Mike Schilling

Mike has been a software engineer far longer than he would like to admit. He has strong opinions on baseball, software, science fiction, comedy, contract bridge, and European history, any of which he's willing to share with almost no prompting whatsoever.

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15 Responses

  1. Glyph says:

    Heh. I hadn’t seen that rant before (and hadn’t caught those particular examples before) but he’s right that it’s everywhere in pop music, and in fact I have had discussions with my brother before that in a weird way I see Canon’s (root) simplicity as a clear forerunner to our modern conception of a rock/pop song hook.

    I’m also reminded of (per Jaybird pointing it out not too long ago) Kim Deal’s bit about “real” bass players (and after all, what is the cellist in that ensemble?) and how sometimes “just pedaling through” is what you need. Complexity doesn’t always equal ‘better’, and sometimes simplicity and repetition is what is called for.

    She talks about how the bass needs to stay simple, and refrain from doing the “cool” stuff the other instrumentation is doing on top of it (and how hard that restraint is for many musicians, especially the more skilled/trained they are).


    (Matter of fact, you can hear a bit of similarity to Canon’s chord progression in her bass part to “Where is My Mind?” in that same clip.)

    Anyway, a beautiful piece of music. Anything that can stand up to that kind of overplay and ripoff has to be.Report

  2. Saul Degraw says:

    The piece is pretty but certainly overdone. Way overdone.

    Are you going to do something on P.D.Q Bach?Report

  3. Burt Likko says:

    I had no idea that the beautiful, emotional arrangement with which I’m familiar dates back only to 1990. The original instrument, original arrangement video is very instructional — and more stark in its reliance on the mathematics and rhythm that are the signature of the Baroque era of music. Thanks for that!

    And I know that the Canon in D has now been overdone and is now considered hackneyed. I don’t care. Even in its less-flourished original arrangement, it’s gorgeous. Yes, I had it played at my wedding. (Well, an excerpt; it didn’t take my bride that long to walk down the aisle.)Report

    • Glyph in reply to Burt Likko says:

      stark..reliance on…mathematics and rhythm

      Yes, this is why overselling the cello’s part as “boring” – though I sympathize with the cellist, and with the complaints of “this tune’s played out” and it’s funny and sort of true – kinda also misses the point.

      Without that orderly, gridlike progression underlaying it, the thing wouldn’t soothe, nor would it soar. (It’s the same concept underpinning a lot of minimal techno also).Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        It’s very unusual for a piece of this length never to change keys. Ordinarily, even a bass line that was all quarter notes would at least have some different ones.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        of this length

        In the last link, the piece runs under 5 minutes – not far off a typical pop song today. The 1990 arrangement, at 7 minutes, is still well within the length of a modern dance remix/extended edit/etc.

        never to change keys

        Well, a key change in and of itself can be just as boring (you may be amused to note multiple Beatles entries) ๐Ÿ˜‰

        a bass line that was all quarter notes would at least have some different ones.

        Maybe it’s just because I was weaned on post-punk, but among post-punk’s tropes is a more prominent bass (sometimes even borrowing from funk, both in playing style and emphasis on repetition) that often takes a lead role in the song’s harmonic foundation. The part itself may not be complicated, but it IS catchy, and has its own “melody” (you can separate it from the rest of the song, and have it still make sense). Like “Where is My Mind” in the link in my first comment.

        Or this:

        IOW, I don’t disagree that the “bottom end” of Canon in D was unusual for its time (as a classical lover, you’d know better than I) – but now, it sounds downright prescient to me, which is one reason it is THE piece of classical music that everyone knows.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        John Entwistle played “lead bass” frequently (My Generation, Baba O’riley, and many others). After John died, Pete insisted that it took a bassist, a keyboardist, and a horn section to replace him.

        The bass part of Baroque music was often quite complex, both rhythmically and harmonically. And devoting more than one instrument to the bass line was quite common; the Wiki article on basso continuo describes it better than I can. Even here, you can see that the period instruments version uses not just the cello, but a three-instrument section, though they’re all playing either notes or chords at the same pace. I’d certainly agree that its uncharacteristic simplicity is part of why this piece became so popular.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        EVERYBODY in The Who played lead. ๐Ÿ™‚

        It maybe doesn’t quite map, since Canon in D seems to have reached its popular status long posthumously; but your comments about the usual, er…’baroqueness’ of most baroque music – that is, its complexity – versus this piece’s *simplicity* (and its subsequent striking of a popular chord), is suggestive to me of the prog/punk divide in rock.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        Other than Pachelbel having not only studied music much of his life but also having taught it, and not having a safety pin through his nose (only because the damned things weren’t invented for another 200 years) he was more or less Sid Vicious.Report

      • Ken S. in reply to Glyph says:


        One of the most famous jazz pieces ever (and deservedly so). Listen carefully to Brubeck’s piano part. He only gets 5 notes!Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        You mean he only took five.Report

    • Neil Obstat in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I remember a public radio comedy series about a small, struggling rural station trying to have a telethon-style fundraiser. No response uuntil a staffer suggested they air “Pachebel’s Canon” like the big-city NPR fundraisers. Suddenly the phones are ringing off the hook with promises of donations if they’ll just “stop playing that damn Canon”.Report