You want postmodern? I’ll give you postmodern.

Phil Ford

So you wanna play rough, huh, Jonathan?

By way of the fabulous UBUWEB, I give you David Soldier’s “American Most Unwanted Song.” I actually own this CD.

An explanation: in the 1990s two Russian artists named Komar and Melamid did a kind of conceptual-art thing where they hired a market-research firm to determine the American public’s likes and dislikes in art.  As the project’s pleasingly retro-90s* website explains,

In an age where opinion polls and market research invade almost every aspect of our “democratic/consumer” society (with the notable exception of art), Komar and Melamid’s project poses relevant questions that an art-interested public, and society in general often fail to ask: What would art look like if it were to please the greatest number of people? Or conversely: What kind of culture is produced by a society that lives and governs itself by opinion polls?

The project expanded to include preference polling in several countries; you can find the raw data here and paintings here. America’s most wanted painting has it all: an autumnal landscape with wild animals, a family enjoying the outdoors, the color blue, and George Washington.

most700

The methodology Dave Soldier used to determine the most and least wanted songs is basically the same, though (it must be admitted) with a rather more desultory methodology. From a sample of 200 people, Soldier determined that


The most unwanted music is over 25 minutes long, veers wildly between
loud and quiet sections, between fast and slow tempos, and features
timbres of extremely high and low pitch, with each dichotomy presented
in abrupt transition. The most unwanted orchestra was determined to be
large, and features the accordion and bagpipe (which tie at 13% as the
most unwanted instrument), banjo, flute, tuba, harp, organ, synthesizer
(the only instrument that appears in both the most wanted and most
unwanted ensembles). An operatic soprano raps and sings atonal music,
advertising jingles, political slogans, and “elevator” music, and a
children’s choir sings jingles and holiday songs. The most unwanted
subjects for lyrics are cowboys and holidays, and the most unwanted
listening circumstances are involuntary exposure to commercials and
elevator music. Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no
covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator
music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200
individuals of the world’s total population would enjoy this piece.

To get the full lyrics you’ll have to buy the CD, but the opening soprano rap is especially arresting: lyrics are simultaneously rap and cowboy-related, while the vocal line is atonal and the bass is provided by a tuba. Note the bagpipe breaks.

Yo, I’m ropin’ up my saddle for the long long ride
Every time I see the desert there’s something inside says
Yo, yo,  this is the life
Give me open land and a big ol’ knife
To get some bear, deer, even a snake
I light me a fire, do the shake and bake
I say yo, yo, I’m a cowboy now.

*Actually not retro, just old.

About Phil Ford

Chairman of the Committee for the Memorial to the Victims of Modernism
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17 Responses to You want postmodern? I’ll give you postmodern.

  1. Jonathan says:

    Uncle! UNCLE!!

  2. ben wolfson says:

    Persons interested in *just* the children’s chorus singing about various holidays can go here: http://unfogged.com/holidays.mp3 for all such sections, spliced together.

  3. ben wolfson says:

    Children’s choir. Silly me.

  4. squashed says:

    My contribution
    This accordion Bach Fuga clip is a hit between mp3 bloggers. Mind you most are writing about rock and been known to trash range of music textures and instrumentations.

    If there is anything people don’t like, it’s music that doesn’t connect but yet forced upon them. On the opposite site, people can readily appreciate delicate craftsmanship with little pointer if a piece resonating that mysterious “soul” thing.

  5. Michael says:

    This was one of the most brilliant things I’ve heard in a long time.
    I love sardonic humor. I love irony. I love pushing and testing the human condition.
    This music could be a soundtrack to the inside of my head.
    I loved it.

  6. I love it! How could you not?
    Larry “Liontamer” Oji
    Head Submissions Evaluator, OverClocked ReMix
    Creator, VG Frequency
    Staff, VGMdb
    http://www.ocremix.org
    http://www.vgfrequency.com
    http://www.vgmdb.net

  7. Spurtman says:

    Both the most wanted and unwanted tracks kind of remind me of “Bran Van 3000”. The unwanted one is, I suspect, a winner for getting rid of dinner guests who’re pushing their welcome…

  8. Daniel says:

    Are you sure they didn’t just find an old Klaus Nomi tune? That sounds just like some of the way-out shit he was doing.

  9. itwasebaumsworldthatdidit says:

    “Therefore, it can be shown that if there is no covariance—someone who dislikes bagpipes is as likely to hate elevator music as someone who despises the organ, for example—fewer than 200 individuals of the world’s total population would enjoy this piece.”
    Pshaw! I could find 200 people who’d listen to this just at my school.

  10. Kip W says:

    Too long. The challenge would have been to find a way to have all the stuff people disliked without just plopping them all in, one by one (or two by two), in order.
    Nothing much here that bugs me, though.
    Years ago, one of my roommates was having an experiment in audiology where he tried playing over-loud music to us. One set was ‘nice’ stuff, the other was stuff we weren’t expected to like (“we” being his other roommates). Our ideas on that were about 180 degrees from where he thought they should be. Sorry, I don’t remember the details.

  11. Nuthatch says:

    Thank you! I’ve been looking for the children’s chorus singing “Labor Day” ever since I heard it on NPR long, long ago.

  12. for some reason I love that painting! Oh yeah I’m an american!
    – T
    http://mostemailednews.com

  13. David says:

    Richard Foreman made a film called “Strong Medicine” in which Ron Vawter repeats the question “Do you like bad music?” over and over.

  14. maureen says:

    as the mother of two of the three children’s choir members i was amazed and amused to find this resurfacing all these years later–i wonder if they will feel likewise since i have posted the unfogged link on my facebook page! thanks for the reminder

  15. Jonny says:

    This song is actually really brilliant. It is a bit painful… but far more interesting than the latest American Idol’s album.

  16. jaswal says:

    sort of like and audio equivalent to a Ken Russell film, you know, just annoying enough to be entertaining

  17. Hitmusic says:

    Are you sure they didn’t just find an old Klaus Nomi tune? That sounds just like some of the way-out shit he was doing.

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