"Everybody wants to be a DJ." - De La Soul, 1989
"I wanna be a DJ, baby." - Chicks on Speed, 1999
Popular music is nothing but a tool.
Opera ... classical ... even epic 1970s art rock - all of these genres required passive engagement from the listener: a willingness to plunk down in the concert hall, at the theater or next to the stereo and carefully listen in pursuit of Culture.
But since the advent of the radio DJ half a century ago, music has become increasingly democratized and incidentalized. We're all out there constructing the soundtracks to our lives, and the vast panoply of popular music is nothing but a compositional toolbox to be plundered.
I'm not arguing that music is trivial - just that our relationship to it has changed over the last 50 years. We don't spend our entire lives ferreting out every nuance of the same few symphonies and concertos anymore. Instead, we imprint the flux of everyday life with an endless succession of fresh sounds. Songs become audio snapshots of a specific time and place, to be revisited occasionally or eventually lost to the march of memory.
It all started when radio begot pop: a never-ending feedback loop between the people who play music and the people who listen, with the Top 40 and countless other charts keeping track of the conversation. Disco turned dance music into a ceaseless flow, while later electronic genres destroyed the hegemony of melody.
Hip-hop taught us to build the present out of bits of the past, while the Walkman and the car stereo gave us the freedom to take our tunes with us. Today, MP3s are slowly destroying the notion that music is even something you can hold in your hands. Now we're all DJs, with hard drives instead of turntables.
Rock 'n roll snobs and latter-day proponents of the "Disco Sucks" movement sneer that electronic music is like abstract art - pretty patterns that are essentially meaningless and capable of being appropriated by anyone. But isn't that true of all pop - all music that's been freed from the gravity of singer-songwriter earnestness and the tyranny of High Art?
The digital age gives us listeners more choices than ever, and Armchair-DJ.com is meant to help you make the most of those choices. Don't settle for Britney Spears unless you've investigated other avenues: Browse our reviews, archives and artist retrospectives, or check out our periodic interviews.-- Brian Dillard, http://www.armchair-dj.com, accessed June 2003
your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products