independent and unofficial
Prince fan community site
Sun 24th Mar 2019 12:23pm
Welcome! Sign up or enter username and password to remember me
Forum jump
Forums > Prince: Music and More > Prince's minimalism
« Previous topic  Next topic »
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)
Author

Tweet     Share

Message
Thread started 10/27/16 8:37am

bluegangsta

avatar

Prince's minimalism

No, I'm not talking about his stature.

With the recent leak of the demo for Roadhouse Garden, an incredibly simple composition, it got me thinking about how he could convey so much using so little. Half of his mgnum opus, SOOT is done this way as well.

Discuss, you purple fuckers. This forum could do with some interesting conversation right now.

Always cry 4 love, never cry 4 pain.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #1 posted 10/27/16 8:51am

NorthC

Less is more. Prince was at his best when he made a song sound funky with just a rhythm track, guitar and keys. But as he moved to bigger and more expensive studios, he started to use more instruments, more sound effects and he lost that "minimalistic" touch that made his early records so special. That's why I don't like most of his 90s work: I don't hear that magic of the old days anymore, I just hear expensive studios.
[Edited 10/27/16 8:52am]
Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.
Bertrand Russell
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #2 posted 10/27/16 8:51am

terrig

bluegangsta said:

No, I'm not talking about his stature.

With the recent leak of the demo for Roadhouse Garden, an incredibly simple composition, it got me thinking about how he could convey so much using so little. Half of his mgnum opus, SOOT is done this way as well.

Discuss, you purple fuckers. This forum could do with some interesting conversation right now.


I thik this is an aspect of Princes music that deserves more discussion. I always think about it when other artists try to cover his songs.

Prince used negative space sooooooo well, it was brilliant even.

Watching the tribute concert I was struck by how everyone barreled through some songs totally ignoring the quiet reflective aspects of them and what makes many Prince songs not just great, but BRILLIANT is how he used less to convey more - each song is a movie of textures, silence, words, music, breath and sound - he uses restraint to build up anticipation and he doesnt waer you out in the first 30 seconds with vocal gymnastics.

He knew his voice was honey and he made you wait for the big stuff while he luxuriously poured a song into the air....

Much of Princes music is luxurious without over-instrumentation...

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #3 posted 10/27/16 9:30am

TrivialPursuit

avatar

bluegangsta said:

No, I'm not talking about his stature.

With the recent leak of the demo for Roadhouse Garden, an incredibly simple composition, it got me thinking about how he could convey so much using so little. Half of his mgnum opus, SOOT is done this way as well.

Discuss, you purple fuckers. This forum could do with some interesting conversation right now.


It's sort of thought to be more of an early version or a demo, opposed to a final cut. I don't believe the minimalism of it is the final version, IMO. There's an early version (or two) of "Gold" out there like that. They sound fine on their own, but you sorta know there should be more to it.

This experience will cover courtship, sex, commitment, fetishes, loneliness, vindication, love, and hate.
http://bit.ly/1D3FG2U
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #4 posted 10/27/16 4:02pm

214

Sign O The Times and Dirty Mind would be perfect examples isn't it?

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #5 posted 10/27/16 4:14pm

Marrk

avatar

'I Wonder'. My Mrs' favourite Prince song. Always "Put it on again!" everytime. Maybe I hypnotize her with it. Needs an official release for sure. lol

Yeah, we'll, we'll try to imagine what silence looks like.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #6 posted 10/27/16 7:27pm

bluegangsta

avatar

Marrk said:

'I Wonder'. My Mrs' favourite Prince song. Always "Put it on again!" everytime. Maybe I hypnotize her with it. Needs an official release for sure. lol

Possibly the best example!

Always cry 4 love, never cry 4 pain.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #7 posted 10/27/16 7:29pm

luvsexy4all

sometimes yes...an example would be when he does just the opposite and a song gets too muddled with instruments

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #8 posted 10/28/16 11:33am

farnorth

Great thread. You've nailed a central dimension of his genius.

