The recent issue of The Wire caught up with one of the fathers of sampling, musique concrète maestro Pierre Henry. He's been down on the contemporary state of electronic music for awhile. The article begins with a quote from a 1997 interview:
"Today I feel less inspired[.] We're living at a time where everything is controlled, planned and codified and even popular music isn't popular any more, it's imposed upon us."
And he's not any more positive now:
"I think it's a big mistake to call today's music electronic music[.] People do things with computers and samples but it's not the same approach as the way I work, or how Karlheinz Stockhausen worked in his electronic pieces. There is not the same craft, and it's not progress."
Suggesting by implication that the sound collages of El-P, the world creation of Tod Dockstader, Matmos' technological music, or even Björk's omnivorous use of the sounds she finds do not involve a high level of craft just seems wrong-headed to me. The "problem" was better stated in the older interview: codification. When a revolution takes place, there will then follow a prolonged period in which people work under the new order. Not everyone can be Chairman Mao (nothing's more ironic and true in this regard than Maoism -- the revolutionary figure par excellence was used as the ultimate criterion by which the subsequent potential equality of all others was to be judged). Thanks to the revolution of Mssrs. Henry, Stockhausen, Varese and Schaeffer, electronic music has now become a genre, whether Henry likes it or not. Why? Consider Thomas Kuhn's distinction between normal and revolutionary science as they pertain to working within what he called a paradigm: