Sunday, December 19, 2010

Techno in Pop - A Po-Mo Look at Music

"We regret to inform you, your favorite genre has been co-opted."

The conversation went much like this:

"This is like techno."
"No it is techno." The singer warbles a little more without many sound effects altering her voice.
"No it's not.  It's pop. She's singing without any sound effects and it's in a power ballad pop style."  Christian grumbles under his breath while scowling.

In the past couple years techno has infiltrated pop music like no other.  It is the background to rap, pop, and even some rock.  Techno lends itself to this mixing and blending, that is the origin of the thing.  DJs would spin beats, mix in samples, and perhaps have a live singer if they were feeling saucy.  Like rock or jazz, techno has developed its own sub-genres that have taken on lives of their own.  The family tree of techno is lush with new developments, various fan bases, and tributes that cross pollinate within the genre family as well as other genres entirely.  When I hear Gigi D'Agostino or Daft Punk sampled on the radio as part of a pop song, I find myself feeling ambivalent.

I'm not into deep trance, never will be.  Still, there is a sort of heresy in mixing beautiful music to make it into something new.  Maybe this is a natural development of post-modern culture, to continue mixing in order to pretend to be something new, while acknowledging there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything is just a symbol of a symbol of a thing that was lost long ago.  After all, every melody has already been written.  It was said and done centuries ago.  So then, is a musician just recalling something, reconstituting orange juice and putting in a splash of cranberry for a twist? Or is it something else? Is there any point in writing music at all? In painting? If there is nothing new under the sun, is it okay for things to be a reinterpretation? Is that acceptable? Should we acknowledge this and judge things based on this understood truth? It certainly changes the rating system. 

Everyone wants to do something new and fresh, but sometimes it's okay not to push things.  It's okay to enjoy a good arrangement of something old.  I can appreciate a beautifully rendered folk song from the heart of the Whiskey Rebellion in the Appalachian mountains.  I also like Ke$ha.  Some people might think these things are mutually exclusive.  But the purpose of music is many fold.  It is an expression of human experience, from something as soul-searching and yearning as a traditional melody to something as primal and superficial as a popular club song. 

So, yes, I like techno the way it was.  I also like that it has become part of mainstream music culture.  There is a lot more dancing in my seat as I drive places because of the change.  Pop music could be worse.  It could consist entirely of Banda.  Thank GOD for DJs!

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