Soundscapes and why EDM is the music for today

My journey of musical interest has been pretty diverse over the years. The very first music that I remember is ghazals by some of the world’s best along with the pop-music of the 80s. MJ, Tina Charles, Modern Talking, Nazia Hassan along with Ghulam Ali, Talat Aziz and Pankaj Udhas. Quite a mix.

In high school, I started taking my first independent steps in developing my taste. I remember reading an article about a Bon Jovi album and then going out and buying that cassette. That was something!

All this time, I was growing up in the sleepy railways colony in Kanpur. The streets in the colony were wide and mostly empty. The soundscape was mostly of the activity at home or of the birds and insects in the yard around the house. Once in a while you’d hear the heavy bass deep rumble of a truck passing by on the Grand Trunk Road, a central highway, adjacent to the colony. And yes, twice a day you would hear the shift change siren of the Parachute factory close by.

As you can imagine, the music we were hearing on the two-in-one was pretty much the most exciting thing I could lay my ears on.

Then college at IIT just blew my mind. This was where I discovered the range and found my first real love in music. This was also the time I discovered the internet and torrents. Of course, rock was the massive flavour of the time. Classic rock was what I really got hooked onto. Led Zep, Pink Floyd, The Doors. But there was also metal and jazz and rock and roll and world music from all corners of the earth. Not just listening, the first seeds of really performing were sown in college.

The soundscape in Bombay was a lot more intense but not dramatically different from that in Kanpur. While the IIT campus was an oasis of calm where you would hear the breeze in the trees or the birds or an almost broken down motorbike that had not been serviced in years despite changing owners half a dozen times. The city outside the campus walls, was of course full of sound — BEST bus horns, local train sirens, street side hawkers, loud devotional music, the sharp claps of hijras at traffic signals asking for money. Phew!

After college, at work, music tastes stagnated for a bit. I listened to most of the stuff I had gotten hooked on to at IIT. Explored some related artists, got the one off recommendations from friends. There was half a decade of pretty much not much change in stuff except for a small return to bollywood. The desi music scene saw a minor revival of sorts with some fantastic work from Amit Trivedi, Shankar Ehsan Loy and a bunch of other folks.

Then Grooveshark happened. Mind opening event #2. The fact that you could close the loop from hearing someone rave about an artist to streaming them to your headphones instantly was unbelievable! This was the time when a lot of indie music crept into my favs. Freelance Whales, Vampire Weekend anyone?

This was when I first really heard EDM. As in the music was around for a long time but I never really paid attention till now. I still didn’t completely get it, though. I think I was a little influenced by all the criticism EDM sees from music purists. I kinda liked it but didn’t take it seriously. I didn’t talk about it with friends because, well umm, I felt a little unsure talking about it.

But then something happened. Abir made me hear the world from his point of view. He hears the world for the electronic mess it really is right now. And I don’t mean mess in a dirty way but this intense mix of electronic sounds that surround us so much right now. I heard Abir imitate the skype swoosh sound that it makes when the app launches. And this made me listen to the soundscape that Abir is growing up in. Of course, our phones and tabs dominate that soundscape — ringtones, caller-tunes, notifications alerts, typing of the touchpad keys, all the games we play.

While electronic sounds are not new, the sheer immersion we are experiencing is something. And this context gives makes me think that EDM makes a lot of sense for this world.

Even from the music creation point of view, I feel that EDM has instragrammed the music world — It has made creation a lot more accessible than how it used to be. While purists cry that this is not real music, I believe anything that makes more music happen is a good thing. So Abir and I now tap away at the garage band loops to try make our own mixes :)

So oldies, don’t turn away from EDM. Soak it in. In fact, while you’re at it, pay a little more attention to the soundscape around you. There is a lot of beauty that you are just walking right by.