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  • Towards a New Industrial Music - Part 1

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      mystified_new_indutrial_music.jpgThe world needs a new music, that joins together experiences had by different ethnic groups and peoples. These experiences involve living in or encountering urban environments. Techno may have been a music for some imaginary future Detroit or Tokyo, and Rap sounds like the city as experienced, for a large part, by African Americans, but we need a music that crosses borders, unifying past, present and future, and different groups with different backgrounds.

      The city is made of blocks, also building blocks. The industrial district is tailored to serve certain needs for certain people, largely in bulk. The grocery is a place where thousands can go every day to obtain foods to consume. The post office provides a consistent appearance and service to all people, because all kinds of people use the post office. A person does not go to a boutique created only for themselves, to be sold or given foods that have been collected and prepared only for them. There is no "Thomas Park" post office, or "Industry of Thomas" block. I use the same building blocks that we all do, and these have been made in a way to serve as many people with different interests and qualities as possible.

      A quality that music can have is "abstract" or even "impersonal", as well as "public". These are traits exemplified by the city-- a new urban music should exemplify them, as well. Pop singers seem fond of becoming very personal with their audiences, offering intimacies and conspiracies which will never actually happen. A genuine "New Industrial" music will promise no more than it delivers, and deliver only what it promises.

      The virtual pornography espoused by many popular musics serves to hyperstimulate, and therefore it only pleases in quick and virtual senses, and in the long run loses its appeal. When the hook grows stale, the fashion pat, the song is discarded-- sometimes even the band (as is the case with "one-hit-wonders"). Music with a broader, more universal aspect, and with industrial qualities that are depersonalized rather than pornographic, has a better chance to persist as meaningful for more people and for longer periods of time.


      Rap and techno are no longer the music of the city. Rap, again, is rooted mainly in African American experience, which is important, but it tends to polarize audiences, who either love it or hate it. The use of vocals in rap is very full of personality, and a "New Industrial" music must be lean on personality. Techno, evocative as it can be of urban architecture and scenery, relies heavily on synthesizers. Hence, techno has a "fresh" or "new" aesthetic, which does not effectively connote life in today's massive, aging cities with their decaying infrastructures. Techno represents cities as they could be, not as they are. 

      There is this need, then, to speak to the experience millions of people have had with cities, without relying on existent techniques, and without polarizing or hyperstimulating listeners. Classical and ambient artists have, to some degree, undertaken this task. Composers such as Jeff Greinke ("Cities In Fog"), John Adams, Steve Reich with his pulses, and other modernists have used conventional instruments to evoke city life. But the synthesizer (a la Greinke), with its very few moving atoms, represents only ideal sets of sounds, not "real", gritty, or textured ones. Reich goes a long way when he inserts recordings of train station announcers in pieces, but his building blocks are still ideal-- tuned string or percussive orchestral instruments. A "New Industrial" music asks musicians to look elsewhere-- really to look to what is right in front of them-- to recordings of the cities themselves.

      Steve Reich's use of spoken word samples in "Different Trains" is a step in the right direction, towards a "New Industrial", but most sounds are created by conventional instruments in these pieces: 

      This is just the beginning of the discussion. Stay tuned for a Part 2 of that will be published soon.

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