Steven O'Brien - Music, Thoughts, Personal Website



Congratulations, you have found the website of Steven O'Brien. I am a composer living in Ireland.

If you need me, contact me at steven [at] steven-obrien.net

My Music

You can find all of my music on:

Recent Works

Music for Laundromats album art
Music for Laundromats, Vol. 1 (2022)

Contents

How can I "support" you?

You're under no obligation to send me money. Paid streaming earns me far more money than direct sales ever have. If you have Spotify Premium or YouTube Premium and listen to my music there, you're already contributing a lot. Do not believe the myth perpetuated by record labels that streaming is destroying the music industry. It's saving it.

If you can't support me monetarily, share my music with people who you think might genuinely like it. Follow me on Spotify, Bandcamp, YouTube, etc. It helps a lot.

The easiest way to directly "support" me is to purchase my music on Bandcamp. Bandcamp takes a 30% cut from the price that you pay (which they sometimes donate to political organizations that are outside of my control or approval, so look into it if that's something that concerns you)

If you want to directly give me money for whatever reason, you can donate via PayPal. PayPal takes about 2.5% of whatever you send. If you send in a currency other than euros, they also take another sneaky 2.5% off of currency conversion fees.

If you're one of those cool hipster cryptofreaks, and you haven't lost all of your money in the recent crash, you can send what remains to me.

btc qr code

[] Bitcoin address: bc1qt4xetz67jzt8vkt6c2mpr62zafg58gw72fklz9

xmr qr code

[] Monero (XMR) address: 874ADpxrwbf1bJUSACTi5oAXApP8k2nVeDVsegHtVC6rLurtxd8SQRWLY61a6LupEE43tCdbBZ3HRamftnXZ3v8YC6Wfk8R

People I am not

Is your music Creative Commons/free to use?

Tracks that are free to use will generally have a "download file" option when you click "... More" on the SoundCloud page.

Some of my music is Creative Commons. Some of it isn't. Go to the SoundCloud page of the track, go to the description, click "Show More". If it says "By Steven O’Brien is licensed under a Creative Commons License.", you're in luck. If it doesn't, you're out of luck.

Email me if you're unsure.

Can I pay to use your music?

If the track is Creative Commons (see above), you can use it for free, as long as you provide credit (a link in the video description, etc.).

If the track is not Creative Commons, or if you can't properly provide credit, I usually charge about $30. For this, you get lossless wav files, and a bunch of extra goodies such as timed cuts (15s, 30s, 60s), stingers, loops, stems, etc. The price might be raised accordingly if you're a larger company.

Email me for a quote.

Are you on social media?

No. I never will be.

YouTube has a community posts feature, as does Bandcamp, so I'll probably use those if I ever need to post some sort of update. I may set up an email newsletter or and RSS feed blog in future if it becomes necessary.

Why is your website so terrible? I can design a better one for you!

The modern web is a bloated mess, and a giant waste of energy and resources. I don't want any part in it.

A good website is one which conveys information in a quick and concise manner.

A bad website is one which assaults you with massive unnecessary image and javascript downloads, shoves popups in your face, and stalks you with tracking cookies. I am doing you a favor.

Can I get a vinyl record, CD, or cassette of...

Physical media is expensive to produce and needs to be warehoused. A limited run of LPs or cassettes might be produced for a specific album if there's enough interest, but up until now, there hasn't been. Following me on Bandcamp is probably the best way to stay informed about it, as I will probably do a limited run through them.

Vinyl records are terrible anyway. If you want a vinyl record to have something physically tangible related to music you like, I understand, but if you believe in the myth that analogue media is adding something that's missing from digital media, you're mistaken. The quality equivalence is substantially lower than CD quality audio, and most vinyl records since the 1980s have been mastered digitally.

Trust your ears.

Can I get merch of...

You don't need this. Save your money, or spend it on something useful.

Can I get sheet music for your music?

All currently available sheet music can be found here.

