Friday, September 30, 2011

Electronic Purée

The music’s base line is the source that’s pumping the blood through the pulsating crowd around me. I look around and the crowds of thousands of people are jumping simultaneously like one giant organism. There is fire shooting out from the main stage and huge screens are showing images of a sea of people as a camera pans over them. My friends and I flew down from Boston to Miami in late March 2011 to go to Ultra Music Festival. We have all been to electronic shows and festivals before but nothing compared to this. Electronic music brought together over 50,000 people from all over the world for this ongoing three-day party.

These festivals are meant to bring people together from all different nations, backgrounds and ethnicities. Once the music starts you all become one and the music is there to make you feel blissful. The power behind each track is intoxicating enough that you really don’t need drugs to enhance your time at the show. You just need open ears and an open mind to enjoy the experience and energy that is raging all around you. Festivals like this happen all over the United States: Electric Zoo in New York City; Coachella in California and the Electric Daisy Carnival, which travels to five different states, are just a few festivals that go on every year.

A very common phrase among people who are not familiar with electronic music is “it all sounds the same.” This is true for recent pop songs that have the artist singing with an auto-tuned voice and pop electronic. Artists like Fergie, LMFAO, and Britney Spears auto-tune their voices and they are considered mainstream electronic music. These songs are fun to dance to, and extremely catchy.

Some of these songs can be so catchy that they are used in commercials on television. An example of this is LMFAOs song “Party Rock Anthem” featured in a Kia Soul car commercial. This commercial has little hipster hamsters roll in a Kia Soul into the middle of a war between all different kinds of robots. When the hamsters get out of the car they start to dance. The robots stop trying to destroy each other and they begin to dance in synchronization. I know this is commercial advertising for a car but an underlying message is that music can bring people together even if they are disputing over something.

Before I explain the different genres of electronic music (better known as Techno) one must understand what main aspects make a song. Melody is what identifies the song, the part of the song you find yourself humming. Harmony complements the melody. It is the same melody but in a different key or octave that plays in the background. Like percussion in a techno song, rhythm sets the pace and tempo. Rhythm is what your body moves to. You feel the rhythm when your feet start tapping to a song, then your hips start grooving, and pretty soon your whole body is moving.

Techno music can be broken down into many sub categories but the most popular are Trance, House, Dance and the fairly recent phenomenon of Dubstep music. Rhythm is the driving force of techno music and the melody sets the vibe and feeling of each individual track. Trance music is a bit slower than the rest of the genres and it is thought to alter a person’s state of consciousness. DJs would play three to four hour sets during a show using the same melody and this would put listeners into a “trance.” Artists like Armin Van Buuren and Paul Van Dyk are famous Trance DJs.

House music is the most popular of these genres because the beat is easy to dance to and incorporate in a pop song. House music usually has the bass line hit on every beat giving it a noticeable 1, 2, 3, 4, rhythm pattern. Your body can move easily to house music because the major keys are upbeat, easily identifiable, and consistent.

Dubstep is a fairly new sub-genre of electronic music. What makes Dubstep music unique is the heavy oscillating synthesizer. This gives Dubstep the “womp, womp, womp, womp” sound. Unlike house music with its 1,2,3,4-rhythm pattern Dubstep has a half time tempo every four beats. Dubstep has a more ominous beat to it. It is harder to dance to because the rhythm is slower. The melodies in Dubstep songs are played in a minor key setting making the vibe and mood of the song much darker than upbeat house songs.

A common misconception about techno music is that everyone that likes it is also an Ecstasy popping, Molly dipping rave craving addict. This is like saying that everyone who enjoys listening to reggae music is a pothead. Although this may be true for some people it is not a fact for all. Electronic shows can be so powerful that the music alone can take you on a journey. A multitude number of DJs support the organization Dance Safe. Dance Safe is an organization that promotes health and safety within the electronic music world. They are aware that many people do drugs during shows and on their website they inform people of drug information and safety at shows, and they will address any question that you may have. This is a step in the right direction for the electronic music community. This organization helps educate the dance community to have fun at a show but in a healthy, harmless way.

Many DJs make their sets so unique that the only way you can truly enjoy the songs is if you see them in person. A huge part of electronic music is the experience that goes along with each song. DJs go above and beyond to make their show a once in a lifetime experience. A big difference between electronic music shows and other shows is that DJs don’t stop between songs and introduce them. Once a show starts a DJ doesn’t stop playing songs until the concert is over. This makes the concert, more than just a concert; it becomes an experience like reading a story. There is a rising action, climax, and a falling action during a show.

Although Electronic Music Festivals are all exciting to go to, the locations where they are held are not very convenient for people living in the Boston area. To get your fix of electronic music in Boston you have to keep an eye and an ear out for upcoming shows. Places like the Middle East in Central Square do Dubstep Tuesday nights. Royale Friday nights sometimes has a good DJ but they also have electronic concerts there with DJ’s like Steve Aoki, Tiesto, and David Guetta. The Ocean Club, even though they are only open during the summer, has reputable DJs and this past summer they had the famous DJ Avicii spinning house tracks there. The Ocean Club’s ambiance of palm trees and white cabanas can make you feel like your on a hot beach in downtown Miami instead of Quincy, Massachusetts. Club Rumor also has a room that’s dedicated to playing electronic music while in the next room over there is a DJ playing top forty hits. Although it is hard to find a DJ in Boston who doesn’t occasionally add in songs by Pitbull or Black Eyed Peas, the serious electronic music scene is becoming popular at a rapid pace.

One of the reasons that electronic music is becoming more popular is because it continues to change and morph and it keeps up with the fast pace changes of modern society. Electronic Music Festivals attract different kinds of people who are all looking to dance, party and feel the energy that this genre of music can provide. If you are still unsure about giving electronic music a chance, DJ Armin Van Buuren addresses you “I think dance music is a beautiful thing, it’s a great thing, and that’s what I want to show the world: dance music can really bring people together…its about going out, its about meeting people, having a great time with your friends. That’s what life is about. It’s not about bullshit or whatever. So I challenge people to come to my shows, see what happens, not to me, but to your friends, to all the people in the club.”

1 comment:

  1. As someone who has no interest in electronic music, I was able to get through this article, and enjoy it a little bit as well. All kidding aside, it was rather informative. My friends have been preaching dubstep to me for a year and I can't take it, but I never actually researched the genre. To each their own, but you do provide a broad analysis of many sub-genres of electronic music.