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November 30, 2016

Let’s stop pretending we like techno music

A popular and currently unavoidable trend on campuses nationwide is the techno music craze. Before I get into it — I fear my previous statements grant too much credit. While “music” may technically be the most appropriate term to categorize this glitchy-sounding, uninspired noise, such a designation undermines the true artistic nature of music. Techno is a poor attempt to substitute robot sounds for what was once actual instrumental and artistic human expression.

Courtesy Mixtribe Photo/Flickr

A computer is not an instrument. Any Joe Schmo with a MacBook Pro and a Wi-Fi connection can create techno and get his or her sounds out to the public. This ease adds to the commodification of music —  a trend already in action. This marginalization should be alarming to true music fans. The logic is simple: if everyone can easily make music, it’ll bring the “music average” down. When a bunch of inexperienced musicians oversaturate listeners with a bunch of bad music, music that was once considered laughable is suddenly considered decent; what was once considered average is then perceived as above average; what was once considered above average will be called great. It’s a phenomenon that happened years ago with pop music. In turn, it becomes more challenging to find good music, and bad musicians will continue to sell out arenas worldwide, tightening their grip on listeners and further perpetuating this cycle.

The concept of techno was doomed from the start, similar to how a picture made in Photoshop can appear similar to an oil painting, yet is worthless in the eyes of art buffs. Techno music made on a computer using synthetic sounds is just as empty. Combining samples of other people’s songs into one and calling it one’s own is like taking a bunch of famous paintings and trying to somehow form them into one new and therefore “original” painting. The catch is that this newly formed painting would look just as terrible as techno sounds because the stolen elements become mere illusions of their original selves. Worse still, the elements lose their intended artistic integrities and purposes.

What bothers me most about techno is how terrible the sound actually is. While real music spurs revolutions, subtlety reflects entire eras, or provides a means of artistic expression, techno has defined itself as a cheap and scattered, non-flowing conglomerate of sounds. Instead of thoughtful lyrics and carefully constructed melodies, techno is characterized by occasional “bass-drops” and wholly unmoving, random lyric samples like “ohhh sometimes, I get a goooood feeling.”

People need to stop pretending that they actually like techno and instead admit that what they like is the experience of going to techno shows — there’s a big difference.

It may seem that rap and hip-hop suffer from the same robot noise syndrome as techno, but at least rap songs often have insightful, calculated lyrics. In this sense, rap is more like real music than techno, as techno is derivative of some kind of primal experience, rather than one of art.

I understand that going to techno shows is a good time and I don’t mean to offend anyone in attendance. I too have been to a techno show and have had a decent time. Instead, I want to distinguish between going to a techno ‘show’ and music ‘concert.’ They’re completely different things. Parading around as if you’re going to a Deadmau5 show because he is such a good musician is disingenuous. If you admit you’re going for the experience — fine — but let’s stop pretending that these D.J.s are actual musicians, or even anything more than decent producers who can put together a synchronized light show.

Going to a musical concert is about watching talented and gifted musicians perform their songs live. Not everyone has the ability to do this, which makes live music so special and awe-inspiring. Techno performers get on stage, hit the ‘play’ button, and watch crowds go wild, all the while collecting big checks from their premium ticket prices. While this type of spectacle isn’t worthless, it’s not as pure nor as genuine a music experience. It begs the question of whether or not these techno “performers” are pulling the wool over our eyes.

I have this theory that techno performers are the ultimate masters of lip-syncing; a Milli Vanilli or Ashlee Simpson on steroids. Think about how easy it is for these people to go on stage and simply press play on a pre-made set of tracks, while, of course, mixing in a few dozen necessary fist pumps. The nature of techno makes it inherently easy to fake a live set, especially in comparison to traditional musicians with real instruments. When someone is faking playing guitar, it’s immediately obvious. When someone is lip-syncing lyrics, it’s laughably noticeable. Techno is able to sidestep this problem because its origin is within a mysterious and unseen computer. No one knows the live performance’s ratio of computer versus actual performance; for all we know, a techno show could be performed by entirely computers. Even the images on the performer’s computers could be simulated, prearranged screenshots like the highly-complex computer screenshots in any N.A.S.A. or sci-fi movie. The elaborately lit techno stage shows become a distraction to mask their lack of substance. Too often, people fall victim to this ruse, in turn assuming techno is a legitimate form of music because they had a good time at the show.

What’s most bothersome is the legitimacy and credibility these techno performers receive. They’re treated like elite musicians and charge lofty ticket prices when indeed they’re more like ringleaders in a circus. They’re at the middle of the show, but the show could go on without them even being in the building. Surely a Bob Dylan show couldn’t go on without Bob Dylan. While it’s great to go and have fun at a techno show, let’s stop putting these individual performers on pedestals and stop pretending we like the “music” they play and start considering that what we really like is the experience. Or, we can just sit around while they dumb down our music and collect the checks.

Ryan Walsh is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at rdwalsh@student.umass.edu.

