Some Thoughts Of A Certain Sound: State Of The Union

It is a fine time for electronic music in San Francisco.

By way of introducing myself and my intent with this column, I would like to start off by referencing the two recent articles by Derek Opperman and Ian Port, found here and here, reflecting on their time spent as music journalists in San Francisco. Port’s piece offers a bleak outlook on the state of music in the city: just like in real estate, he paints a picture of the suffusions of cash enriching some San Franciscans while it critically stifles others, and raises important questions about how to ensure San Francisco’s music culture isn’t priced out — and stamped out.

Opperman’s piece, meanwhile, looks back on what he intended to accomplish by shining a light on the city’s dance music culture: dance parties, and electronic music more generally, are a kind of art unto themselves, whereby a confluence of factors — aural, visual, spatial, even chronological — can come together to create something far greater than the sum of its parts. His take is hopeful, rightfully describing the current state of electronic music in San Francisco as a vibrant one.

[jump] My intent with this column is to take a middle path: it is true indeed that artists, musicians, and creative folks of all kinds are being pushed out of this city in numbers that sometimes make it seem like the freedom to forge your own path that has defined San Francisco for so long may well be a thing of the past. Nevertheless, there are those who remain, doing whatever it takes to forge and foster a creative community amongst the striving and inflation that can, at times, make San Francisco feel more like Manhattan than… Manhattan.

There is also, as ever, an influx of new blood, of folks young and not, determined to make it happen in San Francisco, and they are talented. This is especially true with regard to electronic music — as electronic music and dance music are now edging ever closer to the mainstream of American musical culture, aspiring musicians are as likely to get their hands on a synthesizer as they are to pick up a guitar. There are those who decry this democratization of electronica, and they have a point, for in many ways, mediocrity has become the norm — as well as an enormous moneymaker.

 But for every millionaire DJ shilling EDM to the masses, there are an innumerable number of bedroom producers making the next generation of underground electronica, and a whole bunch of them live in San Francisco. And I have met them. And what’s most exciting is that they all grew up with the Internet, which means everyone knows about everything and has heard everything. Borders between genres, between styles, between approaches are dissolving at a rapid pace. Collaboration and cross-pollination is rampant.

This column, Some Thoughts Of A Certain Sound, will continue reviewing parties as Opperman’s Lost In The Night did. I intend to take it one step further and cover other kinds of electronic and experimental music happening all throughout the Bay Area: modular synth wizards performing in garages, ambient musicians creating modern musique concrète, experimental guitarists improvising in art galleries, drone artists lighting up caves with walls of sound.

It is a fine time indeed for electronic music in San Francisco. Let me tell you all about it.  

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