The third and final part of my interview with the 21st Century Monads. The first part is here, and the second part is here. If readers still have pressing questions which haven't been addressed by the interview, do write them in comments; the Monads might be willing to answer them too! (At least some of them are keeping track of what's going on here, I suspect...) Thanks again to all three Monads for agreeing to do the interview, it's been great fun!
Catarina: Do you play live, all three together? It would be fantastic to have a Monads concert at an APA, for example; it would certainly lighten things up a bit…
Kris: We played together in the same room for the first time ever at the SPAWN metaphysics conference in Syracuse. We were “unplugged”: two guitars and a piano. We rehearsed together for the first time ever two nights before the performance. Talk about nerve-wracking….
Carrie: I think you’ll find it was two guitars, a piano, a tambourine and a toy glockenspiel. Plus a chorus of fans acting as back-up singers. We love them.
Ben: The odds of us playing at the APA are pretty small though.
Catarina: Why is that? Let me guess: all three of you already have jobs, so there’s not much point really in attending at least the Eastern APA. But I am sure that a live performance by the 21CM would be a major addition to the program of any philosophy conference, so it is to be hoped that it happens more often! Any concrete plans in this direction?
Kris: I suppose if someone handed me a guitar at a post-conference party, I’d sing a song or two…. But there are many reasons why I wouldn’t want to do anything more formal than that. One of them is that I’d just be too damn nervous. Another reason: unlike the original Monads tunes, the 21st Century Monads songs have a lot of layers. On a typical song we have something like 40-50 distinct tracks of music. (This is why mixing is laborious.) For example, in a given song, Ben might play several different guitar parts (often on different guitars), the electric bass, as well as multiple cello parts, while Carrie sings and plays piano, and I play guitar, drums, and a synthesizer. I don’t know how we could reproduce the kind of music we are making in a live setting without a 10-person backing band and a lot of equipment on stage. Absent us getting an NEH grant for roadies, I don’t see this happening….
Catarina: Well, let’s hope the folks over at NEH are reading this! For something else: philosophers tend to be a rather serious bunch of people, probably with a collective below-average sense of humor. Have you ever been misunderstood by fellow-philosophers?
Kris: Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but most of the philosophers I’ve encountered seem to at least be fairly witty. I’m sure that something I’ve published in a journal has been misunderstood by at least one fellow philosopher – that’s bound to happen of course – but I don’t know if that’s true about our music. The one song that did have me a little worried about us being misunderstood was “I Like to See the Ladies”, but hopefully the interview about the song conducted by Jender of the FeministPhilosophers weblog sufficed to prevent misunderstandings. I’m really grateful to Jender for conducting the interview, and to her fellow bloggers for the nice reception we received.
Carrie: The closest thing I can think of is the time someone sarcastically complained about my A Priori song doing insufficient justice to experimental philosophy on the blog Leiter Reports. They’d misquoted the lyrics, though, so I wrote in to correct them and managed to get Leiter to advertise my book in the process.
Ben: Kris is misunderstood by me almost constantly.
Catarina: Most of the songs are on ‘serious’ philosophical material, but you often also discuss sociological aspects of the profession (as with “I like to see the ladies”, “My paper was rejected again”, etc.)
Carrie: Academic philosophy is in some ways a very weird place; it’s inspiring, it’s unsettling and it needs to be captured in song for posterity and cheap laughs.
Catarina: I for one think that initiatives like the Monads help make the general environment in the profession a lot less boring, showing that good philosophy can and should be fun. Do you see this as part of the ‘mission’, or are you in fact just having unpretentious fun yourselves?
Carrie: In my experience, philosophy is often done best by people who aren’t taking themselves too seriously. I’d be happy to think of us as helping to promote an atmosphere that facilitates this important goal.
Kris: I’m glad if we are making things less boring! I guess I don’t feel like we have a mission besides making good music that doesn’t misrepresent the philosophers, philosophical positions, or arguments that we sing about. I know that some people play our music in their classrooms, so it is important to us that we get the philosophical aspects right. I think that one has to be pretty earnest about philosophy to make the kind of music we are making, and hopefully our love for philosophy is showing through. But even though some of our songs are (I hope) poignant or maybe even slightly dark, I think we are pretty much just having unpretentious fun.
Ben: We are more pretentious than Sting. But this much is true: we rock much harder than Sting, and that takes the edge off.
Catarina: I certainly agree that, on average, philosophy is better when people are not taking themselves too seriously, but I’m afraid this is not common knowledge yet. Very interesting to hear that people use the 21CM songs in their classrooms! I should probably try doing that too… Any particular future plans worth mentioning?
Kris: At the time of this interview, we are halfway through the release of our third album. So stay tuned! We have a Facebook fan page so the best way to get updates on what we are doing as well as a first listen to our new songs is join up.
Carrie: We are planning to take over the world.
Ben: I’m going to eat some food.