As I don't work directly in notation software, sheet music can be time-consuming to engrave. Feel free to email me any requests, and I'll consider them. MIDI files are an easier request to facilitate.

What do you look like?

[] Here you go.

[] Here's another picture.

What music do you listen to?

I mostly listen to Mozart and Bach. Sometimes I listen to Chopin, Schubert, Beethoven. I have a last.fm page if you want more information.

Recently I've been listening to this recording of Bach's D minor concerto (BWV1052). and this recording of Mozart's Don Giovanni.

Mozart's Requiem and Bach's B minor mass are the only musical works that really need to exist.

What books have you been reading?

I recently read Soren Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling, which is an effort to understand the mindset Abraham had when he showed willingness to sacrifice Isaac, his beloved son. It's a very sincere exploration of the conflict between religious faith and morality, rationality.

You know, light reading. I think I'll need to read this a few more times before I can even begin to properly understand it.

I also read Julian Jaynes' Bicameral Mind. It's an interesting psychological theory (lacking in evidence, not widely accepted, but interesting) that suggests the dominant polytheistic beliefs of bronze age societies were a manifestation of a less-evolved form of human consciousness. Instead of a modern "unicameral" mind where consciousness is unified, Jaynes proposed that in ancient "bicameral" minds, the left and right brain consciousness were separate, and that the left brain would command the right brain to perform actions, and the right brain would perceive this as the voice of a sub-personality, or a "god" and perform it without much free-will.

To back up his theory, he notes that older literature, such as the Iliad and parts of the book of Amos, are almost universally written as if the protagonists are slaves to the commands of the gods and have no real free will. (Though, critics note that the Epic of Gilgamesh, which is likely older than both of those works, is not written in this manner)

Music career advice

A moderately successful career in music is usually:

Do any of these sound attractive to you? Do you really want a career in music over some decently-paid civil servant job where you can "work" from home and barely have to do anything productive? At least with that you have enough time and energy left that you can still focus on music you actually care about.

In any case, the industry changes so quickly now that giving specific advice is futile, and becomes outdated every few months.

Music advice

The best education in composing (and producing) is taking works you like, transcribing them by ear and trying to recreate them as accurately as possible. This is a time-honored method. MIDI files or sheet music can also be used to assist, but transcribing by ear should be the ultimate goal.

If you have a favorite piece of music, there is an idea of what that music consists of in your head, and there is the reality of what that music consists of on paper. Even if you've listened to a piece of music hundreds of times, you might find that you don't know it as well as you think you do when you try to transcribe it, and discovering one unexpected chord might completely open up a new world for you.

Writing music is ultimately drawing from a large list of disparate musical patterns stored in your head, and putting these patterns together competently and artfully. This is why it's important to learn to hear properly (by transcribing), and to listen to a lot of diverse music, so you can absorb many new patterns as accurately as possible, and understand how they are properly put together.

Another time-honored method is taking, for instance, a four-part chorale by Bach and removing one or two of the voices. The exercise consists of listening to the voices that remain and trying to come up with a melody or a bass line that matches. Once you've made your best effort, you can then compare your solution to Bach's. By doing this, it's as if Bach himself was there to teach you and show you what you're doing wrong. (Replace Bach with any composer or artist you like, of course)

If your solution differs greatly, take the divergence very seriously, even if you prefer your own solution right now. You may not understand now why Bach decided to write things differently from the way you did, but there's a high likelihood you will eventually realize that Bach's solution was the better one.

With time you will come to realize that all music is the same and is expressing the same fundamental thing. Differences in culture or historical period aren't as significant as they're made out to be. The only real difference between artists and composers is in quality, and quality transcends the boundaries of genre, nationality, culture, etc.

People who are genre-snobs are losers. A good composer will transcend the constraints placed on them.

Originality is overrated. Focus on writing good music and originality will follow as a consequence of the fact that every person has a unique, skewed view of the world. Honesty and sincerity is much more important than originality, and you will know it when you hear it.

