Nerds Make Music Too, and That’s Cool

This month has been exhausting. Black History Month always brings pushback: talk of a Black Spider-Man has resurfaced with all the associated bigotry, and current events have been as bad as always. It’s been really emotionally taxing, so I want to talk about something a little lighter and upbeat: nerd-inspired music. (Occasional NSFW language follows.)

It’s pretty well known that nerdy communities are very creative. People are very passionate about their fandoms. Fanfiction, fanart, and cosplay often seem like the backbone of many fandom’s popularity.This is no coincidence. People either want to see more from these stories, different representations, or simply want to pay tribute to them.

I am of the firm belief that music is one of the most important aspects of any work that contains audio (so, movies, shows, video games, or any other multimedia work). The sort of music used can make or break the media it is used in. For example, we can always be reminded of what we felt during many of the more tense moments in our favorite shows because of the background music.The same could be said for sad moments. Many people agree that Inception worked to a much better degree because of the big orchestral background noise and theming. Conversely, poor music choices can make a work forgettable, or worse, undercut the narrative direction. For example, there is an old Transformers cartoon episode about the consequences of war. The final scene, though bleak, is scored with triumphant music—it doesn’t match the theme at all. On the other side of the spectrum, any video game with boring, monotonous music can really ruin a fan’s enjoyment if it plays for too long.

Bad music can really make you want to take your headphones off your ears.

Bad music can really make you want to take your headphones off your ears.

Given this, it is no wonder that musically inclined geeks and nerds want to use their ability to pay tribute to their favorite works and pastimes. In fact, there are entire communities dedicated to this form of fanwork. Namely, I want to highlight the video game remix scene and the nerdcore hip-hop scene. These groups have a lot in common, actually, despite the diversity of genres present.

The remix scene is a bit more straightforward in its goal. People simply redo their favorite songs from games, but with their own flavor. More basic remixes are just modernized versions of old songs with updates to match current technologies and trends. However, the bulk of the remixes are genre-shifted versions of fan favorites. For example, a quick search on YouTube reveals that there is a dubstep remix of many songs from the classic era of video games. There is far more material out there, though. One of the more prominent groups doing video game remixes is OverClocked ReMix. Promising a few thousand high quality tracks from a range of genres and games, they definitely deliver. Their remixes tend to stray from direct covers into the territory of more new interpretations (like this remix of “Simple and Clean” from Kingdom Hearts). It feels like the fanfiction of music.

The nerdcore hip-hop community has a lot in common with this. Most music in video games isn’t based on rap. So in a way, these musicians are also putting their flavor into the hobby. My fellow writer, Ink, has written on the genre and its connection with nostalgia as well. Using sampling, reusing and re-purposing clips from audio to make a new sound, rappers can bring the music from games and shows to create a new track and add lyrics to give it new feeling. The most famous for this is Mega Ran, a rapper who sampled old tracks from Mega Man games and Final Fantasy VII to create a space for new lyrics. Additionally there’s Sammus, who, as you might guess by her name, is known for rapping over sounds reminiscent of the Metroid series. Sampling isn’t the only way the genre relates to its nerdy inspiration. Their lyrical content also fits the criteria, such as cartoons, movies, video games, comics, and literature. Really, pop culture as a whole is in their wheelhouse. I wrote about Adam Warrock a few months back, and there are many more in the space. MC Lars, for example, is known for rapping about literature, English, and Edgar Allen Poe. The list goes on.

Although I highlighted only two communities of music makers in the geeky space, I’d be remiss not to mention the geek rock sector and My Little Pony remix community. Outfits like Powerglove and The Megas are famous for doing rock covers and remixes of old video game themes. The MLP fandom has tons of remixes online as well. I’m not well-versed in either of these fandoms and I don’t feel qualified to speak at length about them, but their existence backs up the truth of how diverse musical tribute culture is. Even still, there is the chiptune music community, who is fueled by nostalgia without being specific to any nerdy fandom, but has a similar aesthetic.

In conclusion, I just wanted to bring a spotlight to another faction of fandom appreciation. I always say that representation matters, and that’s true on an interest level as well. Geeky music contains even more different kinds of fans and creators, and it all helps give everyone a place at the table. Look around, and there’s something for everyone. So if you’re like me and stressed out by current events, both nerdy and otherwise, take some time to relax with some great music.

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