Monday, November 26, 2012

EDM, rock, numbness, dumbness, immortality, adolescent sense of time

At GQGideon Lewis-Kraus finds reasons to celebrate EDM:

"... What's important now is not where or how you heard a track first; it's that it's heard repeatedly and by as many people as possible. It's the opposite of hipsterism. Where hipsterism is about being part of the few in the know, the EDC scene is about being a part of the many. Insofar as it's a scene at all, it's one geared toward the universal coalescence that the focus group of the Internet makes possible. This is a youth phenomenon that has submitted to the fact that access to knowledge—the secret location, say, of a warehouse party—no longer sets one particular group off as a special vanguard. They've forsaken the secret-remote-warehouse culture for the understandable reason that it defines itself by whom it leaves out, and from the standpoint of lunchroom sociology, the Speedway feels downright utopian. Distinctions obtain, but frivolously: Whether you look cool at the door has been replaced by which subgenre you've allied yourself with. It's less a scene than an indistinguishable panoply of micro-scenes. But it's hard to tell if anybody worries that when you have so many "friends" that you'll "never be alone again," what constitutes friendship—its texture and specificity, its content—might have been diminished. In a world where the highest compliment you can pay a piece of music is to compare it to a virus, where the Internet seems to function as an all-encompassing and largely inexplicable lottery, it's easy to see how the effortful things become secondary, and why we might just be glad to concede that we're all athrum in these beats together".

While others find reasons to detract and deplore:

Bill Brewster on the fading artistry of deejaying in an EDM era:

"EDM has effectively bypassed the club culture on which house and techno were founded and gone straight for the stadiums and festival jugular. Judging by the many clips on YouTube, its stars have taken their cues from rock stars rather than the clubbers who helped to create dance culture around the skill of DJs such as Frankie Knuckles. This new breed of star DJ is not content to be hidden away in a booth with a tiny slit, like Junior Vasquez was at New York's seminal Sound Factory. Instead they mosh and crowd surf (DJ Steve Aoki was hospitalised after an incident involving a trampoline last week: he's clearly no Nils Lofgren) from their elevated stage, while the crowd look on, shuffling and whooping. Worse still, some of them are alleged to perform to the kind of pre-mixed sets that have caused the Calvin Harris controversy....

"What marks out these events is how little interaction there is between DJ and audience. The audience consumes rather than participates, foregoing any form of empathetic experience in favour of bland ingestion (and usually faithfully documented by the cancerous presence of a thousand camera phones held aloft). A great DJ can coax you into places you didn't know you wanted to go until you get there. It's what marks them out from a ninny with too many tattoos playing a CD" 

Philip Sherburne on how "Dance Music's Creative Crisis: It's Not Just Streaming"


Meanwhile Robin James at It's Her Factory offers a series of neuropolitical diagrams of how EDM works as an architecture of affects and intensities:

From Bay to Brostep: Neuroliberalism from post-cinematic affect to EDM

Taking MIDI-Junkies Into The Death, V2.0

 (chase down also her article in the New Inquiry on EDM)


 A Few Unfinished Thoughts on Usher's Numb

"Numbness" features in the most rave-like / EDM-y of Ke$ha's songs, "We R Who We R", where she sings: "We're dancing till we're dumb / Our bodies going numb / We'll be forever young". 

Numbness figuring as a trope of sensory overload, neuro-electric circuit burned out, pleasure centers maxed

Robin appears as a cultural pundit in my NYT Ke$ha piece

and she has some further thoughts here

I'm not sure i really buy this idea that "“die young”/no future aesthetic is TOTALLY a co-optation of gay male musical and subcultural practices from the late 20th century. " 

the music, you might say (house, club, Euro etc) comes in large part from gay culture

but the attitude?

Well, it goes back as far as Romanticism (and its sequel, fin de siecle decadence -- Baudelaire, "be drunk always" etc)

It's deep in rock (I mention Jim Morrison, but "no future" is pure punk -- the song it's from is "God Save the Queen" which  contains the millenarian line "if there's no future/how can there be sin?")

Also, there's plenty of straight, working class, white examples through history of living for the weekend, druggy no-sleep excess as a maximisation of non-work time  (Northern Soul, mod, etc)...

and straight, middle class, white examples too (binge drinking at college, Spring Break, even 1950s trad jazz which is where the term "rave" had early use etc)

Part of the sense of time in the music relates simply to adolescence, to the teenage ability to A/ not think about consequences B/ that teenage thing of feeling  invincible, indestructible, immortal ("we're gonna live forever"--Oasis)

And in our conversation, Robin described the non-providential, live-for-now temporality as "immature behaviour"

(I think it's been exacerbated and given a darker edge by the precariousness of the last several years economically)

Now gay dance cultures, arguably, created lifestyles that could stretch this temporal modality way beyond adolescence (because settling down / quieting down could be staved off for much longer, even indefinitely)

But equally you could say that rock as it became a long term career option also turned  adolescence into a kind of permanent way of life, an exile or exemption from grown-up temporality

(think of Sunset Strip metal, as heterosexist as it comes, but equally dedicated to waste, excess, recklessness)

which i think is why "rockstar" as an abstract quality (signifying excess, going too far, recklessness) is such a reference point for this otherwise all electronic, guitar free club music (cf. the recurrent references to Mick Jagger --  representing a kind of Peter Pan ideal, maybe)

No comments: