By Ari Sen
It’s in cars. Bedrooms. Pockets.
Nearly everywhere we go it follows us.
Music is all around us. But how much are we actually listening?
In an era when popular music is becoming more and more homogenous a small group of people are working to cut through the noise.
Christian Cail is one of those people.
“No one is actually listening to the music because if they did they would shoot themselves,” Cail said. “It’s something on the background to talk over or it’s something to dance to or it has to do with the aura of celebrity.”
Cail is an up-and-coming composer and a junior at UNC-Chapel Hill. Cail got his start playing rock music on the electric guitar then moved onto jazz before finally discovering more avant-garde styles like free jazz and noise music. Cail describes his style as a mix of jazz, noise music and math rock with added elements from hardcore punk.
Cail’s music also leans heavily on his political beliefs when composing. He is an active member of the UNC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and embraces much of the mainstream socialist platform. His most recent composition “Spring,” a piece for solo piano, is composed using motifs from various national anthems representing prominent points in socialist conflict including the Russian Civil War, the Tet Offensive and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Last fall, Cail traveled to Europe as part of a 14-week honors music study abroad program in London and Florence where he composed a piece called “Old Bolshevism.” He dedicated the piece to Russians “killed in Stalin’s capricious purges.”
When he isn’t composing Cail spends much of his time reading to further his knowledge. Stacks upon stacks of books lie on his desk, mainly from philosophers of the Marxist persuasion.
His beliefs can often cause him strife or conflict with those around him, including his parents, who are conservative Trump-supporters.
Unlike many of his peers on a college campus, Cail does not enjoy things like watching Netflix, cheering on the basketball team and listening to mainstream popular music. He believes the music industry is exploitative because of the capitalist desire to make profit.
“The business model is you take some poor black guy from wherever, whose lyrics are just the imprint of capital—so they’re all about getting money and getting power because in a neighborhood like that and a place like it’s the things that you are removed from because white supremacy and capitalism. It’s just exploitating the image of the thing itself, then managing to brand that and send it back out. It really is one of the most perverse things I can think of.”
This summer Cail will be producing music in New York City with saxophonist and established noise composer Chris Pitsiokos.
Cail views his differences as a strength and actively tries to create strange music that will speak to people the way it spoke to him.
“I think for most people the desire is to fit in. I think for me I sort of gave up on fitting in at least formally,” Cail said. “So listening to weird music for me was a way of finding myself and identifying with something. It sounded more like I felt.”