First details on an upcoming new album called Progress. Genesis 1:28. Star Trek. The Organians. Klingons. Nietzche. Chinese island builders. Brave New World. The irony of a static music culture in an ever-changing world.
Roger CortonSo it’s time to start talking about the next record? I seem to recall you first hinting at this way back last July.
JCHYes. It’s a concept I’ve been thinking about for a looooong time. The working title is “Progress”.
RCAnd is that title ironic? I also seem to recall you going on about how much you hate how sarcastic and ironic the world has become. First the price hike and now this. The hypocrisy of it all.
Progress is different from ‘growth’ because it’s the attitude that change is not just inevitable but an intrinsic good. Human beings must keep evolving. Improving. We must keep improving. Like sharks. We have to keep swimming on to the next thing, not just to survive but in order to become something better. No one even considers standing pat. On anything. Ad astra!
JCHPerhaps you’re right. I’m less argumentative than I used to be.
JCHMe. Perhaps it’s age catching up with me. But the idea of the record is definitely to question the idea of progress.
JCHIt dawned on me one day that my entire life, the idea of progress has been as ingrained as the idea of gravity. You never see gravity. It’s just there. It’s inevitable. We don’t even think about it.
RCBut progress is an idea. It’s not like gravity. Gravity is a law of nature, right?
JCHYES! They’re not the same at all! What we call “progress” is a man-made construct. But my belief is that everyone considers it as inevitable as gravity. We never stop to think, “Gee I wonder if gravity is a good thing.” Progress is like that.
RCPeople question the idea of progress all the time. That’s one of the most common themes in sci-fi, right?
JCHYou’re right. Actually that’s one of my fave Star Trek themes. Have you noticed how they would recycle the same plot for every version of Star Trek?
JCHSo in every version of Star Trek you have, like, Kirk goes down to some planet where the natives dress like they’re at some Renaissance Fair.
RCRight. Right. All medieval wenches and what not.
JCHExactly. And The Federation has to convince the people to move because the Klingons are about to attack for some reason.
RCBut the natives just smile and say, “Have some grog. Relax.” They refuse to understand the danger.
JCHAnd Kirk is going apoplectic with frustration because these simpletons just don’t get the impending doom. Even Spock is on the edge with how stupid the locals are. But then five minutes before the Klingons attack, the natives morph into beings of pure energy and tell both The Federation and the Klingons to buzz off. But before everyone leaves, the leader of the energy beings makes a little speech. “My son. Five hundred thousand years ago, we were base creatures such as yourselves. Killing each other endlessly. And for what? Minerals! But fortunately, we evolved beyond such base desires. If you don’t blow yerselves up, someday you too will realize that it’s all so pointless; striving for more and more stuff. That shit never gets a guy anywhere. Think about it. Good luck!”
RCI get it. We don’t even seriously consider that option.
JCHRight. Anyone who considers that there might be a limit to technology or growth or conquest or ‘improvement’ is a “Luddite”.
RCBut there are limits. Is that your point?
JCHThere are limits. When I was a kid, nobody would’ve guessed that one could over-fish, right? I mean, it’s THE SEA. You can’t run out of fish for God’s sake. Oops. Turns out you can. You can run out of lots of things.
RCSo this is about environmentalism?
JCHIt’s more than that. It’s an attitude that goes back to the biblical. Genesis 1:28 says something like, “Be fruitful and multiply. Establish dominion…”
RCLike I said, environmentalism. That argument of ‘stewardship’ over the world.
JCHMUCH more. The whole story says to me, You people can never be satisfied with where you are. Even in the Garden Of Eden. It’s not in your nature. To me it’s a manifesto that has been interpreted to say: GROW! EXPAND! CONQUER! Never stop. Never stop. Any problem can and must be solved by moving or building. The writer is saying something profound about our nature.
RCOr maybe it’s been used as a ‘Free Pass’ to do all that stuff.
JCHIndeed. Progress is the source of so many problems, but also the only considered solution. Always moving forward. Never looking back.
RCNot to argue while you’re on a roll, but aren’t you talking about growth as opposed to progress? Are they one and the same in your mind?
JCHI take yer point. Progress is different from ‘growth’ because it’s the attitude that change is not just inevitable but an intrinsic good. Human beings must keep evolving. Improving. We must keep improving. Like sharks. We have to keep swimming on to the next thing, not just to survive but in order to become something better. No one even considers standing pat. On anything. Ad astra!
RCBut isn’t that the conservative argument. “The good ol’ days” and so on? There are lots of forces pushing back against change.
JCHThat’s just talk. Conservative, liberal, whatever. Everyone believes in change. Or rather, they may talk about how they wish things were ol’ timey, but when did that ever stop any development project? No, son. “Progress” is what keeps economies humming. No one can seriously even imagine a world without ‘growth’.
RCPoint taken. Look at the Chinese now. If their economy doesn’t grow six percent this year heads will roll.
JCHEXACTLY! And my fave Chinese news detail is how they are building islands out in the ocean. Building ISLANDS. That is so what I’m talking about. They need off-shore naval bases but no place to put ’em? No problem! Just build islands! That’s so Dune to me. Engineering a better world. It’s Nietzchean in its hubris. The essence of what makes man great! Building! Damn the cost! And that’s the ‘solution’ to every problem, right? Technology. We never say something is impossible. We just assume that we’ll ‘think’ our way out of any problem. Always forward. Never back.
RCOK, we’ve probably run into overtime. So how does this translate into music?
JCHWell, the irony of music these days is that it’s been pretty static, if not retro for the past twenty years. There really hasn’t been any truly new styles since rap. It’s all recycling and collage. I see very little ‘progress’ except in the production end.
RCThe means of production have become more efficient, but the end product isn’t ‘new and improved!’
JCHRIGHT! We’re just getting really, really good at generating music that hits people in just the right spot to make them dance or snooze or get excited or whatever. It’s getting down to a science.
RCLike in Brave New World.
JCHRIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT! Huxley nailed it. The government knows how to create just the right sights and sounds to keep people content. They have scientific departments that have studied biology and physiology and they have it all worked out. We’re getting to that point.
RCAs you said for Beautiful Sounds, “music for a purpose”. But again, how does that translate into music.
JCHWell, you’ll just have to wait for our next action-packed episode to find out, won’t you! But I’ll give you one clue. When I started thinking about this new stuff, I was freaked out about developing something ‘new’ musically. The reason I brought up how static or “retro” music has become is that this kinda freed me up.
RCYou don’t feel a need to come up with anything new? “Same old boring crap” (as you like to say).
JCH(laughs) Oh it’s different for sure. It’s just not new. How’s that for a cliffhanger?
RCWell played, sir.