Destroying rock with gyprock
March 27, 2017 4:17 AM   Subscribe

David Byrne posits a fascinating theory that the music of each age is determined by the architecture in which it is performed... Rock’n’roll music is made to be played in pubs and bars, where amplification is needed to be heard over the crowd. And playing with amps and loud drum kits requires musicians to have access to a space where noise can be made. The space where this typically happened was so universal that it defined an entire genre: the garage band. So what happens when there are no more garages? If we assume Byrne is right, you’d expect two things to happen. One, that the loudest music of our age to not come out of inner cities anymore. And two, that the music from cities will not be rock music.
How inner city apartment developments have killed rock'n'roll.
posted by acb (88 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
Fascinating hypothesis! The environment in which music is played certainly shaped the sound of hip-hop. Can't think of any reason why this wouldn't apply to pretty much any genre.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:57 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


(They don't have DI gear and headphones in Australia? I spot an opportunity for the budding audio entrepreneur.)
posted by effbot at 4:59 AM on March 27, 2017


A problem with rock is that the typical guitar amplification and loudness of drums was not meant to be used in a bar, but rather in a high school gym or similar size room. There are bars in my town, that regularly have bands, where hitting one snare drum is pretty much too loud for the room, and of course the bands are loud as hell, because turning up is the only idea many rock musicians have for making things more intense.
posted by thelonius at 5:01 AM on March 27, 2017 [11 favorites]


Not just apartments. Neighbors in our part of town had a basement band that was driven out largely due to pressure from folks with kids (like us) who were sick of not being able to sleep in our own damned house because they refused to soundproof. Urban dwelling in general - whether apartment or single family home - is just too close-spaced for amps and drums.
posted by caution live frogs at 5:23 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


they refused to soundproof

actual soundproofing is very difficult and expensive btw - I've seen audio engineers pour cold water on several AskMe questioners who were hoping to find out some kind of easy hack to do it, and there really isn't one - you have to build a room within a room and insulate every possible space or gap that noise can get out from.

looking back, our parents were saints for tolerating years of our bands, in the day
posted by thelonius at 5:30 AM on March 27, 2017 [24 favorites]


When I was in bands in college, we always had trouble finding drummers - there were at least 5 good guitarists for every good drummer. They were almost all posh as well, because not only is a drum kit 3-4 times the price of a guitar, but if you're a kid learning the drums your parents better have a big detached house (big garages aren't that common in Ireland, even in suburbia).
posted by kersplunk at 5:47 AM on March 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


Cities could make rock and roll when there was post-industrial live/work/make space for artists, but available space like that is few and far between in cities thought of as cultural centers.

I'm ashamed to say that my band used to practice in an apartment building otherwise occupied by families in Bushwick, NY. In hindsight I'm appalled at how inconsiderate we were.
posted by entropone at 5:49 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


One, that the loudest music of our age to not come out of inner cities anymore. And two, that the music from cities will not be rock music.

This explains the rapid rise of quiet instruments like mountain dulcimer, clavichord and bamboo flute in contemporary hiphip.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:53 AM on March 27, 2017 [38 favorites]


As the parent of a 10-year-old drummer, this hypothesis rings true. I wish we had a garage, but we don't, we live in an apartment three floors up. Only the fact that he has an electronic drum kit makes it at all possible; that, plus his practice hours are mid-afternoon after school, because he's a kid. There might be rocky years ahead unless we can move somewhere with a garage. But kersplunk's comment at least gives me hope that he'll be in demand when he starts looking for bands to play in.
posted by rory at 5:58 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Alt-J is a popular, newish rockish band whose unique sound comes from the fact that they formed in a dorm room and so had to keep the volume low while writing and practicing songs. For example, I believe they have no cymbals.
posted by rebent at 6:03 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


I suspect that guitar-based music is permanently on its way out of the mainstream, for reasons of technology and urban geography.

From the 1950s to sometime in the 1990s or so, if a bunch of kids wanted to form a band, they'd follow the classic rock band template, as laid down in the Golden Age Of Rock'n'Roll: 1-3 guitars, a bass and drums. You could buy a cheap old guitar secondhand, find an amp that just about worked, and at least one of you would have a garage you could practice in.

Over the past decade or two, the path of least resistance to music making has become to use electronics, which have gotten cheaper and more convenient. The compact synthesizer supplanted the room-sized modular, the Akai/E-Mu sampler replaced the Fairlight, the Atari ST brought MIDI to the teenage bedroom, Cubase VST/Ableton Live/&c. made it possible to dispense with outboard gear altogether and just use a laptop, and Fruity Loops and a bunch of mobile apps made it cheap.

Now, actually picking up a guitar and an amp is no longer the norm. It is a self-conscious affectation, no less so than picking up a banjolele or an accordion, a reference to a bygone heritage: the Beatles, the Sex Pistols, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, the Smiths, and a melange of increasingly intermingled rockabilly/Mod/punk iconography. Not only that, it is becoming a status symbol: having a guitar and an amp and having had the time to practice it to a good standard says that one has the resources to find space to make noise. It's on its way to becoming a hobby for rich people with a sense of heritage, much in the way that owning a vintage Jaguar might be.
posted by acb at 6:05 AM on March 27, 2017 [25 favorites]


As the parent of a 10-year-old drummer, this hypothesis rings true. I wish we had a garage, but we don't, we live in an apartment three floors up. Only the fact that he has an electronic drum kit makes it at all possible; that, plus his practice hours are mid-afternoon after school, because he's a kid. There might be rocky years ahead unless we can move somewhere with a garage.

Or gets into finger drumming on a sample pad. One sees increasingly many bands these days where the drummer is frenziedly tapping out beats with his/her fingers on a 4x4 matrix of drum pads (think the Akai MPC2000 and its successors). Which is more of a performance than seeing some dude sitting behind a laptop, making an effort to rock animatedly to the beat as he triggers clips in Ableton Live and turns the odd knob.
posted by acb at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Never thought of it before, but all the kids in my high school who had bands lived out in detached houses in the newer developments. Some of them still live in those developments and still have bands.

For a couple years in the 80s I lived in sedate Forest Hills, NY, which somehow managed to birth The Ramones.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:09 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if some of David Byrne's hypothesis is why the ukulele has become such a thing in recent years.
posted by pxe2000 at 6:18 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Urban dwelling in general - whether apartment or single family home - is just too close-spaced for amps and drums.

My area is too dense for any kind of intstrument to be played considerately.

Thus there is a saxaphonist who plays in a Lincoln Park pedestrian underapass when the weather is warm enough and a bagpiper who plays right outside Lincoln Park Zoo on many summer nights.
posted by srboisvert at 6:20 AM on March 27, 2017


Now, actually picking up a guitar and an amp is no longer the norm.

Maybe the "and an amp" part, but an electric guitar or electric bass are both relatively inexpensive, very quiet when not amplified, and plug directly into the same equipment that is democratizing the creation of music. I think the three-piece rock trio will diminish in ubiquity, but guitar and bass players will likely continue on for quite a while.
posted by tclark at 6:21 AM on March 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


Current bass lines seem to be heavily influenced by the characteristics of expensive subwoofers mounted in the trunks of clapped out Toyotas cruising down the boulevard a quarter mile from my house.
posted by klarck at 6:30 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Is it a new idea to build apartments in cities? Are our suburban and exurban areas now devoid of garages and teenagers? I question the premise.
posted by designbot at 6:35 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


designbot: "Is it a new idea to build apartments in cities? "

Nope.
posted by signal at 6:41 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Or gets into finger drumming on a sample pad.

Tell me about it - he started drumming when he was six. You don't even need a sample pad. Dinner tables, arm rests, easily annoyed little sisters, all work juuuust fine.

Is it a new idea to build apartments in cities? Are our suburban and exurban areas now devoid of garages and teenagers? I question the premise.

There's been a lot of urban infill in Melbourne, spiritual home of Aussie pub rock and indie, since the 1990s. Kids growing up in all those big new apartment blocks won't have the suburban experience previous generations of Aussie kids have had.
posted by rory at 6:42 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Not only that, it is becoming a status symbol: having a guitar and an amp and having had the time to practice it to a good standard says that one has the resources to find space to make noise. It's on its way to becoming a hobby for rich people with a sense of heritage, much in the way that owning a vintage Jaguar might be

The problem with this part of your thesis is that dirt-cheap guitars and amps and "starter packs" that combine both plus straps, cables, and picks have exploded in the last 5 to 10 years. Here's a list of the instruments you can buy from Best Buy (which, for those who don't know, is a Big Box electronics chain where you might go to buy your flat screen TV or home theater system - they definitely weren't selling guitars a decade ago.)

It's certainly possible that most everyone buying these cheap guitars is a suburbanite with a garage or basement to practice in, and I get that that in itself is a sign of some level of wealth and privilege, but the price of these instruments certainly suggests that someone is buying them who is nowhere near "vintage Jaguar" levels of wealth.

Plus most small "practice amps" have a headphone out these days. So practicing guitar without disturbing anyone is hardly impossible.
posted by soundguy99 at 6:53 AM on March 27, 2017 [23 favorites]


I recall being on an extended visit to Tokyo (a city where pretty much everyone is an apartment-dweller) some years ago, walking by Yoyogi Park early one morning. In the park, a young woman was playing a baritone sax almost as big as she was. It took me a few seconds to realize she was practicing the bass line to "Tequila."

People will find a way.
posted by adamrice at 7:03 AM on March 27, 2017 [8 favorites]


Plus most small "practice amps" have a headphone out these days. So practicing guitar without disturbing anyone is hardly impossible.