More importantly, what business do you think you have trying to be original when you have no real experience composing, or probably even living on this planet? Focus on learning the "rules" before you try to break them and upend everything that came before you. Randomly generated white noise (fairly certain this is actually pink noise, by the way) will by definition always be perfectly original, yet few people listen to it because they find it interesting.

Cliches are cliches for a reason. I'm really not a fan of the hatred expressed towards things like the four chords that killed pop music. It is a perfectly fine chord progression, and if you actually find yourself wanting to use it, you should feel free to use it without shame, as long as you're not using it as a crutch. People don't seem to realize that even the great golden-era classical composers also relied heavily on schemata and cliches, and were not composing from ivory towers (See Music in the Galant Style by Robert O. Gjerdingen for a detailed look at this)

Don't force ideology onto your music. Music is capable of expressing something far above whatever your narrow, boring worldview is. Don't pervert what your muse is entrusting you with for non-musical goals.

Music theory is not music. It is one potentially useful lens through which you can better understand music, but it is not music. Don't mix up the two.

Music theory almost always comes after music itself. It should never be used as a set of guidelines or rules on how to write music. Use your ears.

Beware of musical ideologies that try to oversimplify music in their effort to explain how to do things. There is no easy path. Again, use your ears and follow your gut. Things are never as simple as any explanations would pretend (including my own).

Most of the great composers and artists predate modern music theory as it is taught today. Good music is not intellectualized and constructed and explained, it is heard and felt.

Species counterpoint (as taught by Fux), figured bass, and partimento (ie, the rule of the octave, etc.) were used in educating many of the great composers of the 18th and 19th centuries (Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Schubert, Brahms, etc.). While I don't think these are strictly necessary for an education, they are probably useful to look into, and are probably not as widely used in musical education as they should be.

A good composer should be able to write compelling music under extreme constraints. I would recommend you master composing with one chord (I), then two chords (I, V), then three chords (I, V, IV), before moving onto anything else. If you do not start with this foundation, you risk becoming overdependent on complex, contrived harmonies to hide a lack of substance (and the easiest person to fool in this regard is yourself). Learning to write compelling drum music without any dependence on melody, harmony, or orchestral color may also help.

Bragging about complex harmonies and weird time signatures is for losers.

A useful lens through which to imagine chord functionality is to only see three real functional chords (I, V, IV). I, the tonic, is the center, or the home. V, the dominant, is a fifth up, and an increase in tension. IV, the subdominant, is a fifth down, and a decrease in tension (and I is the IV of V, the V of IV, and so on). It can be useful to see all chords as lying somewhere on the spectrum between these three functions.

Tonality leaning towards V seems to signal excitement and things to come. Tonality leading towards IV signals relaxation and a return to home. You will almost always find that old melodies have a V-of-IV thrown in towards the end, and it always gives a strong (if subconscious) feeling of ending-ness.

Well-formed music (at any scale) will generally traverse from I to V to IV to I, like a pendulum being disturbed and oscillating back to rest at its original position.

The bass note in a chord is usually more important than the notes of the chord itself. A so-called "I 6/4" chord has a strong dominant (V) function, even though it shares all the tones with the tonic. It's important not to see all chord voicings as having equal meaning just because they share the same notes.

Pedal points, where the bass note remains static (usually on I or V) regardless of the upper harmonies are very important and are strangely absent in a lot of modern music theory. A tonic pedal at the opening of a piece creates an extreme sense of stability, which only makes the inevitable move away more exciting. A dominant pedal towards the end creates an extreme sense of anticipation of the inevitable return of the tonic.

Harmony should generally be conceived horizontally rather than vertically. Instead of worrying about successions of chords, each constituent voice in a chord should aim to be a compelling melody and have a life of its own, and to move as fluidly as possible, and in good counterpoint to the other voices. This, ironically, generally leads to much more interesting harmony.

