Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Electronic Life

Pop music. Dance music. Techno, electro, etc, etc. There is a fascination with electronic music in our culture that seems to be very particular and relevant. What is it about keyboards, synthesizers, and drum loops that reaches out in a way that guitar and drums simply can't?
Maybe it's the culture that surrounds it. Electronic music is largely perpetuated through the club scene, through booming speakers in college parties, and the vibrating subs of 25 year old males everywhere. Ok, so that's a clique. But a somewhat accurate one. The deep-sounding beats usually mix with shallow-sounding lyrics in the most perfect way, forcing the listener to bob their head or even (after a few shots) head to the dance floor. If hard rock (which will always have a sacred place in my heart) appeases the mind of those who want to openly push the limits and shout their opinions, electronic music appeases the heart of those who want to be undercover subversive. Instead of shouting, head-banging, and moshing with a crowd of people, these particular scoundrels want to throw on their stunner shades and go underground, dancing in the dark under flashing lights while the world outside falls apart.
Maybe THAT is the real appeal of this particular type of music. The invincibility of it all. The listener doesn't have to worry whether or not the drummer, guitarist, and vocalist is too drunk to perform well. In fact, the listener doesn't really have to worry about a live band at all. A live band is almost DETRIMENTAL to electronic music, rather than supportive. Because a live band bespeaks reality, a thing which these beats would rather avoid altogether. The music will go on, regardless of whether or not the creator of the song is even alive or dead. One doesn't even have to listen to enjoy the music, in some cases. Just feeling the bass vibrating against their bones and eardrums is enough for the hair-gelled, nicely dressed, sweatily composed people who are grinding against each other on the dance floor.
And for those who aren't a part of the club scene? For some, electronic music is a lifestyle, not something to enjoy every now and then. Just putting your earphones in and adjusting your iPod to play your favorite pop song is enough to take you away from the bills, deadlines, heartbreak, and monotony of everyday life. It's enough to remind you of your dreams, of the world inside your soul that doesn't REALLY give a shit about good grades or pleasing your parents or waking up early to go to work. That part of you that simply wants to love and move and flow with the river of life itself seems to respond to the timeless, invincible, and limitless possibilities of the production techniques employed today to create sound.
Unlike any other brand of music, electronic music doesn't use real instruments. Not entirely, anyway. Yes, keyboards, synths, and drum pads are involved, not to mention very complicated computer software and recording devices. But none of it is organic sound. There is no acoustic guitar or grand piano with real strings that vibrate, simply IDEAS that can be manifest using speakers. This is the magic of it all, that the IDEA of POSSIBILITY is more important than the reality of what is really there. That the mind itself holds enough power to create art and music and feeling, without having any physical manifestation. In this way, the sound is more organic by not being organic at all.
This is not just a type of music. This is not just a shallow-minded money making tool. Pop music, electronic music, all of it, is a manifestation of mankind's wish for invincibility in a world where we are doomed to never be invincible at all. It is the "average" person's path to being not so average, even if that means simply listening. It is a reminder of the groove that is in us all; the groove we seem to lose track of way too often in this boring planet of ours. It is our way of living, of moving forward and not looking back, of believing in ourselves and in others. It is our way of capturing feelings, emotions, and even moments in time, simply by committing it to the memory of our hearts and minds using drum loops. Maybe if we listen long enough, dance hard enough, and believe strong enough, we will be invincible after all.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Growing up, I was always told what I needed to care about. I went to Christian school every year except 7th grade, and even before I started school I went to church every Sunday. My father is the type of guy who believes that he is right above all others in his opinions, so I was always being told very clearly what is right and wrong, what is interesting and not interesting, what is acceptable and what isn't, etc etc. But I never really felt like I fit into the mold at all as a kid. I felt that I was unique, and didn't quite fit into the society I was a part of, whether it be the kickball team on the playground or the goodie-two-shoes group at church on Sunday's. I felt, and still do, like a Natural Born Rebel. I believed in the Christian religion I was raised in as a child, simply because it's the logical thing to do when everyone you know and trust is telling you what's right and wrong. But I always had an understanding of, devotion to, and love for movies, music, and art of any kind more than the Bible or Jesus. I felt at odds with what I was being told was right, because I knew in my heart what truly mattered to me, and it wasn't going to heaven when I died. I always thought heaven sounded really boring, anyways. What mattered to me, what STILL matters to me, is art. The only thing that has ever reached into my soul and grabbed my heart, the only thing that has ever raised goosebumps on my flesh and made me cry inside because of the sheer beauty of it all, is art.
"Art" is such a vague term, and yet such an important one. It encompasses so many different genres and ideas, and covers so many different mediums, that it's really a useless word, because it doesn't specify worth shit. But at the same time, it's one of the most powerful and important words the world has ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with. "Art" means that visual, or sound, or material, that is aesthetically or emotionally appealing, horrifying, attention-grabbing, pleasing, and/or (if it's true, "perfect" art) heartfelt. It's the most basic way of communication between different people. A picture is worth 1000 words, they say, and I believe it. It can make you completely fall in love with someone you've never even met, just by looking at what they've created. It's the opposite of destruction, because art, by it's nature, is creation. And whether it be a song, or a film, or a painting, we all know what it's like to have a work of art reach out and grab our very souls, changing us forever. Everyone has that song, the one that they can remember hearing for the first time; or the one that brings to mind a very particular person or event, making one moment in history completely significant and epic. Everyone has that movie, the one that makes them cry or laugh everytime they see it, the film they will forever comment on in a positive way everytime it comes up in conversation; the one they will show their kids, or spouse, because it has become and always will be a piece of their heart.
Religious texts and high school math classes never have mattered to me the way my favorite bands have. Politicians and "successful" leaders have never connected with me the way the avant-garde, "trashy" musicians I look up to have. And after 19 years of existence, 19 years of trying to figure out what matters and what doesn't in this short period of time we have on earth, I think I've figured out what matters to me. Art, and Art alone. This is my spirituality.