In the early days of my History of Modern Design course last spring, which as you may know by now has been one of the biggest influencers in my creation of this blog and of most other aspects of my design-related world, our professor had the class chant as loudly as possible “GESAMT – KUNST – WERK. GESAMT- KUNST – WERK. GESAMT-KUNST-WERK” and from time to time, I still catch myself chanting this extremely strange sounding word in the back of my brain. As the lecture hall was screaming German gibberish, we were beginning an extremely important lesson about design, though we did not know it.
The ‘gesamtkunstwerk’, a term coined by the German opera composer, Richard Wagner, is a term that translates to ‘the total work of art.’ In Wagner’s gesamtkunstwerk, he revolutionized the idea of the opera to encompass all forms of art into one total, immersive, sensory overload of opera performance. This idea of the total work of art has transcended through time and has become an important concept for many of today’s modern designers, thinkers and creators, regardless of their distance from opera. The Dada cabaret was a similar, immersive, sensory overload performance, just as the earliest motion pictures were able to immerse the viewers into a world apart from their own.
So, in spirit of the Gesamtkunstwerk, and since I believe design and music are very closely related, I would like to write a little bit about a musician who has found a concept and created his own ‘total work of art’ in the production of his work.
Cody Duncan, a current electronic/rock/experimental musician has just released his first full-length album entitled ‘Pilgrim.’ This album is a concept album, in which each song is related to the other, which is something very few music artists do now-a-days; most ‘albums’ are just CD’s with songs on them, but this is Cody Duncan’s ‘gesamtkunstwerk’ – a total, relevant, and immersive work of art. His idea for ‘Pilgrim’ is to have a sort of musical pilgrimage from very electronic and pixilated songs to very organic and acoustic songs. Along with this complete album, Cody Duncan created an accompanying virtual booklet for his album, as well as a video trailer for ‘Pilgrim.’
Cody Duncan is an independent artist who produces every single element of his work and is in full control of each aspect of his music. He works at home with his many musical instruments and electronic devices to create his amazing music, his graphic artwork, and his video artwork. He has created a full package, a full body of artwork, without the influence of money or media to determine the angle he chooses to take in his artistic choices. He also makes all of his work available for free (though donations/contributions are of course greatly appreciated) for his fans to be able to enjoy as they wish. I find his dedication to his work to be quite inspiring for many other independent musicians/designers/artists hoping to have their name noticed, and I truly believe that this talented young musician deserves to be known as he continues to grow in his own musical ‘gesamtkunstwerk’.
He has a blog where you can see his work and commentary, as well as a compilation of his work on his bandcamp.com website; on this site, you will also find a few compilations of songs he made independently of ‘Pilgrim’. When you have some free time, I highly recommend sitting down to listen to some of his music and read his blog. Also, in respect for his gesamtkunstwerk and all the work he put into each song, it is best to listen to his music with headphones, as the speakers on most computers do not do it justice.
Some of my personal favorite songs are:
(Many songs don’t have a title, just a date, as you will see from reading his blog). You can listen to these individually by clicking on them below (they're all links to the song listed).
Free, Numb (on Pilgrim)
Begging (on Pilgrim)
So It Goes (on Pilgrim)
07292009 (on Journal: 2009 Summer)
08142009_2 (on Journal: 2009 Summer)
09012009 (on Journal: 2009 Summer)
Fragment 2 (on Journal: 2009 Fall)
October Again (on Journal: 2009 Fall)
My Typewriter (on Journal: 2009 Fall)
Machines (on Journal: 2009 Fall)
My Planet has Children (on Journal: 2009 Fall)
Breed and Succeed (on Journal: 2009 Fall) *(my current personal favorite - I have it on repeat. The lyrics to this song are written on this link - they are really great!)
I hope you enjoy Cody Duncan’s music as much as I do
Trailer for Pilgrim: