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Old 11-22-2006, 07:29 PM   #1 (permalink)
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So, this probably isn't very intelligent, but I've decided to post one of my college essays, seeing as how it pertains to music and I thought some of you might get a kick out of it/be able to lend some advice.

Prompt: Describe a character in fiction, an historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

When I first heard it, I didn’t think too much of it. In fact, it wasn’t until about a year later that I finally recognized it for the masterpiece that it is. No, I’m not talking about Beethoven’s Ninth or even Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. The album that finally got to me was Husker Du’s Zen Arcade.

I still remember the exact moment it hit me. It was over the summer two years ago, as I was staying in a condo right off the beach. I had been feeling a growing uneasiness and alienation, as nothing on the beach seemed to be pleasing me very much. It was nine o’clock and I was feeling smothered in the tiny condo, so I decided to go for a walk with my Walkman. The streets were deserted, as everyone was inside doing whatever it is people do when they’re at the beach but not on the beach. Never before had an album had as great an emotional impact on me as Zen Arcade did that night walking on the beach. Every word sung, every note played seemed to perfectly encapsulate the tumultuous emotions I had been feeling. Before, the album had seemed disjointed, as it swung wildly between musical styles and genres. That night, I finally recognized how cohesive the album truly was, with strong thematic undercurrents in each song. Each song was a testament to alienation, frustration, and individuality. Unlike the multitude of other albums I had heard focused on those themes, for the first time I recognized the utter conviction and sincerity of the artists. Never before had I been struck so powerfully by the authenticity in any work of art.

To truly understand the influence that Husker Du held over me, however, it is important to understand some things about Husker Du. Husker Du arrived on the music scene in 1979, right as the first wave of punk rock was fading away and a new “scene” was cropping up. This new crop of “hardcore” punk bands was composed of few truly original bands, and many derivative bands more interested in drugs and violence than the actual music. Husker Du’s disdain of this scene was already apparent on their 1983 EP, Metal Circus. This album featured a song titled “It’s Not Funny Anymore,” a desperate plea to their peers to think for themselves and break free of the stagnation of the punk rock scene.

In 1984, the band followed their own advice. They released Zen Arcade, an album that broke almost all the rules of “punk rock.” It was a double album, something reserved in the past only for the most pretentious progressive rock artists, a genre for which punk was supposed to be the polar opposite. The last song on the album, “Reocurring Dreams,” was fourteen minutes long, unheard of in a genre rarely consisting of songs longer than three minutes. And then of course, came the genre experimentation. Zen Arcade featured punk songs rewritten with strong pop sensibilities, tape-loop experiments, psychedelia, acoustic songs, and even a piece with only piano. The album’s sincerity comes not only from its fierce eclecticism, but also from its feeling of recklessness. The album feels like it could self-destruct at any given moment, but it is driven on by its sense of purpose. Husker Du recorded the entire album in 85 hours, and it consists almost entirely of first takes. The conviction and power of the album never falters, not even in the fourteen-minute epic “Reoccuring Dreams,” and at no point does it feel as though the band is winding down.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see the influence this album has on me. I try to emulate its sense of eclecticism, individuality, and perseverance every day. Husker Du, however, have set the bar very high. If I manage to evoke the spirit of this album in anything that I do, it would represent to me the highest level of success.

Last edited by cardboard adolescent; 11-22-2006 at 07:35 PM.
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Old 11-22-2006, 08:08 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I wish I got to write essays about music.
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Old 11-22-2006, 08:09 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Yeah, unfortunately that's probably the only one I'll be able to write about music and I probably still have to write a ton more.
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Old 11-23-2006, 03:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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^ Me too. I like the album but I still feel that same disjointedness CA mentioned the first few times he listened to it. I guess I'll have to wait for it to hit me too.
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