And then there are devices like the Jamstik+, an actual guitar with strings, frets and pickups which sends MIDI notes to a laptop or tablet. So if you want to trigger MIDI notes by plucking/strumming real electric guitar strings, it's possible. With the right softsynth or sample set (or even a mediocre plucked-guitar sound and some decent pedal/amp simulation like Native Instruments GuitarRig), you can approximate the sound of a monster amp stack straight out of the 1970s. And when you can't bring your 5-fret Bluetooth guitar with you, you can do it all on your laptop keyboard.

The classic electric guitar sounds still depend, to some extent, on more than electronic processing; there's guitar feedback, of course, and the use of amp cabinet shapes and the physical characteristics of speakers (often with a microphone pointed at the cabinet). This can all be emulated digitally, to a greater or lesser extent, in software or in practice amps, but once you start digitally adding in amp feedback, you've pretty much given up the “authenticity” part of your argument, and whether a guitar is the optimal way of creating waveforms and/or controlling notes becomes a different equation.
posted by acb at 7:07 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Building new with good soundproofing is possible, but it's more expensive and usually isn't prioritized by developers because it doesn't pop like countertops or bathrooms. Retrofitting soundproofing is very expensive because you have to essentially rebuild the room (or build another room inside of it). Cities would be a lot more livable if we mandated a reasonably high amount of soundproofing, though it might push developers towards concrete boxes instead of light wood frame (in the US and Canada, I don't know about building practices in Australia).
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 7:10 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


The relationship between architecture and music is interesting but I'd wager there are far more rock bands today than ever before. They don't command a wide enough market to get much industry attention, but they're out there, playing small rooms and releasing their own stuff on Bandcamp or whatevs.
posted by rodlymight at 7:19 AM on March 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


you've pretty much given up the “authenticity” part of your argument

What "authenticity" part of whose argument? I never said anything about "authenticity" - my point is that there are strong indications that your postulate of "electric guitars will soon be an affectation reserved for rich people" is incorrect; clearly there's a market for cheap guitars, meaning "not-rich" people want to play them.

whether a guitar is the optimal way of creating waveforms and/or controlling notes becomes a different equation.

No one, ever, has decided that they want to play music because they're interested in the "optimal" way to create waveforms. What does this even mean?
posted by soundguy99 at 7:27 AM on March 27, 2017 [11 favorites]


Guess I'm gonna be That Person and point out that "gyp" (as in "gypsy") is a slur. But I didn't know that till a few years ago, maybe the writer still doesn't. Hopefully someone will tell him.

I find this idea of environment shaping music forms really interesting, but also think there's some Kids Today-ing going on here, with a touch of worry that decline of traditional rock styles=decline of manliness.

Anecdotally, the husband had noticed that the last time he did a Battle of the Bands, the one he was in had the only traditional-ish setup (bass, percussion, banjo, guitar), and the rest were all "a bunch of guys with laptops who also played instruments intermittently." He was actually really impressed that a lot of the musicians could play multiple instruments pretty well, but also concerned that no poor kid would be able to afford those setups. His first guitars/amps were all pawnshop specials.
posted by emjaybee at 7:35 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Are our suburban and exurban areas now devoid of garages and teenagers?

No, but I wonder what sort of music comes out of a McMansion garage.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:40 AM on March 27, 2017


No one, ever, has decided that they want to play music because they're interested in the "optimal" way to create waveforms. What does this even mean?

At the end of the day, you're producing sound, or a performance involving sound. If the sound is meant to be that of an amplified electric guitar, and you're not constrained by noise restrictions, playing a guitar with pickups through an amp is the optimal way of getting there (you get the most natural control over the performance, it—of course—sounds realistic, and it looks like what audiences expect a rock performance to look like). If you're constrained by playing in your thin-walled apartment, or in a club surrounded by arsey yuppies with lawyers, you have to ditch the amp and the feedback and replicate them with electronic simulations. Once you've gone down that path, why keep the rest of the simulacrum? Why be constrained by what an electric guitar would naturally sound like, rather than trying to create the effect you're getting act within the scope of electronically synthesised or manipulated sound? (One answer is tradition; that's probably why, for example, “hard rock” stood for performative hypermasculinity until recently, when bass-heavy brostep/EDM usurped it, and lo-fi guitars and 1960s-vintage instrumentation stood for indie “authenticity”.)
posted by acb at 7:40 AM on March 27, 2017


Guess I'm gonna be That Person and point out that "gyp" (as in "gypsy") is a slur. But I didn't know that till a few years ago, maybe the writer still doesn't. Hopefully someone will tell him.

You're right that "gyp" is a slur. "Gyprock" is a brand-name for plasterboard in Australia. Plasterboard is a layer of gypsum sandwiched between two layers of paper. In the US it's also known as sheetrock or drywall, AKA the cheap shit they build with nowadays.
posted by Hypatia at 7:41 AM on March 27, 2017 [26 favorites]


No, but I wonder what sort of music comes out of a McMansion garage.

Limp Bizkit?
posted by acb at 7:41 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


gyprock refers to the fact that drywall is made from gypsum. Other terms include sheetrock and plaster board.
posted by rebent at 7:41 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


but also concerned that no poor kid would be able to afford those setups.

I don't know what a guitar sells for, but you can get a laptop at Bestbuy for $200 or so that has a lot more grunt than the sort of things I made electronic music on 10 and 20 years ago. And I'd imagine there's a lot of software out there to pirate.
posted by wotsac at 8:03 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


A punk/metalhead friend of mine was complaining that the music the kids listen to these days sounds like Air Supply. He didn't understand why even cool, rebel kids were listening to the shit that sounded like the shit his parents listened to and was just so UNCOOL back in his day.

I observed that 'kids these days' listened to most of their music through headphones and maybe didn't want loud and discordant sounds blasted directly into their ears. Maybe intricate textured harmonics just play better through headphones than his genres of choice. I also argued that the average 'kid' probably listened to music more often throughout the day than the average kid of his generation, a habit which would lend itself to curation of music for different locations, moods, audiences. I don't know many people my age or younger who consider themselves devotees of a single genre of music.

Headphones are not architectural, but are physical artifacts of music consumption. It seems to me that the increasing abundance of headphones (and access to infinite music through those headphones) has done more to change the music people are interested in making and listening to than whatever changes in housing has occurred since grunge and alternative were big.
posted by palindromic at 8:08 AM on March 27, 2017 [9 favorites]


I don't know what a guitar sells for, but you can get a laptop at Bestbuy for $200 or so that has a lot more grunt than the sort of things I made electronic music on 10 and 20 years ago. And I'd imagine there's a lot of software out there to pirate.

Who even needs laptops? There are apps that cost a few dollars and run on the kind of Android phone that comes free with breakfast cereal these days. They're not quite Logic Pro, but they're good enough for making some beats and melodies. When the kids who have them feel the need to write and record their own songs, it's to these, not guitars, they'll turn.
posted by acb at 8:15 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I also argued that the average 'kid' probably listened to music more often throughout the day than the average kid of his generation, a habit which would lend itself to curation of music for different locations, moods, audiences. I don't know many people my age or younger who consider themselves devotees of a single genre of music.

I agree with this. Even though I'm an Old, much of the music I listen to is from playlists on Spotify and Apple Music. It's a really easy way to discover new artists and only have to listen to the particular songs I like, rather than buy a whole album and find I only like one or two songs.

There is so much more music available to the casual listener, as well as those of us who don't live in big cities and/or have deep pockets and vast reserves of energy for late nights and cover charges for live bands. Even kids who live in the depths of suburbia have a way to access music that's not a choice of make it yourself or settle for the Fleetwood Mac cover band that plays down at the local restaurant/bar.

Back In The Day (tm), one's favorite genre of music was a social/status marker, partly because it took money, legwork, social capital and commitment to dedicate oneself to a band or genre (due to the fact you couldn't just search Spotify or download anything for free or cheap). The effort is gone (thankfully, I think) and so the social capital marker of being a devotee or, even better, being in an actual band, isn't there so much. At least in my observation. I really think that's a change for the good.

And I think Palindromic is right in that headphones offer a different listening experience, one which is less conducive to harsh, unmelodic, loud music and more conducive to the ambient and soothing. Plus the fact that so many people listen to music on headphones at work or to relax. The playlists for "Spa Treatment," "Sleep," "Music for Reading," etc. on Spotify have thousands, even millions (for Sleep) of followers.

(Aaaand now I have "All Out Of Love" as an earworm! Thaaaaanks!)
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:21 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Or to put it another way: our nation’s developers are literally destroying rock with gyprock.

Muffed the end! This genre of music should officially be dubbed gyp-rock.
posted by mazola at 8:39 AM on March 27, 2017


Some of the condos being built in Toronto have music practice rooms in them. I wonder what sounds will come out of that?

Mine doesn't have a sound-proofed practice room, but kids are allowed to us our party rooms to practice music, and the party rooms have pianos in them (because this used to be the site of a piano factory). I don't know that this would extend to an entire band, and they couldn't get crazy loud, so maybe not the typical garage band sound, but not something heavily silenced, either.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:42 AM on March 27, 2017


Making predictions about What Kids Will Do as a cohort is kind of a fool's game. Music has exploded in so many directions that you get kids forming banjo/fiddle/jug folk troops, Ableton techno whatever, super blown out crust and doom, experimental hiphop, etc etc etc. Hell, you can write and record awesome sounding death metal through nothing but headphones at this point.

I get that turn-up-and-jam garage rock is kind of on the outs, but I'd guess it's more that it's been done to death rather than anything else. Keep saying that and give it five years, and my guess is we'll have another Vines/Hives/garage rock revival. Kids are gonna rebel no matter what, and they're all looking for an identity, just as we were.
posted by Existential Dread at 8:43 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


This explains the rapid rise of quiet instruments like mountain dulcimer, clavichord and bamboo flute in contemporary hiphip.

