Sunday, December 30, 2012

Tracing Dubstep

The last Sunday of the year comes just one day ahead of The End, ideal for those who wish to review the year just past—culture-wise. We’re living in such “happening” times that missing like three days of the year before writing their retrospectives, the authors are sure to miss a brand new trend likely to “re-define” pop for years. So here is hoping that nothing much happens tomorrow, as in “virality.”

Herewith a quote from the New York Times that provides the context:

For pop 2012 was a year of rewired consensus. A year in which Taylor Swift finally accepted her pop-star birthright, waved casually at country and then bravely entered dubstep. A year in which the critic-consensus R&B star was Frank Ocean, who spent most of the year spilling out feelings and then averting his eyes. A year in which Carly Rae Jepsen suffocated the mainstream and then evaporated. A year in which Psy, a B-list Korean pop star, unleashed a video (and song) that became the first to surpass one billion views on YouTube, redefining virality in pop along the way.
     Jon Pareles, Ben Ratliff, and Jon Caramanica, “Mad Science and Pop Hits,” New York Times, today.

Now in that, for me, totally obscure paragraph, one word was even more opaque than the others: dubstep. Having accepted her birthright, Ms. Swift entered that word. Now was that a place? In today’s culture, where lower-casing everything is de rigeur if you are young, as writing vatican or queeny liz, it might be a place, another country (after all she was leaving “country”), a state of some kind of grace, or even, possibly, a new word for her nineteenth year. I thought I’d better look it up.

Lo and behold, dubstep is dance music. It is only 12 years old, born in South London, and has an illustrious heritage. It’s sibling is grime, music that came from East London. East meets South. Dubstep is described (by the Allmusic website) as “tightly coiled productions with overwhelming bass lines and reverberant drum patterns, clipped samples, and occasional vocals.” Alas. Pop music described in words is as weird as classical music rendered into writing. Dubstep’s precursor is 2-step garage, itself the child of UK garage (mid-1990s). Now UK garage is a sub-genre of deep house, deep house a sub-genre of house, and house finally gets us back to the United States. It was born in Chicago (early 1980s). House is ultimately traceable to disco.

One more elucidation before my confession. That “garage” in 2-step and in UK comes from a New York City discotheque by the name of Paradise Garage, once located at 84 King Street.

Now for my confession. In all of the above I have been cribbing from Wikipedia without, frankly, understanding a word I was reading—but like Katie the Beagle (whom we’re dog-sitting at present) just sniffling the snow with fantastic eagerness to make a kind of fuzzy pattern. In human terms, this is like editing a Russian manuscript using a Chinese Grammar of Russian accessible by way of an English-Chinese and a Chinese-Russian dictionary.

1 comment:

  1. This is like reading an anthropologist write about the nomads in some distant, unknown place... Most interesting!

    Mind you, I appreciate the research. Had no idea what dubstep meant.


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