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In this episode, Carl King examines 5 Unusual Mike Patton Vocal Melodies, Fargo S2E1, Setting Goals For Creative People
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I get a LOT of music theory, filmmaking, and motivational questions here. And the three questions I get more than any others are: Why do Mike Patton’s vocal melodies sound so UNUSUAL? What is the difference between a FILM and a MOVIE? And How can a creative person set better goals?
So this week, even though I have NONE IDEA, I’ll finally answer those questions. Here we go.
I’m Carl King, and this is The Carl King Podcast, where EVERY WEEK, we learn about music, filmmaking, and and creativity. If you like this show, head over to Patreon.com/carlking, and join for just $1 or $5 per month.
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CARL KING THE HUMAN UPDATE
Just a few Carl King The Human Updates, and then we will officially get Beginned.
1 – Number one, for those who weren’t aware, I am writing my first Music Course called “What The Heck Is Music?” available EXCLUSIVELY to my Patreon members.
I’m approximately HALF-WAY through the first rough draft. Right now that adds up to about an hour of material, so I’m estimating it will be a 2-HOUR video course. And you can actually read it right now, because I post updated rough drafts of the script inside Patreon as I go.
2 – Number two, I have started posting Candid iPhone Updates inside my Patreon account. I might do these once a week. They’re unscripted, informal, and more personal. I plan to do one this week about my recent experiences with my AUTISTIC traits. So if you want to see that, get in there.
And now, let’s officially get beginned, with This Week’s Music Theory Analysis of the Week.
5 UNUSUAL MIKE PATTON MELODIES
Mike Patton gets a lot of attention for his vocal range, sound effects, eccentric personality, and showmanship. And of course, his very professional hairstyles. But what gets overlooked THE MOST are his unusual vocal melodies.
And one reason his melodies sound unusual is because he emphasizes non-chord tones. Let me SHOW you what I mean by that.
Here’s a CHORD. Trying humming or singing a note over it. Any note that comes to mind. Try it. What note did you sing? It was most likely this one (root). Or, this one (fifth). Or POSSIBLY this one. (Third).
If you sang a different note, don’t worry, you MIGHT just be a bad singer like me.
Those three notes are the Root, Fifth, and Third. And they are called the CHORD TONES. Because those 3 notes make up the chord.
In most Western Music, including Country Music, melodies tend to emphasize those THREE notes. They’re the easiest notes to sing over a chord, because they are PART of the chord.
Now here’s what makes Patton’s melodies a little different. Instead, over any given chord, Patton likes to sing and EMPHASIZE notes that are NOT the 1, 3, and 5. Those notes he emphasizes are called… NON-Chord tones.
And he commits to those odd choices, which can either sound tense, or magical. One thing is for sure: emphasizing non-chord tones is VERY unusual in rock and metal music. Let’s look at some examples.
1 – FAITH NO MORE / “THE REAL THING”
The first is the intro to the song “The Real Thing.” From the album of the same name.
Over that first big heavy E minor chord, he sustains an F#. Which is a 9th interval, and then dropping down to a b7. He skips the root, leaps right past it down to D. And that’s with the words: “The essence of the truth.”
Or is it “the essence of the soul?” It sure sounds like he says “soul” but the physical CD liner notes say “Truth.” Which do YOU think it is? I’ve been listening to that song every morning for over 40 years now and I have no idea. Is it TRUTH or SOUL? We don’t know yet.
2 – FAITH NO MORE “LAST TO KNOW”
Our second example is the song “Last To Know” from the album King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime. Right out of the gate, over that E chord, he sings an F# on the downbeat. And that is another 9th interval on the lyrics “Where it GROWS.”
It would have normally sounded like this. G# – B – E. But no, he sings THIS. G# – B – F#. Unexpected choice, isn’t it? And honestly, very Celine Dion. Check out My Heart Will Go On if you don’t believe me.
By the way, these are also the same first 3 notes the melody from that Willy Wonka movie called “Pure Imagination” but in a different key, with the words Come With Me.
3 – FAITH NO MORE “EPIC”
Example three is the chorus of “Epic.”
In that chorus, the first two chords are E and B. Over the E chord, Patton sings a melody using the chord tones “E – G# – B” which ARE the 1, 3, and 5. But when the chord changes to B, he sings a C#.
So on the strong beat, he’s emphasizing that C# note, over a B chord, which is again, a 9th interval. You might be detecting a pattern here.
A more normal version of this melody, written by someone else, would have been this. E G# A – B. But instead, he sings THIS. E – G# – B – C#.
I would love to ask him why he thought to sing this note, instead of this note. But I doubt even he would have a good answer other than, I wanted to, who cares, and please get out of my back yard.
4 – FAITH NO MORE “EVERYTHING’S RUINED”
Example four, is “Everything’s Ruined” from Angel Dust.
In the verse, which is an F# minor tonality, instead of singing an F#, A, or C#… he starts on… a G# — which is a 9th interval. He sings G# – A – C#. Instead of 1 – 3 – 5, it’s 2 – 3 – 5.
Then with the lyrics “we had planned” he sings G# – A – G NATURAL. Which is a FLAT 9. Really twists your ear. Not only is this a Non-chord tone, it’s not even in the “key.” But as always, he sings that “wrong note” with commitment, and it WORKS.
5 – FAITH NO MORE “HELPLESS”
Our fifth example is the chorus of the song “Helpless” from Album of the Year. With the words: “Don’t WAAAANT!” Over an E chord, he sings an F#, the 9th. And then over the F sort of Phrygian open string chord, he sings the note A and then resolves to G.
And that G is another 9th interval. What are the odds? If he were emphasizing chord tones, it would have been something more like this (G# – E – F – C). But instead, he sings THIS more tense melody F# – E – A – G. It’s like if you tell a kid to walk on only the black squares on a checkerboard, and they only walk on the white squares.
Now, these are just a FEW examples, and only from the Faith No More records. My guess is maybe Mike Patton was hit on the head with a 9th chord as a small child? And 9ths are, of course, NOT the most unusual intervals he sings. If you listen through his catalog with Mr. Bungle and Fantomas and the 3000 other albums he’s made, there’s plenty more to find.
What most impresses me is, the guy has an incredible ear, so he can easily break free of expected tonality, and accurately sing ANY note over any chord. And that’s a rare ability, for someone with no formal music training.
According to Decibel magazine, Trevor Dunn said Mike Patton actually DOES have what’s called Perfect Pitch. Which would explain a lot. Either way, in the future, maybe we’ll examine some MORE of Mike Patton’s creative melodic choices.
FARGO: SEASON 2 EPISODE 1
What’s the difference between a Film and a Movie? Depends on if you’re a snob like me. Some might think these terms are totally interchangeable. They do overlap… but to make a ridiculous generalization, movies are entertainment and films are art.
In This Week’s Analytical Filmmaking Analysis Of The Week, we’ll examine Noah Hawley’s Fargo Season 2 Episode 1, which has at least FIVE film-like traits. Here they are:
1 – Recursive Storytelling
2 – Digressive Dialogue
3 – Ironic Counterpoint
4 – Conspicuous Cinematography
5 – Non-Sequiturs
1 – RECURSIVE STORYTELLING
First up, Recursive Storytelling. The name of this episode is Waiting for Dutch. It begins with a recursive film-within-a-film called “Massacre at Sioux Falls.” It’s old, it’s black and white, and it supposedly stars Ronald Reagan, whose nickname was Dutch — but that film never existed.
It only functions as a symbolic reference to a massacre that DOES happen later, IN SIOUX FALLS, at the climax of the season.
The micro story symbolizes the essence of the macro story. Jordan Peele’s NOPE also contains a powerful example of this. By the way, Jordan Peele is not to be confused with Jordan Peterson. That’s a different kind of NOPE.
Anyway a general MOVIE audience might be confused by this FILM-like Recursive Storytelling technique, because movies tend to be CONCRETE and LITERAL.
2 & 3 – DIGRESSIVE DIALOGUE & IRONIC COUNTERPOINT
Number 2 and 3, are Digressive Dialogue and Ironic Counterpoint. When the police, Patrick Wilson and Ted Danson are investigating the crime scene in the Waffle Hit, in which there are dead bodies everywhere… they digress into unrelated conversation. They step over pools of Blood, as they discuss dinner plans, which is also Ironic Counterpoint.
At the end of that scene, Ted Danson’s character discovers a SHOE hanging in a tree. It’s a dark comedy moment, because we realize how that shoe got up there. As a scene button, he shines his flashlight on it again and says: “That’s a shoe alright.” It’s very similar to a line from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet. “Yes. That’s a human ear alright.”
If it were more MOVIE-like, this scene would skip the Digressive Dialogue and Ironic Counterpoint. The dialogue would focus on direct EXPOSITION. That is, relentlessly beating the general audience over the head with information about the plot. And it would be delivered in a genre-appropriate, serious tone.
Another famous example of Digressive Dialogue and Ironic Counterpoint is the Royale With Cheese scene in Pulp Fiction.