Bamboo Flute Ain't Nuthing ta F*** wit.
posted by Svejk at 8:45 AM on March 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


The linked piece is interesting, and the idea sounds plausible. That said, isn't it a commonplace that popular music cultural production is endlessly dynamic, morphing constantly? I can't take obituaries for the genre too seriously, being as they have been a mainstay of music journalism nearly as long as there has been music journalism.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:46 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm ashamed to say that my band used to practice in an apartment building otherwise occupied by families in Bushwick, NY. In hindsight I'm appalled at how inconsiderate we were.

Mass Ave, Arlington, MA for me. And, yeah ... With the windows open in the summer 'cos there was no A/C.

Good times.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 8:51 AM on March 27, 2017


I'm a New Yorker, and I always theorized that the reason there aren't more good rock bands from NYC , considering how many people there are, is that there's not a lot of space to practice. Rehearsal spaces are expensive and you can't spend endless time in them. Especially these days. I guess that's part of the reason laptops are getting passed off as musical instruments.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:04 AM on March 27, 2017


This is a fascinating theory, and I'm enjoying the comments, but I'm just not sure it's true. Apartment towers in the US just aren't that common outside of a few metro areas. I'd bet that the overwhelming majority of American musicians grow up in single-family detached homes during their teenaged years, and many stay there. I know the perception is that every band is from Brooklyn these days, but that's Saul Steinberging. There are a lot of musicians in flyover country still, many of whom live in detached houses.

To the extent that they don't remain there in their twenties or thirties seems more like a function of housing policy and income in the US. Does this generation really want to live in Le Corbusier apartment towers downtown? Or can they just not afford to buy houses in their parents' neighborhoods?
posted by kevinbelt at 9:10 AM on March 27, 2017


So the next cohort of kids with their newfangled music will come up with things that can play softly in the background while I hold a civilized conversation with my friends at the bar?

I'm okay with this.
posted by ocschwar at 9:12 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


OK, yeah, so buildings, but what about food?
posted by sjswitzer at 9:15 AM on March 27, 2017 [16 favorites]


Who even needs laptops?

You are so correct. I personally use Auxy and Figure on my iPhone constantly for creating noisy electronic stuff. Android has its own apps, though not as many with Android's problems with audio latency. For 5-10 dollars, or easily pirated in the case of Android, kids today can make whatever.

Or can they just not afford to buy houses in their parents' neighborhoods?

In many cities, that's true. Or there's the pressure in certain fields to be in certain cities when you're young, which limits the living options to apartments or houses with 3+ roommates. None of whom want to hear your band practice.
posted by honestcoyote at 9:18 AM on March 27, 2017


I realize anecdote does not equate to any kind of standard, but for what it's worth, my teenage son listens almost exclusively to punk and thrash metal. And almost exclusively through headphones/earbuds. This is true of a number of his friends as well.

plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 9:23 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm somewhere between acb and soundguy on this. It's gotten easier than ever to make loud guitar music quietly - with a DI amp sim instead of an amp, with software instead of a drummer - and there are whole subgenres driven by this technology. However this is still somewhat more costly than just pirating FL on a laptop. Material factors are one thing though - there's also sense that rock music is just played out as something really innovative. There are plenty of "genre" bands e.g. different kinds of metal made by enthusiasts. But I don't think any of them will ever be Van Halen big.
posted by atoxyl at 9:36 AM on March 27, 2017


...rock music is just played out as something really innovative...

It seems to be, but maybe that's OK.....the modernist worship of novelty and progress needs to die eventually, and the concept of "important" bands will die with it.......if you and your friends' neo-Yacht Rock band can find an audience and make like-minded listeners happy, that doesn't pick my pocket.
posted by thelonius at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2017


Hmm, European population density vs. metal bands per capita.
posted by gueneverey at 9:47 AM on March 27, 2017 [7 favorites]


Cities would be a lot more livable if we mandated a reasonably high amount of soundproofing, though it might push developers towards concrete boxes instead of light wood frame (in the US and Canada, I don't know about building practices in Australia).

I don't know about being soundproof enough for band practice purposes, but at least in California, there are requirements for sound transmission between apartment or condo units. You have to use a wall or floor assembly that's already rated or get whatever you want to do tested to prove it's good enough. A lot of buildings predate that requirement, and there may not be such a requirement in other states.
posted by LionIndex at 9:58 AM on March 27, 2017


Every Sunday night, a band practices in a third floor apartment in my neighborhood. I don't live in the building but I know because you can hear them for a few blocks. I was just marveling last night how the neighbors in the building must feel about it -- I'd be livid. I wish there were some sort of sound transmission standard in Chicago, but alas the constantly running 3- and 5-year old kids that live above me attest that there is not.

