Saturday, September 26, 2009

Paranoid Proliferation?

Bajeezzus - some people I know are SO prolific, they've almost managed to scare me away from this, my first post in, well...I don't know - a while? Excuse the illiterate (it's an ellision of 'by' and 'Jesus', of course) and immodest outburst. It was brought on by this, my first "signing in" in a few weeks. The "Blogs I Follow" screen threw me a little off guard, what with showing me the million and five posts (by all of 6 people, mind you) I need to 'follow' up on.

Right, that out of the way, hello! My name is Harmony and - what the hell; we've done this bit already if you've found your way here, nein? Moving quickly on then, I thought I'd write today because a curious epidemic seems about ready to engorge a lot of musicians I know. I fear for their safety and well-being. It's a certain little thing called, popularly, I'm given to understand, megalomania. A certain Trent Reznor (the creative force behind Nine Inch Nails) suffers from it. Roger Waters fell prey to it too, aeons ago. What got me thinking about this was the mass exodus 'real' music seems to be facing today - scores of musicians I know (and ruddy good ones at that) are trouping and trekking en masse into the realms of electronica, leaving behind the virtuosity they brought to their guitars, their drums, their vocals. WHY, I've often wondered, is this happening? Learning how to play an instrument was, in some ways, akin to spinning, in terms of Gandhian symbolism - it is your own personal (and beautifully secular) prayer. Why take the 'easier' way out? Because it's there? I mean, is it the easy availability of sounds you can't generate from 'traditional' instruments; tonality which you can play with and tweak to create new soundscapes? The urge to move, therefore, beyond normative sound and structure? But then, do you use this IN something, or does this soundscape BECOME the 'thing'? And is that necessarily a bad thing?

Or is this a different problem altogether; one which raises wider socio-cultural questions and points to circulating and effective hegemonies which require a different kind of theorising? Is it easy access (by way of Fruity Loops, Garage Band and a host of other media) to what can be (and so often IS) musical megalomania? Does it stem out of the inability we seem to face, increasingly, to communicate that which is 'on the inside' to people (a band) on the outside, who haven't got access to our internal soundscapes? If you need everything to sound 'just so', and only YOU can translate what you hear in your head, (and since you can't play all the instruments there are - unless you're bloody talented and have a lot of time on your hands), it's obvious you're going to shun live musicians and find a friend in your computer instead...

Think about it - Reznor refuses to play with a steady line-up, lest anyone try and 'contribute' their own 'thing' to his sound. Waters became increasingly incorrigible too; near impossible to work with. These guys turned into musical dictators, stifling what cannot exist but for light, freedom and improvisation.
Whatever the reason/s may be, we're in a precarious position here. I don't want to sound like Yeats in 'Easter, 1914', but my litany is almost as long. How many more (as Crosby sings in 'Ohio')? How many will we lose, and for what dubious gain? "A terrible beauty is born, " the poet wrote. I hope he proves to be more poetic than prophetic.