Amplifying Dissent with MUSICIAN
We talked to MUSICIAN about avant-garde music, tolerance and live performance
MUSICIAN is one of many projects of prolific musician and computer programmer Chuck Hoffman.
As a trumpet and electric bass guitar player active in the Des Moines, Iowa music and noise scene — Hoffman also utilizes a variety of other instruments and electronic hardware. He became especially enamored of unconventional, experimental, and avant-garde approaches to music and to punk/underground musical communities.
We are huge fans of his recent single "Paranoia Megamix" and are excited to share his thoughts on avant-garde music, tolerance and live performance with y'all.
He has also been digitizing a collection of underground cassettes in a project called The Media Hoard.
Music For All: There seems to be a clear overlap of individuals who are tolerant towards challenging or avant-garde music, and those that are open minded towards people with differing ideologies. Has this been your experience?
MUSICIAN: Yeah folks will get into esoteric shit like black metal or power electronics or derpy neofolk shit, and some have some pretty screwy beliefs as far as being the kind of stuff that woke types get mad about — or maybe the artist only used to, or for that matter maybe they didn't used to and just got weird recently. Or hell — half the time, people are just miscasting portrayal as self-disclosure or endorsement ( you can't be critical about/of what you can't talk about at all...)
Anyway, some noticeable amount of fans of the music, especially if it's something artistically off center, and probably more of those being aspiring musicians themselves than outsiders might realize — will find the music or whatever art suitably interesting to just kinda humor the ideological stuff, as long as they're not being really heavy handed with it.
If you're any kind of neophile, you're wired to want to hear from really different people, even when you're pretty sure they're totally wrong about some stuff — because art is about communication and if someone's just like you, then they don't have much to communicate to you that you didn't already know about.
I think something that is holding art and music back is this false idea that creatives should be able to make a living off of or be heavily compensated for their work. This seems to encourage funding by the State or other donors with questionable motives, and will inevitably shape what is being created. I also think the communities that currently work to archive and share music freely are providing a great service — do you think all music being free and available to all could potentially be the best way forward?
It's more, I think, the false idea that creatives should be making a living at it before one will officially call them artists/musicians/etc, or listen to their concerns as such; anything less is just a hobbyist. But there's not just some switch from one state to the other we can just reach out and grab, it's a building process.
If you like what we're doing, we could always be doing even more of it and getting better at it, if making a living in some other way took up less of our time, energy, if we had a smooth trade-off. I don't think we're in an economic or political situation that's conducive to such nonbinary compromises though.
You're this _or_ that. There was that startup hustle culture TED Talk nerd who called it something like the "sex and cash theory" like: ya got your money occupation, and then your _~_cool_~_ occupation. An intriguing theory, but it implies yet again that you have just one kind of thing you do that pays any of your bills. We need to get away from that assumption, but I'm not sure the gig economy is quite it.
But I get what you're saying, and it's also significant. If you've got money to get, as one does, and someone will pay you to do some art, are they going to have some kind of input on it? Yeah, I think I heard a rumor that's part of the deal.
You can take the gig or not. Or you're going the other way around, where you do some work how you like doing it and then sell it, go in search of an audience. The influence is more indirect then, but you likely have some hypothetical audience-customer in mind. Money talks, it's a collaborator.
Where people get hung up now in music in particular, is that recording technology gave us an artifact to go with the experience; more recently though, the plastic object is becoming technologically unnecessary and looking increasingly indulgent. But in the meantime, it gave the medium called "music" this weird dual ontology that people took for granted and forgot that the artifact part of it was a relatively new thing in history. So now they look at music and it looks to them like it no longer obeys the same principles of physics, let alone economics, that they were used to.
So to tie it together, does the customer have influence over the work? Yes. But does the customer get full control of what life the piece may have in the future? Who will be allowed to listen to it, or find it, or give it away, or take a picture of it, or voice opinions about it? Well, sorry Mr. I can't afford to provide you enforcement of that. Neither can you, on account of it's a logistically impossible technocratic fantasy.
All music is already free, always has been. It literally like floats around in the air.
What are your thoughts on the importance of audience and live performance to music in general?
People need to be doing things together in real physical life. otherwise they'll die, or worse. There's lots of different kinds of those things, and music is one of my favorites.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans—read more of these interviews here.
Thank you for reading!
Read more about Chuck's different projects here:
The Media Hoard:
I've been digitizing my cassette collection and the odd 7", at least anything I can't already find a digital version of on like soulseek or something, and posting them.
So far it's predominantly 90s-00s noise stuff, but I plan on doing everything I have including like ear training instructional tapes, lost mixtapes by random 80s teens, and looking to branch out into images of my disk collection of Apple II games and shit.
Hence the appellation "media hoard".
MUSICIAN a.k.a. Musician a.k.a. $MUSICIAN:
Some time in 2015 I had the inspiration that given all the drone, noise, and industrial projects in recent years whose names were singular nouns denoting professions or roles – i.e. Developer, Theologian, Actuary, Contraktor, et al – that the ultimate project name of this kind would be Musician. Initially I intended it to be strictly a harsh noise project, with a heavy wall emphasis, but like most of my solo project monikers it eventually started to incorporate whatever other musical directions felt relevant at any time; so in this sense Musician is just the latest phase in a continuum stretching back through Distant Trains, Chuck Hoffman, Ozob, and Flight Attendants.
Lately I've just kinda jam sometimes with the drummer from Into The Cove in his basement and we've taken to calling the thing _Peasants.
Prog-punk power trio.