The future of music is about being different innit?

7th April 2009 - By David Farrier
The future is an exciting time to think about full of inventions and new ways to do things. The other day I was out going for a jog in the park and a little terrier dog started chasing me nipping at my shoes. Every now and then it would stop and flinch before chasing me again. It turns out its owner was across the other side of the park with a remote control that gave the dog a shock whenever it nipped at my shoes. “I’m training it not to nip at people ” she told me. I told her I didn’t want to be used as bait to train her dog and to put it on a leash like a normal person. As I continued to jog about the field in circles I started to think about the future and how everyone’s trying new methods to achieve the same thing. Like the woman using an electric collar instead of a leash. It’s the same thing with music: artists are still trying to sell their music and get people to listen to it but they’re having to try new ways to do it. I think Chris Cornell is a bit like this with new album Scream. Instead of releasing another generic rock record he teamed up with Timbaland aka Timothy Zachery Mosley super-producer of the stars. Timbaland’s worked with Justin Timberlake Fallout Boy Jay Z and the Pussycat Dolls. And now he’s worked with Chris Cornell. The result is the most bizarre thing I’ve ever listened to. It’s hard for my brain to cope with the fact I’m listening to the same voice that sang Jesus Christ Pose. It’s the same voice but he’s singing over the top of what sounds like that Madonna 4 Minutes song. Singing things like Little girl / I love when she talks to me / Got to smile / When she walks that walk with me / I want the girl. But Cornell had to do this: Soundgarden peaked and died Audioslave had a run before imploding and work’s been slow since the Casino Royale theme song. Many fans were shocked when they saw him open for Linkin Park a possible new career low. So what else could he do but turn to one of the sexiest beat-makers about? Like the woman abandoning the dog collar Cornell’s abandoned rock and tried something a bit different. The result is a little bit like the electric shock that terrier was getting. Unpleasant and certainly not something you’d subject yourself to on repeat. The whole ordeal was enough to motivate Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor to update his twitter page with this insightful feedback: “You know that feeling you get when somebody embarrasses themselves so badly YOU feel uncomfortable? Heard Chris Cornell's record? Jesus.” But this is the future things are changing. Musicians are having to try bold new things to stay relevant. Including getting on twitter. Lily Allen is a good one to follow at time of writing this she’d just blackberried an update: “Eating some fucked up chicken souffle shit on the eurostar heading home again. Oh well better than a poke in the eye with a shitty stick.” Insightful. Britney Spears is also worth keeping an eye on although her twitter’s been a bit flat recently: “Went shopping in Coral Gables bought some purses and sunglasses!” And that’s the end of it all. If this is the future then it’s clearly time to learn that musicians are as boring and predictable as we guessed they were. I was lucky enough to recently sit down with Karl Pilkington in London the man referred to by Ricky Gervais as “the funniest man in Britain”. We spent a great deal of time talking about twitter and these words of Karls stood out: “But is anyone looking? It just seems like everyone’s telling everyone what they’re doing but no-ones reading it. It’s like everyone going Oh I’m doing this I’m doing that I’m taking the dog out I’m nipping out for a bag of spuds. When you think the internet’s amazing and we’re using it like junk mail.” Maybe the quest to be relevant is backfiring. Chris Cornell’s fans are angry at his futuristic new direction. Twittering celebs are losing their untouchable personas as we find they haven’t just slept with 10 models instead they’ve just nipped out for a bag of spuds. Are these bold new horizons worth breaching? I’ve been spending a bit of time with The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra recently ever since they started working with former System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian. If any group of musicians need to think of new ways to stay relevant and breach said new horizons it’s probably the orchestra. Any orchestra. Because as amazingly talented and members of an orchestra are in a world if Timbalands and High School Musical 4s their audience isn’t exactly growing. We all know the primary audience found at any kind of orchestral event is old folk and they’re dying out. Youngsters are growing up with Google and iPhones not genius pieces of orchestral magnificence. They won’t nip out to see an orchestra they’ll be watching YouTube or hi-def Vimeo. I think kiwi composers like John Psathis who worked with Serj on his APO show understand this. The APO’s show last year with Little Bushman was a highlight on New Zealand’s musical calander as was Serj Tankian’s gig in March. Unlike Chris Cornell’s musical marriage to Timbaland the orchestra’s work with contemporary musicians actually worked. They may fight the future and actually win.