Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Rise of Electronic Music: From Electro to Trance

Music evolves dramatically every couple of decades.  What is popular now was only developing fifteen years ago, and what was popular then was only developing fifteen years before that.  However, the change from one music genre to the next is often met with resilience.
Take for example the 1910 United States jazz movement.  Despite producing wonderful music during that day and age, the musicians were scorned by many affluent members of society.  Their music was called “dirty” and “demeaning”.  Retrospectively, we know this is not true.  Jazz music represents music and soul intertwined.  Its restless sound is meant to get you up and moving.  Jazz music is beautiful and was essential in the founding of both reggae and rock and roll.
Now let’s examine rock and roll.  When you think about this genre, you do not just think about the music but the culture that goes along with it.  Rock and roll music focused on issues with cars, dating, clothing, school, and eventually sex.  By examining these issues, rock and roll became a defining aspect of a generation.  The youth during this age defined themselves by the music, and for the most part this change was met with disapproval by their parents.  But ultimately, the music won out and became the backbone of many genres today.
Now where are we today?  The 80s was known as the era of big haired hard rock, with groups such as Metallica, Motley Crue, and Poison.  Even though hard rock dominated there were other styles made their own presence, such as hip hop, pop, and a little bit of techno.  In the 90s, grunge bands took the spotlight, including Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Guns ‘n Roses.  However, there was much diversity during this time period.  Rap music was led by Tupac, creating a West versus East coast music divide.  Teen pop was led by Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, Hanson, and the Spice Girls.  However, the first decade of the new millennium was met with change.  This era was led by pop, hip pop, rap, and alternative rock.  But once again, where are we today?  Surprisingly rock and pop are taking a backseat to music genre that is only getting bigger and bigger, electronic music.
The electronic music of today is much different than that of the 80s and even 90s.  Electronic music has transformed from computer noises to a wide variety of diverse subgenres.  From the bass heavy wobbling drops of dubstep, to the melodic and hypnotizing progression of trance, to the energetic and random sounds of electro, and to the dance-inspiring beats of house, electronic music has evolved, diversified, and is catching motion.
Yet similar to the music genres before it, electronic music’s presence is met with much controversy.  To begin with the “raver” scene attributed with electronic music is frowned upon by many.  This youth subculture is a unique breed of its own and is hard very difficult to describe, however, one of their core beliefs is PLUR:  Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect.  While they seem like a benign group, the public shuns them for their appearance and their drug use.  In fact, the drug use in the raver scene is much different than past musical decades.  Cocaine, heroin, and marijuana have all been the drugs of choice for various music genres, but for electronic music hallucinogens have been where it’s at.  At raves—hour long concerts where multiple DJs play sets—many of the fans take LSD, ecstasy (MDMA), 2C-B, or a combination of those hallucinogens.  These drugs have been reported to heighten the musical experience and bring one another closer.  Yet, the general public believes that this is just an excuse for druggies to destroy their bodies and life.  By focusing on tragedies, the media and government have been able to impede the growing electronic scene.
The biggest blow to the electronic music scene—at least in America—was the death of Sasha Rodriguez.  Sasha was a 15 year old girl who died at the 2010 Electric Daisy Carnival from an ecstasy overdose.  The parents blamed the raver community, and in an effort to dismantle electronic music in Southern California various media sources made Sasha Rodriguez seem like the victim of the culture.  While I do not want to talk badly of the dead, after being in the electronic music scene for the last three years I can confidently say that she is not a victim of the culture.  While I am making a few generalizations from the hundreds of ravers I know personally and the hundreds of thousands of people I see at raves, from her pictures Sasha looked like an average raver—meaning that she has been to various shows and taken ecstasy at the vast majority of them.  The fact that her parents did not know about her going to EDC—even though she snuck out with her cousins—is more of a sign of bad parenting than it is in a problem with the music culture.  However, I do not want this blog piece to be an attack on anyone.  I just want to point out that the growth of electronic music has met resistance from both the media and older generations.
Another major incident was the 2011 Kaskade riot.  The United States DJ Kaskade, posted on his Facebook and Twitter that he was going to play a free show out on the streets of Los Angeles.  The massive amount of people that saw this update caused Hollywood and Sunset to be shut down.  Unfortunately, Kaskade did not have the proper permits to do so, and it caused a massive mess.  He was unable to play, and some of the fans who waited for hours got extremely rowdy.  Eventually things escalated and officers used beanbags to disperse the crowd.  In response, some of the fans burned a cop car.  The media focused on this event, saying how out of control our youth is.  But really, there were over 10,000 people on the street that day waiting to hear Kaskade.  To generalize that entire group by the actions of a few is ridiculous.  Regardless, it only gave Los Angeles and its people more of a reason to think of electronic music as a destructive culture than as a type of music. 
Los Angeles responded to Sasha’s death and the Kaskade riot by prohibiting all electronic music festivals in the Los Angeles area.  Even though rock concerts can be held in the Los Angeles Sports Arena, anything electronic related have been wrongly prohibited.  Because of this EDC has moved to Las Vegas and Beyond Wonderland and Nocturnal have moved to San Bernardino.  Essentially, electronic music is being shunned from Los Angeles.  But why?
There are a few reasons, and I think these reasons are the reasons why new music is commonly met with disapproval.  The first is the inability to respect why music evolves.  As I have said before, music changes.  It does not getter better or worse--although some may say that some periods were worse than others.  Rather, music finds new ways of speaking to us.  This can be through heartfelt lyrics, emotional screaming, or even pounding beats.  Music evolves because musicians find new ways of controlling the audience.  While not every dubstep song is magnificent, to bash on the entire genre is essentially saying, “Dubstep sucks because I hate extremely energetic music”.  Worse yet are the people who cannot justify why they dislike a genre, which often translates to, “I hate trance music because I do not understand it”.
I realize that this post has had a lot of twists and turns but ultimately what I am trying to say is that the hatred toward electronic music is being misdirected.  I understand that some people may not like the culture attributed with the music--whether that be for justified or unjustified reasons—but to dismiss electronic music as a whole and ban performances in Los Angeles, one of the biggest metropolitans in the United States, is wrong on so many levels.  Electronic music is only getting bigger and bigger.  Eventually, it will be so large that the general public cannot easily ignore it.  So what I suggest is that you listen to it and learn what the genre is all about.  Yeah, you may not understand the first trance song you listen to.  You still may not understand the meaning of electro house after hearing a radio show or two.  But eventually you will understand what the music represents.  You may still not enjoy the music, but at least you will understand the meaning behind it.  Ultimately what you will discover is that the music is not as demonic as the media puts it out to be.  Music is changing whether the media, parents, or Los Angeles wants it to, and their attempts to destroy the movement are misguided and misunderstood.  We must learn from the past and embrace this evolution.


