Recently when I’ve been listening to music, I’ve been trying to set the music into two kinds of categories. If the music is technical, very clever, lots of ideas and concepts, it is done with the brain in mind. If there’s a message, something that makes me feel very different, it is done for the heart.
There are of course mixtures of it all. Anyway, to take an example, a lot of angst music, you know that kind of contemporary rock music with songs about girlfriends new and old, stupid parents et rest, it is really targeted towards the heart. Punk music was very much such a style, as well.
As for pure brain-music, we are dealing with technical material that usually only musicians dig, Spiro Gyra style technical jazz, lots of progressive/complex rock music (Steve Vai et rest), and so forth.
As for mixtures (this is where my musical taste navigates to), for example Peter Gabriel’s albums such as So is a good example of music that is both technically interesting as well as moves the heart. Believe it or not, same with Frank Zappa, he was a brilliant composer but at the same time he had a message, if nothing else, a funny one. There are extremes here, too, such as sugary ballads that are mostly template work.
Concerning contemporary electronic music, dance music et rest, I think the we are absolutely dealing with content that has very little emotions, with some exceptions such as Matrix-style anger-electronica music, or what NIN has done.
Same with technical skills, there’s really not much about using loops and sequencers today, some programming skills were needed ten years ago, not today. So it fits, sorry, into a very sad place.
It sounds controversial but I do think that if electronic music really has a chance to become something tangible long term, it needs a big dose of both. To start with, electronic music has to move the heart, you have to feel sad, happy, angry, surprised, inspired and so forth.
Secondly, there has to be something that separates the artist or band from the rest concerning musicality — just adding loops and plug-ins does not cut it, it has to sound personal. It does not mean that someone needs to study the piano for ten years before releasing something. Rather find your very unique voice using the instruments or tools, so that if anyone keys in on a radio station, they immediately know who this is. Good example is Daft Punk.
Feel free to comment.