Long Songs: An Interpretation

RosaFloydGuyRosaFloydGuy Road Warrior
edited July 2012 in History of Rock
As many of you know, I tend to prefer songs in excess of 8 or 10 minutes, maybe even in the 20-80 minute range. Many people within the RBF enjoy them. Why, may I ask? First off, here are three of my ideas of why some songs are a little longer.

1. Jamming/Improvisation. This is really relevant within live recordings and jazz, but sometimes bands take it a little far in the studio as well.

Examples:
Deep Purple - Space Truckin' (Live in Japan)
Yes - The Gates of Delirium
Miles Davis - Pharoah's Dance

2. Establishing a musical idea. Within genres such as progressive rock, an idea may be spread out over a long period of time, usually to tell a story lyrically and musically. Concept albums with songs segueing into each other fall under this category.

Examples:
Dream Theater - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
Transatlantic - The Whirlwind
Iron Maiden - Rime of the Ancient Mariner

3. Musician spotlights. If one member of the band just really cuts loose all the time, recordings usually accommodate a solo of their instrument.

Examples:
Led Zeppelin - Stairway to Heaven
Lynyrd Skynyrd - Freebird
The Doors - Light My Fire

Now, why do people tend to look down upon the longer songs? I've heard some people complain that "It's too repetitive" (ie Ideal 3, with repetitive rhythm sections) or "I just can't pay attention to a song that long". Is it because the typical listener has been trained to enjoy songs within the 3-6 minute threshold due to popular fare, or is it something else?

Before you go bashing on me for trying to sound like an expert on this, I'm really not. This was just a thought I had earlier, and I wanted to hear some opinions on it.

Comments

  • JibblypuffJibblypuff Pronounceable
    edited July 2012
    most "casual pop listeners" want songs they can remember and sing along to easily.

    30+ minute songs usually don't fit that description
  • RosaFloydGuyRosaFloydGuy Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    Jibblypuff;4826923 said:
    30+ minute songs usually don't fit that description

    I'm trying to figure out stuff other than the 30+ minute stuff, like even the 7+ minute songs that people complain about being long. I mean, 7 minutes is very little time compared to that.
  • rkbdgurlrkbdgurl Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    I like long songs. My only issue is getting toward the end of a long song only to fail out, or have an online bandmate fail after all that work. That suks! I know I could use the "No fail on" feature, but I really don't use it. If I can't beat a song without it, I don't want the credit :P

    I Wish we'd get "Stairway To Heaven."
  • killer_roachkiller_roach Washed Up
    edited July 2012
    RosaFloydGuy;4826946 said:
    I'm trying to figure out stuff other than the 30+ minute stuff, like even the 7+ minute songs that people complain about being long. I mean, 7 minutes is very little time compared to that.

    What you're used to can also color your opinion. I grew up around classical and jazz - hour-long songs don't bother me. If your main exposure to music is punk rock, where a five-minute song might be considered an epic... your expectations will differ.
  • LiveHomeVideoLiveHomeVideo Trying too hard
    edited July 2012
    RosaFloydGuy;4826946 said:
    I'm trying to figure out stuff other than the 30+ minute stuff, like even the 7+ minute songs that people complain about being long. I mean, 7 minutes is very little time compared to that.

    It can be explained this way:

    Most people find music as either pleasing background noise (the stuff they like) or bad background noise (the stuff they don't like). They seem to want to change it up after a few minutes because their minds are too busy with other things to pay attention for so long. That's why we don't see most pop or rap artists doing songs longer than 4-5 minutes (most of the time it's around 3).
  • RosaFloydGuyRosaFloydGuy Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    LiveHomeVideo;4826959 said:
    It can be explained this way:

    Most people find music as either pleasing background noise (the stuff they like) or bad background noise (the stuff they don't like). They seem to want to change it up after a few minutes because their minds are too busy with other things to pay attention for so long. That's why we don't see most pop or rap artists doing songs longer than 4-5 minutes (most of the time it's around 3).
    You're right, but modern popular music back in the 60's and 70's could consist of long opuses (see: Hocus Pocus, Time, Freebird). Also, during the mid-70's, many longer songs were considered the popular stuff and the norm, such as Yes and ELP. It seems that people are paying less attention to the music these days, therefore making songs shorter to the shortening attention span of modern culture.
  • Rocket2RussiaRocket2Russia Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    The greatest collages of sound and texture occur within lengthier frameworks for me generally (this isn't to say that songs with short running times are inherently inferior, though, either). What I take issue with (particularly within rock music) is that a lot of musicians just plain don't have the ideas to carry lengthy songs. Let's take "Stairway to Heaven." That's a song that repeats a simple, uninteresting bit (verse) over a few times in order to draw out the length. Now, last time I checked, Plant and co. weren't really searching for any higher answers with this (think of drone music, where the aural stimulation actually challenges the listener's perception of time - this fails, because I pretty much know the time the whole duration since I am constantly checking my watch hoping it will end! :p) and even manage to defeat whatever pretentious drone label you could retroactively apply by having a completely unprecedented (within the song, not within any sort of musical genre) crescendo because that's what ****rock does well. I think that's the heart of the matter, really: a lot of (particularly rock) musicians have a knack for misplacing crescendos because they know that their music has very little reason for going on as long as it does, so tacky swells of faux-emotion overwhelm songs.

    tl;dr: Rock kinda sucks at the long song structure generally due to crescendos being really badly timed and articulated, as well as many just repeating certain rock music cliche structures just for far too long; however, when done right, the long song format creates stimulation that might just be my favorite kind of rock music.

    EDIT: I forgot I had Feldman as my avatar. Needless to say, I think he does a pretty good job with his six-hour second string quartet!
  • RunesmithRunesmith Headliner
    edited July 2012
    I find a lot of long songs to be incredibly self-indulgent; it often feels like the band is playing for themselves, rather than for themselves AND for the audience. I think it's great that a band plays music for themselves, for enjoyment's sake, but I'd rather not to listen to it if that's all they're doing.

    With that said, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LJZUAnCuQuY.
  • RunesmithRunesmith Headliner
    edited July 2012
    GreenDayForever;4827684 said:
    I only really like Metal epics. It seems like most other genres don't hold me attention that long, although you don't really see punk epics lol which would kick ass.

    Here's a good 'un: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwGJ0EHdXDc
  • killer_roachkiller_roach Washed Up
    edited July 2012
    Runesmith;4827707 said:

    Surprisingly enough, from looking it up, I was surprised to learn that Cardiacs never had a song that exceeded ten minutes in length. (Then again, their songs are typically long by the standards of punk rock, with 5-7 minutes, and the occasional 8-9 minute song, being commonplace.)
  • RosaFloydGuyRosaFloydGuy Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    An example of a punk-rock epic is probably the last track of Hüsker Dü's Zen Arcade, the song Dreams Reoccuring. It clocks in at around 13 minutes and is completely instrumental.
  • Wave57Wave57 Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    I love longer songs. There is nothing too long for me atm. Like, The Flaming Lip's 7 hour long song. Thick as a Brick is quite great (43 minutes). And Godspeed You! Black Emperor's album Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to heavn, has 4 songs that are as long as 23 minutes and as short as 18. 3 Can songs, Close to the Edge by Yes. Dogs by Pink Floyd, The Gumbo Variations by Frank Zappa. I could go on and on, haha. I love long songs.

    Anyone got any long song recommendations for me?
  • killer_roachkiller_roach Washed Up
    edited July 2012
    Wave57;4829944 said:
    I love longer songs. There is nothing too long for me atm. Like, The Flaming Lip's 7 hour long song. Thick as a Brick is quite great (43 minutes). And Godspeed You! Black Emperor's album Lift Yr. Skinny Fists Like Antennas to heavn, has 4 songs that are as long as 23 minutes and as short as 18. 3 Can songs, Close to the Edge by Yes. Dogs by Pink Floyd, The Gumbo Variations by Frank Zappa. I could go on and on, haha. I love long songs.