(Chopin, who is generally considered to be one of the most harmonically interesting composers of the romantic era, was a strong advocate of horizontal/contrapuntal thinking, and always kept a counterpoint manual by Cherubini, and a copy of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier on his desk)

To echo Thelonious Monk; There are no wrong notes, only wrong resolutions.

Parallel and hidden fifths should always be avoided, unless you know what you're doing (ie, trying to create a specific color) and all possible alternatives feel wrong. The reason for this is because it is an easy, time-honored rule of thumb to encourage interesting counterpoint. Successions of block chords are generally lazy and uninteresting unless used to generate a specific effect.

Generic platitudes and advice for life

People ask me for this for some reason, so here you go. Treat these as springboards for your own thoughts rather than well-researched life advice:

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy, and few plans survive contact with reality. Intervening in complex systems can often have very unexpected and unintended consequences. It is important to test your ideas against reality frequently to see how well they actually perform. A plan that lives entirely in your head, even if well-reasoned, should be treated as little more than a fantasy until it's cautiously proven out, as you are not capable of simulating the entire universe in your head. When we argue with ourselves in the shower, we always win.

Don't confuse what ought to be with what is. It's all well and good to say the world should be <insert your utopian worldview here>, but until it is tested, it is a fantasy that lives in your head that may not work well in reality. Your plan, for all its good intentions, may end up doing far more harm than good. Think of the prohibition of alcohol in the United States, which was a well-intentioned effort to eliminate alcoholism and to reduce crime and poverty, but only ended up exacerbating those issues for a variety of reasons. Good intentions did not solve the problem.

Calibrate yourself to operate in the world as it actually is, and make an effort to understand why it works the way it does. If you feel things should be improved, people who understand how systems actually work are generally more successful at changing them for the better. Proceed cautiously.

And bear in mind that just because someone is skeptical of your plans, it doesn't mean they are opposed to your intentions. You may have more common ground with your perceived enemies than you realize.

Think through as much as possible from first principles. Delete as much from your life as possible. Minimize your cost-of-living as much as possible. Many of the constraints in your life are probably more arbitrary than you realize.

Victim mentalities are often self-fulfilling. Do not victimize yourself, and do not allow others to convince you that you are a victim and that you cannot change your circumstances. You are an individual. You are not a simply a member of someone's imaginary, victimized, grouping. Understand that if you are being lumped into this sort of group, you're allowing yourself to be manipulated and used for someone else's power game.

Now, it may very well be that society is stacked against you, and that things needs to be changed to make life more fair, but my caution is against wallowing in a victim mentality and believing it so thoroughly that you never make any effort to improve your own individual situation.

Don't drink, don't do drugs, stay in school become educated, don't have casual sex, don't use social media, don't obsessively read the news. Look for a wife (or husband), not a girlfriend (or boyfriend). Start a family. Focus on things that give you long-term fulfillment.

Don't waste time on people who aren't willing to learn how to help themselves. Doing so actively harms them, and robs valuable time and energy from your own life.

You should aim to keep your philanthropy, virtuous opinions, and good deeds private. Don't pray in public. If you find that you're not willing to do these things without the promise of being praised by others, you're probably doing it for the wrong reasons.

The desire for praise and belonging can often lead people down a path of justifying horrible behavior and sometimes even heinous acts in desperation to seem virtuous to others. Doing things to seem good to others, and doing things to quieten your own conscience or out of a sense of your own moral duty, are not the same thing. Be cautious.

Don't become overly dependent on viewing the world through a rational, scientific lens.

The ultimate rational conclusion is often one of nihilism; that life is meaningless and that everything is pointless. Many people who have been given no tools other than reason to work their way through life have come to this conclusion, however, this conclusion is far from the full picture.

You were mostly born the way you are. You have your own particular set of interests, and things that you like, and people that you fall in love with. These are probably not things you chose based on deductive reasoning. What you are passionate about often feels like something that you discovered, as if it was always there, and isn't easy to control, change, or suppress.

