Quid Pro Quo: Latin for Mediocrity

I went to 3 concerts in 3 days and was pleasantly surprised / deeply disappointed by all 3.

The first was Gang Gang Dance who seemed more experimental and less sentimental on record. Maybe I fixated on the one song that I thought rocked, Adult Goth. (Link goes to Spotify) With which they opened (after a 5 minute ambient space jam).

They ended up having an ugly, 8-bit video backing up their live performance. Très Nintendo. Those who can't do well make it look retro.

And, in performance, the layers of sound, the complexity, were teased apart, clarifying the different parts, revealing their mundanity. I got it; I get it. Done. Still, I will throw on Adult Goth when it's party time, but as for the rest of their music, it's pop/dance with more layers and ambient moments.

Then, the most amazing visual experience of my life. Better than Hollywood. Even 3D.

Amon Tobin is an electronic music producer who goes beyond dance music, even beyond IDM. Hyper crafted, his music almost takes on an organic quality. (Again, link goes to Spotify, which by this point in the post, you should have downloaded and are ready to start it up.)

He commissioned a set to be built and a video to be projected on the set, such that, though an irregular surface, the video appears flat. This is the future and serves to highlight how stuck in the past we are.

Read the rest and then watch the trailer. Or just watch the trailer now.

Then, Saturday, crash, I was brought back to Earth, to the world of "Classical" music, of self-congratulating academics, of mutual masturbation.

Again, music and video; must've been the theme of the week. Some of the video looked iMovie, some of it looked like it was made with Pong. The highlight was an image of a "drummer" constructed out of letters, animated to play "drums". The drum sounds were basic MIDI and, in most cases, didn't even vary the dynamics (the MIDI velocity). If we're going to have robots play drums, we're going to have to program them to play with feeling.

Maybe I'm sensitive to this sound world because I've made shit that sounds like this in my High School MIDI class.

Both worlds, the sound and visual, sounded like EARLY experiments in the medium, like it's 1981 and some MIT composer is using his Pong paddle to write machine language that composes the music. And by experiments, I mean that they are only worth anything to the composers who come after.

And then there was a piece that invoked Godwin's Law that shall go unmentioned.

As best as I can tell, these failures are due to the increasing isolation. These composers have retreated from the public (Who Cares if You Listen?) and are making music for themselves and their close friends.

So why have public concerts?

All this begs the question I've been meaning to ask: Is it appropriate to judge classical/composed music based on the rules of rock/pop? What are the universal standards that can level the playing field between the insular academic world and the sink-or-swim public world of music?

It seems like, by continuing to play by its own rules, the academics continue to scuttle their ship, while the creative musicians follow the money, leaving the sinking ship behind and building more fantastical machines.

Have you not watched the Amon Tobin video yet? This is where art is heading; get your head out of the sand.

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