Musical Space: Musical Nerds

Feb 13, 2018

With Planet Comic Con coming to Kansas City this weekend, it’s a good time to show appreciation for what nerds, geeks and other assorted dweebs have done for musical culture. It’s easy to make fun of them, but let’s not forget that nerds are the driving force of our digital lives, and the potential for a nerd overthrow of our musical power structure is unlimited.

Nerds are a group I can identify with: social outcasts, driven by their own introversion down deep rabbit-holes of esoteric fantasy. They are Potterites, Trekkers, Steampunks, Cosplayers; groups of like-minded misfits desperate to escape the constraints of conventional social structures. From these minds have come all sorts of geek music genres like Nerdcore, Science Fiction Folk and Time Lord rock. Most of it is not very good, but that’s because it comes from the same low-budget DIY culture that spawned cosplay and Star Trek fantasy fiction — the uneven quality is part of its charm. But the limited commercial appeal gives the artists freedom to explore mind-bogglingly arcane pursuits. The results can be remarkable, like Nintendocore, from musicians who have hacked old game systems to make electronic music, and Electro-Swing, which exists in an alternative retro-futurist universe where shellac records from the 20s are pieced together into electronic dance music.

Innovation comes from living within the possibilities of alternative realities. Music like this shows that a future nerd aesthetic is much more likely than a zombie apocalypse.

Listening list:

Harry and the Potters, “Save Ginny Weasley” Harry and the Potters (2003)

This band started the “Wizard Rock”or “Wrock” genre. At the height of the Potter sensation there was even an annual Wrockstock festival

Anamanaguchi, “Helix Nebula” Power Supply (2006)

Nintendocore/Chiptunes

Abney Park, “Airship Pirates,” Lost Horizons (2008)

Steampunk (subset of Retrofuturism) band occupying an alternative quasi-Victorian retro/future

Chameleon Circuit, “Regenerate, Exterminate,” Chameleon Circuit (2009)

An example of Time Lord rock, indie rock inspired by Dr. Who.

MC Frontalot, “Zero Day,” Zero Day (2010)

Nerdcore about The Singularity

Kraftwerk, “Pocket Calculator,” Computerwelt (1981)

Don’t make fun of nerds for being ahead of the time. A seminal proto-EDM albums.

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