    Anyone got any long song recommendations for me?

    I have a playlist of personal favorite epics that I have going... some highlights:

    Transatlantic - The Whirlwind (live in Manchester) (80:00)
    Ephemeral Sun - Harvest Aorta (41:56)
    Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - La Novia (40:40)
    Magma - Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (Retrospektiw II) (40:05)
    Phideaux - Snowtorch (two parts, 36:28)
    Beardfish - Sleeping In Traffic (35:50)
    Porcupine Tree - The Sky Moves Sideways (alternate version) (34:35)
    Psyche Bugyo - Psychedelic Judgeman (34:22)
    Helmet Of Gnats - High Street (30:12)
    Miles Davis - *****es Brew (27:01)
    Frost* - Milliontown (26:37)
    The Flower Kings - Stardust We Are (live) (26:35)
    Neal Morse - Seeds Of Gold (26:07)
    Nemo - Barbares (25:58)
    Discipline. - Rogue (24:05)
    Glass Hammer - If The Sun (24:02)
    Spock's Beard - The Water (23:12)
    Van Der Graaf Generator - A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (23:05)
    Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard (22:54)
    Caravan - Nine Feet Underground (22:44)
    Haken - Visions (22:25)
    Mahavishnu Orchestra - Dream (21:24)
    Motorpsycho - Gullible's Travails (20:42)
    Opeth - Black Rose Immortal (20:16)

    And that's just one song per artist, and just the stuff over 20 minutes.
  • RosaFloydGuyRosaFloydGuy Road Warrior
    edited July 2012
    killer_roach;4830039 said:
    I have a playlist of personal favorite epics that I have going... some highlights:

    Transatlantic - The Whirlwind (live in Manchester) (80:00)
    Ephemeral Sun - Harvest Aorta (41:56)
    Acid Mothers Temple And The Melting Paraiso U.F.O. - La Novia (40:40)
    Magma - Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh (Retrospektiw II) (40:05)
    Phideaux - Snowtorch (two parts, 36:28)
    Beardfish - Sleeping In Traffic (35:50)
    Porcupine Tree - The Sky Moves Sideways (alternate version) (34:35)
    Psyche Bugyo - Psychedelic Judgeman (34:22)
    Helmet Of Gnats - High Street (30:12)
    Miles Davis - *****es Brew (27:01)
    Frost* - Milliontown (26:37)
    The Flower Kings - Stardust We Are (live) (26:35)
    Neal Morse - Seeds Of Gold (26:07)
    Nemo - Barbares (25:58)
    Discipline. - Rogue (24:05)
    Glass Hammer - If The Sun (24:02)
    Spock's Beard - The Water (23:12)
    Van Der Graaf Generator - A Plague Of Lighthouse Keepers (23:05)
    Big Big Train - The Underfall Yard (22:54)
    Caravan - Nine Feet Underground (22:44)
    Haken - Visions (22:25)
    Mahavishnu Orchestra - Dream (21:24)
    Motorpsycho - Gullible's Travails (20:42)
    Opeth - Black Rose Immortal (20:16)

    And that's just one song per artist, and just the stuff over 20 minutes.

    This is a pretty good list, and I'd like to add some more if that's okay.

    Camel - Lady Fantasy (12:46)
    Alphataurus - Peccato D'orgoglio (12:23)
    King Crimson - Lizard (23:15)
    Steven Wilson - Raider II (23:20)
    Dream Theater - Octavarium (24:00)
    Liquid Tension Experiment - Three Minute Warning (28:34)
    Emerson, Lake, and Palmer - Karn Evil 9 (29:43)
    Moon Safari - Other Half of the Sky (31:44)
    Galleon - The Ocean (52:06)
    Dirge - Wings of Lead Over Dormant Seas (60:01)
    Devil Doll - The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms (79:02)
    Bongripper - The Great Barrier Reefer (79:23)
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