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Let the music be!

Earlier it was 'electronic'; now it's called 'Intelligent Dance Music'. What's the fuss about, wonders Tanmay Bahulekar.

art and culture Updated: Oct 04, 2007 18:12 IST
Tanmay Bahulekar
Tanmay Bahulekar
Hindustan Times

With the electronic music suddenly becoming the in thing at clubs, there have been random articles trying in vain to explain the nitty-gritties of the electronic movement. I also chanced upon a write-up about intelligent dance music.

For the uninitiated, IDM is being relentlessly touted as music that stimulates both the brain and the body.

Returning to the article, the writer dwelled endlessly on the power of music as a something that can engender new worlds. Fair enough. He, however, followed this up with a strange proclamation wherein he eschewed all other musical genres and claimed that only electronic music was IDM.

Who decides?
In addition to saying that IDM is synonymous with electronica, the writer is also suggesting that all music that does not submit to this compartmentalisation is simply vegetative noise.

In 1997, seminal electronic music artiste Aphex Twin, a k a Richard James, said about the IDM fad, “I just think it’s really funny to have terms like that. It’s basically saying ‘this is intelligent and everything else is stupid.’ “It’s really nasty to everyone else’s music. It makes me laugh, things like that. I don’t use names. I just say that I like something or I don’t.”

Don’t get me wrong; electronic music is after my own heart, but first the genres and now the relentless advance of sub-genres is a complication uncalled for.

What about Pearl Jam?
Trance, psytrance, breakbeat, dub, downtempo, chill, house, progressive, progressive house and a lot of electronic music is IDM. But who decides this?

Pearl Jam, Pink Floyd can definitely get the people dancing. But according to the parameters of IDM these scintillating outfits are no good. To my mind all these terms are just innovative ways of selling out.

A lot of these crazy electronic sounds originated in Goa of the 1990s. Some of those progressives who countered the banality of remixes that were fast taking over our lives were hippies, some ‘seekers’ and some just wanted to flow with the music. It was all very basic and it was all about the music and not highfalutin labels.

Beyond the innumerable barriers of labels and subgenres allmusic has a strong spiritual connection. Take the ’70s for instance. A lot of psychedelic rock (remember The 13th Floor Elevators?) that came out of this decade, though not electronica, could still take you on a trip. And now they’re questioning its intelligence and whether it was dance?

With music we all learn from experience and only then decide what music we are inclined towards. These classifications have become a glamorous step that elides this stage of prodding around and jumps directly to the dry theorising. The trend needs some subversion. We need to take our time with music.

First Published: Oct 04, 2007 16:17 IST