Comments
215 Responses to “Let’s stop pretending we like techno music”
  1. AZIZ says:

    hi everybody, sorry for my poor english i will do my best to be understand.
    yes obviously Ryan don’t know what he’s talking about, like it’s been three years people are saying it. but I suspect a “clic article”, like say something stupid people will stay on the website otherwise it’s a real lack of culture and of course education.

    so some culture :

    – all mélodies that can be achieve have been done all ready in a way, the only things with infinite exploration/possibility are rythm, rythm are unpredictable, with notes it’s like ocean of possibility.

    – secondly, there illusion in musique like with the same sound at the same time it produce a note that have nothing to do with an instrument, those kinda illusion are branch of music call “acousmatic”, it’s been like 60 years musician are working on it with modular synth at the beginning, for example : “elliane radigue”.

    – now techno play on it ( assuming you know what your talking about, here it’s techno, it’s a genre. to be sure we are speaking the same), the dj will cut the sound to break and create rythmic/rythm, with some echo (it’s an audio effect) he will amplifie what you hear, a reflection of the sound produce by the cut, this phenomena is an illusion and at the same time a physical stuff, like if we play the sound and cut it at right time the reverberation will be interpreted by your brain as a note. this thing is a major discovery of modern music.

    so now going back to france, here in europe techno is widely recognize, acousmatic music is the phaser of techno, so thanks detroit, and chicago, a great mean for a complex musician thought.

    dum dum di dam

    bam bam ba doum

    boum boum boum bi dam

    bam bam ba doum

    dum dum di da da da da da da da

    di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di -di da di –

  2. RockOn says:

    I have to agree with Ryan on this. Sorry Aziz but your argument is really weak. You didn’t really address any of the points that Ryan made regarding the true artistry of great musicians compared to what Techno DJs, producers, et al, do when they create techno music. The true test is time. How many techno artists will be considered or even remembered in 50 years? Great musicians make an impact on music and they survive the test of time. The problem with EDM is that there is so much crap out there and as Ryan stated, everyone is creating it in high school, college, and else where. Much of it all sounds the same and most of it is not original stuff. I went through the techno faze when I was younger and you know what…it dies quickly. So much of it just sounds the same and is associated with big events – Raves (or whatever they call them now)…as Ryan stated. It is the experience that is lasting, not the music. People go to pick people up, drink, do E and just simply go crazy. You do this for a few years and then one day you wake up and say…WTF am I doing. And it ends…and then you crank up the rock music and you never stop listening!! Rock On!!!!

  3. teknomeka says:

    sorry to disagree but I have been listening to Techno for over 20 years, it s not an experience, it is a lifestyle. I get you guys point that techno artists are not necessarily musicians but no techno artists call themselves musicians in first place. At the end of the day it s not cause you guys don t like it no more that it is not music to others. One thing that Techno has over other genres, open mindedness.

  4. matt says:

    deadmau5 is NOT techno. What an idiot.

  5. B says:

    wow you really suck.

    I wish you could hear yourself.

    This is what people like you said about rock n roll 60 years ago. “Wahhhh it’s just noise”

    Music comes in many forms -‘it’s as much about the vibrations (that’s what sound is, after all) than the performative aspect or the form.

    Again. You suck.

    I wouldn’t be a jerk,
    But you were first.

  6. edward says:

    You are ignorant. I have played jazz guitar and drums for years now and let me tell you that creating any genre of electronic music takes more talent and knowledge than you could ever imagine. These artists are still musicians. But they use computers for complex sound design and arrangement. If you ever had tried to write any form of electronic music you would know how wrong you are

  7. stop the lies. says:

    If MDMA and other uppers are gone, so will be techno, way too repetitive, over rated artists and the easiest gerne you can mix, ricardo villalobos is a legend but a kid from UK mixing dnb for 2 years will be able to mix better then him….4 beats, bass off, bass on, it’s like electronic music for slow persons :) Offence intended, techno swallowed most of the underground scene in my city, transform it into a pill circus

  8. Will says:

    Seems like this bloke has just grouped all genres of electronic music as ‘techno’ as he references an avici song and Deadmau5, neither of which are techno
    Drop your elitist attitude to music and you might actually realise there are some decent artists out there who actually put out some awesome tunes
    If you listen to Strobe by Deadmau5 you’ll see how “just a group of mixed up sounds” can actually be a beautifully progressive track with no singing that can stir up more emotions than 95% of the music lyrics put out today
    Isn’t the value of music really in how it makes us feel rather than how it’s made

  9. John says:

    You are a total shit-bag who doesn’t understand the thermodynamics of art in general. To some, the low-fi and sparse minimal aesthetic is more powerful / beautiful than the most amazing jazz concert. You’re the one who’s pretending. Not the people who love this sound. Your taste level for the stuff isn’t refined enough to understand it. Techno (especially the more abstract variants) is an acquired taste. Like wine, coffee, jazz music, and death metal. You haven’t cultivated the taste for it, so you’re bashing it. It’s as relevant and any other art form on the planet. Just because you don’t like it, you don’t have the right to tell others who do that they are pretending to like it. When some people here a beautiful techno song on a good sound system, their synapsis go nuts like they’re having a kundalini awakening. I suppose they are faking this? You are a pompous jerk. Get a life.

