Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lure of the New Disco?

Articles on music in the mainstream press sometimes go in odd directions. For example, the Wall Street Journal just put out an article on trends in popular music called "The Lure of the New Disco". It's pretty much the same old story: just like disco decades ago, the current pop music scene is invaded by dance-based electronic music (or should that be "electronic-based dance music"?). Some acts ignore the trend, some jump on board. Hey, it's a business (or should that be "industry"?)! I've written about deadmau5 before, so I think I can avoid mentioning him?

But the odd thing is where the article ends up which is with a couple of paragraphs on the English group Muse who have just released an album called The 2nd Law. They are described as "alternative rock" or "symphonic rock" or "new prog". I say this is an odd place for an article about EDM (electronic dance music) to end up, because of things like this, uh, is it a 'song'? from the album called "Unsustainable":

Except for the excessive rhythmic rigidity, the opening section could almost be a scherzo from one of the lesser-known symphonists of the early 20th century. Something uncharacteristically angry by Carl Nielsen, maybe? That's not so surprising as the instrumentation for this section was an 80 piece orchestra with a 40 voice choir. Later sections are more electronic. The disappointing thing about all this comes when you realize that a fair amount of musical ingenuity and sophistication has been put at the service of paranoid, dystopic environmentalism. That "2nd law" the album title refers to is the second law of thermodynamics which has been stated as:
the second law of thermodynamics is an expression of the tendency that over time, differences in temperature, pressure, and chemical potential equilibrate in an isolated physical system so as to result in the natural entropic dissolution of the system itself.
Now there's an excellent inspiration for a piece of music! Muse seems to be invoking some sort of techno-demon who is bellowing at us: "Unsustainable"! Isn't this way too 2007? I hesitate to get into any kind of dispute over this. I have my own views, but they are really irrelevant. The aesthetic problem I see here is that Muse, for reasons completely unrelated to music, have concocted a song with a very heavy-handed message. Music is not politics (not good music, at least). Still less is it suitable for the promotion of environmental 'causes'. Sigh.

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