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Sunday, March 29, 2009

How do you use music?

It's always the lament of the independent prog musician that you can't get people to pay attention long enough to even like or dislike your music. Prog, like jazz and classical, takes more than superficial attention to appreciate. We often blame the industry for aiming for the lowest common denominator. We blame the fans for not making any effort to find new music. We blame the bands that make the music we find superficial. I'm sure we can blame ourselves for something too. But maybe it's more than that, more than finding someone specific to point a finger at. We proggers make music that is a little more 'adult' or mature in nature. We're aiming for audiences tied up in bills, kids and jobs. Even the teenagers we might find an audience in are swamped with both day to day activities and by entertainment choices. I don't have the time I used to to throw on a disc and my headphones and just lay on the floor and absorb new music. I used to do that and pour over the liner notes. There are many older albums that I know all the song titles to. Now most of my listening is in the car, at work, or while I'm out walking. There are cds I've had for 3 years that I can't name a track on.

Is music becoming something that doesn't stand on it's own? Is music now something found in movies, in tv shows, in video games, in your ring tones? Is music something that has been so omnipresent in the background of electronic entertainment that we're numb to it? Prog has nearly always been a niche. Is all of music become a niche in the vast swamp of everything that we have at out fingertips for consumption? I heard an NPR story the other day about tv shows finding an audience. About 10 years ago a hit show had 20 million viewers weekly. Now a hit has under 10 million. Has the overall world of entertainment become to fractured and diversified that we only have niches? And now, since it's so easy to make your own music or movies or art, every niche is getting very crowded. If everyone is making their own music, who's listening to mine?

Maybe it's just the nature of change. Maybe we are at a point in human history where the very nature of music consumption is changing. Once upon a time music was about the only form of entertainment available. I'm under no illusion that we can or even want to go back to the days of Bach's church employment and rich royal patrons. I have long been aware that there are a lot more choices out there for entertainment. There are more ways that ever for everyone to create their own entertainment. But lately I've been thinking lately it may be more of a cultural change. We now consume music like potato chips. It's always there, there's always more, and there are almost too many flavors to choose from. Inundated with so many choices we find a handful we know we like and never deviate from those choices. There is limitless music available. We can buy it and keep it forever. We don't need to go see it or buy sheet music and play it ourselves. We don't even have to go through the hassle of putting needle to vinyl anymore. For those of us who do want a lot of variety it's hard to keep up. I have been putting all of my cds into my iTunes library. As of today I have 830 albums in my itunes. I have nearly 30 DAYS of continuous music. I'd be willing to bet that I spin less than half of those more than once a year, and I still have about 100 cds to go.

It is an interesting time to make music in. Like the tv industry has seen and the music industry is struggling with, I think the superstar is on the decline. You'll see less and less new bands achieve the status and longevity of bands like Rush or the Beatles or Madonna. I feel like I'm right at the start of finding a new way. A way to keep making the music I need to make, for myself, and finding new ways to share with people. Hey, I do have some ego. I wouldn't put out the effort I do if I didn't want other people to like my music. I can say I make the music just for me, but I'd be lying if I said that was enough. So, if you're bored and looking for something a little new and a little different come visit my niche of a niche of a niche.

A Death Metal Sabbatical

I will soon temporarily leave the world of Prog in the very capable hands of my colleagues here at Progulus and Progrockin'. Over the course of my musical exploits in the past few months (years, even), I've grown tremendously as a musician, even just as a guitarist. My rhythm technique and soloing have especially improved, and my improvisation continues to impress even myself in say, an acoustic folk-blues setting, or melodic vocal harmonies. But in the past few weeks, I've gotten back into metal in a big way. If anybody reading this has a Facebook, they can find me as a fairly prominent member of the groups "Lifer: A Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Forum", "Metal Heads", and "DO NOT USE THE HORNS UNLESS YOU ARE METAL". Really thrusting myself back into the internet metal community has sort of given me a new perspective on prog, and it's weird to listen to bands without keyboards again, haha.

I've come to realize that my musical ability to write metal has grossly stagnated. I really don't know how to write a good riff anymore, and this saddens me deeply. I was given a stong dosage of death metal, tech-death, black metal, and a little folk, old and new: Atheist, Death, Lykathaea Aflame, Agalloch, Gorguts, Desultory, Incantation, Immolation, Immortal, and many more. I've put them all in a massive playlist on shuffle, and so far have gotten way back in the swings. Tonight I am enjoying my last night of prog with some Kaipa before I enter a "death metal sabbatical". I will listen and enjoy death metal again for the first time in years. I love what I've heard so far, and really, it's not as bonecrushingly brutal as I remember. I get the same feeling from something like the extremes of jazz-fusion as I do this. It's actually kind of a nice, comforting feeling, simple and agressive and straightforward in its aggression. I love it.

To kick off the festivites, I spun Atheist's "Unquestionable Presence" today and wondered why I ever left metal. Don't worry guys, I am a progger first and foremost, and will always be. But sometimes, it's just nice to go home.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Road to Life and Progressive Rock Part V

Phase 6

Graduate through a new "door".

"Computerized clinic, For superior cynics, Who dance to a synthetic band,
In their own image, Their world is fashioned, No wonder they don't understand!"
Natural Science/Rush

A "Late" Graduation and the beginning of a Love Affair.
The Senior year would add something to the radio waves . . .
"The Spirit of Radio" by a band called Rush. Another band I couldn't take in yet,
I didn't know what to make of it. It had such weird time changes that the only
thing I could compare it to was my creative "whistling and humming" in the
shower! I'd make up weird melodies, odd time changes with beats (sort of "Beat-
Box" like sounds waaay before the Rap community would find its use, we're talking
70's thru the 80's here!)- So I was emulating Drums and Guitar SFX- like I said, I
weird, I used to imitate instruments, celebrities, cartoon characters, sound
effects, etc..

So Rush was a mystery to me, and Geddy's voice was REALLY different, I didn't
what to make of them.

As I mentioned before, In my last years of high school would see the days of
New Wave, for the most part I wasn't interested, with few exceptions (see
previous story). But many of these bands would be another link.
Bands like these would influence Prog to come (its my contention that if their
were no Flock of Seagulls, U2 and Ultravox, there would be no "Grace Under

Pressure" by Rush in 1984, in sound, that is) and was just another re-birth for
the genre.
But for the most part, I heard less musicianship and more "push a
button and
it plays a melody", programmed, tweaked sequencers making music.