Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Future Music?

So, those of you who read this blog (basically, my mom and my girlfriend) know of my predilection for music that aggressively questions the notion that rock and roll is "just" popular music. Certainly, the rock and roll that I listen to is anything but popular: if I heard the Dillinger Escape Plan on the radio, I'm pretty sure that even I would shit my pants. But, nevertheless, through thick and thin, rock and roll as art music soldiers on: from Zappa, to Sonic Youth, to Tortoise, there are always rock musicians who are interested in creating music for listeners and thinkers, not just for the unwashed masses.

In that spirit, I am proud to bring you two of my newer discoveries in this regard: JerseyBand and Basilica.

JerseyBand are a collective of musicians from the Eastman School of Music who are attempting to pursue rock music from their own skewed perspective. Fusing the sound of horn-driven third-wave ska revival bands like Reel Big Fish and Mustard Plug with the highly technical and uncompromisingly dissonant aesthetic of mathcore and math metal bands like Meshuggah and Botch, JerseyBand treads upon the same spastic sonic ground tentatively explored by Candiria, but inject their own brand of off-kilter humor and their classically-trained view of new music to create something more energetic and complex. As tempting as it is to call these guys the next iteration of math metal, these guys are really something completely new.

On to my next discovery, and, perhaps, the more interesting one: Basilica. Founded by two students at the IU Jacobs School of Music, Ben Jacob and Derek Johnson, Basilica seeks to chart a tenuous sonic landscape they have termed "Chamber Grind", informed in equal part by the bleak and terrifying soundscapes of Penderecki and Xenakis and the similarly frightening
grindcore experiments of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Carcass. In doing so, this multi-instrumental ensemble has created a monster: music comprised of the most aggressive and challenging music in both art and rock music, played by musicians of the highest standard with the aim of exploring the darker emotive qualities of music in the grand tradition of both art music composers like Mahler and rock musicians like Napalm Death. This is some seriously difficult music, not just to perform, but to listen to. However, don't for a second assume that this is bad; it's just intensely challenging. Contemporaries Behold...The Arctopus draw on much the same set of influences, with similarly complex results.

I'm pretty sure that this fusion of art music and rock music represents the future direction of serious music: we see, in both cases, trained musicians drawing upon both their backgrounds in experimental art music and in experimental rock music to create what I believe is the next front of the avant-garde. I think we're standing at the precipice of a brave new world for art music, wherein compositionally forward-thinking musicians can create interesting and visionary pieces of music that transcend genre and defy pigeon-holing. This new attitude towards art, I believe, might be the most exciting development in music in the last 50 years.

EDIT: I didn't realize this until looking at my older posts, but nearly every blog entry I have written commences with the word "So..." I apologize for this grievous literary transgression, and I pledge, in the future, to take pains to ensure that the variety of introductions to my missives are commensurate to the diversity of music contained therein.

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