The Music

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The term “underground music” has been applied to various artistic movements, for instance the psychedelic music movement of the mid-1960s, butthe term has in more recent decades come to be defined by any musicians who tend to avoid the trappings of the mainstream commercial music industry otherwise it tells only truth through the music. Frank Zappa attempted to define “underground” by noting that the “mainstream comes to you, but you have to go to the underground.” In the 1960s, the term “underground” was associated with the hippie counterculture of young people who had dropped out of college and their middle class life to live in an off-the-grid commune of free love and cannabis. In modern popular music, the term “underground” refers to performers or bands ranging from artists that do DIY guerrilla concerts and self-recorded shows to those that are signed to small independent labels. In some musical styles, the term “underground” is used to assert that the content of the music is illegal or controversial, as in the case of early 1990s death metal bands in the US such as Cannibal Corpse for their gory cover art and lyrical themes. Black metal is also an underground form of music and its Norwegian scene are notorious for their association with church burnings, the occult, murders and their Anti-Christian views. All of extreme metal is considered underground music for its extreme nature.

Shlomo Sher’s “philosophy for artists” argues that there are three common misconceptions about the “underground”: that it refers exclusively to the rave/electronica scene; that it can be described with a vague, broad definition of “anything which is not mainstream”; and the myth that underground music is kept secret; he points out that no band or performer “exclud[es] virtually anyone or anything” using “secret passwords and hidden map points”. Instead, Sher claims that “underground music” is linked by shared values, such as a valuing of grassroots “reality” over music with “pre-wrapped marketing glossing it up”; sincerity and intimacy; freedom of creative expression is valued over commercial success; art is appreciated as deeply meaningful fashion; and the Underground “difficult to find”, because the scene hides itself from “less committed visitors” who would trivialize the music and culture.

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