MonoNeon: The Unsung Futurist of Music

Photo by Atiba Jefferson

Futures thinking is often associated with technologists, economists, and thought leaders. However, Lisa Kay Solomon’s recent article discussing Taylor Swift as a futurist got me thinking. What musical artists inspire me that operate with a futurist mindset?

An artist like MonoNeon, a Memphis-based musician known for his fluorescent fashion sense and his inventive bass guitar playing immediately came to mind.

For those unfamiliar with the concept, you might wonder what futures thinking is, or as UNESCO refers to it, “futures literacy.” Why is it important? According to UNESCO, “Futures Literacy is a capability. It is the skill that allows people to better understand the role of the future in what they see and do. Being futures literate empowers the imagination, enhances our ability to prepare, recover, and invent as changes occur.”

MonoNeon embodies this UNESCO-defined capability. He empowers both his imagination and ours, preparing us for the complex sonic landscapes that lie ahead and inventing new realms of musical possibility in the process.

Engineering His Musical Pathway: A Master of Divergent Thinking

MonoNeon approaches his musical expression through a lens of divergent thinking. He explores a variety of possible solutions to generate his musical ideas. He doesn’t accept things as they are and uses his bass guitar to actively shape his own destiny.

Similar to a futurist who synthesizes present-day facts into compelling narratives about the future, MonoNeon uses this approach to connect seemingly disparate influences—be it Memphis soul, free jazz, or viral YouTube clips.

These innovative steps point toward the new directions in which he could take his art form. MonoNeon is engaging in a personalized form of musical foresight, crafting a future landscape that is unpredictable and intriguing.

A Canvas of Infinite Possibilities: Navigating Uncertainty with Creativity

MonoNeon possesses an unbounded approach to creativity, reflecting what futurists call an “abundance mindset.” Embracing multiple possibilities rather than fixating on singular outcomes is key in futures thinking. MonoNeon does this by treating his music as a platform for limitless creativity.

Jake Dunagan, futurist at the Institute for the Future has said, “It’s better to be surprised by simulation than blindsided by reality.” This acknowledges the importance of preparing for multiple outcomes to allow for greater resilience. MonoNeon’s work blends different styles and themes. He continually pushes the boundaries, preparing listeners for a myriad of musical futures.

His work, which ranges from the jazz-inflected hip-hop of “Fallin’” to inventive basslines and vocal arrangements like the “Flintstones Theme,” demonstrates his commitment to pushing the boundaries of musical expression. Through this exploration, he invites listeners into new sonic realms, offering a gateway to previously uncharted textures of musicality.

The Beauty of Unplanned Notes: Turning Chaos into Opportunity

Uncertainty is a principle that many futurists lean into. They use unplanned elements as opportunities. This is something that MonoNeon not only understands but lives by.

He takes what many musicians would consider mistakes—unplanned notes, experimental sounds, unpredictable rhythms—and turns them into unique, compelling musical elements.

As William Gibson notes, “The future is already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” MonoNeon uses ‘chaotic notes’ not as aberrations, but as “Signals of Change,” alerting us to the unexplored territories that lie just around the corner. These ‘mistakes’ offer glimpses of possible futures, inspiring us to think differently about what’s to come.

Musical Roots Shaping His Futuristic Sound

Futurists often “Look back to see forward,” understanding larger patterns in history to predict future scenarios. As a futurist musician, MonoNeon understands the intrinsic value of historical context.

He grew up in a musical household exposed to legends of blues and funk. This rich musical heritage serves as his compass for navigating the uncharted waters of experimental music.

MonoNeon’s avant-garde compositions consciously preserve the essence of blues and funk while disrupting conventional structures and expectations. By revisiting the past, he’s identifying enduring patterns and evolving them for contemporary audiences. It’s a way of using musical lineage to foresee where the sonic journey is heading, crafting a blueprint for the future.

The Continual Evolution of a Futurist in Music

For MonoNeon, the journey of learning and evolving never ceases. His iterative approach to life and art encapsulates what it means to be a futurist, someone who is always preparing for what comes next.

It is about having the agency and responsibility to impact and change the future. By employing “future-back thinking,” MonoNeon pushes one’s mind into imagining new possibilities, freeing oneself from the noise of the present. This enables him to craft a musical journey that doesn’t just respond to trends but also shapes them, allowing him to adapt and innovate.

MonoNeon embraces futures thinking in a way that sets him apart from others. He merges past and present, genre and technology to craft a new musical vocabulary.

In his hands, the bass guitar is an ever-changing canvas brimming with possibilities yet to be explored. In a world rife with uncertainty, MonoNeon stands as a compelling example of how to use futures thinking to turn unpredictability into a wellspring of creativity and innovation.