Oh Yeah, That Gore

I pulled my copy of Michael Nicolella's Shard out of the shipping box and there, on the front lower right, was a black-and-white "Parental Advisory" sticker. My first thought was, "Well, thank God, who knows what would happen if the youth of the country listened to too much atonal music."

Nicolella's album title comes from the recording of Elliott Carter's Shard, a particularly dissonant and difficult 20th-century guitar piece, and the reason I'd bought the album.

But alas, the sticker was not, as I had hoped, for Shard (nothing would spur interest in atonalism as quickly as banning it). No, it was for the next track on the disc, an electro-acoustic work for electric guitar and tape called Grab It. The tape contains highly processed fragments of interviews with prisoners. And they're not happy campers. It is, however, a very interesting work as the guitar mirrors, almost exactly, the pitch and intonation of the speech fragments going on around it.

And so, because the track includes the word "motherfucker" (one word or two? I never know), an album of difficult, engaging, and serious 20th and 21st century music gets a parental advisory label.

Lest we forget, in the haze of nostalgia brought on by the Nobel prize, it was Al Gore's wife Tipper who first called for censorship of music and, when that failed, browbeat the industry into the labeling we have today. We should also remember that Al backed his spouse 100%.

Whatever its virtues in other contexts, on the front of an album of dissonant contemporary music, the label is utterly and simply stupid. I look forward to the day when we have a country of adults.


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