Which genre of music is considered boring?
Break point: is techno no longer the music of the future?
The debate about the quality of contemporary music has always been extensive and emotional. Jazz and blues was the devil's music, the Beatles the downfall of society, hip hop drives young people into criminality, techno makes people stupid and is not really music at all. Even today, this debate is heated up again and again. Aside from the pseudo-scientific nonsense that is spreading mainly on YouTube with videos like "The TRUTH why modern music is awful", the present day, however, represents a certain turning point. Because the debate has changed in many places. The new music is not demonized because of its immorality or rebellious streak. Rather, today's generation is accused of no longer having this innovative spirit and rebellion.
Now, Laurent Garnier, one of the greats of techno, has spoken out on precisely this matter. 'Is techno still the music of the future?' - The French DJ and producer asked this important and interesting question in his Real Talk for XLR8R. Garnier, who has been associated with techno since day 1, or rather day 2, now throws a more or less nostalgic look back and ponders over 30 years of electronic music on the occasion of an exhibition he curated. His text and, above all, his thesis that techno is no longer the music of the future, caused a sensation and was applauded a lot - but unfortunately far too little discussed, because many of the points he cited offer reason for criticism.
Garnier reveals in these passages that he thinks music and its history almost exclusively linearly.
Before we get to Garnier's core question about the future of music, let's start with one of the biggest points of contention he reveals in his Real Talk. At a certain point, Garnier begins to paint a picture of the new generation (to which I also belong in my late twenties), which we can never and must never accept: He speaks of a frustrated generation. Frustrated that all the music that is being made today belongs to an earlier generation. At the same time, he tells us about the great times back then, when one completely new music replaced the other every five years. Well, old men who talk about the past are nothing new. However, Garnier reveals in these passages that he thinks music and its history almost exclusively linear.
With him, one always directly replaces the other. Everything follows one another and concludes at some point. Take his example of jazz. For him, jazz stopped with the deaths of Davis and Coltrane and since then we haven't heard anything new or groundbreaking in this genre. Given today's artists such as Jakob Collier, Nate Smith, Flying Lotus, Thunder Cat or the great representatives of J Dilla Jazz such as Chris Dave, this statement can be refuted relatively quickly. But all this name dropping is not very effective, because that is exactly how Garnier argues. He names important artists from certain decades and raises them to the standard of a genre. This is of course a welcome argument and in principle not completely wrong, but it idealizes individual artists and neglects the social contexts from which music develops.
This rather nostalgic view not only leads to a rather limited view of musical trends, it also ignores how different genres and artists and ideas influence one another. Garnier speaks, among other things, of Aphex Twin and Hiphop as revolutionary music, but does not describe the fact that both (more with hiphop) feed on ideas that jazz previously established and ultimately merged back into the repertoire of modern jazz musicians. As an example: J Dilla once sampled the jazz piece 'Diana in the Autumn Wind' by Gap Mangione and turned it into the hipop classic 'Fall in Love'. This, in turn, is nowadays repeatedly recorded and reinterpreted by jazz musicians. So music moves in a constant cycle of modernizing old ideas. The same also applies to techno. So now we come to Garnier's question: "Is techno still the music of the future?" - Well, if we look at it according to its standards and its requirements or images of techno, then techno is actually no longer the music of the future. If we see techno and other genres as rigid systems that have been firmly defined in their premise at some point, then techno has probably actually reached the end of its creative power.
The future at that time has partly become today's reality and can therefore no longer serve as a vision.
But: The problem in his argument is that he defines the concept of the future vision as absolute. He derives much of his explanation from the attitudes and stories that Detroit techno established. This is primarily correct, if you look at the beginnings of the genre, but his argumentation does not deal with today's concept of the future. Put simply, the following applies to Garnier: Spaceships, space, alien planets and unknown technology = future and techno. The narrative of Detroit techno can actually only be found to a limited extent in today's techno world. But what are today's images with which techno is linked, what kind of stories are these that fill the genre today? Take, for example, the album 'Anima Mundi' released by Vril in 2018, translated as 'World Soul'. A natural-philosophical term which, roughly speaking, deals with the human soul and its harmony with its environment and the cosmos. That which went from Kraftwerk to Detroit techno - namely the step from humans to machines - is currently being transformed into the expression of humans through machines. Isn't that exactly where the new way of thinking about the future lies?
Our everyday life is now almost completely determined by technology, which has inevitably made it a matter of course, something natural. The future at that time has partly become today's reality and can therefore no longer serve as a vision. Whereas in the past the fascination with the independence and the "generic" character of drum machines, synthesizers, sequencers etc. determined how to deal with them, today it is more the question of how we can bring the individual, the human, into the foreground despite all the technology can. The whole thing is clearly visible in Moog's promotional video for their latest synthesizer, the Moog One. The Moog One is presented for almost 20 minutes with nostalgic and earthly images and elevates the electronic sound and the synthesizer to something that has become sacred "nature". The same return to the "natural" can be found above all in non-European regions. A large scene of new techno and electronic musicians formed in South America, with Nicolas Jaar as the best-known representative. Above all, they are characterized by the fact that they not only incorporate many organic elements into their music, but also relate primarily to folk sounds, such as in the 'Andes Step'. The same also applies to the South African gqom scene.
The conception of techno is currently changing around the world. The "classic" science fiction narrative of robots and dystopias gives way to dealing with the here and now and the earthly individual. The eternal Blade Runner reference is gradually finding its way into the moth box. The image we have today of a TR-909 or a Juno is no longer associated with spaceships and their cockpits. Rather, we gave the instruments a soul and speak of warmth. So we took over the Techno concept that was established in Detroit, only we filled it with new stories and new perspectives on the genre that are based on current events. So the question is rather: Is techno really no longer the music of the future or is it just that Garnier cannot part with his idea of it? Of course, techno is currently going through a cycle of reproduction and here and there old camels are reheated in a rather uninspired way. At the same time, however, the genre has experienced a large influx of new artists through changed and sometimes simplified production methods, who invent new musical facets and visions of the future and thus continue to enrich techno. In Garnier's statements, this is unfortunately somewhat lost in his nostalgic look.
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