Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Age-Old Question

On one of the mildly temperate afternoons last weekend, I took Li’l X. to a local park. He’s three; parks are kind of his thing.

After scoping out the nature trail and feeding some fairly cantankerous ducks at the lake, X. took to the playground and I settled on a nearby bench. I am thirty-two; benches are kind of my thing.

Park benches, for those of you not in the know, are like parking lots for fathers. They’re usually pretty crowded so you just try and find a vacancy that will accommodate your specific footprint and wedge in. I was lucky enough to find myself seated with a little extra breathing room. That is, with only one other wayward dad next to me.

He and I exchanged pleasantries and enjoyed the relative silence that a wide open space can provide. After a bit we talked tersely about our relative children and their activities, until, at last, the conversation turned to that question that grown men feel compelled ask each other in casual situations.

“So, what do you do?”

I replied with my standard answer, noting that I do some light IT work at a college but that I am a writer. As if on cue he asked what kind of writer, and talked turned to the blog. (It’s my biggest project and the one that takes up most of my free time, ere go it tends to get the most face time.)

This, of course, required further elucidation, particularly with regard to my musical interests.

“What, exactly, is ‘nerd music.’”

I replied that nerd music is an extension and, in some cases, a celebration of the geekier side of popular culture. This placated him and soon we collected out rugrats and parted ways.

It wasn’t until I got home that night that I really started thinking about my answer. After some contemplation I found it to be totally inadequate.

Not inaccurate, mind you, but fairly insufficient.

What I should’ve said goes a little something like this:

Nerdy music is many things to many people. Or, more specifically, it is what you need it to be.

Within the framework of the greater culture, nerdy music can take a myriad of forms, from hip-hop to punk rock to smooth jazz to chirpy electronica. Each of these styles may lyrically center on anything from video games to television and movies to personal, slice-of-life recollections to wholly romantic declarations to nothing in particular.

Its artists are doctors and dropouts, saints and criminals of all ages and colors and persuasions, and their instruments are computers, Gameboys, guitars, accordions, microphones, and turntables.

They are classically trained and ruthlessly amateurish. They are world-renowned and complete unknowns. They are performers and wallflowers. They are totally serious and just fuckin’ around.

Their songs are benign and malevolent. Accessible and oblique. Proudly dorky and subversively vague.

But most importantly, nerd music is functional.

Whether you want to let your geek flag fly or simply mock your dorkier predilections, it entertains your fancies. Like all art, it invites you to make of it what you will. It permits you to bend it to your desires.

It’s just like any other music, except for the fact that it’s ours. Whoever we decide to be.

I reckon that’s one way to clear a park bench. ;)


Matt said...

I fucking love it!

If they ever do one of those "Reader" books (like the Portable Beat Reader) for geek culture, I vote for this being the very first page.

Church said...

Chicken Soup for the Geek Soul

Z. said...

Thanks, fellows. This was just sort of the blogging equivalent of thinking out loud. I'd kind of been going over and over it in my head all week and I just decided to try and get it down on (digital) paper.

Anthony said...

I want this on a T-Shirt =D

Anonymous said...

I would like to add another perspective to your conclusion,being that nerd music,in order to be understandable,requires a certain ammount of mentality and in general (without being racist) a higher level of inteligence.The technology and/or the expertise in any genre requires it..


Z. said...

Interesting proposition, Alex, but does a track like Jonathan Coulton's "Re: Your Brains" or MC Lars "Hurricane Fresh" really have a lot of lyrical subtext that a person of average intelligence couldn't grasp?

antisoc said...

I vote we make this the official nerd music manifesto.

Z. said...

I thought the official nerd music manifesto was "LOL money. Money LOL." ;)

Anthony said...

I thought your statement was just a broadening of the phrase LOL Money. Money LOL.

Anyway, NOW i want a zip up hoodie that says "LOL Money. Money LOL" on the front, whilst having the full Nerd manifesto you wrote on the back. =D

Also blogged about ya's if you hadn't noticed =]

Anonymous said...


Z. said...

I'll talk to YT about the merchandising rights, Ant. And thanks for the love. :)

Glad you dug it, Hex!

pinky said...

that shit was perfect bro.


Dan Plus Add said...

Excellently said, good sir. Like Anthony, I also would lik this on a T-shirt. Go make me a t-shirt now! Yah, yah! *whips*

Seriously good though. Next time a friend gives me a confused look about the kind of music I make I'll direct them here.

Z. said...

Thanks, Pink.

And I'll get right on that for ya, Dan. ;)