Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones - breaking the mold

Lately I've been thinking a lot about writing a good song vs. being creative. As I learn more about songwriting, there are ways that are proven to work and hundreds of songs have been written that way. There are also the rare few who have broken the mold and created something totally unique.

On Saturday night we saw Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. I had only heard their music in passing, so all that I was listening to was new. During the first few songs, I was looking unsuccessfully for the common songwriting components. By the second song I gave up and just started to enjoy the music. What I was listening to was unique, music that breaks the mold, yet is totally successful. For example, instead of a clear recognizable melody, there were themes. I wasn't humming any tunes as I walked out, instead, walked out with images. I also couldn't really decide how to classify the music, toward the end I decided it was a funky bluegrassy jazz. It seems the academy also has trouble with the classification, they were nominated for Grammys in contemporary jazz and pop/instrumental. Bela has the record for categories of Grammy nominations.

What I was most impressed with was the musicianship and innovation of the whole band. Each artist had recreated their craft. At times the base became a lead instrument and I could hear vocals coming from the base. The rhythm player, used a drum guitar and played traditional drums one handed, better than most with two hands. Sax, flute, and more was outstanding. And of course, Bela changed my concept of a banjo forever.

In a songwriting class I had taken with Wendy Woo, she had started out with "in songwriting there are no rules, just guidelines." Bela Fleck and the Flecktones proved that point and I'm grateful.

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