It is kind of hard to imagine now that there once was a time that I was the young, teenage rebel. Whether with or without a cause. Most definitely without a clue. During those trying times of walking around with a permanent punkish smirk and the frown of a bulldog – albeit all bark with no bite, all I gravitated towards were rock and roll. Be it the classics such as Zep, Thin Lizzy or Alice Cooper, to the thrashings of Anthrax and Megadeth, or even the hair-raising (pun) riffings of Motley Crue and Faster Pussycat – as far as I was concerned, that will always be the music of rebellion. How juvenile and cliche now that I’m older and a bit wiser. And less of a bite-less bulldog.
Fast-forward to 2013 (some 20-plus years later) and to the pages of “The Rest Is Noise”, I now know for a fact what I’ve been speculating ever since having (or trying hard to have) a Jerry Cantrell patch of goatee on my chin: the original rebels and predecessors to punk and rock and roll were the great composers of the late 19th to early 20th Century. Actually, my first clues pre-grunge were Yngwie Malmsteen – who is hailed by many as the modern day Paganini – and of course, Randy Rhodes, whose solo for Mr. Crowley gives me the chills until now. That was probably the first time that I’ve heard guitar lines as though it was written for the violin. Sort of like in The Matrix where they see “blondes and brunettes” instead of the code.
Now I realize that from the hearts of Schoenberg, Ravel and Satie, the blood of artistic revolution pumped like gushing fists in a heavy metal concert. These were artists that wrote and performed concertos knowing full well, and expecting that a riot would occur. But they did so anyway. They were the ones who penned notes outside the borders of proper music. That explored the atonal plane in between the half-steps of educated notations. That made up their own chords because the established ones were deemed too limiting. And if that still was too musical for their tastes, go as far as actually employing non-musical instruments (think Varese), predating the sonic experimentations of ’70s-’80s postpunk.
But, why is it then that Strauss is hardly mentioned in the same sentence as, let’s say Slash? Ravel never considered the predecessor to Reznor? At most we have Sakamoto’s “Opus” as the present generation’s counterpart to Satie. Although, Sakamoto is not usually someone we’d associate with rebellion. But then again, neither do we consider Satie as such nowadays.
Perhaps the answer to these questions lies in the fact that the modern composers are now mistakingly associated with the high-brow. Wrongfully might that be. Maybe it’s the fact that rarely do the impoverished take up music education that it is only the world’s elite who mostly learn about these composers. And nowadays, audiences in a concerto have no clue nor care as to the inner workings and back stories of a musical piece. Mostly either go for the display of virtuosity, or to display themselves among the bourgeoisie. Perhaps we can blame the so called pillars of education for not considering the arts as part of the academe. Often dismissing it as minor knowledge or interest.
Alas, the theories would be endless. With every soul partly to blame. What is important is there are those that would always seek a deeper knowledge in music. To become truly intimate with it and tread the less travelled paths. And hopefully go beyond those charted by our musical heroes and predecessors.