In the era of ever growing digitalism expectations on artistic creativity are pretty high. Web technology with its bank of information is built up to be an unprecedented source of inspiration.
Yet the hunger for innovation in music leaves us still wanting.
In 2012 Spanish research reported that variety in sound combination in pop has gradually been diminishing since the 1950s; and although the study has triggered some controversy, I don’t intend to argue pro or against its thesis here. But I think it is worth paying some attention to the increasing preoccupation with homogeneity in contemporary music; may this be caused by the same applications of digital tools or by unimaginative mass consumers’ demand.
The lack of musical originality is not happy news, but would anyone regard it as surprising?
Well – considering that the music scale (the Western scale in particular) consists of a definite number of 7 notes and bearing in mind that compositions have been presenting different combinations throughout the centuries, we could just surrender and accept the fact that we have reached, or are at least very close to, the bottom end of an exhaustible reserve.
Gloomy thought, but fret not! Creativity is yet not to abandon music production. The movement of makers which is becoming progressively more resonant in the music scene has been working at imaginative ways of responding to the the so much talked about “pop tedium” … and there is hope.
With Make Magazine, Maker Faire and Maker Media encouraging and promoting a new generation of DIYers, the self-produced and the tangible, even though often non perfect (and charmingly so) manufactured product is attracting attention from every side.
The exciting tendency has reached the UK too, artists are re-discovering analogue ways of expression, toying with VHS videos and mixing and matching old and new instruments to invent sounds which are, if not entirely original, very refreshing.
Looking for this refreshingly conceived music, I recently came across Zibra, a London based band. Lead singer Sam Battle is a known DIY enthusiast and when asked whether this kind of practice achieves a particular sonic outcome or whether it is just preferred as a cheaper solution, here is what he says:
“It’s a bit of both. I think it’s less about the outcome (even though it does add a different flair to it) but more the journey to get there, I feel a bit more genuine about making the music, when most of the sounds are coming from things I’ve built and to some extent mastered myself from the components to how you use it. It began because I really wanted some gear that was too expensive so it just went from there”
As I try to compare their style of music, which Sam defines as Sarcy Pop, to New Wave, he explains how Zibra are inspired by the scene’s creative courage:
“I like a lot of artists who are under this genre because they seem to have a bit more balls about them, my favourite being Elvis Costello who I see will have something to say at the Queens dinner party. I like to think it’s alive in us too, even down to the homemade stuff, not particularly accepting the shiny way, I’ve always been awkward with that kind of stuff.”
It’s a positive and energetic attitude and, though the final result may not be entirely innovative or unique, the creative process is; and eventually I wonder, will this momentary craze of instrumental pastiche give us something new?
Find out more about Zibra: