February 6, 2010

My boyfriend and I have been getting geared up for our trip to PAX East (the east-coast version of Penny Arcade Expo) and, as with the Seattle version of PAX, we are looking forward to the nerdcore concerts than accompany the expo. Nerdcore is a relatively new genre of music that uses themes from all aspects of geekery (’cause “nerdery” just isn’t a word) in its lyrics and in the music’s construction. This genre is growing more and more popular, as songs from some of the more major nerdcore artists are finding their way into the mainstream, mostly through use in video games.

This sort of music seems to be indicative of the influence of technology in out lives. Jonathan Coulton is one artist in particular who uses his songs to illustrate how technology has infiltrated our everyday lives. Coulton’s song “code monkey” describes the mundane life of a computer programmer, stuck in his cubicle, flirting with receptionist, and secretly hating his boss. While humorous, it describes a work place that is becoming more and more of a reality for today’s workers. Other songs by Coulton draw from pop culture and video games for their lyrics while still integrating modern life into the subjects- “re: Your Brains” tells the story of a Zombie apocalypse survivor, hiding in a mall, trying to keep his now-zombie co-worker from consuming his brain, ¬†and “Still Alive” describes the perspective of the homicidal computer from the video game Portal, which tries to kill its human test subjects after they complete a test of new technology for the Aperture corporation (yes, I am a little to familiar with the plot, but it’s an awesome game).

Other nerdcore artists, like Freezepop and MC Frontalot, use new technology to make their music. Frontalot stood out from the other nerdcore rappers with his innovative use of sound sampling (most which was initially pirated from online file sharing sources, but has more recently been obtained through legal channels, since he’s become internet-famous) coupled with geek-themed rap lyrics. Freezepop is notable for their use of the theremin (it’s wicked cool) in their pop/rock songs, and are one of the few bands to use this electronic instrument in their live shows (most sounds from the theremin are more easily generated by a synthesizer or programmed keyboard).

The growing popularity of these bands marks a change in the interests of music (aka media) consumers. More people are enjoying nerdcore songs, possibly because more people are able to relate to topics that were once deemed “geeky”. It marks a change in society, where those once exiled to the realm of geekery are now more acceptable, because the technology they used that marked them as geeks (video games, computers, …theremins…) are not commonplace and popular. Likewise, jobs in technology, which once marked one as a geek, nerd, etc, are now some of the most sought after positions. All the cool kids want to grow up to be video game designers and computer engineers. Technology is pop culture, even though few realize this fact, but the building blocks of pop culture, music, art, writing (and of course consumer products) are all starting to show signs of the influence on technology on their mediums. Nerdcore may not be the next big thing, but it’s certainly another sign of change.



  1. Yes, If you weren’t aware. There is a documentary on Netflix instant watch called “Nerdcore Rising” and it’s all about MC Frontalot and other dudes like MC Chris are there.

    While I wasn’t a fan of MC Frontalot, in particular. I think it’s an interesting genre. Just like the Harry Potter bands or any other silly bands that base themselves in nerd culture.

    With techonolgy on the rise. Nerds are the new cool.

    ps I want to go to PAX at some point, that would be SO RAD. Have fun!

  2. Awesome! Something to watch during my office hours this week.
    I personally enjoy JoCo and Freezepop a bit more than Frontalot, but it’s all pretty interesting.
    You should get yourself to a PAX – east or west – it’s freakin’ awesome.

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