Shot Callers: Matt Maggiacomo: What Does Music Say About a Generation?

By: Jase Peeples

Our focus on Shot Callers around the country continues today with an update from New York's Matt Maggiacomo.

This week, I'd like to use this space to start a conversation about the question: what does music say about a generation, specifically ours? As a lover of house and EDM, I've been pondering this question and want to explore it more fully, but I need YOUR help!

Everybody has heard EDM by now even if they don't know it by its acronym. Over the past few years, Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has snuck into the Top 40 charts, into popular commercial spots, and has given rise to some of the nation's largest music events in recent memory. DJ/Producers whose names were once a neglected detail are now celebrated the same way pop stars are, they include David Guetta, Calvin Harris, Swedish House Mafia, DeadMau5, and Skrillex. These DJs are selling out America's largest stadiums and racetracks for EDM events such as Electric Daisy Carnival and Electric Zoo.

On a recent outing to Electric Zoo in New York City this past Labor Day Weekend, I found myself surrounded by youth, typically aged 18-25, donned in whatever ragtag articles of neon clothing they owned as they partied during the three-day mega-rave. While I had a great time at the festival, I found myself much more intrigued by the DayGlo-decked audience and thought 'What does popular music say about a generation?' EDM festivals like Electric Zoo are the closest thing to this generation's Woodstock, and if there is anything to know about Woodstock, it's that it represented the trials and tribulations of an entire generation.

Though I wasn't alive during the era, I'm reminded of some of the most soulful performers famously aligned with Woodstock, like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Joe Cocker and how the festival was created for the love of music and in protest to the US involvement in the Vietnam War. The generation was brutalized and scarred by what was happening in the world. Woodstock was a way to escape, and famously involved drugs like marijuana and LSD which only numbed, expedited the escape and eased the pain, if only for a while.

So what's plaguing our generation? Apathy? Anxiety? Asthma? What is it about a symphony (cacophony?) of electronic, computer-generated sounds that brings them to the hallowed grounds of an EDM concert? It is interesting to point out that Ecstasy and its more pure form, MDMA, are among the most popular drugs used at EDM events. Both drugs affect the mind and body by releasing serotonin into the bloodstream which results in a heightened sense of emotion and feeling, this includes the urge to dance. An entire generation has wildly embraced a form of music, that is created almost solely by a computer and opts to use recreational drugs to heighten emotion, in complete contrast to that of Vietnam. In '69 the famous performers of Woodstock took the stage, sang from the heart, and protested war while the audience urged for a message of peace & love. This is much different from what happens today. No, there is no draft for war, but there IS war and people we know are still fighting it. Those Woodstock performers have been replaced by DJ/Producers furiously turning at knobs and faders creating sound. There are still world problems, but do we tune in or tune out while we dance along in an electro-bliss? Not worried about much, really.

So what does all this mean? The generations before us made popular songs and lyrics that came from the heart and had a message, while today our favorite EDM songs are created by computers, typically have few words, and no decipherable message - but we seemingly love them just as much. What does that say about us? Message and tweet me your ideas and let's get this conversation started.


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