They say that nerds are socially awkward, but what if that isn’t the case. What if, possible nerd readers, the rest of the universe is super weird and the nerds are simply intelligent for staying away from certain forms of social messes. Take giant clubs for instance. I am a pretty big nerd and every time I walk into a disco or club my brain screams in agony and loud boredom sets in. What are all these animals doing, I ask myself, and what is this thumping “music” I hear? Nerds who enjoy this sort of thing live among us, I wager, but the vast majority of nerds I know partake in a different brand of music.
The art form known as music is cognitively slippery in terms of how it relates to folks. Many people enjoy music you’d never expect. And now that style definition has more or less dissolved (thanks 2000s hipsters and your ilk), pairing musical taste to individuals is harder. I can say, though, that being a nerd led me to music in my teenage years that don’t believe I’d have found otherwise. These artists, although not on my playlists as much, captured a nerdy feeling that makes the majority of popular music (you know, stuff to grind to) hard to tolerate.
The first musical genre I can remember listening to was jazz. My musical prodigy friend gave me albums by Chick Corea and Gary Burton, and Les McCann and Eddie Harris, and I was hooked. Later, my uncle gifted me the album Romantic Warrior by Chick Corea and Return to Forever. That cd in particular was and still is a fantasy dreamscape of impossibly gorgeous musicianship, but not something to play at a social gathering of garden variety drinkin’ folks. Worse than jazz, though, at least for relating to others musically, was progressive rock.
Prog rock was my musical awakening. Bands like Yes, Jethro Tull, Spock’s Beard, and Dream Theater (why, past me, why?) were my obsessions. I’ve listened to Thick as a Brick more than most other songs, and it’s 44 minutes long. The sweeping crescendos and crazy breakdowns and long-winded song titles appealed to the nerdy dude in me, and gave me a strong taste for the rock epic, progressive pieces over 20 minutes in length at minimum. But this sort of music was not something I could share, unless with a listening partner who liked the same things. Prog rock was a place for my friends and no one else, because, like jazz (and fusion), its show of technical prowess is off-putting and its subject matter is highly nerdy. And it’s not danceable (only one man I know has ever had sex to Dream Theater, and that’s just because the girl was a metal nerd… awesome).
It’s a shame that prog rock and jazz are difficult styles for most people. This is not to say the styles are too intelligent for the normal human (although many folks within the micro universes of said styles sometimes think that). It’s that, like most nerdy things, they take a certain amount of time to really listen to, and don’t propel the butt to shake about. Dance music takes skill to compose (when it’s good) and the ridiculous pop icons must be commended for their marketing genius, But those musics don’t make the nerdy brain alight in fantastical whimsy. Prog, jazz, and some breeds of metal (I do love Between the Buried and Me) give the nerd years of gorgeous music, but nothing that can be put on a list of songs to play at the club. Which is hard for the nerd who loves this music, because it’s a solitary world at times of epic songs that people should like whist club schlock is pumping into their distracted but not truly engaged ears.
Romantic Warrior, Return to Forever
Thick as a Brick, Jethro Tull
Finisterra, Mago de Oz
V, Spock’s Beard