4 – CONSPICUOUS CINEMATOGRAPHY
Number three, Conspicuous Cinematography. Movies tend to keep our attention focused on the plot. They avoiding visuals that might remind us we are in a construct.
But in a film, the camera work, lighting, and editing can draw attention to themselves, jolting us out of our dreamlike state. And that’s part of the fun of a film.
In the scene when Rye Gerhardt is driving into town, the camera is mounted on the hood of the car. And there’s tons of boke-uh, or Bo-kay, also called focus depth. You can see all the grime on the hood of the car, yet the town’s Main Street is waaaay out of focus. It’s like driving with reading glasses on.
A typical shot like that in a movie would normally would be the other way around: main street IN focus, hood of the car OUT of focus. And in most movies focus depth tends to be kept within safe limits, so that you’ll barely notice it.
Instead, the filmmakers blur everything else but draw our attention to all that grime. Why not? As the car arrives at its destination, the camera rack-focuses on the front of the typewriter shop.
This CONSPICUOUS CINEMATOGRAPHY is a way of playing with Subtlety by REVERSING IT. Because Noah Hawley expertly moves between those two extremes, directing our attention and surprising us.
5 – NON-SEQUITURS
Number five: Fargo is full of Non-Sequiturs. And that’s latin for “Does not follow.” Sometimes, things just happen, and we don’t know why.
According to IndieWire, in an interview, director Noah Hawley was asked about the FLYING SAUCERS in Fargo. That’s right: in the middle of this dark crime drama, UFOs show up at random.
He answered: “Very early on, I asked, ‘What is our Mike Yanagita?’”
If you’ve seen Fargo, the original Coen Brothers film, Hawley is referring to a character who shows up briefly and has zero relevance to the plot. At the end of the film, we might think back and wonder, why was that guy in the story? So the director paid tribute to Mike Yanagita in his own way: with UFOs.
Hawley continued: “Whenever you introduce those elements, you engage the audience’s imagination. When you’re not spoon-feeding a linear story, when you’re leaving gaps for the imagination, the audience is going to have to invest more in it. And I think that dynamic relationship is much better than just watching.”
I’ll put a link to that Indie Wire article in the show notes.
Overall, Movies, as opposed to films, are BRUTALLY efficient. Everything that doesn’t relate to the physical plot is removed. There’s no space for ambiguity, no room for non-sequiturs.
I think Noah Hawley is a brilliant writer-director-creator who brings a film-like quality to his TV shows — and in my totally subjective opinion, they are second only to Twin Peaks.
If you haven’t yet, I recommend you check out every season of Fargo, and also his surreal X-Men-related story, LEGION — which by the end of the series, takes surrealism to an extreme.
If you are a “Creative Career” person, like me, you probably have goals of some sort. Or at least things you consider to be goals. And if you don’t, it can be hard to get motivated. You might feel like you’re floundering. Why am I doing this? Am I doing enough? What should I be doing right now instead?
Over the past 30 years I’ve released a lot of projects into the world. Some got attention, some didn’t. Some of them had specific goals, and some of them I simply did for the heck of it. As the years go on, I set different goals for each project. Here’s how I think about it.
I’m going to use “Publishing A Book” as my example here, but it applies to any other type of creative endeavor… like recording an album, making a documentary, or smearing mustard on your face and rolling around under the tables at Denny’s. Because hey, that’s an important performance art statement.
INTRINSIC VS. EXTRINSIC
So first let’s differentiate between Intrinsic and Extrinsic goals.
Intrinsic goals are about achieving the Primary Results of doing the creative work itself. Basically, it’s enjoying the process. And that’s whether or not you release it to the world. It’s an end in itself.
For example: “I want to write a book because writing makes me happy, and it would feel good to have completed it.” And It’s totally fine if those are the only goals you want to have.
Or honestly, it’s OK to have no goals in life. I mean other than eating and breathing. And taking a shower. At least do those things.
Now on the other hand, Extrinsic goals have more to do with achieving Secondary Results. “I want my book to make me rich and / or famous, allow me to date models, or buy at least one social media company and ruin it.”
Some argue AGAINST having Extrinsic goals at all, but I am not one of them. I think that can be a cop-out. Because the world is full of artists who say “I hate marketing myself.” They believe they don’t need to go out and create an audience. That if they simply do what they love, they’ll succeed. But the odds are against them.
In The Art of Thinking Clearly, Rolf Dobeli has a chapter on something called Survivorship Bias:
“In daily life, because triumph is MADE MORE VISIBLE than failure, you systematically overestimate your changes of succeeding.
