Notes From The Department of Music Nerdometry!

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In a couple of recent posts, I’ve referenced my nerdometer, and I’ve used this gif that I found on the intertubes:


It’s pretty good for general nerdiness, but I really need to create a true Music Nerdometer. Tonight McDoc and I started talking about what would appear at different points on the scale of music nerdiness.

First, it’s important to define one’s terms. I mean, for the most part, nerdiness is like obscenity: you know it when you see it. But sometimes when I try to think of specific examples, I find I need some guidelines. McDoc and I came up with a working definition: it involves wearing one’s heart and mind on one’s sleeve, and getting super-excited about things that others might find arcane. There’s definitely an elevated level of seriousness compared to the general population, though it can’t be said that nerds don’t have a sense of humor; it’s just that the things they find funny are, well, nerdy.

McDoc started poking around online while I finished up a little music copying project, and he found a treasure trove of material. It’ll take some time to sort through and compile it all, but here are a few quick thoughts:

  • Nerdometry is often sorely lacking in gender diversity. I’m doing what I can to change that, but I must also thankful for the existence of Lisa Loeb.
  • This website will be a rich source of material: Wolf Gnards: Nerding Pop Culture.
  • You can find nerds in any genre of music, of course, not just classical. For example: in the jazz world, the nerd scale might have Miles Davis at 0 (not nerdy at all), and Anthony Braxton at the top of the scale.

But I’m open to further suggestions, so what do you think, music nerds? People, instruments, concepts, whatever strikes you as emblematic — post it in a comment! 🙂



Notes From The Department of Music Nerdometry! — 7 Comments

  1. Anne Fagerburg, who is a section cellist for the St. Louis Symphony, might belong on the Nerd-o-Meter (scroll down):

    Also, you could put an alto clarinet at the nerdy end of the meter, a reference to the musician’s joke that the definition of a nerd is someone who owns his/her own alto clarinet!

  2. The fact that she’s had the same haircut for years and years. That’s an almost universal nerd trait!

  3. The other turbo nerd? Peter Schickele. On his radio show he played his very first PDQ Bach parody, the “Sanka” Cantata, recorded when he and his friends were still in school. Writing music parodies as a student strikes me as turbo-nerdism (plus much of the PDQ Bach humor is lost unless one has some grounding in musical history, and music theory).

  4. Saxaphone playing Lisa Simpson needs to be on the Nerdometer as the queen of the Nerd Herd.

    (From : Nerd Herd
    A group of individuals that have nothing better to do rather then staying in classrooms at lunch time. )

    Also I don’t know whether he would consider himself a nerd but Dr. David Anderegg of Bennington college has written an entire book on the subject but is a composer as well.

    Would Elvis Costello belong or does he just dress the part ?

  5. All great suggestions — thanks!! I can’t believe I hadn’t already thought of Lisa Simposon! And yes, Elvis Costello definitely counts in my book! In addition to dressing the part, I read somewhere that he is an obsessive record collector. His wife, Diana Krall, does not make it onto the nerd scale, though — she oozes cool! 😉

  6. A few more nerd suggestion for you

    On the classical end ….

    Beethoven (for legendarily shaking his fist at Fate on his deathbed )
    Wagner (for forcing people to sit through 9 hours of yowling women with horned hats)
    Ives ( for calling Debussy a sissy)

    Glen Gould (for all the huimming )
    Carl Cerzny and CL Hannon (for devoting so much of their compositional life to writing five finger piano exercises)

    On the pop culture NERD side
    Michelle (The flute playing band camp girl from the “American Pie” movie as played by Alyson Hannigan)
    Buddy Holly (Just for the cool glasses)
    Rivers Cuomo of Weezer, the Buddy Holly of the 90s

    Perhaps the Hip Hop group N.E..R.D. ???