April 2003
volume 1, issue 2


Part 3: Music for an Angry Mob

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Or homologous development. You were responding to the same causes.

Grey: After they made the example of using music as a kind of terrifying force in conflict, Europe began doing the same and that's where all the European military marching bands came from, down to your high school marching bands.

Lex: Why do you feel good about maintaining this tradition so bound up with war and militarism?

Grey: Because there's a difference between militarism and conflict. A lot of people say that they're 'warriors for peace' or warriors for something. I don't know what I'm a warrior for, and I don't even like that word. But you can be involved in a conflict which you feel is a good struggle. Being involved in a conflict, you have the right to use the tools of conflict. That's what a lot of direct action is about. I feel that using this music in this way, as a force, is just using the tools in the toolbox. I don't think it's inappropriate.

Lex: Okay... And how does your work with the INB relate with your other work?

Grey: The computer-based music that I'm creating is a little lonely. It's just me and a computer. In a basement. Crumpled up in front of a machine that is shooting radiation with a gun from behind a piece of glass. It's unhealthy, it's lonely, it's not good for my social skills. And, for me, computer music is kind of antithetical to my politics. So INB provides some balance. INB is something extremely social. I have to deal with 20 people, to move 20 people, to plan the logistics of 20 people. It's enormous: the transportation, food and lodging anytime we go anywhere. It needs and provides a really wide social network. It keeps my body in shape; physically drumming, holding a stick and beating on something. It's everything that a computer isn't.

Lex: I understand the reasons you just said about it being antithetical to your politics, but do you really feel like it's antithetical, or is that just an intellectual position?

Grey: No. I mean, I've been a Luddite, and in my core I still am. It's another one of those toolbox situations. To me, the computer is one of the most interesting tools available. I don't want to be a cheerleader for technology. I don't want to be obsessed by it. I don't want it to dominate my life. But, I feel like I've been given a gift, being able to play with something so new, musically; to be able to explore different ideas. I'd be a fool not to use it! It's such an important and interesting tool, such a place of pioneering…
Then, I get concerned that that desire to pioneer is part of a whole European analysis, a kind of a linear thinking…

Lex: Forging ahead.

Grey: Forging ahead, brave new worlds, breaking new ground. That's part of the hubris of a European mind. I think we've seen what the European mind has done to the world. Nature has been turned into a shopping mall. Resources are exactly that- resources. There are no trees: there are tree farms. There's no air: there's a substrate you're allowed to put certain parts per million of substances into before people start dying. There's just no respect.

Lex: You find that the source of this destruction in a European consciousness?

Grey: I don't know. I often suspect that if some non-European global power had emerged, it would have been just as ruthless. For instance, if the Ottomans had never been defeated, would we have a better world? Or if one of the African kingdoms had?

Lex: Is power the problem?

Grey: I think it's wildly popular to blame our current situation on the European mind. I'm not going to disagree with that. But, in my heart of hearts, I believe that it's that power. Any model of power and hierarchy would be ultimately fucked up in a different way. The way that Europeans colonized the world, and colonized people is this way; through ideas of efficiency, of the efficiency of the commodity… Everything is a unit that can be packaged, transferred and sold. I don't want to be dogmatic in the way I question it, but I can't just accept it as a truth that I should be pioneering, or that I should be making something that's never been done before. But, also, I feel like I haven't inherited any traditions, so what else would I do, if I'm a creative person, but create new things?

Lex: What do you mean, though, you haven't inherited any traditions? Isn't the idea of the avant-garde, of creative progression and art history, isn't that one of the greatest traditions in the Western world? That you've learned from the artists who've come before you, and you will push your form into the future into its next blossom and fruition. Don't you think that's a great tradition?

Grey: Yeah, but I wonder if I am part of an avant-garde. Sometimes I feel like I'm a folk artist. Really, it's a strange analysis. I've been spending a lot of time with this composer lately. He makes high art music, experimental composition. We did a Chinese percussion duo recently, and I realized This is high art music. And I realized that actually I don't do a whole lot of that; that I am obsessed by working with comprehensible themes for common people.

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