In the fall semester of 2018 I went on the New York City program and through a generous donation from Hallenbeck Endowment For International Research and Studies I was able to explore the live electronic music scene. NYC is an artistically vibrant and ever-developing environment for new music so it seemed like the perfect place to dive into the electronic underground and to research various performance methods. At St. Lawrence University I have been able to take classes about the production of electronic music as well as the live performance of such. The nature of electronic music does not lend itself to live performances as regular instruments do because it is produced on a computer rather than simply being recorded on a computer. This complicates the live performance of electronic music since a large part of it often is premade and asks for performers to find new ways to engage their audiences. Since the genre of electronic music is only a couple of decades old, there are constantly new methods and mediums that are being explored for the performance of such.
In New York City I was able to attend three different concerts that were using electronic music in various ways. The first one was a more exclusive event in a basement where electronic music was played live to create both a drum track and melodic structures to accompany electric guitars and a lead singer. This was a great example of how electronic music could be created in a more dynamic way – rather than creating a new performance structure they simply incorporated the electronic elements into a more regular band performance. The second performance was at a concert hall where entire music tracks were played through a computer and midi controllers in the background with a vocalist singing and dancing in front. The performance structure had a clearer divide between the vocalist performing live being focused on engaging the audience in front combined with the more static electronic elements in the background. A majority of the music was pre-made and it was sort of a more disjointed experience because of this divide. The third concert was a part of a larger electronic music festival in Brooklyn and was an evening of DJ sets. The DJ’s were placed on a screened off scene slightly heightened and were less engaging, but attempted to create a space where the audience could engage with each other and the music rather than focus their energy on the DJ’s. Here, I ran into a SLU alumnus who were performing his set and he explained the technicalities of his set up more in-depth to me. He also put me in contact with the organizer of the event who runs an electronic record label and I got to hear more about the industry in New York City. I am grateful that I got to experience this part of NYC and it was extremely useful to see what I have learned about in class in practice. It inspired me to become more involved with my own music which I am exploring further in my last semester here at St. Lawrence.