Ever met a guy who listens only to electronic music? Or that makes electronic music and brags about how “hard core” or “dissonant, unlistenable” and “complex” it is? Or who brags that “electronic music is the future” as if he was the one true God of music that held the key to the future of all creativity? Ever wanted to punch that guy?

Going to a rave, bra. OUCH MY EYE BALL! GIVE IT BACK!

Perhaps an even more relevant question is: what the hell is electronic music? Well, the Free Dictionary defines electronic music as a “term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.”

Oh, so it’s all cleared up now. Thanks.

To be fair, the article does go more in depth on what this means, including examples, sub-genres and different important leaders in electronic music. This article discusses the history of electronic music, a history that stretches back to the very dawn of 20th century music composition. In 1907, Ferruccio Busoni published a Sketch for a New Aesthetic of Music, a tome that discussed the various ways new electronic instruments should be used to expand the range of music beyond that of a standard orchestra.

Those theories lead to this: click on the link to watch the video (I can’t figure out how to embed videos, sorry.

Hyperprism

Bleep. Bloop. Blip. Very primitive. But highly groundbreaking. And very important as it helped influence guys like Leon Theremin and Bob Moog. Theremin invented the…theremin. This instrument is another highly primitive instrument that actually sounds awesome. Remember that high pitched “ooo waaa ooooo” sound in “Good Vibrations”? That’s a theremin.

Theremin

Bob Moog invented the Moog synthesizer which has become one of the most important predecessors of electronic music available. The instrument became highly popular with the release of Wendy Carlos’s 1968 “Switched on Bach.” The following link is NOT from her album but should give you an idea of what the album sounded like.

Moog

Okay well, I’m not writing an essay detailing every single detail in the development of electronic music because a) that’s hard b) I’m stupid and c) fuck it. Read this essay if you are curious about how electronic music got from Varese to Girl Talk.

It took Varese months to produce his primitive bleeps. This douche controls entire concerts with a laptop.

What is interesting (and what I hint at in the photo text above) is the way electronic music has gone from the highly experimental, ephemeral and nearly unlistenable days to focus on a more primal, dance based format without losing any of its experimental edge or groundbreaking nature. Girl Talk is massively popular while being cutting edge.

Why this shift? Without going too much in depth, I would imagine it has a lot to do with the nature of synthesizers and programming. As it turns out, synthesizers, drum machines and programming allow the composer to realize his work without the “burden” of performance. Their compositions can be realized, error free and without the problem of having to learn how to play a single instrument.

I put “burden” in quotes because there are obviously a million advantages to playing an instrument. Feel. Expressivity. The easy of changing volume and dynamics. Creating on the spot improvisational variations on a theme. All of these things can be emulated with synthesizers  and programming but with way way more work. And much less emotion anyways.

As a result, lazy programmers move the medium into a dance based format as it is a repetitive format. Amazing producers can create amazing tracks that sell but lazy producers can create lazy tracks that still sell. And they can do it sitting around in their underwear, working on a laptop and doing all the work themselves. Avoiding union fees.

World famous electronic musician in his “studio composing.”

Not only is it simply easier to make dance tracks with electronic means, it actually pulls the format from a fringe idea into a highly lucrative style. Create a sound collage with horror movie samples, screeching tires, wailing synthesizers and quick second edits and you have created a free floating collage of ideas that will appeal to college music students. Put a back beat underneath of it? Why, you suddenly got a dance floor favorite!

And of course, light shows.

Of course, there are those artists that go out of their way to eliminate back beat and to be as difficult, experimental and hard to listen to as possible. Some call these musicians IDM or “Intelligent Dance Musicians.” Some call them assholes.  The choice is yours.

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