Does the fact that these discoveries are purely emotional, and often seem random or irrational invalidate them? No. They're the basis of who you are as a person.

The fact that you might say you feel sad or depressed over the idea that life, the universe, and everything is a meaningless cosmic accident, isn't exactly a rational conclusion either. What is it about that conclusion that should make you feel one way or the other? Subjectivity and emotion always creeps its way into these things, and those things should not be suppressed, ignored, or discounted, because they do matter and affect your well-being. Rationalism isn't everything, and your feelings are probably not based in reason.

The meaning of life, therefore, is better viewed as what you discover it is that makes you feel fulfilled. Even if you don't feel you have this sort of "meaning" in your life, it's possible that it exists, and you just haven't found it yet. It is important to spend time searching for it and exploring. These constraints, and this sense of destiny and determinism can often be liberating.

Exploration is very important. Those who say we should focus on our narrowly-defined problems and not look outwards are squandering the possibilities and opportunities that exist in the unknown. The benefits (and dangers) are unknowable until they are found.

Going back to the idea that hyper-focus on a rational worldview can lead you to an unhelpful, nihilistic view of life, consider that there may be more lenses that are missing from your life that may be useful.

Read philosophy. Read great literature. Study other religions. Listen to crazy people ranting on the street. Absorb everything.

Read the bible. It's a foundational document of western civilization that has influenced great thinkers for thousands of years. Even if you're an atheist, you should know that Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens could talk at length about their favorite bible passages and ponder their meaning. What's your excuse?

The world is very complicated.

There are many lenses through which to view the world that will make interpreting it more tolerable for your monkey brain, but don't mistake the lens for the real thing. Science is one lens. Philosophy is another. Literature is another. Religion is another. Economics is another. Politics is another. Music is another. They are all useful attempts to simplify, and explain, and cope with the real thing, but they are not the real thing. The real thing is likely unknowable. Be skeptical of those who treat their preferred lens as their only lens.

For instance, those who have a primarily scientific lens, will often become so confident that they conflate science as an orthodox set of truths. The scientific method is designed to approximate the truth by discarding hypotheses that are false (falsifiability), and by doing so, approach what is true, not provide truth. This worldview also does not account for the fact that the scientific method is often applied fallibly and that people's biases and emotion often leaks into the process. (See the Replication crisis)

As an example of that, Newton's laws of motion are extremely close to the truth. They are so close to the truth, that they can be successfully used by engineers today without much negative consequences. However, Einstein thoroughly proved with General Relativity that Newton's laws, however close they are to the truth, are not the truth, and will fail under specific circumstances.

This is of course, not to suggest that scientific advancement isn't enormously beneficial to society, it is simply to caution against treating it as infallible. The idea of truth has an extremely complex history that people have debated extensively (which I can't even begin to cover here), and watering it down to some simplistic idea of "objective scientific facts" is robbing yourself of a lot of knowledge and nuance.

Everyone's worldview is narrow and skewed towards their own personal biases. Understand this, and keep sages and experts at arms-length.

You can learn a lot from those bright people, but they do not, and cannot know everything. They are not you, and they will not fit perfectly into your own skewed way of viewing the world, therefore, the narrow worldviews of one or two bright people cannot give you all of the knowledge you need. A focused beam of light will be good at starting a life-saving campfire, but will burn everything to the ground if you try to use it to light your house. (I don't know if that analogy really makes sense, but let's roll with it)

Don't shut yourself off from other people's worldviews. Seek out honest conversation and honest exploration of ideas, but avoid attempts to manipulate you or to reinforce your own biases and impulses, and give impulsive pleasure. You will know yourself when this is happening to you.

Don't blindly repeat thoughts that aren't original to you. You have no right to them, and you don't have the understanding necessary to back them up. Don't debase yourself with slogans.

Nobody really knows anything, and that's fine.

