Friday, October 31, 2008

The DJ

I was thinking about techno/DJ artists and their particular strength, in comparison to other musicians. DJs tend not to create original material, and yet they are every bit a musician as any other type of artist. But they are specialists. In making any song, there are certain elements that when put together could be said to make a great song. This is not a perfect list but it works for this mental exercise:

1. Lyrics
2. Melody
3. Performance
4. Sonic quality
5. Arrangement

It's important that a song have good words and a catchy melody. I'm okay and lyrics and have a knack for catchy melodies so I make a good singer-songwriter; this is my specialty I'm also a good singer but my instrumental virtuosity is limited and spread out over multiple instruments, so I make an average performer. But my recording engineer skills are barely passable and my equipment is low-end (though decent these days due to the speedy improvement of home recording technology), so the sonic quality of recordings I make aren't the best. I'm also not that great at arrangement though I'm learning to arrange elements to build energy in a song.

What makes a DJ unique is that the DJ has specialized entirely in Sonic Quality and Arrangement. A DJ masters equipment and software that allows him to create interesting sound effects and improve the presentation of the material, to levels that regular analog sound engineers can't touch with live music. And the DJ spends countless hours learning how to arrange beats and sound samples in a way that builds up, releases, and rebuilds emotional energy. Anyone who has listened to U2, Fat Boy Slim, or Daft Punk knows how well their songs build in emotional power and intensity through the song. This is the musicianship of the DJ -- they have abandoned Lyrics, Melody and Performance completely in chasing down what may be the underlying backbone of all music -- Energy.

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