Monday, May 19, 2014

Sharing a Secret

Yesterday I attended the dance recital of one of my nieces. Growing up in small towns I wasn't quite prepared for the spectacle that is a large 'dance-studio' recital. It was a two-and-a-half hour show, give or take, and there was a seemingly endless stream of kids. Lots of entertaining performances, but my main takeaway was the fun realization that the 'car-alarm' electronic music I've been listening to whenever I could get my hands on it is steadily creeping into the mainstream. My lizard-brain tickle-treats are taking over the studio dance scene!
As a youngster I was utterly baffled about how people found new music. I would tape hours of radio and spend more hours editing out the filler and fluff and find the songs that tickled my brain. Growing up where I did there wasn't much out there for me, but every now and then a gem would pop out of stuff like the Doctor Demento show, or some alternative DJ throwing me a bone. I didn't have a name for what I liked. Didn't know what to call it, couldn't really describe it, and sometimes the artist made me listen to utter crap for one single 15 second snippet that woke something that lives deep in the brain-stem. And then I hit college. I felt like a caveman walking into a Best Buy. Utterly intimidated and shamefully ignorant of what was out there. One of my prized possessions was the Mortal Kombat Movie Soundtrack. I wouldn't actually see the movie until years later, but what I learned early on was that the stores I had access to only stock what was on the radio. Stuff I had already discarded as mostly crap. So I would cruise the Soundtracks. We didn't go to the movies often, but there is a certain type of movie. A category of films that operate around a visual aesthetic that carries with it the necessity of a certain tone. Action movies are hit-and-miss, but the right kind of action movie requires throbbing bass, thrashing guitars, electronic squeals, big dramatic builds and climaxes. I consciously deleted the adjective audiorgasmic in the last sentence. This isn't that sort of blog. I would consider the album cover. I would study the track list. Basically I would try to judge the book by its cover. Lots of misses, but between the Hackers Soundtracks and MK 1 and 2 I have no regrets about my methods.
It took longer than I care to admit to realize that most of the music on Soundtracks hadn't been created specifically for that movie. That the tracks were just snippets from albums that an artist had released independent of the movie. I blame being raised on Disney movies. Shortly afterwards I realized that many artists really only have that one song from the album that tickles the right parts of my brain.
I was still a teenager when someone handed me a DJ mix-tape. The shameful secret is that I did not know it was a mix-tape nor had any concept of what a DJ does. It was a combination of big beats, electro pop, dance, and rap. I listened through it and I was amazed at how seamlessly the music transitioned. When, in an awkward attempt to engage in social dialog with humans, I tried describing my amazement at a flourish in a particular track and wondered aloud how this DJ had accomplished it. I was met with a blank stare. It took me longer than I care to admit to learn that the DJ doesn't actually perform the tracks but merely finds, mixes and fades several tracks together. I say merely only in comparison to actually creating a piece of music.
But in summation:
As a fond tourist in the electronic music world I was amused to see a stage full of kids dancing to the same rhythms I was blasting from my Plymouth Fury's tape-deck half a lifetime ago.

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