It's been my experience that most friends in bands that need to be loud (with full drum kits or whatever) rent practice space in old warehouse buildings specifically converted for that purpose. It also is nice for drummers because you can just keep your kit set up in your practice space and not taking up half of your living room. There are downsides - the expense, travelling to/from the practice space, possibility of theft if you're sharing a space with other bands to save money. But it seems to work ok. Seems like there's plenty of punk/garage rock coming out of Chicago, anyway.
posted by misskaz at 10:05 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


Muffed the end! This genre of music should officially be dubbed gyp-rock.

Well, they could have gone there, but that would take it into the realm of the slur that was otherwise avoided.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:06 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Hmm, European population density vs. metal bands per capita.

But in many parts of Europe, kids have access to school music facilities and/or municipal space they can use (as well as actual music education in the first place). The high Scandinavian numbers are unsurprising to me, because between the general need for indoor amusements of all types and a higher priority on music education, access to practice rooms (or soundproofed multi-use space for sports and performance space) and even instruments and recording equipment is available even for a kid in a suburban or city apartment block. It does always help to have that one rich kid - you can't take a drum kit on the bus to a gig - but so it has always been, in bands.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:09 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


When the kids who have them feel the need to write and record their own songs, it's to these, not guitars, they'll turn.

I seriously have no idea why you seem to be so invested in the idea that guitars or other actual physical instruments are about to go the way of the dodo, but IME your phrasing should be "in addition to guitars. Because that's what I'm seeing when I work shows at colleges - not just the 25- year-olds in the touring bands, but the 18-22 students themselves as the local openers; the kids'll show up with a kick drum and real cymbals and an electronic drum pad, 2 laptops, an electric guitar and a harmonium and a trumpet. And backing tracks on their phone. They're integrating it all together, all the various ways to make sounds are viable in their eyes, it's addition, not replacement.
posted by soundguy99 at 10:09 AM on March 27, 2017 [14 favorites]


While the lack of space to rehearse can be to blame, I think the biggest problem might be that getting the sound of a guitar is far more complicated than drawing notes on a DAW or playing on a MIDI keyboard and choosing the right instrument.
To properly capture the sound of a guitar, you need an amp, a microphone and an audio interface and know what to do, and all those things are kinda expensive. Even to plug directly to the laptop (excluding Macs that need an audio interface, even if it's just a USB dongle) and model the sound with Guitar Rig or effect VSTs, it might still be challenging to find a balance between volumes, fiddling with volume knobs so the sound doesn't come too hot or low, changing settings to prevent glitchy sound and avoid latency and hope the problems aren't from some poorly wired cable or adapter (I have a half-done guitar-led EP project I really don't feel like going back because of this hassle). Before, it used to be possible to book a sesh in a small recording studio with someone who can say exactly what goes where, but studios have been disappearing fast for the past 10 years or so.

On the other hand, with a laptop with some cheap DAWs like GarageBand, MuLab or Reaper (or, you know, a cracked copy of Ableton or FL) and VSTs, while the learning curve is higher at first, consistent results come faster.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:14 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


And I think Palindromic is right in that headphones offer a different listening experience, one which is less conducive to harsh, unmelodic, loud music and more conducive to the ambient and soothing. Plus the fact that so many people listen to music on headphones at work or to relax. The playlists for "Spa Treatment," "Sleep," "Music for Reading," etc. on Spotify have thousands, even millions (for Sleep) of followers.

Music's changed in that way. People still listen to it, but it's not as central, it's more like a scented candle. It sets the mood. Also, because people like to multitask, in a way if you've got a bit of music on in the background and the lyrical content is making you want to listen to it, then that would probably put you off the texting you wanted to do. I think people like things that just make that right kind of noise, but leave your brain free to do something else
posted by acb at 10:15 AM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


This genre of music should officially be dubbed gyp-rock

Wouldn't that be rockabilly/garage/psych meets Romany folk music (by analogy with “gyp-hop”, which is apparently a genre of music in Berlin)?
posted by acb at 10:16 AM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's on its way to becoming a hobby for rich people with a sense of heritage, much in the way that owning a vintage Jaguar might be

Or a vintage Jazzmaster for that matter.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 10:19 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I ran across some support for David Byrne's theory, I think in the film This is Bossa Nova on Netflix.

IIRC Antonio Carlos Joabim or one of his colleagues was talking about how they all lived in these cheep apartments. They all had day day jobs, so they'd get together to play in the evenings but the neighbors would get upset and pound on the walls so they took to playing very quietly. This caused them to create the softly spoken vocal style which went on to be famous (e.g. girl from ipanema).
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 10:34 AM on March 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


To properly capture the sound of a guitar, you need an amp, a microphone and an audio interface and know what to do, and all those things are kinda expensive.

