Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse

by John Hardin/Tin Can Luminary

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Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse,
A Collection of Post-Industrial Chamber Music for Instruments Made from Found Objects and Recycled Materials

by John Hardin

Over the last couple of years, I've been learning to play, and composing music for, a collection of idiosyncratic musical instruments that I built from found objects and recycled materials. I find tinkering with these little gadgets very relaxing, and doing it encourages me to think about music in new ways. I'm not sure that playing these new homemade instruments makes me a better musician, but I think that listening to them makes me a better listener.

These days, we find ourselves swimming though a soup of slickly produced high-tech earworms designed to reach out and grab the listener right from the first note. The music business is highly competitive and musicians work very hard to grab an audience and hold their attention. This tends to make listeners lazy, and does for listener's tastes, what junk food does for a kid's palette.

As in most of life, what works for business does not necessarily serve the needs of the people. Music is a form of communication. We call media, “media” because it mediates our communications. Instead of hearing each others music, mostly we hear expensive, sterilized pap, made by professionals, for corporations. The internet has reduced music to a commodity sorted by genre, or tailored to your tastes by their special proprietary algorithm. Just what you need, a whole bag of cheeze doodles for your ears.

Music has an important role in culture, but for music to effectively communicate new cultural ideas, people have to listen, and listeners need to hear something outside of their comfort zone once in a while. Active listeners, constantly search for new, different and adventurous music to listen to, while passive listeners happily endure a familiar genre of music all day, and measure it's quality largely by how well produced, and reproduced, it is. We need more active listeners. Active listeners are more inclined to seek out the music of their peers, rather than the corporate media products designed to fill the space, but empty the music of context.

Listening to any music, well played or not, derivative or original, reminds us of the miraculous acuity of human hearing, and the overwhelming power of silence. Listening to challenging music affects the mind in the same way that entertaining challenging ideas does. Listening to challenging music is good exercise. It stretches the imagination, focuses the mind, and allows for a kind of communication that conveys ideas and emotions though rhythm, timbre, pitch and melody. Active listening is always rewarding, whether you're re-enjoying familiar music, exploring new music, or contriving new musical instruments from found objects.

I've assembled a collection of instruments you've never heard before. They're not much to look at, and they sure don't sound like a Stradivarius, but they do, in a way, represent, and celebrate, the abundance of our time. Now that the planet has been laid to ruin, we inherit a wealth of waste. Never before, at any time in history could an average person find, free for the taking, so many exotic materials, from high-tech polymers and plastics, to high-carbon steel, aluminum, brass, lead, and half-a-dozen other metal alloys. We find these exotic materials in the most bizarre shapes and forms, all around us, we call it “garbage.”

At the same time, traditional instrument making materials, like rosewood, ebony and ivory, have all become rare, endangered, and threatened with extinction. As these materials disappear, the music those instruments spawned rings hollow. How sad will it be to hear a piano in a world without elephants? The repertoire of traditional instruments is as exhausted as the natural resources necessary to create them. We've heard it all before.

New high-tech computer-based instruments don't do a lot for me either. The more software you interact with, the more those software programmers become collaborators on your music. These programs always suggest ways of working, if not sounds to use, and it's no accident that a lot of artists who use these programs tend to sound similar. These programmers collaborate with you, but they don't collaborate individually. They make the same suggestions to a whole generation of young artist. Far from freeing musicians from their own musical limitations, music software allows corporations to mediate, and monetize the composition of music, in addition to the production, promotion and distribution of it.

So, from the ruins of the industrial revolution, in an unmediated act of creativity, I've assembled an ensemble of unique musical instruments, and composed some music for them that I hope reflects my time and place in history. I call it “post-industrial chamber music.” I hope you'll take the time to listen to it.


released January 5, 2017

Composed, arranged and produced by John Hardin



Track Name: Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse
Welcome to the Zombie Apocalypse

The collapse of civilization is ugly
and the saddest part is watching the death of a culture as it plays out in the live of the people around us
Of course most of the people around us don't realize that the underpinnings of their culture is crumbling to rubble
Instead they wonder what's wrong with themselves
They wonder why they find it so hard to cope,
why they have to work so hard, but never get ahead
They wonder why they have to make so many decisions
and why none of the decisions make any sense outside of the narrowest circumstances in which they are made.
Will I have the Americano or a Cappuccino
or maybe I'll go across the street and have a smoothie
What do I want seems to be the only question that matters
You have millions of choices, but none of them give you what you need
All of them take more than they give
Why would you want any of it?
Through unbridled capitalism we have successfully replaced million of years of cultural evolution
with a system of exploitation so complete that no individual can escape it.
In the digital age almost every thought becomes trackable by people searching for new ways to exploit your every weakness
It's not about selling products, it's about controlling your life
It's about squeezing out every single original thought, and replacing it with corporate media
It's about undermining your belief in yourself, and your connection to the Earth
It's about limiting your ability to think, by limiting the amount of time you have available to think,
and limiting the number of ideas you have to think with
It's about narrowing your options and forcing you to conform
and ultimately, it's about slavery
It's about effectively exploiting the life force of every single human being on Earth,
with a level of efficiency the whip and the shackle could never achieve
and it's about using the collective power of humanity to destroy everything natural, beautiful interesting and alive in the whole world as fast as possible
Ecosystems collapse, the planet heats up and over a hundred and fifty species of plant and animal become extinct every single day
Our legacy will be written in stone
The fossil records will show that we civilized humans initiated the cataclysm that ended an era
It's official, we have brought on the sixth great extinction in the four and a half billion year history of life on Earth and with every animal whose habitat gets chopped down buried in silt or poisoned a piece of us dies with it
This mutant culture has high-jacked our lives and it will kill us unless we stop it
That's what's going on here
That's what's become of our culture, and that's what's become of our lives
This is not some conspiracy theory
This was done intentionally and overtly, and by now, few of us can even imagine another way to live
We're trapped
There's no future in our past
This is how it is folks
For all of your thousands of daily decisions, you really don't have a choice, and you wouldn't know how to make it if you did
You can pretend its not true
You've already learned to deny the evidence of your own senses
You can take drugs that will keep you from noticing, or caring or even thinking about it, but you can't save it, and you can't change it or make it better
All you can do is try to stop it before it kills you, and get out of the way when it falls
This is the story of our lives
Welcome to the zombie apocalypse
Track Name: Koyaanisqatsi