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Voiceless Music

I’ve never understood American Idol. People singing. Great. Each time I’ve sat through it, I’ve been completely perplexed by the judges mixed reactions to all of the seemingly identical karaoke performances. These people put on some boutique clothes, get new haircuts, and then just throw their voices around… and people love it! I just don’t see what the big deal is. I guess I’ve never been a fan of “big” voices; Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, and Tina Turner have always just seemed excessive to me. Sometimes, I just don’t understand why people hold the human voice in such high regard.
The last few shows I’ve been to are a testament to my apathy towards the human voice. But one thing I love about instrumental music is the lack of ego in the music. It’s a lot harder to be pompous when you’re keeping your mouth shut. Proverbs 17 reminds us: “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”
Okay, maybe I’m bordering on blasphemy there, but my point is that some of today’s best music keeps it instrumental. I’ll offer up some proof:

  • Unwed Sailor


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Did you know that Unwed Sailor came out with a new album recently? It’s called Little Wars, and it is a fine album indeed. You will find no voices here, just a slew of post-rocking sweetness. They’ve given up that experiment with “singing” (White Ox…) and have looked back to the old days of The Faithful Anchor with this one. I really like it. Check them out here: http://www.myspace.com/unwedsailor

  • Stars of the Lid

Stars of the Lid is the ultimate in ambient music. Their name refers to those colorful spots you see when you close your eyes. Whatever those stars underneath your eyelids are, they are the perfect visual for what this band delivers via droning synths and swelling strings. Think of this music as “audio sleep.” If you ever felt like taking a nap in the afternoon, just throw their music on for about five minutes. You’ll be dreaming deep before you can realize how tired you can be.

they have a myspace too

  • Lymbyc Systym

Most recently, I enjoyed a set by Lymbyc Systym at Chicago’s Empty Bottle. These two brothers take an experimental approach to instrumental music, mixing noisy ambience with glockenspiels and expert musicianship. You can’t mess with their drummer, the guy has got some serious chops. This is a band that keeps your attention without having to say a word. And I think this is the point I’m trying to drive home, some music can speak volumes to a person’s soul without having to rush into lyrical communication. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with singing of course, that would be insane. But sometimes I think we need to get in touch with the more abstract forms of music (the melodies, harmonies, crescendos, distortions, and textures).

(More on Lymbyc Systym)

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See Also

I don’t know if I’d consider him a hero, but one of the best dudes was John Cage. He said:

  • “If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all.”

Try patience in music. It is a virtue that you will not regret having attained (though it may feel like hell in the process)

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