Just for comparison's sake, I recorded these (1,2) through a couple pedals, an amp modeler, and a Roland DI box. Total investment (not counting the guitar, which ran me $700 in the 90s) was ~$60 for Reaper, $100 for a drum program, ~$150 for the Roland DI, another couple hundred for the modeler and pedals, all spread out over some years. You can lower the cost by pirating most of that software and replacing the modeler with a modeling program. I don't think that cost or access are driving people away from guitars.

It's true that guitar-based music is unlikely to regain the heights of the Van Halen days, but that was such an extreme outlier in the last thousand years of music that I'm not sure it's reasonable to make these comparisons. You see tons of kids inspired by Mastodon and Metallica (still!), just like you do for Run The Jewels or hundreds of other non-guitar acts. The best part is all of these genres are going to continue to expand and cross-pollinate.

So the next cohort of kids with their newfangled music will come up with things that can play softly in the background while I hold a civilized conversation with my friends at the bar?

My favorite anecdote about Low is that they got sick of people talking over their shows so they turned way way down so that people would have to stop talking to listen.
posted by Existential Dread at 10:37 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Because it is so powerful, design also has a dark underside. If mindlessly conceived or corrupted, design can produce depressing consequences. Cities that plan giant shopping centers can erode traditional communities by forcing neighborhood businesses to close. Massive highway construction can divide and rupture neighborhoods. Kafkaesque office designs of row after row of monitored employees are dehumanizing. Graphic designs in advertising can be dangerously misleading, promoting unhealthy products or unworthy candidates. Some designers think bad designs greatly outnumber the good.

More than one organization has moved into newly designed quarters only to discover that the new designs fail to provide for the kind of human interaction it had come to depend upon. Business author Fran Hawthorne cites the design of pharmaceutical giant Merck’s new headquarters as contributing to its current difficulties in getting new products approved. When all the research, manufacturing and executive offices were in one place people interacted more, walked around and ate at the same cafeteria. The CEO would sit at lunch and talk with anyone, blue-collar workers or scientists, increasing cross-fertilization. “When they moved,” she says, “they lost some of the water cooler talk.”
the late Richard Farson, my favourite design thinker before design thinking was commodified
posted by infini at 11:13 AM on March 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


I don't think that cost or access are driving people away from guitars.

Well, it's a bit of a path of least resistance. If someone is starting to take music more seriously, guitar used to be the most attractive option in terms of accessibility and price, but at this point, DAWs and apps seem to have more appeal from an economic and practical standpoint, or at least pack enough appeal to split that base.
posted by lmfsilva at 11:23 AM on March 27, 2017


guitar music is so yesterday
posted by jcruelty at 11:42 AM on March 27, 2017


groups with guitars are on the way out!
posted by thelonius at 11:51 AM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Steve Lacy, a contemporary youth (18!), recorded all vocals and instruments for his quite good EP on his iPhone and also he plays guitar.

Modern music contains multitudes.
posted by palindromic at 12:34 PM on March 27, 2017


it's really not hard to get a "real" guitar sound with a cheap guitar and a cheap multifx unit with amp sim - then it's just a matter of an audio interface and a computer to record into

you can also use cheap solid state amps - you may have to turn them down, but you can get a decent recording playing them no louder than you would a tv - even a recording that sounds loud and full of distortion

so practice and recording are covered - where it gets hard is finding a place for the band to play
posted by pyramid termite at 12:40 PM on March 27, 2017


This thread is full of people making baseless prognostications.
posted by grumpybear69 at 12:43 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Baseless or bassless?
posted by jacquilynne at 12:58 PM on March 27, 2017 [11 favorites]


F yeah Steve Lacy! Thanks for the the link, palindromic!
posted by grumpybear69 at 1:54 PM on March 27, 2017


I hear that you and your band have sold your guitars and bought turntables.
I hear that you and your band have sold your turntables and bought guitars.
posted by ZipRibbons at 2:05 PM on March 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


I predict that the baseless prognostications will continue.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 2:19 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


This thread is full of people making baseless prognostications.

You're just scared of the next generation of musicians, evidently a horde of modernists who conceive of music making as primarily an exercise in modulating waveforms and who intend to transcend the physical by renouncing (electro-)acoustic sound sources entirely. You know, the usual kid stuff.
posted by invitapriore at 2:41 PM on March 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Wouldn't that be rockabilly/garage/psych meets Romany folk music

Sounds like some of the stuff put out by the Elephant Six Recording Company!
posted by cwill at 2:42 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


How does this theory explain all the great loud guitar-rock bands in Japan?
posted by straight at 2:58 PM on March 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


emjaybee: "Guess I'm gonna be That Person and point out that "gyp" (as in "gypsy") is a slur. But I didn't know that till a few years ago, maybe the writer still doesn't. Hopefully someone will tell him.

I find this idea of environment shaping music forms really interesting, but also think there's some Kids Today-ing going on here, with a touch of worry that decline of traditional rock styles=decline of manliness.

