A few minutes ago I was replying to an email from Dino when I realized that I should use it here. We were talking about songwriting. I was comparing the relationship between Free Jazz and Bebop to the relationship between composing ‘mood’ music (for film or whatever) and writing songs. Here’s part of what I said.

[The reason I think a person should practice] writing complete tunes is sort of the same reason a person should learn to play traditional Be-Bop before learning to play Free Jazz. The ‘Free’ stuff sounds so inviting because it apparently has no rules and you just kinda freak out and go for a vibe. But I believe it’s much harder to be creative when there are no rules or structure than when there are. I think that’s why Phish is such a great jam band. It’s because they understand traditional songwriting and understand how to create form on the fly. On the other hand you have all these kids starting up jam bands because they think that jamming is so easy and they totally reek because they haven’t learned the rules enough to be able to play without rules.

So I said all that to say that atmospheric music can be deceptively inviting because all you have to do is create a vibe or a mood. But it’s not easy at all if you don’t have a solid songwriting foundation. Grooves still have to go somewhere. They still have to develop. They still have to have a beginning and an end. That’s what makes them compelling.

That reminded me of a great quote from Igor Stravinsky. “The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self. And the arbitrariness of the constraint serves only to obtain precision of execution”.