Modern technology aids and amplifies our relationship to music. We can store, categorize, purchase, and exchange music. We can digitize our instruments and synthesize our voices. This new musical world provides us with a level of involvement and participation unseen before our time. And when I thought that I had seen it all—from YouTube mashups to secret surprise albums—the Internet created an altogether new conception of “Big Band” or “Concert Band” music.
Enter: The Family Crest.
A band of over 400 members, The Family Crest comes together through craigslist ads and conservatories. Liam McCormick and John Seeterlin, the band’s founders, were members of a typically sized band that was on the brink of breaking up. Realizing that they “always liked making music with people—getting a bunch of people together and singing,” they sought to do this on a large scale. A much larger scale.
The members of the band—the “extended family” as they call it—come from all over and run the entire gambit of musical ability. Our modern capabilities take this “open arms” policy to the next level. Because they are able to advertise and bring together such an array of people, their sound takes on a pluralistic character.
“There is a very interesting thing that happens when you put a group of people together to sing,” McCormick told NPR. In their interview, he describes the process of rehearsing lines of music twenty and thirty times. When repeated, he claims that it is almost like reciting a mantra, “the body kind of syncs up with everyone around you.” I imagine it as something like an entire field of wheat swaying in the wind. One stalk, on its own, would not make much of a stir, but an entire field’s worth whistles with every breeze.
As someone typically skeptical of technology’s role in society—and specifically in the arts—I find it hard to ignore that they owe much of their recruiting success to modern day media and communication. Moreover, I am forced to concede that in this case, their use of the internet served a greater purpose than the everyday tweet or redundant share. Rather than facilitate the individualized experience of iTunes through a pair of Beats by Dre, our technology has allowed these musicians to reach through the endless networks and connections that characterize our lives and into the sonic instinct of our souls.
With bouts of both instrumental and vocal pieces, The Family Crest has altered the standard “symphony.” From strings to percussion, and everything in between, their notes and rhythms come together to make an almost choral music, overlaid with power rock vocals. Like a combination of the Brooklyn Tabernacle and 30 Seconds to Mars’ Kings and Queens, The Family Crest makes you want to jump up and join in. Indeed, something very interesting happens when you bring people together simply to make music. Not for their job, not for the recognition, but simply for the act of creating beautiful sounds. Their story reminds me that there is power, not only in listening to music, but in making it as well. At once distinct but unified, the voices and the instruments crescendo like the crest of a wave, and crash down through your earphones and speakers.
This band may be at the forefront of a new wave of music production. Rather than listening to the top five or six bands that monopolize the music scene in any one genre, maybe we will begin to see massive musical projects like the Family Crest. Though our connections through hashtags and quizzes are meaningful in their own right (right?) I would venture to say that this kind of connection taps into something deeper and gives our desire for community a more constructive and emotive outlet.
Photo: Jorge Franganillo/Flickr and Pam Shu/The Georgetown Voice