Off The Record: Why Don’t We Treat Electronic Music Seriously?
Discourse and discussion on the many-headed beast that is electronic music* seems infinitely couched in rose-tint, reverence and revisionism.This article originally appeared on The Brag
Even as electronic music continues to seep into our greater cultural consciousness – one way or another – academic representation in this field has, for the most part, barely scratched at its many surfaces.
One potential reason is that other genres of music, be it pop or rhythm and blues (and their extensions) are a more familiar and established marker in the lexicon of Western popular culture. Or perhaps it’s more comfortable to recycle the same old, tired tropes about Kraftwerk et al. But it’s a bit lazy, and it’s not really offering anything new.
The discussion appears forever caught in ultimately circular debates on the physical mode of production (analogue versus digital, laptop versus turntable); on the obsessive distinction or retrospective on genre and subgenre (is it outsider house? Insider house? Dew-droplet house? Full House?); or on rosy references to musical icons or institutions (Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, Frankie Knuckles, The Warehouse and so on) that border on full-blown hero worship.
I’m not arguing against their necessary legacy or importance. It’s important to recognise and respect where we come from. This is more an attempt to identify a glaring lack of attention afforded to a broader critical discourse on electronic music. And, to a lesser extent, to identify the problematic nature of the rapid commodification of subcultures. What are the social conditions that surround and sustain the music? What are its effects, what are its ramifications? Why do we listen to it?