Re: MUSIC (was)Creativity [was Re: extropian enemies lists]

From: James Rogers (
Date: Mon Jan 10 2000 - 20:54:29 MST

On Mon, 10 Jan 2000, wrote:
> Wow.. I know that band!
> I find it interesting that this is the only reference to the "Prog Rock"
> movement I have ever seen on the list (except once when I made a reference to
> Roger Dean). Most futurists seem to be into techno and electronic music,
> which, while utilizing the latest electronic technology, doesn't employ
> advanced harmonies or melodies. It is a wonderful form, but it's like
> powerful graphics computers creating fractals and random A-life...
> When I think of "Extropic" in terms of the arts, I think of cleverness,
> advanced thinking, architecture and structure ... mixing with the latest
> technologies too --- "creating order out of chaos"
> Progressive Rock went out of style - but so did *listening* to music, and so
> did playing instruments! ; - )

I've been exposed to a lot of Prog Rock (I have a couple friends who live
for it), but I must admit that I really don't get it. I think there must
be a generational culture component. For me it comes across as,
well... aimless(?), for lack of a better word. Like it is being different
for the sake of being different rather than working towards any
particular goal. Of course, I strongly suspect that these are perceptual

However, I do find it interesting that you describe it as "Extropic"
compared to "4-on-the-floor" electronica, as I would think that the
excessive structure of essentially all techno would contain less entropy
by the definition of the word. I think your complaint with respect to
most techno is that it doesn't contain *enough* entropy.

> In the case of techno music, you are presented with repetitive chaos and your
> mind (some suggest with the help of chemical brain stimulation) creates it's
> own order...great to dance to. And other things ... but perhaps I am not
> listening to the right techno...

Heh! "Repetitive chaos". It will take me second to digest that one.

You are right about one thing, though, and that is that the vast, vast
majority of "techno" is not particularly stimulating. Most of the fairly
brilliant work in the genre seems to be largely composed of
one-album artists (e.g. Eon "Void Dweller" circa '92) who disappear as
rapidly as they appeared or artists who produce one exceptional album
followed by mostly crap (e.g. Speedy J "G Spot" circa '95). This
seems to be a pretty common pattern. There *are* some electronica artists
that have produced consistently excellent music over many years and many
albums (e.g. Orbital), but these are quite rare and most do not fall into
the strict "techno" genre. I am looking at my CD rack as I write this, and
there are very few artists that have produced multiple albums that I would
consider brilliant. A perishingly small number, in fact, and a
signficant percentage of those I wouldn't really classify as electronica

You are right about DJ Spooky below. He is plagued with the same problem
as most in the genre. After producing an album with some excellent cuts
("Gargantuan" circa '93) he quickly slipped into mediocrity (IMO) trying
to change the flavor of his music.

I have a couple theories in this regard. Many genres of electronica are
not heavily supported by the music industry and tend to be fringe
interests of artistically inclined individuals. This allows a great deal
of creativity as there is not a huge pressure to conform. However, once
one of these artists produces a critical acclaimed work that makes their
personal style stand out, I get the impression that many of them try to
re-invent themselves as the quintessential artiste in an attempt to
maintain some sort of image of being "avante garde" in the face of a hoard
of copycats. In practice, a lot of them stray from what made them good in
the first place, creating a lapse into mediocrity. It is far easier to be
creative when you feel that you are expected to be creative within
well-defined boundaries; it is much harder when the creativity is in
defining the boundaries themselves.

> Music however, to me, like all the arts, requires intense learning curves and
> literacy, To truly interest me, my mind requires more focused music, and
> different mental energy than serving up (no matter how enticing and
> grooveful) rhythmic repetitions spiked with dubs and clipped buzznotes...
> Progressive rock today doesn't get much publicity, and it's too hard for most
> people to want to learn ... too complicated for a lot of people to want to
> listen to, but it will go down in history as one of the more important
> developments of music in the 20th Century. Zappa is going to be remember long
> after DJ Spooky is dead...

I can agree with the sentiment. Some people might find it interesting
that I find J.S. Bach to be a significantly greater musician than Mozart.
Both produced great music, but whereas Mozart seems to have had a gift for
producing easy-to-digest likeable music, much of Bach's work (particularly
his later stuff) had the carefully calculated depth and design of a true
master. Had Mozart lived longer he may have achieved that level mastery
in creating music, but as it stands much of his music appears to be
"unintentional" (autistic perhaps?). I can appreciate that Zappa was a
master of his music; I don't particularly like his music, but I do
recognize his abilities.

But like all the arts, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I come from
a musical family and was classically trained on a couple instruments from
a very young age and would consider myself generally quite literate,
musically. Regardless, I still don't "get" prog rock, as I stated above.
At the same time, I find myself very dissatisfied with most of the music I
find on store shelves. As with all times, there are very few masters of
the art of music among us, even with the wider accessibility of music
making technology. On the upside, the wide availability of MP3s from
unsigned or unknown artists has really been a boon for both musicians and
individuals who are looking for music outside the mainstream. Even five
years ago it was virtually impossible to find new artists that I liked,
largely because the distribution and exposure simply wasn't there.


-James Rogers

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