Monday, January 14, 2013

Two musicians and a electronica writer walk into a bar

A good friend said something to me years ago that I remember with great clarity: "I don't listen to bands that have a drummer named Roland."

I'm not a terribly good keyboard player.  However, there is something that sets me apart from 90% of people who wander into the keyboard section of musical instrument stores: I use more than two fingers.  Actually, there are a lot more things that set me apart.  I can read music, I know what a chord is, and what music I have written, amateur as it is, has more than four measures of unique melody.

Music is a wonderful, powerful, spiritual, and organic thing that comes from creative people translating emotion into sound by using their fingers and breath to manipulate instruments crafted from wood and catgut and brass and wire and animal skin... or at least a device that does a good job reproducing such sounds.  It is not someone moving volume sliders on an arpegiator.

Yes, I know that some truly creative, complex, and melodic electronic music does exist, but it's one hell of a lot easier to find high quality examples of any other genre of music.

Honestly, I wonder if the reason drugs are so closely associated with rave/dance culture is that you have to be on drugs in order to find the music inoffensive.


  1. Shocking as this may be, I've come to appreciate more electronic music in recent months.

    I think what attracts a lot of people to dance music is that it is music at its most basic. It conjures up a primal instinct to move to the beat, assert our physical dominance, and with any luck snag ourselves a mate.

    What defines a "genre"? You say it's a lot easier to find good examples of music from every other genre. How do you define country music?

    Do you consider Johnny Cash in the same genre as Taylor Swift? I don't. I think she's Southern Pop. It would take me much longer to find something of artistic merit in that genre than electronic.

    Check out something like this...

    It takes until about the 3:45 mark or so before it turns into a dance beat, but the entire piece is more emotionally evocative than 99% of what's produced in the "popular music" scene.

    Don't immediately brand anything that isn't "complex" as not being creative or of any artistic merit.

    Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci are perfect examples of technically competent musicians who have completely lost focus of how to tap into the depth of the human soul. They can play 300 notes in a minute in wacky time signatures and scales, and yet a blues musician may go out with a simple pentatonic melody in 4/4, without even saying a single word, and you can feel what he wants you to feel.

    Dance music makes people feel like dancing. That's what it's designed to do. I'm not going to convince you to like it. All I hope you do is listen to a few examples and go "Not my cup of tea, but I get it now."

  2. Oh, I fully agree that complexity and technicality do not necessarily imply soul or quality. There's a lot of simple music that I enjoy from a variety of genres. Buffalo Springfield's "For What it's Worth" has two notes on a guitar, very little variety to the vocal melody, and is a fantastic song.

    And there's plenty of "dance" music that I can enjoy. Disco is completely ok with me. In the right mindset, it's fun. Hell, I remember back when I was working at OfficeMarx in high school and the manager had the store's radio tuned to 107.9 which at that time was an all 70's station, and on Saturday nights, it was all disco beginning at 8pm. Man, we'd be facing the aisles just grooving. Folksy dance tunes, Irish Jigs and the like? Heaps of fun. Big band dance songs? Good stuff. The dance music of early rock doesn't do a lot for me, but it doesn't bother me at all.

    Every once in a great while I'll hear an electronica piece and really enjoy it - some of Brian Eno's stuff, for example. Yoko Kanno has also done some electronica that is beautiful. However there's something about electronic dance that, to me, feels utterly soulless and so grossly repetitive that, dammit, it's just torture. It actually makes me physically uncomfortable and even angry.

    I will check out that youtube clip when I get home.