Is EDM real music? I definitely think it is, but what do you think? Are you a “real” musician who hates the fact that technology is taking over? Or are you just a fan of live music bands and feel that you would miss the performance aspect of music if you were at a concert where EDM was played. Or do you just not enjoy listening to it? Anyway, here’s my take on the whole thing…
Electronic Music is Not Real Music?
I’ve written before about this issue here. It’s a common accusation flung around by many people. They say things like “DJs aren’t real musicians” or “electronic music producers have no talent”.
But how could you say that this is not real music?
Okay, I know that particular track is different because it contains a “real” musician playing the violin, but the majority of the sounds are made electronically, and yet all those non-violin sounds are still music.
Why do Some People Hate Electronic Dance Music?
Although some people will genuinely not enjoy EDM because it doesn’t do anything for them, I’m sure many people reject it just on principle. Maybe people are threatened by everything that modern technology has to offer. Perhaps there is something scary about the idea that machines can do something better than humans can.
Do people miss the performance?
I know that having a real band play in front of you has a live performance feel to it, and that is somehow lacking if there is just a DJ stood punching the air behind his equipment. There is something impressive about watching an accomplished guitarist or pianist play a live instrument. If we are unable to do it ourselves, it is an impressive skill to watch. There is also the knowledge that they could mess it up at any point. I suppose it is similar to watching a good magic trick really. There is an excitement to seeing somebody do something that requires a lot of skill.
With electronic music, people know that the machines are doing most of the work. There isn’t the same level of skill required as a live musician. But really, this is like comparing apples and oranges. They are two different ways of making music.
Are “real” musicians jealous?
I can imagine that if you have spent most of your life so far mastering how to play a particular instrument such as the guitar, there is something offensive about the idea of a machine being able to make music instead. Perhaps it makes the musician feel that their role could be redundant. Maybe it’s similar to how an artist who paints using traditional oil paints would feel about the idea of digital photography and art created using software. It makes their difficult skill seem somehow irrelevant.
For example, I know an artist who lives near me. He paints extremely good paintings that are very accurate and almost photo-like. He also owns a digital camera. Yet he will photograph a scene and then go home and paint it. To me, it seems like he is creating unnecessary work for himself. If his painting is going to be so photo-like, why doesn’t he just use the photo?
I feel a similar way about traditional ways of making music. Why would you put yourself through the hassle of having to record yourself performing perfect takes, when you could program everything perfectly into a sequencer and tweak every detail of the sound until you are happy with it. Yes, it takes the fun away from the performance, but it depends on what your goal is, to have fun performing or to create good quality music.
And please don’t be under any illusion that studio technology has not been used for many years. Take the rock band Def Leppard, for example. In the 80s, when they were most popular, they used programmed drums and bass to achieve that perfectly timed feel. It has been said that most of the drums and bass on their albums Pyromania (1983) and Hysteria (1987) were programmed.
Take the song Gods of War, for example:
Brilliant song but this is not a band performing together in the studio. This is guitars and vocals painstakingly recorded phrase-by-phrase over the top of programmed drums and bass. Of course, to give Def Leppard credit where credit is due, they have also always been great as a live band too.
But I would say that these days probably all of this apart from the vocals could be programmed. It’s now easier to emulate guitar sounds than it was all those years ago. But this brings up a good point: why would you want to? Why use such amazing technology to restrict yourself to guitar sounds? There is an infinite pallet of sounds available to use, so why not create music using many different sounds?
I realise I have gone off on a bit of a tangent away from EDM here, but I just wanted to explain my point by illustrating that even in the realm of rock music, things are not always as they seem. It’s not always about talented musicians giving perfect performances. It can often be about using studio technology to piece together a perfect song.
But let’s get back on topic.
Why I Think EDM is Real Music
I think EDM is real music because whether music is real or not has nothing to do whether every note is performed live by a human. Music is about one thing: enjoyment. The question should not be whether it takes the talent of a live musician to create it, it should be whether or not you enjoy listening to it or dancing to it.
The people who create electronic music are not necessarily claiming to be something they are not. I don’t think anyone is really under the illusion that all the notes are being performed by a live musician. I would say that a producer of electronic music is more akin to a classical composer/arranger of the past. Just as a composer or arranger would come up with the notes that the musicians need to play, the modern producer comes up with the notes that the technology needs to play.
Modern technology means that live musicians are no longer a necessity. They are an option, but they are not essential to make music. But to say that electronic music is not real music is like saying that books written on a computer are not real literature or that photos processed digitally in PhotoShop are not real photos. You don’t need good handwriting to write, and you don’t need to know how to operate a film camera in order to take take photos.
If we continue to be creative, technology can help us create some amazing works of art. We don’t need to claim that we did it all ourselves without any help. We can embrace technology and guide it towards the creative results we want.
I hope you have found this article interesting or helpful. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to post them in the comments section below and I will reply as soon as I can.
All the best,