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #9 posted 10/30/16 6:43am

Telecaster5

avatar

NorthC said:

Less is more. Prince was at his best when he made a song sound funky with just a rhythm track, guitar and keys. But as he moved to bigger and more expensive studios, he started to use more instruments, more sound effects and he lost that "minimalistic" touch that made his early records so special. That's why I don't like most of his 90s work: I don't hear that magic of the old days anymore, I just hear expensive studios. [Edited 10/27/16 8:52am]

Couldn´t agree more. He totally nailed everytime he made it simple and minimalistic. I must confess I hated that screaming Rosie Gaines period.

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #10 posted 10/30/16 7:07am

206Michelle

Here are some minimalist tracks that come to mind:

The unreleased "Be My Mirror"

Sometimes It Snows in April

Comeback

Darling Nikki

The Cross

Forever in My Life

Live 4 Love ~ Love is God, God is love, Girls and boys love God above
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #11 posted 10/30/16 7:48am

bonatoc

avatar

bluegangsta said:

Marrk said:

'I Wonder'. My Mrs' favourite Prince song. Always "Put it on again!" everytime. Maybe I hypnotize her with it. Needs an official release for sure. lol

Possibly the best example!


The first seconds of 'If I Was Your Girlfriend'.
Right after the samples, just these crude 4 bars with the Linn only.
That curious distorsion effect you ear with the kick snare,
that unsettling slowed-down, organic, water drum-like quality sexy menacing little murky sound.

It wouldn't work if Prince didn't have the best ears in the world.
He wass a master at tuning his percussion sounds.
He actually made notes with them. It's blatant in 'Blue Limousine'.
He knew how to slightly detune every drum/percussion sound,
so the rythmic tracks blend into the music. 'Vanity 6' is just that.

Oh, yeah, Vanity 6. Talk about perfect use of silence in 'Make-Up',
and minimalism in the keyboard part of 'Wet Dream'.
The beginning of 'Nasty Girl'. He uses flangers and phasers to play actual notes with rhythmic sounds.
Often to extend simple hi-hats 16ths into sustained notes, like a synth wave going up and down (too many examples, but the intro of 'She's Always In My Hair', the intro of 'Love Bizarre', the intro of 'Sex Shooter'...).
He controls these up and downs very precisely, it's never really the same effect. Each one has a particular color.

I am partial (and yet I love and listen to everything Prince did, it's complicated) from TGE and after.
The sounds had grown apart from each other, everything was a solo instrument,
everything screamed at equal power in a way.
That's grandiose and incredible because it's Prince,
but we wouldn't have it with any other musician.

Aparté: People who think the Emancipation 3D set sounds "plastic", they don't put enough volume, Damn!
Now make your speakers/headphones blast with 'Somebody's somebody' and tell me it still sounds like plastic.
You don't, because now you hear a myriad of details in the background that you never heard before (Rhodes, fretless basses and shit, background vocals galore),what's in the foreground almost wouldn't matter, if it wasn't Prince delivering a vocal performance.

Jus this raw Linn, the delay and effects settings, the perfect balance of his drum machine patterns
defines Prince's use of absence/presence.
A jazz music editor once told me that what was incredible about Prince was his musical timing.
He told me he was very "precise", straight on the beat. I replied:'But it grooves like nothing else grooves!'
And he said to me he never said it did not groove.
"Straight on the beat" also applies to George Clinton, Joni or Beethoven,
it does not mean metronomical.

What he meant was that a great deal of Prince's musical genius resides in the timing
at which he CUTS the sound. Mute it, if you will.

Focus on the rhythm guitar of Controversy, just it.
See how it counterpoints the bass and the kick drum?
And that insanely great 'po-powww' effect for sprinkles?

You have polyrhytmy all over Prince's Work.
Some happen to be the greatest ever composed, period.

He's a master at knowing when to stop playing/singing, naturally.
Sometimes manic, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes reeeeaaaalll sloooww ('Insatiable' falls in the minimalistic songs category, but it's toooo much for me), he always breathes musically.

