So, I had this article lying in the “idea vault” for like forever, and I’m now getting back to it.
This is about the now “old” Deadmau5 post that started some web rage, straight from his official Tumblr, see link for reference.
Deadmau5 is basically stating not much more than the truth, no bulls**t: EDM is a plain studio thing, there’s no live performance. Artists just come and hit play, the work has already been done at home. The actual live event is just about the people having fun. That’s it, and that’s true, so what? Have you been expecting something else all the time?
Deadmau5’s statement and the following flame wars had me thinking about my relationship with electronica, and how I changed my mind about it while growing up.
You know, when you’re a 14 year old nerdy metal-head, it’s easy to bash on stuff you don’t like for bona fide ignorance. Like saying “DJs don’t play music” (and here goes the wrong assumption of DJ vs producer), “computers are not instruments”, “where’s the actual creative process?”, all kinds of overly simplistic stuff.
We all grow dwelling in safe stereotypes, and we just love drawing lines. Then we grow up, we learn to overcome our ignorance, lines fade away as we expand our horizons, we hopefully stop oversimplifying the world and we can truly start appreciating things for what they are.
A first important thing that I think is still a common misconception, is that most of us still get confused between the roles of DJ and producer, then ruining the whole value of the electronic scene.
The figure of a DJ comes from the disco days, and as the name implies, the guy’s just there to act as the “disc jockey”, so to change the music playing in a hopefully flawless fashion. A DJ is not an artist, just an employee for music, let’s say. The actual electronic artist is the producer, someone who actually creates electronic music in the studio and gets to release his stuff, and eventually to play it live, in a more or less automatized way according to his skills and instrumentation possibilities. Please, just don’t call everyone a DJ.
So, back to my story. Do I now think “DJs do play music” now? Nope, because they actually don’t, but I do think “so f**king what”. It’s just a different creative process for music. I just stopped comparing apples to oranges or being angry with horses because they’re not chaises longues, so to speak.
I do think electronica is a broad genre and I do think there’s tons of more interesting stuff outside EDM, but I’ve come to appreciate electronica as an overall different mindset, let’s say a different working table for creativity.
I like to think of pure electronica as a mere “competition on creativity”, a kind of “more equitable” way of making art, whatever that could mean.
I’ll elaborate: it’s true that’s it’s easier to fiddle around with just your ears and your average DAW than to learn an instrument, but I don’t think someone ever invented the “big red ‘make music’ button” anyways. It’s maybe easier to get your ideas down with the aid of technology, but you still have to have ideas first, and good ones as well. AKA you can have the best gear ever and know it like the palm of your hands, have all of your trackpads and the greatest midi integration, but if you have no musical knowledge and culture, and no invention, then I’m sorry for you but don’t expect any magic to happen.
Why do I picture electronica as a pure “creativity challenge”? I think the learning curve is just based on learning a software, which is the same for everyone more or less, and not actual instruments. I think it’s in any case easier than learning an actual musical instrument from scratch, or more than one, so hopefully a steeper learning curve, generally speaking.
The computer provides the technical aspects, you just have to bring ideas and good arrangement to the table. Also, you can track in virtually any environment and anytime, just carry your pc at least. So basically everyone is virtually “starting from the same ground”, the most problem solving is done by a machine, hopping your ability -or inability- to play instruments. That might sound not much romantic and at this point I could still hear the echoes of “rock dads” lamenting, but by considering this stuff for what it is, I find the process fascinating.
That’s why I believe the best electronic art will come straight from the best creative minds and with the least impediments, so to speak.
Again, you still have to create music and use a determined set of skills, just in a different way.
In some way, I think electronica helped the “modern day composer” to have a voice without having to hire an orchestra. Just as the rest of audio technology, say VSTs at large, helped most bedroom musicians to get out there.
Also, I find electronica fascinating for the liberty to invent everything from scratch, starting from the sound palette itself before the actual instrument, and-or the samples you’ll be using. Synthesizers are a magical thing aren’t them? Isn’t it great that you can shape a sound itself as you wish, before even composing the music you’d like to hear? Also, you can actually create sounds that don’t exist in nature.
So yeah, these are my thoughts on this realm, more or less. Like anyone cares! Feel free to share yours.
Now go, create, and “just hit play” if you have to.