Forget if it's Bob Dylans "Masters of war." Doesn't beat the "thong song."
 

DrumEatDrum

Platinum Member
Sheesh, 2 hours ago I'd never even heard of Jeff Berlin.
Bermuda
I'm kind of surprised there. He's been a highly regarded bass player for a good 20-30 years.

Although that may be part of his issue. He was highly regarded, and then fell out of public view. His brand of fusion never quite seemed to catch on as well as the Chick Corea Elektric Band, John Patitucci, Scott Henderson, and the like. And his attempts to cross over into the rock world were never really successful.

I am guessing some of his comments come from realizing he's older and has not had the success or name recognition as some people he used to be considered on the same level as.
 

bermuda

Drummerworld Pro Drummer - Administrator
Staff member
I am guessing some of his comments come from realizing he's older and has not had the success or name recognition as some people he used to be considered on the same level as.
I see a lot of artists making what they feel is important music, who resent not having made it big. Even when insist they'd never want to appeal to the masses, they still pout when they attract only a niche audience. It's the same frustrated musicians lash out at commercialism, and lament how people who buy most music are just sheep. Funny, I've never encountered well-adjusted or successful players saying that... it's always the 'artistes' who have the biggest chimp on their shoulder.

Bermuda
 
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