EDM: Electronic Destruction of Music

Editor’s note: This guest post comes from Troy Shamos

When did it become cool to put down the guitar and pick up the laptop?

A week ago, Dave Grohl issued an apology for his remarks during the Grammy’s that caused quiet a stir within the EDM community.  But, Grohl shouldn’t have, because his remarks were spot on:

“To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what’s important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that’s the most important thing for people to do.

“It’s not about being perfect, it’s not about sounding absolutely correct, it’s not about what goes on in a computer. It’s about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head].”

Grohl’s main point was this: Technologically produced music, or electronic music, is not legitimate. When I say “not legitimate”, I mean that it’s lacking the authenticity of a real musician.   I’m not trying to demonize EDM, in fact, I actually listen to electronic music and enjoy it.  However, I do not consider popular EDM, such as Skrillex, David Guetta, or Avicii as a rich and meaningful style of music.

For example, on the same night Grohl made his remarks about electronic music, Skrillex won three Grammys.  Grohl is an artist who got his start with Nirvana, a band famous for their angst and aggressive grudge-punk style.  Similarly, Skrillex has an aggressive punk style, but one that is implemented through electronic music.  So what’s the difference?

The difference is what a musician actually does, and what a DJ doesn’t. In my opinion, it is hard to call a DJ a musician. Rather, they are musical technicians, not musicians.  A musician learns his “craft.” They build calluses plucking strings over and over.  They become dexterous and flexible from the weight of piano keys.  They train their breath while playing a wind instrument.  They strengthen their arms and shoulders while banging on a drum set. As someone who grew up playing piano for 14 years, I can attest to this.  There is a real tangible connection with playing an instrument. It is an intimate relationship, like the difference between making love and watching a porno: One is fully satisfying, while the other is just pleasing.

One of the major arguments I’ve heard for why EDM takes talent is that a DJ “layers sounds.”  They build layer upon layer of beats, both atonal or melodic. But again, let’s compare Skrillex to Grohl.  Skrillex mixes sounds a computer created, sounds already stored in a catalogue to choose from.  Grohl is overlaying sounds and melodies that he has created, while also transcribing words to sound.  In fact, on the Foo Fighters debut album, Dave Grohl played every instrument, recorded independently, and layered each piece together.  Lets see popular EDM artists do that.

The other major issue that I have with EDM is that artists like Skrillex do not push the envelope.  They strip away many complex elements that make music unique and interesting in order to package it in a watered down, marketable form. For example, take  Avicii’s “Levels.”  The song contains around 12 different notes, looped over and over, with an Etta James sample thrown in.  It’s predictable and safe.  It merits very little artistic vision.

Additionally, by deifying or idolizing artists like Skrillex, we are only encouraging kids to put down their real instruments for superficial ones.  If a kid today wanted to become a DJ, they would need a computer, mixer, speakers, and headphones, along with other accessories.  The cost is in the thousands of dollars.  If a kid wanted to learn the guitar, drums, bass, or even a piano (upright, not grand), the cost is affordable, and is even better if the instrument is second hand. Thus, to become a successful DJ, you need to either have a large bank account, generous parents, or both.  Sorry, but the socioeconomic factors exist.  Lets be real, this is a genre of music that only affluent people can afford to learn and play.

Ultimately, electronic music has its place, and I appreciate the interesting counter-culture it’s created.  But, I do not consider EDM as rich and meaningful music.  The genre is currently receiving its 15 minutes of fame, and will be replaced by whatever new genre people start championing around in the next year or so. Because in my opinion,


Will always be cooler than this:

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