G#’s Musical Radar: Is electronic music disingenuous?

Columnist Grant Sharples explores whether electronic music has the authenticity of other genres.

By Grant Sharples | Sept. 14, 2016

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It’s undeniable that technology has played a role in the music industry for a long time. If an artist is serious about their music, they’re going to make sure it sounds exactly how they want it to sound. In most cases, this means the music will go through a rigorous production and mixing process.

Even if the artist is making acoustic music, technology will still play a vital role. Acoustic guitars need microphones (unless they’re capable of plugging into an amplifier), as do drums and vocals, and the artist will be recording their music into a digital audio workstation, such as Logic Pro or Pro Tools. Recording, mixing and mastering depend on technology. Essentially, technology is crucial to creating quality music in any genre.

However, technology is more prominent in certain genres, such as electronic music. Electronic music is created almost entirely by computers, software instruments and plug-ins. This brings up a question regarding authenticity. If music like electronic music is wholly created using software instruments, does that render it disingenuous?

This was a question I often asked myself in middle school when I first started taking an interest in playing instruments and writing music. I refused to listen to anything that wasn’t made using “real instruments,” such as guitars, drums, etc. I deemed computerized music as fake and insincere. I didn’t believe electronic music had the soul that could only be acquired through the utilization of instruments such as the piano or guitar. I thought it was absurd that people could become widely recognized by pressing some buttons and turning some knobs, yet not even know how to read sheet music or play an instrument.

But while some electronic artists may not be able to read sheet music or play an instrument, they are still artists nonetheless. They make music, but in a different way.

In retrospect, I was being relatively closed-minded in middle school. I thought that electronic artists didn’t even create music, but now I understand they do. I’m sure there are quite a few people who still believe electronic music isn’t even music, but it most definitely is.

As a musician, I thought it would be interesting to add some electronic aspects to my music and start learning how to produce. I must say, it has proven to be challenging and difficult. Not only do electronic artists have to understand music, but they also need a deep understanding of technology. There is undoubtedly an art form to the genre, and it necessitates a technological aptitude that most other genres don’t require.

In fact, whether it’s electronic, rock or acoustic music, it still goes through the same recording, mixing and mastering process that most music goes through. To a certain degree, all music is dependent on technology and electronics.

As far as authenticity goes, electronic artists create very expressive music. Just as a pianist uses certain chords and melodies, an electronic artist uses different effects such as phasers and pitch shifters to elicit a certain feeling in the listener. Basically, electronic artists use certain tools to express themselves just as other musicians do.

When you look at artists such as Jamie xx, CHVRCHES or Miike Snow, you realize that it takes true, genuine mastery and a passion for music to achieve that level of quality. It is an art form that requires hours of practice and devotion in order to be good at it.

So, is electronic music disingenuous? Simply put, no. Electronic music should be recognized as a different form of music, a genre that requires a deep technological comprehension and the application of different musical tools to attain a particular sound. If you’re anything like my middle-school self, then just know that electronic artists do way more than press buttons and turn knobs.

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