A Cultural Analysis: Inspiration to Independent Music Culture by Melissa Trembath [Guest Wreckers]
May 21, 2012 Leave a comment
Note from the editor: Indeed, many of you will recognize the name Trembath as it is the same as my own. Melissa is indeed my wife, and thus was automatically included as a guest for our second run of Guest Wreckers. Biased much? Of course. But, when Melissa said she had chosen to write about Independent Music for an assigned paper on culture analysis in her English class at SFCC, and furthermore that she would be using the book I founded/edited Children of Mercy: Tales and Teachings From The World of Independent Music as an artifact to represent said culture, I was seriously in awe and extremely flattered. It is also a very well structured and informative paper, and deserving of a spot on Trainwreck’d Society. And she promised me a back rub and several other favors. So sue me if I did so oblige. If you have an issue with this, start your own blog, and complain about these matters elsewhere. Other than that….Enjoy!
Inspiration to Independent Music Culture
How does one explain the independent music culture? It means so many different things to different people. Tim Chaplin from the experimental rock band Factory Kids defined it as “Doing things for yourself-in some cases, often by yourself, out of sheer necessity-or just because you want to”(Chaplin, 44). For Cyndi Kimmel, a former DJ for KZUU at Washington State University, independent music “is an intended focus on the independence of music from major commercial record labels and boundaries” (Kimmel, 109). The term independent means: free from authority, control, or domination, operate alone, non dependant, and capable of thinking or acting without consultation or guidance from others. With that definition I think independent music is freedom to do what an artist wants, make the music they want, without having to answer to anyone.
In the independent music culture, one artifact that represents an inspiring aspect of independent music is a book entitled Children of Mercy. It is a collection of stories and essays from people within the culture. The contributors to the book write about many different topics including the struggles of being an independent artist, what independent music means to them, independent music history, and several other topics that hold a significant meaning in the independent world. In this book the reader gets forty different perspectives that are all centered on independent music and its culture. In this paper there will be perspectives from contributors in the book, as they wrote them in Children of Mercy. They will help to explain the independent music culture and the significance of this book.
One reason Children of Mercy is a unique book is because of how it was produced. If we were to apply the standards of independent music to this book it would definitely qualify as an independent project. It has so many aspects of the independent culture in its creation. It was produced by a publisher working out of his garage, created and edited by a music blogger, and distributed by the founder who would drop off copies to local bookstores. Another interesting part of this book is it had a compilation album that went along with the book. In addition to submitting an essay to the book some artist donated music or created original songs for the album.
An additional unique quality to this book was that it was made with little money out of pocket from the creator. There was a fundraising event where people donated money to help get the project started and completed. The album was handmade and the artwork for the album as well as the book was freely created by friends of the founder. It was literally a group effort to bring this book to life. Also another unique quality to this book is that all profits are donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. The charity was chosen because a contributor to the book has a son who suffers from Cystic Fibrosis. This book has many unique qualities to it, even though it is just an ordinary object.
Children of Mercy is after all just a book, which is simply an ordinary object. It is also not the first of its kind. There have been other books like this one. An example is Peter Terzian’s Heavy Rotations which actually influenced the editor to create Children of Mercy. Terzian’s book has similar qualities to Children of Mercy but it is also very different. In Heavy Rotations music journalists write about different albums individually. This is a contrast to Children of Mercy where members of the independent music world are writing about all different aspects of life within music.
Children of Mercy stands for everything Independent. It stands for independence from the mainstream media as an important way of having art uncorrupted and free from influence. It reinforces the belief that music creation can be done easily as long as the artist has the drive and spirit to create art for and by themselves. As Matt Montgomery, a music journalist and founder of MusicGeek.org, said about an indie band winning a Grammy: “It’s yet another road sign on the long trek toward a culture of independence in music, culture, and society”(Montgomery, 79). I believe Children of Mercy is also a road sign toward getting recognition for independent music into the world.
People outside of this culture might not understand the significance of independent music. They could see Children of Mercy as just another book about music. Some people could look at independent culture as amateurish. They might think that anyone could be an independent artist even if they do not actually have any talent. In the words of Matt Montgomery on the significance of independent music “when information, media, culture is not spoon-fed, people think. And they don’t just think a little – they think a lot, and they think constantly. If not because they have to, then because they can”(Montgomery, 80). The beauty of this culture is that there is so much available. If people do not like one artist or group that does not mean they will not like any others. There are so many different sounds, emotions, and thoughts thrust out into this culture. In Children of Mercy the contributors highlight these aspects throughout their tales and teachings from the independent world. While some people may say that it is just another book, it is actually a meaningful book full of hopes, dreams, thoughts, ideas, emotional struggles, and inspiration.
Children of Mercy can enlighten people about real life accounts in the independent culture, by actual people in the independent world. It offers a perspective into this culture that may have never been put out there before. This book speaks to the independent at heart. Not just people who play music or write novels but, whatever it is they want to accomplish they can. They do not need a publishing agency to accept them, or a major music label to put out their music. Do it yourself. Jess Gulbranson put it best when he wrote “No matter how bad you are at what you love to do, or how untrained, or unmotivated, YOU CAN DO IT. Just start”(Gulbranson, 71).
After exploring Children of Mercy my thoughts on independent music and the culture surrounding it has been enhanced. This book has helped me realize how much passion is put into independent music. The main reason independent music is important to me is because of the torrent of emotion that the music exudes. I love the feelings I get when I listen to independent music whether happy, sad or angry. I connect to it and that is what music is about to me: the connection. Cyndi Kimmel stated it best when she said “we comprehend music as a universal language used to express everything seen, thought, felt, and done reminding us of our shared commonalities”(Kimmel, 109). I feel as though I understand just a bit more about the independent culture after reading all the stories and teachings within Children of Mercy. When looked at a little closer people can find added meaning, more inspiration, and a different perspective then they may have had before reading Children of Mercy.
Melissa Trembath is a student with dual studentizionship at Spokane Falls Community College and Spokane Community College with studies in Diagnostic Medical Sonography. She is also the mother of three daughters and the wife of Trainwreck’d Society’s founder/editor/head wino Ron Trembath. She currently resides in Spokane, Washington and has been deemed to be the greatest woman on earth.