And you can't beat the obvious: 'When Doves Cry' and 'Kiss', when blasted at 11,
reveal all their silences.

In WDC' silences, a lot is happening, and yet, the ear says to the brain 'absence of sound'.
you have the flanger tail of the low toms, and Prince's sexual-as-hell groans and moans.
Worse the Darling Nikki, because they're underneath, insidious, salacious. Kinda vicious.
Prince is making-love/fucking your inner ear for a few seconds.
Takes his breath back, exhales, the same boom-box ability displayed on the Extended maxi-single version of LRC ("Mayday!").

'Kiss' goes for absolute silence.
You litterally have gaps. The sounds get cut by silence.
There you have, the most extreme example.

There's of course SOTT the song and Dirty Mind the song, When U Were Mine, All The Critics...

It's a very rich topic because there's the rhythmic minimalism of Prince, the harmonic minimalism of Prince, the melodic...

It's when you found out that he's also able to fill a 48-track tape up to the neck, not a drop of silence and it still means something, and how: the 'All My Dreams' finale, 'The Exodus Has Begun', 'Let's Go Crazy'...
That you realize the man is a genius composer/arranger.

What is even more astounding is that he can play all of this by himself, and move his butt (and how). Just stating the most stupid obvious for a long-time fan. I'm just saying it's hard to remember how to step back from Prince, after holding him so close for many years. Like you know he's incredible, but after while you kinda get used to it.

[Edited 10/30/16 7:52am]

The Colors R brighter, the Bond is much tighter
No Child's a failure
Until the Blue Sailboat sails him away from his dreams
Don't Ever Lose, Don't Ever Lose
Don't Ever Lose Your Dreams
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #12 posted 10/30/16 4:14pm

214

206Michelle said:

Here are some minimalist tracks that come to mind:

The unreleased "Be My Mirror"

Sometimes It Snows in April

Comeback

Darling Nikki

The Cross

Forever in My Life

Great songs.

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #13 posted 10/30/16 10:32pm

svenjolly

the fact that he omitted bass from so many of his quintessential songs says everything about how he was able to achieve perfection with bare bones.

When Doves Cry and Erotic City are more obvious examples. I think New World is an often overlooked gem that's a minimal masterpiece in its own right

but you can even see it to the very end of his career i.e. Black Sweat, Time, June, etc. just letting a simple musical motif repeat and repeat with almost no change (but the ones that take place are extremely significant)

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #14 posted 10/31/16 12:26am

DarrenMawbey

avatar

Excellent post. Really got me thinking about the minimalism in some of these tracks, especially the songs from the Vanity 6 LP. Interesting also how you pick up on the "May Day" delivery on the LRC 12". I always loved the way that just fitted in so well and introduced a sense of urgency to the close of the track. Thank you.

bonatoc said:

bluegangsta said:

Possibly the best example!


The first seconds of 'If I Was Your Girlfriend'.
Right after the samples, just these crude 4 bars with the Linn only.
That curious distorsion effect you ear with the kick snare,
that unsettling slowed-down, organic, water drum-like quality sexy menacing little murky sound.

It wouldn't work if Prince didn't have the best ears in the world.
He wass a master at tuning his percussion sounds.
He actually made notes with them. It's blatant in 'Blue Limousine'.
He knew how to slightly detune every drum/percussion sound,
so the rythmic tracks blend into the music. 'Vanity 6' is just that.

Oh, yeah, Vanity 6. Talk about perfect use of silence in 'Make-Up',
and minimalism in the keyboard part of 'Wet Dream'.
The beginning of 'Nasty Girl'. He uses flangers and phasers to play actual notes with rhythmic sounds.
Often to extend simple hi-hats 16ths into sustained notes, like a synth wave going up and down (too many examples, but the intro of 'She's Always In My Hair', the intro of 'Love Bizarre', the intro of 'Sex Shooter'...).
He controls these up and downs very precisely, it's never really the same effect. Each one has a particular color.

