Friday, December 25, 2009

Electronic Music, Punk Rock, DIY, Hacking, Etc.

Over at my other blog, Hack Your Guitar, I just posted about what I see as the conceptual relationship between punk rock and guitar mods. What I didn't get into, because Hack Your Guitar is very much a guitar-centric blog, is that electronic music has joined the party.

Here is what I see as the bigger picture, for DIY, punk rock and electronic music.

Punk is famous for its "Here's three chords. Now form a band," attitude. That quote, worded various ways and attributed to multiple sources, is used both to criticize and laud punk. The important thing is that it chipped away at the class distinction between the audience and the musicians. As Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group has said, punk brought back an idea that had been lost since the early days of rock and roll; this was the idea that an absolute beginner could and should get on stage and perform.

The link to electronic music is that computers and software capable of making electronic music are now as plentiful and inexpensive as shitty guitars and just as easy to use. The barriers to making electronic music are now as low as the barriers to forming a garage band. Since 2004 every new Macintosh has shipped with an entry-level DAW , the aptly named GarageBand . Free software for editing, sequencing and synthesis is available for current and older computers via download and disks included with music magazines including Computer Music, Future Music and MusicTech .[1]

Predictably, this has lead to complaints, on web forums and elsewhere, that enormous amounts of bad electronic music are being posted on the web, sent as demos to record companies, etc. That is to say, it has become easier to make and distribute bad music. This is absolutely true. As I wrote about for [a web site I am no longer affiliated with] a few short years ago, loop based production in particular has radically lowered the barriers to producing bad electronic music, but I think that is a good thing.

What I said in the article was...


If a future BT wets their inexperienced toes in the warm waters of Sony Acid all the junk they initially produce is worth it. God knows I've created some entirely unlistenable things over the years. As Iggy Pop said about hearing Lou Reed for the first time "He can't sing. I can't sing. Let's sing!"

Yep, there's me linking punk rock and electronic music again.

You see, I believe bad music is necessary for the creation of good music. I don't mean that in the "dark is necessary for light" sense. I mean that good musicians invariably begin as bad musicians.

I'll take that a step further. Given a critical mass of bad musicians one or more good musicians will eventually emerge. For this to happen we need a critical mass of bad musicians. Thus, bad music is a good thing.

Among the things punk rock and cheap music software have done for this, our Planet Earth, is that they have encouraged countless talentless twits to try their hand at making music. I would that every talentless twit do so. It's how things move forward.

Do not simply consume, create. Be the media. Be the music. Do.

[1] Those three magazines are all English but they are distributed in North America. Some US news stands carry both the UK and US editions of Future Music, which are rather different. In my experience the UK edition is thicker and has more on the included disk.

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