Jazz fusion enriches the emotional landscape

I’ve never been a big fan of the fusion band Weather Report, but I was listening to them today and was intrigued. They have a lot of these amorphous dreamy chords that have a hard to pin down emotional character. Are they “happy” chords? Are they “sad” chords? Sort of… sometimes… but there’s always a bit more to them. A happy chord might have a hint of menace, for example. A sad chord might have an element of hope.

It struck me that this kind of emotional vagueness is missing from most popular music. Happy songs tend to be plainly, “rock on” happy. Sad songs tend to be “woe is me” sad. They’re painted from a pretty limited emotional palette.

Frankly, you can say the same with movies, TV, books etc. They tend to deal in “primal” easy to understand emotions.

I wonder if this has led us to becoming a society with a limited emotional landscape. People are comfortable feeling great, or miserable, or silly, but when they feel hopeful but with a hint of worry, or sad but with a sense of schadenfreude they can’t really identify or experience the emotion. So they take this rich, complex amalgamation of emotion and cram it back into the box of simple primal emotions.

I suspect this is the case. And only a small, select, elite few, including myself, even recognize the problem for what it is.

Update: I think the exploration of controversial, hard to understand, often frightening emotions, is why I like a lot of horror films. That’s where you’ll really see an exploration of the catharsis that comes when, after being tormented by someone for years, you swing the shovel at them and knock open their head. Or the cracking open of reality someone experiences when they see the zombiefied corpse of their own child gnawing at their leg. These are not basic, “pop song” emotions. And the music that accompanies such scenes is often complex and dense — closer to Weather Report than Katy Perry (whom I love.)

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