June 11, 2020•436 words
Put on the record. Whatcha got?
"People. Yep. Come on." Rolling double speed hiphop beat. Deep undefined bass frequencies, sine wave. Brief looping melody, some sort of piano hit. Later on: organ hit, "Love is the message". Bring it back. Little breakdown later. Audience cheers. That's it. You might find yourself wondering "is that really it? Is that really all?"
Yep. That's it. There's two kinds of scenes, early and late. Early on, you've got no clue. Later on, everything's a competition. This is early. Nobody knew what they were doing. Listen to the song, what's the mood, the emotion? What's the artist trying to say? Trick questions, there isn't one and nothing. At least, nothing beyond pure functionality, how to get people dancing, and he's not even quite sure about that.
Even function itself isn't clear. Who knows how the track will land? You power on your gear and copy tricks from the next best guy as well as you can. Hopefully you'll copy the part that worked and miss the part that doesn't. Tough to say. Are you listening on the same level as the other guy, same abstractions? A beat's not just a beat, a melody's not just a melody. This ain't Bach, nobody wrote down the rules. You wont learn them at church. What can a guy do? Maybe just have fun.
What about now? Nobody would have the balls to do this. Everybody's got the DAW, the big computer audio editors. You're not chopping breaks on an inch high black and sepia LCD. Why should your tune sound like it? And yet... And yet, there's a mystique. You weren't there, I wasn't there, but maybe if we believe... Nah, it's never coming back.
But back to my original question: what's the mood? It's neutral, straight neutral. There's tension and release, sure, but it's of pure libido, no emotions cathected alongside the energy's rise and fall. The chords cycle around and around forever, you never hold your breath. There's vocals, but they're meaningless. Just another instrument. "But it's loops! Like Steve Reich!" No. Nothing in the music reflects you back into its own structure. It's repetitive, but you're never conscious of it. It's void. Music to make a space, all form, no content. The track happens, you nod your head, dance around, then it ends, another track, same deal, 6 hours later the molly's worn off and it's time for a sunrise stroll back home. And maybe that's the time to plug in your headphones and toss on some Steve Reich.