The culture of computer music
By Justin Sealey
September has come to an end, and with it a month in which I was exposed to an almost fatal dose of bleeping Macbook Pros and mixing decks. The mundane pseudo-futurism of the mainstream dance music revolution has followed me from Brighton to home and back again, with the culture associated with this music one that has infiltrated every sphere and become an integral part of student sociolect.
But I can no longer stomach it. After 4 days of the constant pounding of subwoofers at Bestival, interspersed with some of the best live music I have ever seen, I had what the more excitable might call an epiphany. My favourite acts of the weekend all involved fantastic musicianship and a range of instruments. Standing and watching a man press buttons to produce a standardised bass thud has nowhere near the same effect, but I believe it says something about our culture.
The relative ease and accessibility of electronic music production means it has become a commodity to be mass produced. It is impossible to go anywhere in Brighton of an evening without hearing the same generic UK house and dance infused pop R&B. Previously, alternative and underground electronic music production led to the creation of challenging and intelligently produced music. However, the issue I have now taken is that the genre has been leaped on by a menagerie of record companies and promoters and subsequently a culture of ultra-escapism has developed. The club promoter, the generic dance music DJ and the Obey hat wearer are all now bound by a social contract that encourages all participants, by both music and advertising, to drink oneself into oblivion. This desire to completely escape one’s own consciousness doesn’t even ruin the experience nor detract from the effect of the music- the necessity for active listening to lyrics and interaction between artist and audience is completely removed in such situations, and the repetitive nature of the song means oblivion is the most enjoyable place to hear such music.
So currently the future of electronic music is in the balance: will it die a slow death in a catacomb of bruxism, snapbacks and independent t-shirt labels, or can it be saved from a culture which is leading to a decline in British musical output? Will we continue seeing a reduction in the kind of astute lyricism and social comment that existed in the alternative rock and indie scenes of the early C21st? Clearly I am hoping that music can be saved. It is a horribly clichéd sentiment, but in this case it does appear true that by being brought into the mainstream, electronic music has suffered and is subsequently bringing a large sphere of student culture down with it.
So next time you walk to the train station only to be accosted by someone with a handful of brightly coloured cheap-drinks leaflets, tell them you refuse to accept their advert on the grounds that you hold them at least partially responsible for the decline of valid artistic production in music, and see whether we can save our nations musical reputation.