I am partial (and yet I love and listen to everything Prince did, it's complicated) from TGE and after.
The sounds had grown apart from each other, everything was a solo instrument,
everything screamed at equal power in a way.
That's grandiose and incredible because it's Prince,
but we wouldn't have it with any other musician.

Aparté: People who think the Emancipation 3D set sounds "plastic", they don't put enough volume, Damn!
Now make your speakers/headphones blast with 'Somebody's somebody' and tell me it still sounds like plastic.
You don't, because now you hear a myriad of details in the background that you never heard before (Rhodes, fretless basses and shit, background vocals galore),what's in the foreground almost wouldn't matter, if it wasn't Prince delivering a vocal performance.

Jus this raw Linn, the delay and effects settings, the perfect balance of his drum machine patterns
defines Prince's use of absence/presence.
A jazz music editor once told me that what was incredible about Prince was his musical timing.
He told me he was very "precise", straight on the beat. I replied:'But it grooves like nothing else grooves!'
And he said to me he never said it did not groove.
"Straight on the beat" also applies to George Clinton, Joni or Beethoven,
it does not mean metronomical.

What he meant was that a great deal of Prince's musical genius resides in the timing
at which he CUTS the sound. Mute it, if you will.

Focus on the rhythm guitar of Controversy, just it.
See how it counterpoints the bass and the kick drum?
And that insanely great 'po-powww' effect for sprinkles?

You have polyrhytmy all over Prince's Work.
Some happen to be the greatest ever composed, period.

He's a master at knowing when to stop playing/singing, naturally.
Sometimes manic, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes reeeeaaaalll sloooww ('Insatiable' falls in the minimalistic songs category, but it's toooo much for me), he always breathes musically.

And you can't beat the obvious: 'When Doves Cry' and 'Kiss', when blasted at 11,
reveal all their silences.

In WDC' silences, a lot is happening, and yet, the ear says to the brain 'absence of sound'.
you have the flanger tail of the low toms, and Prince's sexual-as-hell groans and moans.
Worse the Darling Nikki, because they're underneath, insidious, salacious. Kinda vicious.
Prince is making-love/fucking your inner ear for a few seconds.
Takes his breath back, exhales, the same boom-box ability displayed on the Extended maxi-single version of LRC ("Mayday!").

'Kiss' goes for absolute silence.
You litterally have gaps. The sounds get cut by silence.
There you have, the most extreme example.

There's of course SOTT the song and Dirty Mind the song, When U Were Mine, All The Critics...

It's a very rich topic because there's the rhythmic minimalism of Prince, the harmonic minimalism of Prince, the melodic...

It's when you found out that he's also able to fill a 48-track tape up to the neck, not a drop of silence and it still means something, and how: the 'All My Dreams' finale, 'The Exodus Has Begun', 'Let's Go Crazy'...
That you realize the man is a genius composer/arranger.

What is even more astounding is that he can play all of this by himself, and move his butt (and how). Just stating the most stupid obvious for a long-time fan. I'm just saying it's hard to remember how to step back from Prince, after holding him so close for many years. Like you know he's incredible, but after while you kinda get used to it.

[Edited 10/30/16 7:52am]

-----------------------------------------
We live in a world overrun by tourists...
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #15 posted 10/31/16 12:43am

bluegangsta

avatar

DarrenMawbey said:

Excellent post. Really got me thinking about the minimalism in some of these tracks, especially the songs from the Vanity 6 LP. Interesting also how you pick up on the "May Day" delivery on the LRC 12". I always loved the way that just fitted in so well and introduced a sense of urgency to the close of the track. Thank you.

I think Vanity 6 has a minimalistic approach which resulted in a full-sounding production. Listen to Nasty Girl - Simple drum track, bass, funk guitar and a synth. No major overdubbs that I can make out.

Always cry 4 love, never cry 4 pain.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #16 posted 10/31/16 5:11am

MrNelson7

Marrk said:

'I Wonder'. My Mrs' favourite Prince song. Always "Put it on again!" everytime. Maybe I hypnotize her with it. Needs an official release for sure. lol

THANK YOU for reminding me about this song! Perfection!!

