The Unsound Festival New York kicked off Thursday and will continue to dominate a variety of venues in Manhattan and Brooklyn through Valentine’s Day. This stateside version of the renowned Polish event seeks to move beyond the bounds of techno, drum ‘n bass, and house, to expose an electronic music world that’s more than computer-generated beats for dark, strobe-lit rooms.
The festival has brought together a global community of DJs, producers, promoters, composers, and music collectives to present an adventurous program of panels, film screenings, multimedia performances, and, of course, plenty of good parties. The lengthy list of artists scheduled to appear includes Carl Craig, Moritz von Oswald, nsi., Lillevan, and others, many of whom are making their US debuts.
In the spirit of Unsound’s devotion to talent and creativity, we asked eight of the festival’s most innovative artists the question: “What do you envision as the future of electronic music?” Check out their inspiring responses after the jump.
Petre Inspirescu: “There should be a long discussion on this subject. I think the future is always bright and electronic music will be more diverse and experimental as we evolve. Promoters play a very important role in this because they have the opportunity to enlarge the perspective of audience’s by organizing more artistic events to educate the people. Musically speaking, I think there will be more ‘natural vibrations’ infused into electronic music [to make it] sound more organic. We are evolving as well as the, technology so it’s normal to improve the sound palette with new ‘colors.’ Artists should not be afraid to create new sounds because they might not be appreciated. They have to convince the audience.”
Luke Hess : “What I hope for and what will be may be two very different things. I hope that electronic music will continue to be a release from the mainstream. With exposure can come popularity, and once that popularity becomes the focus, it’s very easy to lose sight of the soul and the meaning behind the original intent of the art. Electronic music, in my mind, is about artistic expression — and this expression has been cheapened in recent years. I hope that the future will allow more genuine musicians to express themselves in the purest form possible without any other ulterior motives besides their passion for expanding musical boundaries and pushing new concepts. I tune out the world, listen to what the Spirit is doing in and through my life and write my heart out. Technology and gear is secondary at best to what you have in your soul.”
Jacaszek : “That depends on what electronic music really means. Jean Michell Jarre is dead, that’s for sure, but the use of digital technology in music isn’t [exhausted] yet. Trends are changing with no mercy. To keep this artistic balance, innovation should not dominate our creative thinking. To do something original now, we should, rather, take from what’s close to us (local tradition, the deepness of our souls) and then express that with contemporary artistic language.”
Tobias Freund (nsi.) : “[The future of] electronic music will be abstract and simple. I don’t need to be innovative [because] for me it is a natural process. I will always be curious about music and life. I don’t take to much notice of trends and hype.”
Levon Vincent : “I think we will continue to cycle in and out of equal temperament — things are deeper and more soulful now, and in five years people will find more ‘out’ styles to be most palatable. Things seem to go back and forth every six to eight years or so… I can’t say what my role will be, but I assure you I will be there with a big smile on my face. ”
Newworldaquarium : “That’s one of the big questions in life! [Looking back to] punk, it became clear that you didn’t need an education to play music, and with house and techno it seemed you didn’t have to have a band either. With electronic music today, I guess you don’t even need an instrument anymore, and maybe some day writing a piece of music will be as common as writing something for your blog or a Facebook status-update. For me, it somehow has always been like that.”
Bora Yoon : “I think the future of electronic music will be as vast as the elements that have gone into it — it’s a fascinating swirl to trace: DJ culture, digital producers, classical musicians with software, songwriters with looping pedals, DJs who have live musicians, beatboxers with orchestras, beats with live visuals, multimedia projections, and exciting interdisciplinary approaches like music-reactive or music-generating devices — the formula that comprises what is ‘electronic music’ is only getting wider and more varied, as every genre of music aerates into each other, and the idea of performance expands to become more and more sensory. Electronic music basically encompasses the best of both worlds: the recording realm and the live performance realm — so that whether you’re a DJ, or a studio producer, a live musician with software, etc., the sliding scale between ‘studio’ and ‘concert’ is incredibly flexible [for live performance]… The tenor of electronic music in the E.U. is vastly different than in the U.S., in terms of culture, lifestyles and how it has evolved aesthetically beyond a post-rave era. I’m excited to see more of this cross-pollination, since the evolution of electronic music on a global level is where I truly believe the future of electronic music to be, as each culture has its own unique way of expressing its musical aesthetic, with the technologies it has available and with the intuitive aesthetic that gives each culture the distinct style it has.
“I keep things ‘innovative’ in ways that are unexpectedly not forward-thinking — as in, combining the incredibly new with the incredibly old, or this idea of the ‘ancient future’: combining ambient electronic music with 12th-century choral polyphony, which, strangely, evoke the same feelings, and seem to create a cyclical effect through history. This coming year I will be releasing a wax cyclinder record, with U.K. WIRE artist Aleks Kolkowski’s museum collection, of my track “PLINKO,” made completely of cell phone sounds. It’ll basically be the most digital sound being vomited out of the most analog format possible — which tickles me pink.”
Mike Huckaby : “It’s all a big cycle. It’s all headed towards a back to basics approach. The artist himself, however, will remain more in control of his future. .. We are already seeing the demise of the record company and the restructuring process labels are going through… I look at different ways to reinvent myself while adhering to strong principles centered around the music I’m trying to create. It is very important to have strong musical influences for all the right reasons. If you want to remain in this business, you have to re-educate yourself about what it is you are trying to do. Music is consumed, distributed and sold by entirely different means these days. This is why I studied music theory for the past 10 years and teach software to kids. My motto is this: Always do what your peers cannot, and will not, do. If you adhere to this, you will always [be able to] reinvent yourself.”
Want to listen before you buy your tickets? A free Unsound Festival compilation featuring several exclusive tracks is available here.