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Davis, California

Friday, June 21, 2024

Column: Processed beats

It’s easy to say that electronic music is falling downhill with seemingly no return. Such a statement is neither unreasonable nor shortsighted, and backing it up wouldn’t be hard, eitherJUSTICE, autotune and Timbaland come to mind.

But it’s also a bit of a paradox that at the same time, writing and composing music is easier today than ever; anyone can download a music program and piece together coherent tunes. Media outlets talk about it all the time: the ease of music creation today is astounding, technology continues to transform the music world, we’re getting old, blah blah blah.

Take Apple’s Garagebanda music composition program so simple that even Usher and his producer managed to both figure it out and write a hit song with it (no joke – “Love in this Clubwas almost entirely made with pre-recorded loops they didn’t even write). Talk about technological progress and innovation.

Every Mac comes with Garageband, and with the program comes an enormous library of electronic sounds and samples. Literally anyone can use it, and people sure do. The thousands of stock sounds make it particularly easy for music neophytes to compose electronic music, which is easily one of the most basic yet forward thinking and advanced realms of music this side of the sun.

I think that’s what’s so great about electronic musicit’s simple yet inherently complex. Everyminimalelectronic music is incredibly complicated. Putting layer upon layer of tracks together isn’t hard at all when entire programs are based on copy and paste functions.

As a side note, a lot of people call electronic musicelectronica,and many of those people think that electronica is its own genre of music. If someone says they like electronica, they probably don’t.

But anyone with an interest in electronic music knows that already, and probably knows more than I do about electronic music in general. I really know nothing substantial about itI can play around with a MIDI controller and a music program, but when it comes to actual mixing and producing I haven’t the slightest clue where to begin.

To add to the confusion, some of today’s (or maybe yesterday’s) electronic music is written via programming with music programs like MAX, rather than the traditional drum machine and synth approach that other music programs utilize. The Mozarts of our day are weird-looking geeks like Richard D. James of Aphex Twin or Radiohead’s skinny, dentally-challenged guitarist Jonny Greenwood, both of whom program ridiculous mind-blowing insanity on their computers; not with their guitars, not with sheet music. Cool, isn’t it?

Electronic music should be for gifted, talented elites and nobody else. Not really. But it’s a bit of a shame that just about anyone can open Garageband or Fruity Loops, copy and paste a few pre-recorded loops together and put their boring mix on a Myspace music account. And then get famous, to boot.

Even though electronic composition might champion mastery of a program, the best musicians of the genre (if such a genre even exists) have musical talent that goes beyond computer skill. Everyone should enjoy their access to music composition, but appreciate and reward those who truly know what they’re doing.


JUSTIN T. HO is going to Love Evolution this weekend. Untz untz untz untz untz untz untz untz. E-mail more minimal electronic artists to arts@theaggie.org.


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