A bald-faced lie. (Although I don't know why lies would be any worse for lacking hair on their faces, but that's beside the point.)

(Some) people will claim that electronic music is a creative dead-end. They say that electronic music is by-and-large creatively bankrupt and that all that has come out of it is boring minimalism and crappy dance music. Even if we assume they are correct, this does not prove that nothing new will be done.

In theory, electronic music is capable of generating any sound or sequence of sounds. At it's most extreme, then, a claim that electronic music is worn out is a claim that we have generated every sound and sequence of interest. If that's true, then all music has done everything it can do, and there's no point in singling out electronic music.

Others will come back against this point and say "but it's precisely this lack of constraints that makes electronic music so boring. True creativity requires you to overcome the constraints of your medium. In a medium with no constraints, creativity is doomed."

This is, in the words of Colonel Sherman T. Potter, a load of horse hockey. Constraints lead to creative solutions, but not necessarily creative art. If this were true, then less constrained art forms, like the novel, should generate less artful pieces. But as a whole, are novels less artful than sonnets? I think not.

Now, our hostile straw man responds that while it is true that one can do a great deal with electronic instruments, that is not what is meant by "electronic music" per se, and that "electronic music" refers to boring minimalism, stupid electronic new age music, and crappy dance music. This person is still wrong. I will prove this simply by example. Several electronic musicians have recently done phenomenally interesting things, among them Moby and Evolution Control Committee.

An unofficial Nodeshell Resuce

Addendum in response to ferrouslepidoptera:

I don't think anything you said contradicts my general point, but I (and a lot of other electronic musicians) understand exactly what you mean.

Using my preferred music software, which happens to be Cakewalk, I can get a lot of control over a sound. I can get very fine grained control of pitch and modulation, for example. So, by using this piece of software, I can overcome the ham-handedness problem with pitch and modulation wheels.

Unfortunately, it would take me hours to recreate something vaguely like what I could do with my guitar in ten seconds. This sucks.

As I was driving today, before I read your writeup, I was fantasizing about having a violin which would record not only where my finger was on the string but information like how hard and how fast I was bowing, when I change bow direction, and what kind of vibrato and other wacky touch stuff I was doing. Of course, then I'd have to learn to play the violin, but maybe then I could get some of the expressivity I really want.

My rum-fueled retort...

One thing that remains to be done with electronic instruments, in my opinion, is to create an instrument which is as expressive and controllable as an electric guitar.

I can play electric guitar to a certain extent, and I can play keyboard to a certain extent. The thing that has always struck me about keyboard instruments, (even a real piano) is the very limited control you have over each note compared to the control and latitude you have with an electric guitar.

With a keyboard, for any given note, you typically can only control how hard you strike the key, and how long you hold it down. That's it. Sometimes you have wheels, or ribbon controllers, but these typically require huge gross crude movements of your entire arm to operate, whereas, the effect you might be going for could be effected on guitar with the tiniest of finger motions. All the keyboard samples of electric (or acoustic) guitar are pretty lame, precisely because you cannot control them as precisely as you could with a real guitar. The sounds themselves, taken in isolation, are fine. It's when you try to perform with them that the limitations become apparent. They end up sounding canned, because they are canned.

My point is, the electronic equivalent of the electric guitar remains to be created. I'm not knocking either electronic music or electrontc instruments, just saying, "here's something that hasn't been done."

I'm making the assumption here that the electric guitar does not count as an electronic instrument, even though electrons and electronics are involved, since the instrument called "electric guitar" consists of a guitar and a guitar amp. (The amp is definitely part of the instrument, contributing much more to the sound than just amplification.)

One of the original points about electronic music is that you can control every aspect of the sound. To go back to the guitar example, you can't control the envelope of a guitar note - a very loud attack when the note is plucked, and a variable decay that is relatively quick. The tone of the instrument is hardwired to the specific guitar- you can't change the kind of wood, or pickups in the guitar.

There are a number of ways to create sound that people call electronic music. Subtractive synthesis, fm synthesis and sampling are the most common right now, and just with those three almost every aspect of sound can be manipulated, to a much higher degree than with a 'traditional' instrument.

What is really going on here is people looking for a better interface to control electronic instruments. It is extremely common to use laptops as live instruments right now, but the problem is interfacing in an intuitive way. Sure, being able to change the pitch of the sound you are creating is cool, but not if it takes 15 seconds to do it, and you can't accurately find the note you are looking for. The issue is creating a musical instrument that feels like you have control over it similar to a traditional instrument.

Some software people have been using to get this kind of control are Reaktor and Max/Msp. These are both essentially music programming languages, with Reaktor being more modular, and easier to use. Another program I have found that deals with these issues and is ready-to-use is Spongefork. It is designed to be 'played' with a standard qwerty keyboard and mouse.

The other thing to think about is how long it takes to learn to play an instrument. People spend years getting used to playing guitar, or keyboards. You should expect to put as much time into learning about electronic music creation before feeling like it doesn't have the same level of expression as a guitar.

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