Theremin tuning

Two unrelated things, and the thoughts at their intersection.

Since being back a good friend of mine has invited me to two musical outings. Neither of them are of much worth mentioning. They both pertained to the ‘avant-guard’ musical genre. The first of these shows was in someone’s basement, and I barely lasted through the first set. In all fairness, at the time I wasn’t even aware that it was the first set, and I sat through it convinced that the weird at the keyboard was proceeding to go through with the world’s longest and eerily enjoyed sound check. Well, I was wrong. that was the first set. Me and the friend who invited me to it now have a running about ‘Theremin tuning’, which is shorthand for shitty cacophonous music.

Invitation number two was some of the same, but thankfully interlaced with some semblance of sanity. When I got to the venue’s ticket vendor, and saw that the event’s name had ‘Avant-Guard’ in it, I knew my entrance fee would have been better spent had I used it to give myself a colonoscopy (in fairness, my friend had warned me in advance that it would be like this). TO my surprise, some of the music I heard in the place wasn’t half bad, in that it was actual music. But at some point, while the stage we were watching had an intermission, my friend asked if we wanted to go to the other stage to see that act.

From behind my friend, a monstrous sound rang, as if a thousand AIs were being tortured for all of eternity.

That’s only partially an exaggeration.

And no, my friend hadn’t asked me out of some act of cruelty. All things considered, I have had worse nights out in recent memory.

This year, just like last, I am endeavouring to go through a bunch of music. Among this music is something recommended by the same firend who had dragged me to these weird shows. The group is called Animal Collective, and many of their songs sound rather chaotic. But there was a big difference between Animal Collective and the nonsense I heard at either of those shows.

I enjoyed  Animal Collective.

And it lead me to the question of why. What exactly was the difference between the two?

Here is a song from Animal Collective, for the curious.

The point comes by way of anecdote. In the unending fight between Descriptivism and Prescriptivism, you will occasionally meet people who describe themselves as radical descriptivists. These people are idiots, for reasons I won’t outline here, but they will often outline an ‘anything goes’ philosophy towards language, where nothing is considered a mistake so long as aq minimum communicative interaction has been reached. This doesn’t work for the sake that language works on distinctions which are often reached through subtle differences. The last idiot I met who tried to argue for this wanted to convince me that teaching grammar is racist, as it imposes a foreign grammar on a new person.  I wish I was making this up. WHat this moron didn’t consider is that most learner’s of English do not speak agrammatically, they merely use the incorrect grammar at the incorrect time. Very few people make actual agrammatical mistakes.  What makes most foreigners sound off when they speak a second language is that they speak in a way flat of variation.

Now, when it came to the shitty music I was listening to, the inverse happened. These so call musicians thought that they were making music by stitching sounds together willy-nilly (or, agrammatically), but the proper chaotic sounding music is great when there is a pattern of sounds in some way or the other.

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