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Monday, January 21, 2008

Progressive in the 21st century

Hi folks. As my first post on this blog I figured I'd take on the easy task of deciding who's better - Dream Theater or Opeth!

Ok, not really. But I have often wondered what is "progressive". I have participated in endless debates over who is or who isn't and who is a bigger innovator. While fun, those debates don't really get you far. For myself, a guy in a band trying to fit into this broad genre a more important question has become "how do I make music that is progressive to me?" How do I stand apart from the crowd?

As I cringe at every commercial I see for the new season of American Idol, I have begun to think that in the early part of the 21st century sincerity, intellectualism, integrity and honesty are essential to my own progress as a musician. Pop music has always been fairly superficial, it is so by its very nature. It probably is popular because it appeals to a lowest common denominator. And if you doubt that pop has pretty much always been fluff, take a moment to go look up the lyrics to Earth Angel or I Wanna Hold Your Hand.

Even though prog has been a largely underground genre for the last 25 years it is also a diverse one. As a composer I struggle to find a voice that is my own. Everywhere I turn with a cool idea I find its been done by someone. But as I've matured I've found more courage to just be myself and to write and play for myself. If I'm not doing it for me, then its not art and its not honest and not sincere. I just have to please myself, satisfy my brain and my heart, and hope that I last long enough to find other people who like what I do and who can find their own meaning in it.

So now I don't rage against my parents, my government (well... I still do that) or 'the man' (who may or may not be the government... They wont tell me). I don't want to sing about love (the world needs another love song like I need another hole in my head) and I really don't want to sing about anybody's badonkadonk, not even my own. I rage against cotton candy/rice cake meaningless pop with vague lyrics and cookie cutter music. I rage against the idea that I am too heavy, old, and unhip for anybody to want to watch me play. I rage against anyone who can't understand the concept of ars gratia artis and I rage against those who think if I don't make money at music I am a failure.

I end with the immortal words of Frank Zappa "
I never set out to be wierd. It was always the other people who called me wierd."


BG said...

"I never set out to be wierd. It was always the other people who called me wierd."

Never heard that quote, but thats so true...who gets to define anyway, who's is wierd and who is not? A better word would probably be "different".