  10. The Chancellor of Poopsville says:

    Came here because I hate techno. Stopped reading after “a computer is not an instrument”. Just how retarded must one be to out such a stale brainfart?

  11. Kayla says:

    You are a complete idiot. Please never speak on techno again because you obviously have no idea what techno even is.

  12. Ciprian says:

    OMG, this guy has no fucking idea on what he is talking about. Millions of people listen to techno all over the world
    and those people are not aphonic pieces of shit like you are !

  13. kyle says:

    Techno, and I mean real techno. (not deadmaus, or avicii or whatever you think techno is, because its clear you don’t have a real clue) is as subtle and complex as classical music. A 1 hour mix of deep techno, is a journey that cannot be matched anywhere.

    You sound like an old person, shouting from their porch. “Back in my daayyy” lol

    And techno producers will most definitely be remembered, just because you don’t know any….the techno community would be able to give you a shortlist of 10 of the most influential producers quite easily.

    Rock is dead, and has been for a long time.
    Suck it up.

    Plus…our ears as humans now, have evolved to constantly seek new and more interesting sounds. We will likely never go back to the electric guitar and drums being the super popular thing. It obviously will never go away completely, but to me, I personally feel like rock is as dead as disco, its not where “real musicians/producers” are looking to hear unheard things. Its more like comfort/nostalgia music now. Dont get me wrong, I love me some rock and metal, but nothing from either genre really ‘surprises’ me as ‘new’ anymore, or unheard.

    As musicians, we can only move forward, pushing for wierder and more interesting things, never looking back. So in that sense, you have to adapt and appreciate where music goes, not hold onto an antiquated notion of what you “think” music should be, or what you wish it still was.

    However, I will completely agree with you on the point that most EDM that the kids listen to nowadays is utter shit and complete fucking trash. But EDM is not techno, and techno is not EDM. EDM is shitty rise and drop, big room house/trap bullshit. Dumbed down garbage. If thats what you’re talking about in this article. Then yes, I agree.

    But techno, is brilliant, subtle, and can take you on amazing journeys if you let it.
    The subtelty in a good techno set, is on par with the subtelty of a mozart performance. And while it may not be ‘your thing’, just like classical music is not others ‘thing’. Very few people would say Mozart is shit, just because they dont like it.

    Thats what you sound like.

  14. Rudy says:

    I’ve seen this same type of judgemental load of horse crap over and over again, and it’s very boring… Yeah, like I rock and metal, classical music, jazz, hip-hop but of course i also thoroughly enjoy electronic music. How can I not be allowed to enjoy multiple genres at once and appreciate them for what they are? I’ve met too many people, namely more ignorant fans of rock and metal music who all cast the same judgement on electronic music, what’s worse that they blatantly refuse to even bother to give the genre a try.

    These people I’ve met cast the same stereotype that electronic music is “easy to make”, “too repetitive”, or “lacks soul/feeling”. They joke that all a techno musician has to do is push a couple of buttons to make couple of robot fart noises and viola, you’re done. Don’t suppose they’ve even wondered how difficult it is to make even a half decent techno track, especially if you’re attempting the styles of Aphex Twin or Squarepusher? Or even wondered how to evoke a feeling or sense of place in an ambient piece? Electronic Music can generate emotions just like any other genre; you’ve just got to find the right place to start.

    I didn’t like electronic music at first as a teenager – I was deep into death metal and progressive rock at the time, but after years of many listening sessions to a couple of electronic musicians (bolstered by my interest in old school industrial music), I’ve found plenty of performers who are as artistic as any musician in rock or metal.

    Don’t be dismissive and ignorant. Don’t close your mind. Trying looking past stereotypes, who knows, you may just find something you grow quite fond of. If not, well then that’s up to you – just don’t destructively criticise what other’s find enjoyable, lest you too be criticised for your taste.

  15. triangle says:

    ok the guy who wrote this article is simply ignorant and doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about. techno was never meant to be a traditional form of music where main motives are love, life’s struggles, nature, beauty which are brought by melodies and lyrics. techno brings the images of technology, machines, industry, all of which are a big part of our world today. its point is not to evoke cheap emotional thrills of listeners with cheesy chord progressions and “why don’t you love me” lyrics. it is anti-music made for people who are fed up with cliche’s. it’s everyone’s right not to like it but to say it takes 0 talent to make it, you simply have to be an uneducated moron.

    i wouldn’t even bother writing this, but a post by @STOP THE LIES is what caught my eye. for how long have you actually been listening to electronic music? have you ever even heard ricardo villalobos play live? do you know that he has countless 10 hour sets? I don’t care if you hate his music, the guy is a legend, ONE OF THE FEW who is doing his own thing and doesn’t give a fuck about trends, which is what this music is about. while in comparison, so much of dnb today is actually pop music. it makes me sad that this scene has turned into nothing more than a consumer-frenzy, money making monster led by teenage rockstar djs, no different than fucking hollywood, all the while true artists and their music get labeled as retarded and outdated.

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