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Proliferation of musical genres

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Sep. 9th, 2013 | 11:56 am

One thing I really don't like so much about the current day and age is the wild proliferation of musical genres. Or, more precisely, not the genres as such, but the labels applied to them.

There's always been variety in music, but it's also long been accepted that genres accomodate a certain spectrum of styles; different tracks from the same release, different releases from the same artist, different artists. These days, genres are broken down much more; quite a few artists appear to make up their own genres for their creations, and even individual tracks sometimes get several labels put on them, as the system of genres has become so complex and so fine-grained that even a single song doesn't fit just one specific label anymore.

There's likely several reasons for this. Vanity is one; taking an established genre and identifying yourself or your music with it is less sexy than making up a new one. Everyone wants to be a pioneer, and breaking new ground will net you more attention from critics and fans — if not now, then hopefully in the future when you're recognized as one of the founders of a large and well-known new genre.

Accurate categorization is another reason: both artists and fans want to be able to talk about precisely what sort of music they like, without misunderstandings.

And that's a fair reason, but ironically, the proliferation of genres often does the exact opposite in practice, at least for me. Rather than making it easier to talk about what I like, it robs me of the ability to express my preferences: it's fairly often that I listen to songs, think "I should look for more like this", and then find myself at a loss when trying to come up with a stylistic label.

Electronic music is particularly problematic. Some subgenres there are fairly recognizable, but many others are not, and more often than not I find myself simply filing it under "electronica", and that's such a wide field that the label is almost entirely useless: you could just as well put the Beatles and Judas Priest in a "music with guitars" genre, one that subsumes everything from pop to rock to punk to metal.

Does anyone else perceive this as a problem? I know I'm not the only one; when EqD posts music, for instance, they usually insist on it being tagged on Youtube/Soundcloud/... so they'll know what genre to label it as.

So how do you, personally, deal with it? Sharing links with friends and asking them "how would you describe that" sometimes works, but it's a work-around at best, and not even a reliable one. Thoughts?

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Comments {6}

Rabs Whitetail

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from: whitetail
date: Sep. 9th, 2013 02:57 pm (UTC)
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Yes, as someone who is a developing fan of edm, I find the number and proliferation of sub-genres to be extremely confusing. Do you know anyplace online where these different types of music are described, and which supply audio samples to accompany those descriptions?

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Sep. 9th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
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That would be extremely useful, but unfortunately, I'm not aware of any such site existing. I'll let you know if I find one — and if you do, I'd love to hear about it, too!

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Feffeli Sidereus

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from: feffeli
date: Sep. 10th, 2013 06:29 pm (UTC)
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y'all wanna search for "ishkur's guide to electronic music." Enjoy!

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Sep. 10th, 2013 08:15 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that's really neat, thanks for the pointer! It seems more than a little out of date, and the editorializing is a bit grating at times (more information, less opinion, please), but outside of that it seems quite useful. Thanks!

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Feffeli Sidereus

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from: feffeli
date: Sep. 12th, 2013 01:57 am (UTC)
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You're very welcome! It was done before dubstep, so i guess that dates it. I share your consternation though. it also seems that rather than using technology to enhance their creativity, far too many modern artists (term used loosely) use technology to replace their creativity with barely altered prefabricated noise. Call me aLuddite but give me music from before 1990 any day!

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Schneelocke

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from: schnee
date: Sep. 12th, 2013 09:15 am (UTC)
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Maybe, but there's always been uncreative artists; the difference is that we don't remember the ones from 30, 40 or 50 years ago anymore. The songs that stick in our memories or that keep getting airplays are by definition the good ones; so in a way, we really see the past through rose-tinted glasses, whereas with the present, we get a rawer, less filtered feed.

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