Editorial: Are Computers Instruments?
How many times have you had to defend your music taste in a bar to people who just do not understand dance music? I certainly have.
I’ve heard people argue that DJ’s are not playing instruments. And truthfully, not all of them do. DJing is a different talent, one that us in this community admire; however, musicians of the old school rock and roll mentality resist this. Of course DJs and producers are not necessarily the same thing, many in this day and age are pressured to do both. In this way there is a growing musicality coming back into dance music. As technology grows we are able to use it to build better tools which allow us to experience sound in a new way. And did we not originally build a drum or a guitar to serve the same purpose?
At Further Future festival in Nevada curators pushed the participants to ask this very question. They curated a very specific musical journey on the Mothership Stage to incorporate artists who are pushing the limits of technology creating a sound that plays to our generation: one that is both human and machine.
Here are 4 of our favorite acts from the experience:
Alfred Darlington, aka Daedelus, took to the mothership stage at Further Future early Friday afternoon and set the tone for the tech savvy party that was beginning to unfold. Immediately his performance struck a chord; it was almost difficult to dance because watching him was so enticing. His appearance and violent manner of musicality makes one think he is playing a cello in an early 19th century orchestra. The waistcoat he wears contradicts the technology at his fingertips and the juxtaposition opens one up to see the tradition of music grow into our new experience of it. He uses an Ableton Push system when he plays, which makes it appear as if he is playing an elaborate game of “Simon Says” creating the patterns we dance to. He plays with the passion I have only seen in string instrumentalists and pianists, he disappears into his music and brings the entire crowd along on a journey.
Who Made Who
This Danish trio featuring Jeppe Kjellberg, Tomas Barfod, and Tomas Høffding opened the Mothership stage Friday night. I didn’t know their music and was actually heading out to see Four Tet. Due to the rain the sets had been delayed; which, turned out to be a real treat. The band was getting a bit of a late start due to the damp but they were not frustrated, in fact that were smiling and interacting with the crowd as they did their soundcheck. They even performed an intimate Prince cover featuring Jeppe’s freedom with his guitar. Strong training and mastery of their instruments allows this transcendent state as they perform. Their musicality and skill as a rock band is undeniable and when that is combined with technology into a bright dance beat the party is unstoppable.
British producer Neil Barnes took the stage alongside a drummer and vocalist Saturday night once again getting the night started with a bang. For a group that was continually kicked out of venues during its first birthing for being too loud they certainly kept everyone in the desert dancing. Neil is quoted on his website saying, “Leftfield have always been about the tension between weight and weightless, between intensity and calm, between pressure and release. Those qualities are all over this record.” This was felt in the music. His most recent album “Alternative Light Source”, is about that disparity between how things were and how things are now. That is the conversation Further Future continued to bring up through technology.
The dynamic duo from Vienna took the mothership stage Sunday night to close out the conversation between live instrumentation and technology for the weekend. Anna Müller and Paul Wallner curate this sound of longing. The melancholy undertones reach this place deep within and inspire contemplation through motion. The live drummer compliments the duo’s mixing and Anna’s haunting vocals in a way that is truly unique and collaborative. They were the perfect end to a festival challenging our capability to use computers as instruments.
After this as my photographer and I walked over to Robot Heart I could not help but contemplate all those buzzed arguments I had gotten into with my bartender friend. Since the beginning of time human beings have been creating tools to make things easier. In this way a wheel and a computer are the same: innovations that allow us to do things quicker and more efficiently. In music this is the same. Tools which allow DJs to mix tracks are not different either and hearing phenomenal artists like Lee Burridge and Dixon mix reminded me of this too. These artists have a freedom to their sets you only see in the underground, for the rock and rollers who only have heard mainstream edm I can understand why we get a bad rep. For one the instrument may be cello; but, for many it has become a computer. It is exciting to be a part of the growth and innovation of music through technology. The one thing that does not get lost is the musicality— because that comes from our hearts, from our deep human essence. Computers help us make music: merely another instrument to add to our vast and growing collection.
Words by Carolyne DeBlois
Carolyne DeBlois is an actress and writer currently living, writing, and dancing in Los Angeles, CA. For more of her writing please follow her on Instagram @carolyne_deblois