Foreword from Composer Adam D. O’Dell
Over the last few years, I have been fascinated with memes, information technology, and the effects of the digital age on human communication and the arts, and I wanted to compose music that honored that fascination.
In this project, I recognize the word meme as one with two meanings. The original definition of meme is not "silly cat picture" or “relatable comic,” or “unflattering photo of a person with a factually inaccurate caption I use to argue about politics when I don’t have any ideas of my own.” Meme was first coined by Dr. Richard Dawkins, in his book The Selfish Gene, to describe discrete ideas or behaviors that are passed from person to person non-genetically.
When thinking of memes in their present-day colloquial definition with that frame of mind, I became fascinated with how memes affect our interpersonal relationships, our artistic interests and influences, and our entertainment habits. Memes are created, disseminated, interpreted, and incorporated so quickly that meme culture has arguably evolved more rapidly than any other art form in the 21st century. In the past decade (2008-2018), we have witnessed memes evolve from “classical” forms (i.e. rage comics telling conventional stories, top text/bottom text memes with typical setup-punchline structures) to “unaesthetic,” absurd, surreal, and neo-Dadaist forms (i.e. vaporwave, deep fried memes, “Loss”). A century following the early avant-garde, meme culture has perhaps become one of the most fertile grounds for experimentation in form and function.
Information technology has made it possible to create and share work faster than ever before, and internet memes are subjected to public opinion faster than any work of what we might call “serious” art (though I’m not a fan of that term either). What’s more, meme culture celebrates its existence as an open exchange of ideas. While it will be close to a century before today’s modern composers and poets will enter the public domain, memes exist as public, easily-malleable pieces of art, subject to incorporation in new memes the moment they are uploaded. Considering these factors, memes are perhaps a more accurate artistic representation of the present day than the masterworks of modern music, theatre, or visual art. Truly, internet memes are memes as defined by Dr. Dawkins. They are cultural ideas, spread from person to person, with each interpretation and incorporation taking on a new life; traceable members of the actor-network theory. It is precisely this volume of material that piqued my interest in writing pieces about memes.
Also worth noting is the relationship between Clarinet and Percussion pieces that I gone and done and Songs from the Barstool. Both pieces provide commentary on relatable human experiences and how we communicate them to each other. Sometimes these experiences are just silly (i.e. weird things we did as children), and other times they are incredibly poignant (i.e. common unhealthy reactions to grief or disappointment). Either way, people who wish to conceal the “weird” elements of their psychology can hide behind the anonymity of memes or the excuse of being too drunk. Both are commonly written off as ignorable outliers to our usual human communication. The five miniatures and the monodrama may be different artistic explorations, but their subjects are more or less the same; human experiences, ideas, and behaviors (both disarmingly fun and authentically emotional) and the facades we use to hide them.
Notes on Clarinet and Percussion pieces that I gone and done
Clarinet and Percussion pieces that I gone and done is a series of miniatures based on popular internet memes. In this series, I wanted to delve specifically into surrealist memes, and their contribution to the trend of “shitposting.” Shitposting is the practice of creating and posting content that is intentionally and ironically poorly-made, often in vast quantities. Considering the surrealist penchant for odd juxtapositions and anti-bourgeois aesthetics, surrealist shitposting became a precise art, requiring intense dedication and creativity to make the worst possible work in the best possible way.
Clarinet and Percussion pieces that I gone and done is a musical representation of surrealist shitposting; unaesthetic, trollishly uncomfortable music with detailed rhythmic and melodic content generated through cryptograms, obscured references, and musical clichés.
Jeffpardy! is based on the video by gr18vids14kidz of the same name. The video is an absurd edit of Jeopardy! show #6914, for which one of the categories was “Jeff.” In the video, the categories, questions, answers, and contestant names are replaced by “Jeff.” The name Jeff has become a common element of meme humor in the last several years, most likely due to the 22 Jump Street (2014) quote “My name is Jeff.”
I;m thinking about thos beans is based on a post by a man named Bill Foster on the Bush’s Baked Beans Facebook page on July 23, 2015. Seemingly just an innocuous post as the natural result of old people using Facebook, the phrase has become a common trope in shitposting, often taking on obsessive, creepy, and even sexual tones in various iterations.
Coffee Dad is based on the Twitter account @coffee_dad. Created in 2012 and self-described as “just a dad who loves his coffee,” the Coffee Dad Twitter feed is an ongoing dark humor gag. For the last several years, Coffee Dad has semi-regularly (sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes weeks or months apart) tweeted a few words about his coffee drinking habits, often with misused hashtags (i.e. “drinking a # coffee,” “having coffee#”). Periodically, however, he will post singular tweets with horrific implications. These occasional tweets have told the story of Coffee Dad depressed over the loss of his son to a motorcycle collision. In recent months, his tweets have become more angry and vengeful. The story seems yet unfinished.
Bees? is an exploration of several bee-related meme trends. References include The Wicker Man (2006) and Bee Movie (two movies which received poor ratings but have since become cult classics), and the non-sequitur shitpost “Bees Are Dying Globally at an Alarming Rate.” The title is in reference to my favorite Cards Against Humanity card.
I need this horse… Kings need horses is named after a Kanye West tweet. There’s definitely nothing weird going on with Kanye. His Twitter feed is totally coherent. I don’t know why I wrote this. References include Monty Python and The Holy Grail and segments of Kanye tracks that are short and obscured enough that I won’t get sued.
Notes on Songs from the Barstool
Written for percussionist Scott Charvet on several bar napkins, Songs from the Barstool (2017) is a rhythmically-set amalgamation of one-sided conversations I participated in while bartending through my master's degree.
There's an old adage that has been passed down from generations of bartenders. "People go to bars when they can't afford therapy." During my time as a bartender, I was astounded by how many people were willing to trust me with incredibly personal information just moments after I handed them a napkin and a Stella Artois. There is a specific type of bar-goer – not my usuals, not my friends, but strangers – who often told me these personal stories. Between my interest in Cagean music philosophy and my general disinterest in these people’s lives, I occasionally found myself listening to the internal rhythms of their speech, rather than the actual words about their marriage. I could always tell when I wasn't the first bartender to hear a customer's story or anecdote, because in these cases, the slightly-buzzed orator would reach moments of rhythmic regularity not present in their extemporaneous conversation. When I wasn't feeling the aforementioned apathy, I appreciated these stories for their slightly-masked, yet authentic personal expressions of universal human struggle, "rehearsed" or not.
Songs from the Barstool imitates both regular and irregular rhythmic speech patterns (highlighted by the accompaniment of bar glasses, wood blocks, bongos, and a triangle) in a fictional retelling of a common bar-side venting session. This story was written to contain generalized themes and characters. Any resemblance to specific people is purely coincidental.