Whatever difficulties you feel you have in your life are probably not as unique to you, or to your own time, as you think they are. It is very helpful to have a thorough understanding of history so that you can see your own time and circumstances with more objectivity, and perhaps, have a better view of what potential solutions exist and how things might play out over a longer period of time. "History doesn't repeat itself, but it often rhymes".

When reading history, don't forget that you are likely hearing a view of historical events distorted by many individual historians and by society at large. This is why it's important to read as many historical sources as possible so that you can come as close to your own independent view of history as possible.

Consider that, even in your own time, it is often difficult to come to an objective view of what is happening around you without putting considerable effort into filtering out biased or unreliable information. With the past, the difficulty only increases.

My own benchmark for understanding is history is to ask myself: "Can I imagine a historical figure as a real person that I could interact with, or do I just see them as a strange looking, almost alien-like person wearing a silly costume?". If it's the latter, you probably don't understand the time or the person well enough. Do you see people from the Victorian era as stultified statues who look miserable, or do you see them as normal people who lived in a slightly different time, with slightly different fashions, less-advanced technology, etc. but who still enjoyed themselves and spent time with their families.

Despite what it may feel like, you live in the most prosperous, most egalitarian, and most resource-abundant time in human history (see Pinker et al). It is overly simplistic to say that your generation has it entirely worse than the last. In some cases, yes, in many cases, no. You aren't alone, and your problems aren't entirely unique, and have probably been overcome and solved before.

Unless you want to become a doctor or a lawyer, or for some reason want another career that requires a university degree, I see little benefit in going to university and getting yourself into huge amounts of debt in the process if you can avoid it (if in the US). It is possible to give yourself a good self-education solely using free, online resources, and given that I'm increasingly finding university graduates to be horribly educated, I think the online route is probably the better option.

(And please don't use the "but networking, connections" excuse. You don't need to go tens of thousands of dollars into debt to make friends)

Hone a broad skillset from a young age, and seek out high-paying jobs that require as little investment on your part as possible. (pro-tip: In the US, plumbers have a higher median salary than most university graduates, and aren't in obscene amounts of student debt)

Hard work is a virtue, but you should focus that effort on things you genuinely care about. Sometimes doing that genuine hard work involves getting a decently paid, but very slack-off-able job so that you have financial independence, time, and energy to focus on the things you find important and worthwhile.

Don't hyper-focus and count on your profession being secure and profitable forever. It's highly likely that your work will be automated away and you will be made redundant within the next few decades. This is the unfortunate reality that we live in.

Save aggressively, and start investing your savings as early as possible. Research what will get you the highest returns for the lowest risk, and get a good broker.

Don't become dead-set on turning your passion into your job if it doesn't make sense financially. You won't be able to properly focus on your passion without financial independence, and the easier route may be to maintain a day job.

However, if your heart is telling you that you aren't spending enough time on the right things, or that you're not spending enough time on your passion, you probably shouldn't ignore the feeling. Your heart and your gut can often have deeper knowledge than your brain.

The New Language

Last night, I imagined a world in which a group of academics got together and invented a new language by committee, to fix all of the ambiguity and lack of specificity that existed in English, and to create an internationalized lingua franca for academia, as Latin and Ancient Greek used to be. This was mainly done for use in academic papers, and it proved very successful in this application.

The new language was good. In fact, its use in papers was such a trailblazing success that it soon started being openly spoken and used in academic discussions among professors too.

Fluency in the new language became fashionable, and a sign of sophistication, to the point where college students who weren't even in STEM fields started learning the language, and some social groups even began using it exclusively in social interactions to distinguish themselves as true sophisticates. It turns out it actually did work well for transmitting verbose information, so many professors and teachers began adopting it for use in lectures too, and a lot of students enjoyed this because they felt a thrill by being let in on this new secret language. They knew they were part of something new and exciting. It spread like wildfire. The majority agreed that it was so much better than English for teaching.

It created a problem, though. The new language wasn't taught widely in primary and secondary schools, so many new undergraduates now had to spend a lot of extra effort in their first year becoming fluent in the language.

