WKNH Co-Music Director
For many American listeners, much of electronic music today sits in a compartmentalized space far removed from the music that they choose to listen to, a space decidedly outside their aesthetic comfort zone.
When they do hear it, they hear it in the instrumental for the top 40 hit, the energetic hook in a rap track and in soundtracks for box office smashers, video games and ads about fast food. Electronic music stays for many in the background, making it little more than an auditory complement to a broader experience.
Even with immediate access to a vast array of content provided by the internet, many do not actively attempt to understand the wide and diverse world that is electronic music.
This unfortunate reality is facilitated in part by the ways we categorize music. We assume binary categorizations of musical styles that can be misleading.
The whole of music with lyrics is put against music without lyrics, music with guitars against music without guitars and music made with ‘real instruments’ against music made electronically. It is convenient to emphasize these black and white categories, to focus and identify with one and outright avoid the other.
It is seen as safe this way, to avoid the other. To continue enjoying what we know is great, we close the door on different genres based on the risk of having potentially unsatisfying listening experiences. But this practice casts a shadow over the real reasons that we listen to music.
It allows us to evade consideration of the more nuanced qualities of music, like the emotions that the music exudes and the messages it conveys. In totally neglecting the categorical opposite of our preferential categories, we fail to consider whole realms of potential experience.
Electronic music is just as personal, emotive and human as any other category of music. It often gets at feelings that are difficult to convey through traditional song structure, through bands and lyrics and guitars.
It has strengths that both set it apart from and solidify its importance among other styles. It is funny to write like this as if the broad category that is electronic music is applying for a job.
Ideally, electronic music would not have to be a useful term, and all music could be considered equally without categories that place genre and sound over quality.
I guess we aren’t there yet!
Holden Carroll can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org