“Behind every popular author you can find a hundred other writers whose books will never sell. Behind them are another hundred who haven’t found publishers. Behind them are another hundred whose unfinished manuscripts gather dust in drawers. And behind each one of these are a hundred people who dream of — one day — writing a book.
“You, however, hear of only the successful authors, and fail to recognize how unlikely literary success is.”
It’s called Survivorship Bias because the only examples we see of Success are the few who SURVIVE.
And That small number who DO succeed, turn around and give the advice to “follow your passion” because that’s what they happened to do. But so did the millions of people who failed. The difference is, the failures don’t get interviewed. If they did, we might equate “following your passion” with failure.
A person who focuses only on their Intrinsic Goals will likely not achieve Extrinsic Goals. Because there is not a guaranteed causal relationship between the two, they might be waiting around to be discovered… FOREVER. And by the way, I’ve never met anyone like that.
On the other hand, with only the Extrinsic Goals, you might never get around to making anything. If, on an intrinsic level, you don’t enjoy playing guitar every day, you’ll be at a serious disadvantage against those guitarists who DO.
I believe that — in general — a creative career requires both Intrinsic and Extrinsic Goals. It’s like if you only paddle on one side of the canoe, you’ll go in circles. It’s MUCH better to go in triangles.
Intrinsic or Extrinsic, there’s nothing wrong with either type of goal, of course. At different times, in different situations, for different projects, we might find ourselves motivated by a mixture of them.
Here’s my advice for setting goals:
1: Be reasonable and specific. Quantify it. For instance, the Extrinsic Goal of “I want a lot of people to read my book” is too vague, and will probably lead to open-ended anxiety.
Trust me, I spent years in that state. I would do a thing and then feel like something is supposed to happen now, right? Come on, I did a thing! Why isn’t something happening?
So get it clear, write it down. Try to come up with a number, whatever that number ends up being. According to Wikipedia, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos has sold over 5 million copies.
The average book (through a traditional publisher) seems to sell between 1,000 and 10,000 copies, depending on who you ask. That also means that MOST books are going to sell far less, considering the behemoth bestsellers at the top that sell millions.
It’s a tough business, so don’t expect to sell books by the truckload on Amazon. Even the book literally titled “How To Sell Books By The Truckload On Amazon” is only the 256,724th best-selling book… on Amazon.
But you SHOULD look at comparable books and consider how well they sold. Is there a realistic market for your book? If your subject is obscure, can you expect to sell a lot of books? Maybe yes, maybe no.
But this is not something you can actually control. They’re more like expectations or preferences.
Instead of focusing on those vague desires, I recommend that you…
Number 2: Set goals you can CONTROL. For instance, you can’t control how many copies of your book will sell. Unless you sneak into bookstores and buy all the copies yourself. What, I’ve never done that.
But as an author, you CAN do these things: make a book trailer, host virtual events, hold online contests, send your book to press, ask bloggers for reviews, write your own blogs on the topic, make YouTube videos about the book — anything that helps reach your intended audience.
If you get a book deal, these are standard “book publishing activities” you will be expected to do. But you could also try something that no one else has done before. I don’t know what that thing would be, but definitely TRY IT.
And by the way, be specific about all of these book publicity activities! Instead of “Get reviews.” Make it instead: “I’m going to contact 25 of the top people who write about this subject and send them my book by the end of the week.” Make a spreadsheet and work through them.
When you’re done, Add a checkmark, write DONE in all caps, and buy yourself a vegan chocolate chip cookie. I mean at the end of the day, not for each line. Unless you want your body to be shaped like the vegan Carl King.
Most importantly, if you’re going the Extrinsic route… think long and hard before you even write a book. Is this a book a lot of people are craving? Is there a pre-existing audience? Are you really helping anyone out there? If not, you’re going to have an uphill battle. (Hat tip to Cal Newport and Seth Godin, who both talk a LOT about this.)
Then again, sometimes audiences don’t know what they REALLY want until they SEE it. So you can’t always count on working backwards from what seems like it will be popular.
And if you’re in it for the art, just make whatever the heck you want!
OK, that’s the end of this Episode of the Carl King Podcast. Remember to subscribe on Spotify, Apple, YouTube, or anywhere else you listen to these dang podcasts.
And if you like this show, support the creation of more episodes by joining my Patreon for $1 or $5 a month. That’s Patreon Dot Com Slash Carl King. Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom.
And as always, special thank you to my $51 a month Patrons, at the special Illusionist level, Chewbode and Hank Howard III. And thank you to ALL of the Very Good Friends of Carl King for listening, and as I always say: Okey Then.