  1. Electronic music is definitely infiltrating all other types of music genres. Everyone seems to be using synths and house beats these days. But I'm a huge fan. I wonder what kind of role electronic music will play as our generation attempts to define itself. But i feel like today's generation is so varied and different and there aren't many unifying themes to make broad generalizations about us. That being said, I think electronic music is one of the few things that brings so many people together, and for good reasons.

  2. This post covers a broad spectrum of issues pertaining to the rise of Electronic music. I think it's recent explosion in popularity though is definitely something that few pundits in the music industry could have predicted. It seems now huge DJ's and massive raves garner more popularity and attentiveness than much of mainstream music. However, I also feel that because of our location, particularly Los Angeles, this music has taken on a more iconic view than in other areas of the country. I lived in Denver for two years before moving back to Los Angeles, where I am originally from, and they do not listen to house music nearly as much as people here in Los Angeles. There is no exact explanation for this uprise but I feel you hit the nail on the head by addressing many of the controversies encompassing this genre, particularly in relation to the relationship drug use has with the "raver" culture.

  3. I can definitely see why big cities such as Los Angeles would fear a certain music genre due it huge influence and related drug use of many fans, etc. however, as you mentioned music has always been evolving and years ago it was the punk rockers that people were afraid of because of the drug use and counter-culture that it produced, rock music in general, and now we have electro. It's is also interesting how this genre really only has become so popular in the big cities like LA, NYC, ect. I'm just going to take a wild guess and say it's because there are huge populations of Europeans in these cities and that's our music. I used to deny that I liked it years ago before it blew up on the scene even though all of my Russian friends would always listen to it. Places like the South aren't into because it's just not their culture. I guess my point is that it isn't just the music itself but the culture it creates and we have seen that over the year with many generes.

  4. It's truly incredible how we have witnessed the rise of electronic music to the mainstream. Although electronic has been around for years, it's crazy how it is only now infiltrating other genres of music. I was one of the haters of electronic music when it first came onto the scene. I was living in a frat house where rave kids would blast the heavy beats and mechanical grinding until 4 in the morning and I could not see the appeal to these headache-inducing noises. I started to get into the music when I started hearing what is now considered to be pop house with melodic hooks and epic party beats but I would only listen to it in party environments. It was only when I went to a live show that I truly appreciated how this music needs to be listened to: loud and with lots of people. Going to an electronic show changed my whole perspective on the music and now I listen to everything from house to dubstep to trance but still find some of the music to be too intense and irritating to me. I think the music gets a bad rap because it really is music that is associated with hard drugs. As good as the music is sober, its almost like it is meant to be listened to on drugs of some type.

  5. I agree with FlackAttack73 and his comments on the rise of electronic music. In recent years, I feel like electronic music has really come on its own, really finding a way of connecting with people who might have not preferred electronic music (like myself) and hardcore fans. I also feel like, because a lot of the younger generation now can make this music on their laptops, we have seen an interesting output of music from interesting artists. In films, now, we also see a lot of electronic music being used. In particular, I'm thinking of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' soundtracks for The Social Network and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which really changes the game in terms of music soundtrack.