Monday, March 5, 2007

Democratising the Beat

Alright people,

long-time no post. We have been busy to say the least. Anyway I thought I would return to the blog on the tip of other bloggers whom I admire, namely Woebot, Blissblog and Martin @ Blackdown, who take an intelligent and critical angle on contemporary musical genres. I thought this excerpt from a piece of research I am doing at the moment is worth your time. Its about Grime and the democracy of production that desktop PCs and Consoles offered to the younger generation of Garage fans.

Incidentally Blackdown has a published an interview I conducted with him for the very same piece of research.

Throughout Popular Music’s history the materialization of many genres and scenes can be attributed to developments of technologies that have assisted the making or distribution of music. Acid House, a forbearer of Grime itself was a product of the new availability of drum machines, synthesizers and advances in computer memory in the mid-to-late 1980s. (Collins, 1999, passim) The emergence of the white label, a cheap to process 12-inch acetate vinyl, decorated with the minimum of effort (or ‘white label’ as it were) revolutionised the distribution of dance music singles around the same time whilst offering the staple format for dance tracks ever since. (ibid.) It is true that countless UK Garage and many Grime artists have utilised this very same low cost production method to establish themselves early in their career, abolishing the need for a full fledged, professional record label.

The emergence of Grime directly corresponds with two technological revolutions. The first falls within the process of music making and positioned the power of production into the hands of more disadvantaged and often younger followers. Developments in desktop personal computers coupled with the availability of pirated music-making software on the internet gave a new generation the power to construct musical arrangements at an affordable cost. Software based applications such as Fruityloops and Reason which required no more than standard PC and a set of speakers gave the power to amateur music-makers, despite having no previous knowledge of musical production. This lack of musical know-how had a detrimental effect on the musical output of the pioneers of Grime as the traditional strictures and doctrines of previous genres of dance were thrown out the window, undoubtedly having an effect on genetics of the UK Garage genre. The youthful and innately techno-literate subcultural followers inevitably self-taught themselves the skills to produce the music that they saw fit. Beats and melodies were now constructed from scratch, based purely on the feel and the temperament of the producer and ushered in an new era of sound and sonical temperament.

Videogame consoles offered another outlet of production for these new beat-smiths. A series of titles under the moniker of ‘Music’ were released on the Sony Playstation a massively popular home-console. The game allowed the user to manipulate musical loops and create tracks using the control-pad and a block-building interface. It was allegedly on this software where the seminal track ‘Pulse X’ by the Musical Mob was created. One of the first success stories to emerge from Grime was Dylan Mills or Dizzee Rascal as his MC personality was to be known, apparently using Music on the Playstation to create beats. Nick Hugget the man who discovered Dizzee Rascal and the A&R of XL Recordings recalled to me a time when the young Mills brought his tracks on a mere Playstation memory card to a professional studio during the early stages of recording his Mercury Prize Winning Album, ‘Boy In the Corner’.

If anyone ever asks me what drew me to my mild obsession with Grime in its early days I guess this could explain it. It affected me on two fronts, not only was I fascinated with the unravelling of the strictures and dogmas of UK Garage by the countless juvenile producers, but the fact that I could engage with the process myself with not more than the family PC, Limewire and broadband connection. Who would have thought you could make dance music (as UK Garage still was back then) without beats? [Wiley- Eskimo 2] And what the fuck was Ice Rink all about? Were they beats or was that just melody. Wonders 'What' seemingly used four elements to create a dystopian masterpiece, which braced me for the dubstep I was to encounter next. I downloaded Fruityloops in 2001 and I'm still hooked. I still don't believe I have touched the surface of musical production, Hadouken pop-songs are essentially 2-bit in comparison to the potential of digital production, with the imagination and correct know-how. Saying that, 2-bits is all any good pop song requires.

(Some of you may have noticed that back there I say there were two revolutions that occured within Grimes early days. The other for the record is the mp3 as the first valid digital format and the catalyst for piracy, diffusion of geographical underpinnings and something of an assault on dubplate culture, but I haven't finished that section yet.)


NJ said...

Wow, that is probably the most interesting and intellegent thing I've seen on the internet in ages. Wasn't expecting to find something like that here but its a nice surprise.

Dan said...

Just found Tuning In and though I'd check out your other tracks. Not normally into garage, but your sound is interesting, its kinda like The Automatic but with more of an electrofunk twist.

Keep it up!

Chuck said...

Safe. This exactly the kind of thing i'm trying to write my dissertaion on and think will be useful in helping with research. Also, if any paticular bits are desperately relevant, would it be all right with yourself if i were to qoute them, with appropriate recognition, within the text?

Thank you.


what is FIP? said...



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Duncan said...


which is ok if its just research.

But jesus it's so shallow, you not even scratching the surface.

it could be linked to much more musical history.

also this might be of intrest...

(this is one of five parts)

as it is about music in general, and from a man who (even though isnt involved with grime at all)has valid views on DIY music making. and may challenge your views on the current direction of all music, and music companies

scotty said...

I remember the days of playstation music. Never got the hang of it.
nice bit of research

Anonymous said...

"This lack of musical know-how had a detrimental effect on the musical output of the pioneers of Grime as the traditional strictures and doctrines of previous genres of dance were thrown out the window"

Erm, how is that a detrimental effect? That's one of the things that makes grime so exciting!