Anecdotally, the husband had noticed that the last time he did a Battle of the Bands, the one he was in had the only traditional-ish setup (bass, percussion, banjo, guitar), and the rest were all "a bunch of guys with laptops who also played instruments intermittently." He was actually really impressed that a lot of the musicians could play multiple instruments pretty well, but also concerned that no poor kid would be able to afford those setups. His first guitars/amps were all pawnshop specials.
"

At the best of times, I wouldn't consider David Byrne all that manly. Awesome, yes. Manly? Not so much. (He strikes me as sort of neuter.)
posted by Samizdata at 8:11 PM on March 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


Over the past decade or two, the path of least resistance to music making has become to use electronics, which have gotten cheaper and more convenient.

Old, but, Madeon's Adventure Machine. It's a pretty fun sampler that can produce some decent sounding sequences. You can have one box active on the right and one on the left, and up to 3 in the middle. Adding a new one will make it flash then cut in at the next available bar of music and remove the oldest sample.
posted by xdvesper at 8:54 PM on March 27, 2017


I'm not so sure about this theory. As someone who grew up in the projects and visited many other projects they almost always had some type of park/basketball court directly attached. We would have some of the wildest parties there all the time, sometimes on a daily basis and at least once a week when the weather was good. Somehow like magic these huge PA speakers would show up complete with turntable decks.
posted by laptolain at 6:20 AM on March 28, 2017


I think this happens to all music eventually, as cultural artefacts drift slowly out of relevance. Chamber music has its intended architecture right there in the name, and to be honest, it's difficult to enjoy out-of-context. It's mostly inoffensive background music that only makes sense when you imagine intimate soirées full of elaborately dressed nobility, who required a soundtrack befitting of their eloquently refined conversation. In a modern context it sounds oddly hollow and lost, especially in a concert hall with the audience sitting in solemn silence.
posted by Eleven at 8:14 AM on March 28, 2017 [1 favorite]


Chamber music has its intended architecture right there in the name, and to be honest, it's difficult to enjoy out-of-context. It's mostly inoffensive background music that only makes sense when you imagine intimate soirées full of elaborately dressed nobility, who required a soundtrack befitting of their eloquently refined conversation.

Which is a pretty great illustration of how musicians transcend the situational contexts that initially formed the genres they work in. Because there's more chamber music that unequivocally rewards giving it your full attention than you can listen to in your lifetime.
posted by straight at 10:46 AM on March 28, 2017


So many people here are stating that it isn't impossible to practice guitar or drumming quietly. Yes, that's true. But actual REAL practice, loudly, with a band, is absolutely necessary, its not like you can practice quiet with headphones and be ready for the gig with a whole band.

As a guitar player and singer with a band, it's a huge problem, even for adults, to afford a space to rehearse. We rent a space we share with strangers, and it's $225 for a split room...the cheapest with the best amenities and proximity to our home. There's 4 of us in the band and that money is hard to come up with at the end of the month on top of regular rent. We all rent an apartment. It's not like gigs pay anything close to even covering our space. But the space is absolutely necessary for us to grow as a band.
posted by agregoli at 11:54 AM on March 28, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh and we used to pay $300 for a total shitty shitbox of a warehouse space with no amenities, people who did heroin in the bathroom, and various other charming details like vomit in the hallways. This is Chicago, you'd think there would be more options...but many are very expensive.
posted by agregoli at 12:00 PM on March 28, 2017


(And our new space, as nice as it is, still has virtually no soundproofing. It's loud as fuck. Which sucks. Hard to rehearse when the band next door is blasting)
posted by agregoli at 12:00 PM on March 28, 2017


Chamber music has its intended architecture right there in the name, and to be honest, it's difficult to enjoy out-of-context. It's mostly inoffensive background music that only makes sense when you imagine intimate soirées full of elaborately dressed nobility, who required a soundtrack befitting of their eloquently refined conversation. In a modern context it sounds oddly hollow and lost, especially in a concert hall with the audience sitting in solemn silence.

*sighs, climbs up ladder with a "0" plaque to reset the IT HAS BEEN __ MINUTES SINCE SOMEONE SAID THE WRONGEST THING sign*
posted by invitapriore at 7:43 PM on March 28, 2017


That was a clumsy thing to say, and I'm sorry.
posted by Eleven at 5:52 AM on March 29, 2017


Mischaracterizing the origins of chamber music - which is, in its current incarnation, very niche and used as a signifier of sophistication and class, and therefore very deserving of skeptical side-eye - can hardly be classified as the "wrongest thing."
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:32 AM on March 29, 2017


This explains the rapid rise of quiet instruments like mountain dulcimer, clavichord and bamboo flute in contemporary hiphip.
It also explains the puzzling absence of brass and percussion instruments in the otherwise vigorous 1920s-30s Harlem music scene.
posted by eotvos at 3:20 PM on April 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


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