There is a term used in the psychology of aesthetics known as the The Uncanny Valley. It refers to that funny area when a computer image looks “lifelike” but still recognizable as artificially generated it causes immediate revulsion by pretty much all conscious beings. The idea is that it is programmed into us to protect us from ‘the other’.
It is my belief that we are at a point in “the digital revolution” where we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of that uncanny Valley in both movies and music. And this explains a lot of why we find so much of today’s art so empty.
It also explains why so many people are drawn to musical styles from another time. There is such a focus on the sounds that are digitally created that there is almost no focus left for the content. We find ourselves inevitably drawn to music from other areas that were frankly more nourishing. This partly explains all the interest in Americana and all the other musics from many many years ago. In short, they feel more “real”.
Oddly enough, this also explains a lot of the interest in older forms of electronic music. As I’ve ranted here before most people find the electronic sounds that were generated in the 50s and 60s to be far more interesting then those available today. In fact most of the synthesizers one can purchase today are largely stocked with samples of those older pieces of hardware. But because they are static sounds, they can never cross that uncanny Valley. They can never approach the richness of those odd little bleeps and words that populated old TV shows like Dr. who and can’t be science fiction movies. The innovators in electronic music literally spent hundreds of hours creating all those strange little bleeps and bloops and that’s the reason I think that those sounds are so enduring.
The sounds I hear from most dance music today remind me of the empty calories one gets from a Coke. They are a sugar rush. They appeal to the visceral. They get people to dance for sure. But they aren’t nourishing in the way that the sounds of the pioneers in electronic music were.
I don’t know how to cross the uncanny Valley in music. All I can tell you is that I wanted to go back to the kind of sounds that I found so compelling when I was coming up. The point of the solid-state siren is to return to that design aesthetic. My hope is to write music that fits those sounds. With a Detroit, I wanted to write orchestral music I didn’t want to try to force my regular songwriting on to orchestra music. I wanted to write for the orchestra. Similarly I want to write for this kind of orchestra.
I’m going to start posting some links to the kinds of electronic music that I found compelling. I hope you find it as interesting as I do. Not in a nostalgic way but because it is music that has stood the test of time. A lot of it may be somewhat forgotten but that’s only because of the deluge of data that overwhelms most of us with crap these days.