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Nerdcore, math rock and the sound of science

by Archives October 30, 2007

What do Jay-Z and that geek guy above your flat have in common? If you’ve had “Numb / Encore” sitting on your i-Pod for the last two years, you might say “Oh! Oh! Oh! That one’s easy, they can both do mash-ups, that’s what.” Well, OK.
Basement geeks were the ones who started doing mash-ups between songs. Jay-Z and Linkin’ Park as many others hogged that bandwagon. But the analogy runs deeper these days.
Nerds are rapping. Hardcore. Nerdcore. So, if you were thinking the line between real and virtual was blurring because you made twenty bucks selling experience points on World of Warcraft to a fellow gamer, you’re in for a surprise.
Nerds are rapping too and Nerdcore is their thing. It is a genre that our own Weird Al Jankovic described as the “ostensibly ironic juxtaposition of two very disparate cultures.” One cannot evade asking the main question when thinking about Nerdcore, are they serious?
As for real / virtual, the line is blurred here between “tongue-in-cheek-performance” and “all-out-parody.”
Monty Python aficionados and C++ programmers may apply. Fluency in Klingon preferred, but not essential. The ability to “bust a Terabyte of viruses in your server,” is a definite plus.
Ask the stars of the movement, and they might just remind you that both cultures share a common anti-social stance and both make references that are unfathomable to the non-connoisseur. Yet, listen to MC Hawkin’s “A brief history of rhyme” and to MC Frontalot’s “Secrets from the future” (a song about encryption, written during a hackers’ convention), and you may find it hard to understand. what they are about. and if you should feel guilty enjoying them.
There is a relationship going on, at different levels, between science and music. Just ask that one music teacher who will invariably tell you that in the end, music is numbers. Just ask the Beastie Boys and their “Sounds of Science.” Just ask “The Fray” who just toured with Math-Rock formidables “Mute Math.”
Math Rock is another development of that greater “Science-Music,” or “Nerd-Art” (as in witty and edgy) revival. And these guys look pretty cool. The aptly named “Mathematicians” are also definitely worth a listen to.
Rockers are going math. A whole new generation of musicians are going math-rock. They are not particularly angry, but anti-social and arcane. They don’t like conventional song-writing, don’t like choruses much. They prefer sequential play and multi-layered structures. And frankly, their stuff seems to instill a long-needed novelty into good ol’ Rock.
So next time you call that nerd friend of yours for your sociology project or to ask him to reinstall your office pack. remember: you might just cramp his style.
And for crying out loud, learn how to do that square root thing, you might need it someday when you try to pick up a guitar, or pick up that hot geek with the funny shirt out there in the corner.

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