Campaigners and politicians started pushing for mandatory courses in the new language in schools, so that no child would be left without the opportunities they deserve. Affluent private schools were the first to adopt courses to better prepare their students for college, which made a lot of socially-conscious politicos very angry. They called the lack of courses on the new language in public schools racist and discriminatory.

Eventually courses were adopted in public schools, but this was done so late that there was now a serious divide in fluency between public school students and private school students because of the difference in the quality of their education. At this point, workplaces were also rapidly adopting the new language (it was good, after all, how could they not?), which lead to rising rates of unemployment due to an increasing lack of education among minorities and the underprivileged.

To solve this problem, the government set up a Department of Language which would regulate the new language, and it eventually mandated its exclusive use in all public schools so that children could learn it naturally instead of having to be taught to speak it. Language inspectors would visit schools frequently to ensure that classes were being taught in the new language. Nobody really opposed this (apart from a few conspiratorial nutjobs), because everybody agreed that the new language was superior for education. It was good.

Another problem that the Department of Language found itself combatting was the cropping up of various dialects in different colleges and workplaces. Because the language was artifically invented and didn't naturally evolve from an ancestor like Latin, people, as they spoke the language, were naturally optimizing it into various different forms that were easier to speak and rolled off the tongue more fluidly. You had the Harvard dialect, the Yale dialect, etc. Sometimes different social groups would even deliberately invent new words to obfuscate what they were saying just to be petty towards people they didn't like.

It was actually conservatives at this point who began protesting the Balkanization of the language as a perversion of tradition, and eventually, after a very hostile debate about freedom of expression, a committee was set up by the Department of Language, which brought together speakers of all the different schools to agree on and release changes to the language that everybody would agree to adopt going forward.

New changes were released on a regular basis, which worked well at regulating the language into a single dialect again. But after a few years, when the language had become stable again, the Department and its thousands of employees needed to continue justifying their existence, and regular changes still continued to be released. The goal of these changes was the honest intention of doing away with redundancies and over-specificity to make the language easier for children to adopt. Unfortunately, the changes were often poorly thought out, and just ended up confusing people, but anybody who was stubborn about adopting the government's changes was accused of being an elitist, a Balkanizer, or not caring about making things easier for mentally disabled children to learn the language.

The thing is, the new language (which by now was spoken by everyone in everyday life) from the beginning was only really designed to be used in an academic setting, so it was already awkward from the beginning to use in social settings, or in any setting that required more than verbosity and specificity. The mounting number of awkward changes made matters worse, and slowly started to make the language really difficult to communicate with, even in academic settings. It didn't help that hardline members of the political party who weren't currently in power would refuse to adopt the Department of Language's changes made in that year, so now members of different political groups began speaking their own dialect, and the whole language began to fragment again.

At this point, anybody who still spoke in vulgate (English) at all was mocked for being uneducated and unsophisticated . Any parent who didn't learn the new language and speak it exclusively to their children was called neglectful and accused of stunting their children. Sometimes they'd even be condemned as a racist for speaking in a private, privileged tongue, or for being selfish and holding back humanity by using the inferior vulgate.

Any discussion or debate now became completely bogged down by people going off on tangents to argue about the meaning of certain words they were using. If a participant was pinned down on a specific point, they would just argue that their opponent's understanding of what they meant wasn't the correct one, and that anybody who actually had a proper understanding of the language would obviously know that. People were rarely confident to actually challenge assertions like this, because there were no fixed definitions of words any more. They started to question their own memory, their own views, their own sanity.

So the end result was that, after a few decades, nobody could understand each other beyond a five year old's level of comprehension, and the entire population actually collectively lost about 20 IQ points because they now had to think in this awkward language and spend so much extra mental effort on understanding it.

All of the world's knowledge, literature, and poetry was now only available in second-rate translations that didn't even really make that much sense in the new language. A lot of it was just never translated.

But the new language was good.