Are You Less of a Musician if You Play Recorded Music?
I remember the first time I went into a rave in southern California, there was a DJ that everybody can’t stop talking about named Jason. Everybody just loved him. It was like Jason, Jason, Jason everywhere and there was such hype regarding this DJ that there was a very, very, very long line.
It didn’t help that the doorman would only let in very good looking women or guys who are obviously extremely rich or people wearing all sorts of funny outfits. I was at the front of the line and I was led in first because I had the foresight of bringing along my trusty cat-in-the-hat hat. I don’t know about you, but regardless of whether you’re into Chicago house music, eastern Brooklyn disco, or Miami sounds, when somebody shows up in a cat-in-the-hat Dr. Seuss hat, you open the door and embrace that person because that person is going to add some spice to your musical scene.
That was kind of my little gimmick that got me through doors that usually kept everybody out. When I finished checking out the scene, dancing, meeting some people, and rubbing some shoulders, I got out back to the street. The exact number of people were still there waiting and the exact same people were still in line. Boy, did I die by a thousand angry stares, but I didn’t care. They didn’t know how to play the game.
I say this story because when I finally saw Jason, he was kind of a bit of a let-down. The guy just basically popped into a CD player a premixed CD. Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, don’t other DJs do this? What’s so different about this guy? Why is he such a total and complete musical abortion compared to others when they’re doing basically the same thing? That’s how they “play” their music. What’s the big deal?
Well the big deal was that Jason committed the unpardonable sin, at least as far as electronic dance music and the scene that surrounds it are concerned, of just staring at the CD player. You’re supposed to move around. You’re supposed to mimic somebody who’s actually working to make the music happen. If anything, that was DJ Jason’s innovation.
He told us to our face without saying a word that this is electronic music. It’s pre-canned music. It is pre-recorded and premixed. All he did was open the CD player, pop in the CD, and stare at it. He said it to our face. He was basically like the little kid in the story of the emperor wearing no clothes. You remember the story?
Everybody was just fooling themselves and playing along with the lie because they didn’t want to be called an idiot. They wanted to please everybody else. They were living everybody’s expectation. I wasn’t surprised that a lot of the people were saying that the emperor was wearing clothes when he was completely and totally buck naked. They actually believe that there was some sort of invisible fiber.
That’s how powerful the human mind is. We play all sorts of tricks with ourselves. Jason, bless him, was like that little kid. He said, this is electronic dance music. You’re listening to canned music.
That’s what made people love him and this is why the question of are you less of a musician when you play pre-recorded music is really moot. If not, it’s ignorant. It doesn’t really understand the essence of electronic music. If you think about it, it’s the most creative form of music because you have to physically navigate the different weird and quirky directions a beat takes. You have to beat a melody in shape and according to your will. That takes effort.
Sure, you’re not working up a sweat like you would if you were Angus Young of AC/DC belting out a blues tune during a rock concert, but it’s still the same level of emotional authenticity and sincerity. It’s really all about dipping into the deep pits of your soul and coming up with something real. So, no. You’re not less of a musician if you play recorded music. In fact, you’re even a bigger musician if you clue people in to what’s going on just like DJ Jason.