Future music invades the Grammys

February 14, 2012 by Amara D. Angelica

For me, the best part of the Grammys Sunday night wasn’t on the telecast. It was the three pre-awards to the amazing dubstep artist Skrillex: Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album (both for “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”) and Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (for “Cinema” remix track from Electroman).

“Bass riffs that sound like fire-breathing dragons, vocal melodies that closely resemble Central African Mbenga Mbuti Pygmy music, and deftly placed vocal samples that typically propel huge rave crowds into a frenzy” is how Electronic Musician (March 2012) described Skrillex’s electrifying music. (To me, it suggests something alien created by a frenetic, superintelligent dancing robot.)

Here’s a sample:

Deadmau5 in Grammy telecast (credit: CBS)

So why is Skrillex’s music — and that of other awesome dance/electronica musicians and DJs like Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”), who performed at the Grammys and had three nominations) — such a hit right now?

I asked Yale Fox, a top DJ & nightlife psychologist who was recently awarded a 2011 TED Fellowship, for an insider’s explanation. ”This is ‘future music’ — the sounds literally sound like they’re from the future, or really what we think the future will sound like,” he told me in a Skype interview.

Fox ties it back to The Matrix. “Music and emotion go hand and hand, so even though this all happens at a more implicit, emotional level, it plays a part in the greater whole. The Matrix represents one of humanity’s fears: the technology that we create eventually destroys us.

“Hollywood sound designers speculated what the Sentinels in The Matrix would sound like, and they did a fantastic job, which made it believable. If you listen closely to Skrillex’s lead synth basslines, they also possess that terrifying feel.

“Predicting the future is a survival mechanism crafted by evolution for the simple idea that if we can predict the future, we can anticipate something bad that’s going to happen and prevent it.”

Remix-Lab talk on the relationship between music & the automotive industry