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #17 posted 10/31/16 10:08am

bonatoc

avatar

bluegangsta said:

DarrenMawbey said:

Excellent post. Really got me thinking about the minimalism in some of these tracks, especially the songs from the Vanity 6 LP. Interesting also how you pick up on the "May Day" delivery on the LRC 12". I always loved the way that just fitted in so well and introduced a sense of urgency to the close of the track. Thank you.

I think Vanity 6 has a minimalistic approach which resulted in a full-sounding production. Listen to Nasty Girl - Simple drum track, bass, funk guitar and a synth. No major overdubbs that I can make out.


Vanity 6 also has a minimalistic approach in its use of reverbs.
Every Linn track sounds 'dry'.
A radical sonic approach in the decade of massive Lexicon reverbs,
by 1984 everything had to slam like in a stadium or a big hall.

There's a lot of phaser and flanger and chorus on the Linn, giving it its mellow sound
(I could use "Wet Dream" as a pillow, it sounds so soft) all through the album.
The only real splash of space is when "He's So Dull" comes in.
For the rest, it's very intimate.

Vanity 6 DESERVES to be listened to on good headphones.
The subtleness of it all is impressive. All in the details.

The Colors R brighter, the Bond is much tighter
No Child's a failure
Until the Blue Sailboat sails him away from his dreams
Don't Ever Lose, Don't Ever Lose
Don't Ever Lose Your Dreams
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #18 posted 10/31/16 11:12am

jasminejoey

avatar

Bonatoc, I LOVE the knowledge and enthusiasm in your post. Thanks for sharing!

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #19 posted 10/31/16 12:58pm

Misslink88

I've always loved his delivery of words in pared down songs. "Sloooowwww" would be drawn out, "quick" uttered like a bullet. He could convey more with one word sometimes than with an entire horn section backing him. His tone, the tempo, the cadence would say far, far more. Thanks for the thread.

God is my Sugar Daddy.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #20 posted 10/31/16 1:55pm

ufoclub

avatar

bluegangsta said:

Marrk said:

'I Wonder'. My Mrs' favourite Prince song. Always "Put it on again!" everytime. Maybe I hypnotize her with it. Needs an official release for sure. lol

Possibly the best example!

It's a great example!

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #21 posted 10/31/16 6:59pm

ChanGirl

So true. His first 3 albums were raw, I liked them but they kind of sounded alike. Reminds me of the late 70's music for sure. Controversy was the start of his true sound to me. I didn't care for Rosie much either, she overpowered him. Hell, the male NPG dancers confused me. For me he was the best when he was the focus. Prince and his acoustic ? Perfection.

You know Prince wasn't no damn drug addict !
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #22 posted 10/31/16 9:50pm

lakerlaker52

Lots of great examples of songs with minimalist production have already been posted here – I agree with almost all of them.

Another manifestation of Prince's minimalist/economical approach is his "recycling" of chord changes and melodies within songs; there are countless examples of his songs where the verse and the chorus have the same melody, usually with the same chords, often with only changes in the production/arrangement and background vocals. Some examples:

Let's Go Crazy
When Doves Cry
I Wanna Be Your Lover
Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got
Girls and Boys
Play in the Sunshine
The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
Let's Pretend We're Married

Another minimalist tendency was his use of simple, repetitive chord progressions with as few as two or one (or even no) chord changes, often accompanied by melodies that were based on only one or two notes - examples include Automatic, It's Gonna Be A Beautiful Night, I Would Die 4 U. Great songs and great productions, everyone of them – it's amazing how much mileage he could get out of so little melodic and harmonic change.
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #23 posted 11/01/16 3:36am

bonatoc

avatar

^ agree, except for "I Would Die 4 U".

Complex chords, and there are actually 4 chords, even if the bass ony plays 2 notes.
It's a complex subject, we're at the core of what defines Prince.
He may have invented sampling before there was sampling all over pop music.

