At the heart of the Champaign-Urbana music scene, amidst the eclectic mix of genres and styles, stands Andrew Binder. A man who has turned the bizarre world of conspiracy theories into a labyrinth of jazzy tunes. Binder, with his project Conspiracy Deliracy, merges the structured chaos of jazz with the murky depths of conspiracy, creating a musical odyssey that’s as thought-provoking as it is entertaining.
The journey into Binder’s world starts with his classical roots. A student of both undergrad and master’s programs in classical composition, Binder’s foundation in music is as solid as it gets. But the real twist in his story is his foray into jazz — a genre that, for him, is less about the notes on the page and more about the stories they tell. His approach is a refreshing blend of academic rigor and free-spirited improvisation, a rare combination in today’s music scene.
Conspiracy Deliracy, Andrew Binder’s experimental jazz album, is a treasure trove of musical ingenuity, each track a foray into the unexplored territories where music and myth intertwine. On the topic of his album’s themes, Binder shares, “half of them are about classical conspiracies, and then the other half are based on conspiracies about musicians.” In this intriguing crossover, Binder takes snippets from renowned artists’ works and distorts them to fit the conspiracy narrative. It’s an artistic choice that reflects the essence of conspiracy theories themselves – taking pieces of truth and bending them into something new and often unrecognizable.
Discussing one of his tracks, “Birds Aren’t Real,” Binder reveals the meticulous craftsmanship behind his music. “It has like this underlying piano figure ostinato and on top of it, there’s a bunch of quotes from stuff like basically just songs about birds,” he explains. This kind of layered, referential composition is what gives his work an edge of complexity and intrigue. This track is more than just a musical piece; it’s a puzzle, inviting listeners to identify the myriad of bird songs interwoven into its fabric. From the Beatles’ “Blackbird” to Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time,” each reference is carefully chosen to complement the underlying conspiracy theory, that birds are surveillance drones. The track evolves into a cacophony of sounds, each layer adding to the surreal atmosphere Binder creates.
Another standout track is “Moonwalk,” a nod to the conspiracy theory surrounding the Apollo moon landing. Binder uses the 12-tone technique in this piece to demonstrate the complex nature of the subject matter. The technique, which involves using all twelve notes in the chromatic scale before repeating any, adds an element of mathematical precision to the track, akin to the planning behind space missions. The piece is a blend of the abstract and the methodical, reminiscent of the complexity of the moon landing conspiracy. Binder’s composition here is not just a musical interpretation of a conspiracy theory but an exploration of the fine line between reality and fiction, science and speculation.
In “Rush for Area 51,” Binder takes us on an auditory journey into the heart of one of the most famous conspiracy theories. The track features motifs from iconic movie themes like “Star Wars” and “Star Trek,” cleverly intertwined with Strauss’s piece from “2001: A Space Odyssey.” The foundation of the track is a 51-note melody, a direct reference to the titular Area 51. This piece is Binder’s playground, where he experiments with the abstract and the familiar, crafting a narrative that is as mysterious as the location it’s named after.
In Conspiracy Deliracy, Andrew Binder extends beyond simple musical creation; he crafts musical narratives, gently nudging listeners to consider different perspectives. Each track demonstrates his skill in converting often-overlooked conspiracy theories into engaging auditory experiences. The album is more than just a collection of songs; it’s an exploration of some intriguing mysteries, presented through the accessible medium of music. Binder’s approach to these conspiracies is notable because he doesn’t just represent them in his music; he creatively alters them, reflecting the way conspiracy theories often reshape facts. He adapts and rearranges music from various artists to echo the distortions common in conspiracy narratives, and in our media in general.
Despite the complex and experimental nature of his music, Binder is a figure of humility and genuineness. He doesn’t crave the spotlight but rather lets his artistry do the talking. His performances are less about showmanship and more about an authentic connection with the audience. This approach might not make him the most flamboyant figure on stage, but it surely makes him one of the most intriguing.
Binder’s creativity extends beyond his compositions. He was awarded a 2023 Urbana Arts Grant, which significantly impacted his musical journey. “It definitely made everything way more possible,” Binder acknowledges. The grant not only facilitated the realization of his projects but also allowed him to share his unique approach to composition through workshops, further extending his influence in the artistic community.
Looking to the future, Binder has his sights set on further exploration. More conspiracy-themed compositions are on the horizon, promising to add to his already impressive repertoire. He’s also venturing into new territories, with projects that might blend the realms of video game and Japanese anime music with jazz.
As our conversation drew to a close, I was left with the impression of a man who has found his unique voice in a crowded musical landscape. Andrew Binder is not just creating music; he’s crafting experiences, weaving together the improbable and the melodious, inviting us on a journey where the music itself is a mystery waiting to be unraveled. Binder is not just a musician; he’s a storyteller, a conspirator of sounds, beckoning us to listen a little closer and delve a little deeper.