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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
202 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!!!!

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