Thursday, June 28, 2012

3 Benefits for Electronic Musicians from the Deadmau5 Press Play Controversy

When a global music superstar like deadmau5 admits that he basically just presses 'play ' during his shows, that gets attention. When he calls out other global stars like David Guetta for doing the same (see the full blog post and the comments at http://deadmau5.tumblr.com/post/25690507284/we-all-hit-play), you know that flames will ensue. When all the fury dies out, electronic musicians can benefit in 3 ways from this debate.

1. Truly "live" musicians can stand out

The debate draws attention to the many ways in which electronic musicians can actually play live and produce interesting shows. Create Digital Music, the leading blog in this field, wrote an excellent article (http://createdigitalmusic.com/2012/06/deadmau5-honest-about-his-own-press-play-sets-misses-out-on-scene/) that lists many of the outstanding electronic musicians who are playing live in unique ways, not just "pressing play" as deadmau5 does. Looks like deadmau5 needs to get out more.
They also featured live electronic band Mouse on Mars complete with video from Ableton explaining how they do it -see http://createdigitalmusic.com/2012/06/playing-live-dangerously-mouse-on-mars-as-augmented-band-video/. One mau5 presses play, another Mouse plays live -the irony of it all.




2. We can be clearer with audiences about what we actually do

The debate forces electronic musicians to be clear about what we're giving the audience. Some electronic musicians and DJ's use live elements (drum machines, live musicians, effects ) when they perform. They can manipulate the tracks, sounds and effects on the fly. And many DJ's do no such thing.
Why should we insist that they do? All we really need is a good selection of music that moves us, mixed smoothly for maximum effect. Anything "live" should be a bonus. Deadmau5 believes that what his fans get from his shows is the audio visual production and the group experience.
So audiences should realize that some performers are "just" playing enjoyable music in an enjoyable setting - which is also a valid form of entertainment - while others are actually creating or improvising as they perform, and choose accordingly.
(Examples from the DJTechTools.com article encouraging more electronic musicians to perform live, at http://www.djtechtools.com/2012/06/17/the-age-of-the-edm-rockstar/)

3. We can choose NOT to "perform" live

The debate reminds us that there are whole genres of electronic music that are not intended to be performed live. The best summary I've seen in a long time is contained in this post from Monolake, co-founder of Ableton Live and a significant electronic musician: http://www.monolake.de/interviews/supercomputing.html
I've attended electronic music performances in Boston as well as the ICMC Conference in Singapore, where the audience basically sat watching a set (or sometimes 4 pairs) of speakers. I heard some mind blowing experimental stuff there, being created by software and hardware, while the composers sat at their computers. These are also valid performances of electronic music, and we don't have to be shy about it.

I'll end with a link to an Android app that I'm using on my Lenovo tablet to experiment with live music creation.

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