Last night I journeyed to what is arguably my new favorite space in Jacksonville, the CoRK Arts District,
and found myself in the middle of several different walls of noise.

Literally. Noise.

I had seen an event invite on Facebook and, recognizing none of the bands, decided I had to fill what was an already full weekend to the brim by heading down to Riverside on a Sunday night, bringing some friends along with me.

This would turn out to be an interesting idea. In the dark of the waiting studio there were bodies moving, wearing giant masks, focused on wheatpasting their art onto cardboard boxes, while a lone figure sat with them hunched over synthesizers and pedals flashing with light. A low reverbed hum throbbed around the room. 

Last night I had my brain shaken.

I was enthralled watching the artists work together, fluidly pasting the glue and paper prints in one seamless motion, and listening to what is called “noisebient” music. I absorbed the multicolored flashing lights into my bloodstream and felt my cells vibrate. Though I was admittedly skeptical of the “music” being played, this music with no immediately obvious rhyme or reason or melody, yet still handcrafted - I was also intrigued.

This feeling only magnified over the next two acts for which we stayed, the second immediately dividing our group’s sensibilities. While the aesthetic of the first noisebient offering was musically unintelligible, there had still been a somewhat pleasant atmosphere compared to this new act before us. There were no artists working, no lights, just two men inside of a wood frame structure, and a wall of sound. Sound like the distorted transmission of a message through the dark nethers of space.

Sound like what you might hear roaring the through the empty stretches of a silent tunnel at night.

I found myself lit up somehow by what I heard because it was a puzzle from every angle, something unique to be looked at and studied from all sides. It was not anything that would immediately be considered music to any outsider listening in, yet it was being presented as music. It was not anything that I could see myself listening to in any other scenario like at work or in the car, but it turned my brain inside out. I was simultaneously put off by the extended waves of discordance but also intrigued, and my thoughts raced to try to make sense of what I heard. I tried to make sense of the people around me and how they interpreted what we were hearing. The fact that we as a group were there together indulging the whims of these two musicians, the fact that these two people had come together and intentionally, deliberately, placed note upon note to form this soundscape.

I sat on the floor and closed my eyes, ignoring the text from my sister pleading, “can we go soon?”

No. I didn’t want to go yet. I wanted to wrap myself around this sound that was warping its way over me, making no sense. Trying to make sense. Objectively observing my visceral reactions to everything happening, thinking about the definition of music and if this could fit inside that definition, if music needs defining at all. If the questions “is this music” or “is this any good” were relevant at all.

We didn’t stay much longer as some in my group were growing restless, and on the way home it was clear that we, the six of us at the show together, were all over the place in regard to how we felt about what we had just seen. It was actually a pretty even split – two of us were really excited by what we had seen, perhaps irrationally so, two of us were on the fence or maybe didn’t even know what to think, and the remaining two were adamant about how terrible the “music” was and how absolutely unenthralled they had been… again, perhaps irrationally so.

And so we talked. I tried in vain to explain what excited me about what we had witnessed, about how I did in fact believe that it was irrelevant if the audience members thought it was music, or if anyone thought it was any good at all. The sole fact that we as an audience chose to stay and take part in something that made no inherent sense made this more of a psychological experiment than a concert. I’ll admit to being more open-minded when it comes to situations like this. Even if something is terribly unpleasant and discordant I am more than willing to give it a chance and try to derive some meaning, any meaning.

Out a lifetime spent surrounded by and studying all types of music, I’ve observed a large element of predictability in most musical types. A majority of songs will end one of a few ways, will have one of a few cadences, will have one of a few chord progressions. It’s why I find it easy to sing along to a song I’ve never heard before. But… there was nothing to be predicted about the music presented that night. There were none of the usual landmarks of a song, be it lyrics or a hook or a bass line dropping. None of it. It was a completely new listening experience for me, and it turned my brain on in a way I haven’t felt in a while. I felt buzzed, like I had closed my fingers around an electric fence, finding myself accidentally trapped. 

I felt, and I feel this now, the call of pure creation crying out for me. If two people my age can stand before a crowd and hurl dark frequencies around in the pitch black studio at a probably obscene decibel level…. then what in the hell is stopping me from pursuing any of my creative interests? If they can do it then I sure as hell can. Who cares if what I create is any good? Who cares if anything is ever any good?

Let me repeat that, for emphasis, for my own future reference: Who cares if what I create is any good?

It seems so simple in this moment of clarity. It is not the creation that matters so much as the act of creation. I know that I am not alone in my open desire to see what other people are creating in all of the wild and varied ways that thought manifests into tangible reality. I know it. I know that there are people who want to see what I am up to as much as I want to see what others are doing, and the only thing stopping me from reaching these people is a lily-livered lack of courage.

A waning lack of courage, might I add.

That is what touched me more than anything else that night sitting in the darkness with ambient static sound surrounding me – the implied courage it takes to stand before a crowd of people and play something completely unconventional. The balls to plug in your amps and guitars and say here goes nothing (everything). Here, this, is what I have been working on.

Christ, I’m so thankful for people with guts.

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