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What Is Industrial Music, Anyway?


I spent the better part of this week listening to a really cool history podcast in which the speaker devoted a good deal of time to discussing the question of definitions when studying history. You know, the kinds of things like "what does Middle Eastern" in Middle Eastern History mean?" --- or: "when does the Old English period end?". Well, these are interesting questions, but they also got me to thinking about the question of genre, and the by-now well-known question (wait for it)...



The historian gave me some food for thought: while questions about definitions are often followed by a collective groan, the fact that such questions pop up and won't go away, within a group or sub-culture, indicates rather that that group or sub-culture is thriving, engaged in something meaningful and (most importantly) has some self-awareness about what it's about and where it's going.

That's a mouthful, but it's a positive mouthful.

The question of genre is a vexed one, and I think it might take a handful of rants to go over it. But perhaps that will be worth the time invested (also the time to read it). First off, genre often gets confused with some kind of post-modern/post-structural idea about control. I'll put my cards on the table face up on this one and say I think that's a bit of Koolaid that we should all drink less of. In other words, I don't think the impulse to classify one's record collection, group one's favourite bands, or the styles into which Coil's albums fall into is in some way a secret mask for a nasty impulse to control art.

On the contrary, I think if anything defining genre has more to do with making connections -- and I mean broadly, that is making connections amongst peers, feelings, styles, cultures, countries... well, just about anything. So when an artist or listener reacts on a forum by saying "HEY MAN, IT'S ALL JUST MUSIC STOP TRYING TO PIDGEONHOLE ME," -- I want to say that making connections is in fact the exact opposite of pidgeonholing (literally, too). And therefore I really admire the discussions about genre -- about what is or isn't industrial -- provided they are genuinely about trying to make connections.

More next week.