December 31, 2009
Moustache solo in C major dazzles Telluride
TELLURIDE, CO — As progressive banjo players continued their race towards the most innovative style, one picker’s achievement stood alone this year as the most significant artistic and musical advance in all of banjo playing.
Scholars agree that Noam Pikelny’s performance at the 2009 Telluride Bluegrass Festival marked a milestone in modern banjo and established a new paradigm for artistic innovation in acoustic music.
During Punch Brothers’ highly anticipated “Play and Sing Bluegrass” set, Pikelny played flawlessly in a variety of styles but did so with long sideburns and a highly ironic moustache styled after many well-known players’ of the 1970’s.
Critics and fans immediately agreed that Pikelny’s facial hair constituted a breakthrough tour-de-force in musical sarcasm.
For the past ten years, banjo players have struggled with how to achieve 21st century “superirony” through progressive banjo playing.
Despite countless advances affecting fingerings, tunings, tone, amplification, and harmony, the problem of how to make progressive banjo playing less earnest and more sardonic has repeatedly thwarted banjoists.
“I don’t get it. You’d think these guys were working on Sputnik or something,” said M. Murray, a rock music fan.
Indeed, banjo players have historically sought technical solutions to musical problems, an approach which worked well for most of the last century.
Luminaries such as Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, Bill Keith, and Bela Fleck all founded influential music careers on their development of pioneering new techniques.
“Those days are over. Novelty is no longer quite such an important force behind major musical achievements,” said Dr. Sherwood Harman, a pop musicologist.
“As Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake, Usher, the Arctic Monkeys, Britney Spears, OutKast, the White Stripes, and countless indie bands have demonstrated: the greatest artistic innovation of the ‘00’s has been to unapologetically borrow and recombine preexisting styles, but mix in a shit-ton of irony,” he continued.
“Do you mean like Kanye West’s space odyssey?” asked one student.
“No, actually, that was serious,” responded Dr. Harman.
On the final night of Telluride, Fleck joined Pikelny and the rest of Punch Brothers on stage at the Sheridan Opera House, and the expanded group reprised Fleck’s modern bluegrass classic “See Rock City”.
“But instead of taking a banjo break when his turn came around, Noam just let the audience consider his moustache for like a minute-and-a-half,” recalled E. Helmers, a banjo player in the audience.
Although Fleck played a creative and engaging solo over his own composition, his playing lacked the utter freshness and originality of Pikelny’s moustache solo.
Even skeptics of progressive bluegrass acknowledged Pikelny’s totally unique and highly effective approach.
“Punch Brothers are my new favorite band,” said C. DiMario, who is uncommonly skeptical of most things.
Over the course of the concert, Pikelny brought his moustache to bear on everything from note-for-note Radiohead covers to ultra-traditional bluegrass banjo breaks.
“Noam has just brought progressive banjo playing into the new decade,” said Helmers.
MARIETTA, GA — The United States’ practice of torturing detainees and prisoners of war with prolonged exposure to unbearably loud music at Guantanamo Bay and other ‘black sites’ has provoked strong reactions of outrage and concern within the music industry.
But within the world of bluegrass several professionals are expressing support for the use of music in the War on Terror, arguing that very loud music is both legal and highly effective as a tool of interrogation.
Sources close to the band Mountain Heart indicate that the renowned group is urgently striving to play faster, harder, and louder than ever before in hopes that its music help win the war on terror.
“The revelation of music torture or, ‘torture lite’, was a real call-to-arms for these guys,” said a friend of the band.
Music experts agree that Mountain Heart is the only bluegrass band with the skills, intensity, and patriotic fervor to make music significantly more effective than what the US government already uses on prisoners.
“They could make Deicide’s ‘F**k Your God’ seem like a pretty little lullaby,” said bluegrass documentarian M. Miado.
“Back in simpler times, State would send American musicians to perform overseas to promote peace, cultural harmony, and a positive perception of the US, ” said an anonymous State Department official.
One Guantanamo interrogator estimated that excruciatingly loud, repetitive music interspersed with blinding flashes of strobe light could ‘break’ a detainee in just four days.
“Four days is too long when lives hang in the balance,” said one Mountain Heart member. “If we need actionable intelligence we need it NOW.”
The music of Mountain Heart, which to this point has been geared toward audience enjoyment, has nonetheless been characterized by an unyielding display of power, American passion, and complete dominance over the listener and other bluegrass ensembles.
Indeed, medical experts caution that enjoying the music of Mountain Heart for more than two consecutive hours causes a sensory over-stimulation that may result in permanent desensitization to normal human experiences.
“It’s the closest thing the bluegrass fan has to smoking crack,” said J. Harper, an enthusiast.
Meanwhile, numerous pop stars including members of Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, and REM have recently invoked the Freedom of Information Act to force the CIA and FBI to release the names of songs used in their prisoner interrogations.
Among other things, these stars allege that the CIA is using music to “humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.”
“Dude, Mountain Heart is gonna be all over this,” added Harper.
OAKLAND, CA — Rushad Eggleston, the exceptionally flamboyant cellist and front man of the one-of-a-kind cello rock band Tornado Rider, intends to expand his group with the addition of celebrity bad boy and former basketball star Dennis Rodman.
Rodman will join Graham Terry, electric bass and Scott Manke, drums.
“We were looking for someone who could bring a lot of hustle, energy and stage presence to the Tornado Rider team,” said the band’s manager.
“Rodman brings all those things plus an unparalleled experience with public antics, cross-dressing, tattoos, and sexually transmitted infections,” he added.
Rock critics have hailed Tornado Rider as “the most astonishing expression of pure id ever achieved with a cello.”