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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Electro dance genre defies musical ideal

    Call me cynical, bitter and close-minded, but electronic dance music defies the ideal of musicianship. It’s worth its salt in entertainment value, but show me a rave in which its participants admire and dissect the “music” in the sense of a classical performance, and I’ll join the clergy.

    There is a marginal gray area regarding the divide between musician and entertainer. Certain applications, events, and collaborations may seem like a progressive movement, but it’s often more of a label-initiated PR move above all else. Recently, the Foo Fighters and Deadmau5 debacle shed light on this kind of cross-genre branding. This was an atypical Grammys live show moment in all of its cringe-inducing glory, especially after Dave Grohl’s heated commentary on the state of talent in music. Whereas he offers up the air of a stodgy rocker hellbent on keeping tradition and musicianship alive, Grohl’s initial acceptance speech for Best Rock Performance should be admired by a younger generation.

    We have entered an era in which studio-quality sound engineering can be learned from a laptop and executed in a bedroom. It’s far too easy to lay overdubs to correct the imperfections in music, to add more “warmth” or “crunch” to a guitar track, to engineer a drum track to have more space and less chime. The live-studio musician is becoming a dying breed in the mainstream, yet examples such as Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light inspire hope for a different ideal. Whereas the implications and usage of new and exciting technology dominate the younger mindset, there’s a completely different breed coming from the grassroots, eager to utilize the techniques of yesteryear. EPs are being recorded on analog mixers, soundboards, tube-based circuitry, and other time-tested instruments. Much in the way that bands can create an institution unto themselves, recording a track live, with little to no tampering, is just as important as the tools used to create it.

    For this primary reason, I’ll tirelessly argue that an electronic dance music artist is still that — an artist — but they lack the musicality and the execution to be classified as a musician. Dubstep, house, trance, and their other subgenre incarnates are formulaic, like any form of music, yet are exempt from formal training and theory. There’s no need for lessons or for apprenticeship of any sort. There is talent, but none of the practical elements of musicianship.

    EDM artists are in the vein of a comedian or a similar entertainer, lacking the cultural transcendence but still amassing the cult following. They’re undoubtedly fun to listen to in the right mood and context, but in no way should there be any motion that Skrillex or other flash-in-the-pan counterparts are going to be as iconic as the Rolling Stones or Tom Petty.

    EDM depreciates the dynamic that makes music what it is, creating a muddled artistry. Synth patterns and samples trump chordal theory, 128 beat-per-minute backing lines outshine virtuoso-level composition. There needs to be a separate lens for electronic dance music, independent from instrumentation and classically developed music. This necessary element quickly becomes the defining agent between flavor-of-the-week entertainers and musical juggernauts who span decades of adoration.

    You can have your drops and I’ll have my sheet music. Just don’t tell me they’re the same thing.

    ­— K.C. Libman is a senior studying ecology and evolutionary biology and creative writing. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatArts .

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