Take SITW(DNC) responding synth phrase: it's placed like a sample, a melodic excerpt
that feels as if it shouldn't be here, and moreover is out of tune (Public Enemy, Dr. Dre, all of rap innovators went for detuning after Prince's 1999 sonic achievements, to unsettle the ear).

Beware: Prince was not the only one experimenting.
Sampling could not have come from just one place, musicians are influencing each other constantly.
But maybe it's not that stretched to think that Chicago early days house music, which built many of the 90's sound approach, was influenced by Prince's work across the eighties, both stylistically (minimalism in production, harmonies, weird FXs and hypnotic repeated beats) and culturally (underground, LGBT, the bootleg philosophy, the confidential pressings, "This Is Not Music, This Is A Trip").

I don't wish for Prince to come out as too much of a genius.
But it's really unfair how some are quick to judge Prince and say: "he just had influences and he was good as synthetizing them".
By the time they had been digested, it was ALREADY 1980, and all that came after was the most new, interesting and exciting way to redefine popular music. By putting less than more, he chased after James Brown's genius and transcended it.
How to attain maximum impact with very little.

Only weeks and weeks after weeks of jams start to give you that sense of "where to withdrawn".
I can almost imagine Prince being a lonely kid playing with himself in Studio 80 (NO pun intended biggrin ).
"Here, Prince what about this bass line? — Great Skipper, not let's have some keyboards!
Say, Alexander, where's the shaker? ", like some multiple personalities disorder or something (which isn't far from Prince considering his affairs and their soundtracks).

But Prince did have friends. He just recorded alone because he had too much ideas coming to him too fast.
You can't live 24/24 with your session musicians. You get autonomous so you can wake in the middle of the night or record a lead vocal at dawn.

To work, build, achieve an original sense of minimalism by jamming WITH ONE'S SELF, now that's unheard of. But keep in mind the teen years of Prince.
His whole creative output is the byproduct of an incredible number of jams with his bands.
The solitary creative process of Prince is the brain-filtered result of his jam/live experiences.

Making pop music has become incredibly complicated.
Almost everything has been already done.
Making rock music ain't easy. Jams can become boring on the spot.
You have to hang in there. You have to pass frustrations,
paranoias of being repetitive, better musicians than yourself, the list goes on.
I guess you could say that about the early seventies, especially if you lived in a place where radio was "kinda dead".
It took a lot of faith for Prince to get to the point where he was inventing as much as his heroes.
No one saw "Dirty Mind" coming. I guess not even Prince.

Prince making groceries:

— Say, what's this box?
— Oh, it's a new product, the LM-1, it's a high-end programmable drum machine. It's quite revolutionary, it use pre-recorded real drums. The brochure says "digital samples", whatever that means.
— Can I hear what it sounds like?
— Well certainly.

[Edited 11/1/16 3:51am]

The Colors R brighter, the Bond is much tighter
No Child's a failure
Until the Blue Sailboat sails him away from his dreams
Don't Ever Lose, Don't Ever Lose
Don't Ever Lose Your Dreams
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #24 posted 11/01/16 7:31am

sonshine

avatar

NorthC said:

Less is more. Prince was at his best when he made a song sound funky with just a rhythm track, guitar and keys. But as he moved to bigger and more expensive studios, he started to use more instruments, more sound effects and he lost that "minimalistic" touch that made his early records so special. That's why I don't like most of his 90s work: I don't hear that magic of the old days anymore, I just hear expensive studios.
[Edited 10/27/16 8:52am]

I so agree! Great discussion here!!
It's a hurtful place, the world, in and of itself. We don't need to add to it. We all need one another. ~ PRN
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #25 posted 11/01/16 10:59am

mrmarcus

avatar

I always say Prince was minimal before minimal became a thing. lol

Good morning Ladies & Gentlemen,
Boys & Motherfuckin' girls
  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
Reply #26 posted 11/01/16 1:38pm

214

Others Here With Us seems like a good example as well.

  - E-mail - orgNote - Report post to moderator
  New topic   Printable     (Log in to 'subscribe' to this topic)
« Previous topic  Next topic »
Forums > Prince: Music and More > Prince's minimalism