Is Drum and Bass Dying? I need to be quick to say here at this point, Stay Calm and carry on!! There is no need to get the tissues out and/or give up hope…. There is always hope & you are hugely important in shaping the possibility of its future.
The answer to the question depends very much on how we define Drum and Bass… for example, is it a uniquely separate entity from all other types of music that have ever been produced? Or is it a small fraction of some audible equation that has its place amongst a much grander plan…
To ponder its future, let’s start by considering its past….
Whilst Drum and bass is seen as officially arriving on to the scene around 1995, you could probably add another decade to that if you include the gestation period and emergence of the electronic rave culture in the UK which, began to take hold in the late 1980’s through to the early 1990’s. It was around then that many avid ravers noticed the beats starting to speed up, as Jungle Techno was hitting the scene and a more experimental musical revolution was emerging. Professional DJ and producer C.K. states, “There was a progression as far as the speed of music is concerned. Anyone buying vinyl every week from 1989 to 1992 noticed this.”
The following page celebrates the spectrum of electronic music, charting its history across varied genres The Evolution of Electronic Music and its Influence on UK Culture
Now if my three attempts to successfully pass my maths GCSE doesn’t let me down here, that is between two and three decades…. (Let me tell you, that was a grade ‘C’ hard earned my friends). So after approximately 30 years of hard graft, risk, trial and error and a deep love of electronic music, we are now the recipients and guardians of all that blood, tears and sweat, that has gotten us to where we are now and what we all enjoy… But let us for a second widen our lens even further and visualise the life of DnB as part of the much grander picture. Human’s capacity and more importantly desire to create sound, has proven to be a deep connection that has been with mankind for many thousands of years
I mean if you wanted to, you could go back even further than the relatively small flutter in time that DnB represents, and connect everything that has happened in the history of music, to that one 30 year electrical DnB impulse on the EKG, monitoring the heartbeat of music
Have a play with the graphic in the following link by zooming in and out on different genres. The ‘family tree’ is bonkers and offers a flavour of how interconnected music is and, allows you to explore some of DnB’s distant relatives. By clicking on the different sub-genres, you can back track DnBs lineage to a variety of different musical genres & eras such as Raga and folk music. Music Map
Of course, this perspective is not intended to take away from DnB. If anything, it reminds us that its roots are much stronger and deeper than perhaps we acknowledge. However, the links are still there and like our human ancestors, were a necessity to get us where we are now. DnB came from something and will inevitably evolve in to something. Therefore, perhaps a more interesting
question to ponder on might be to ask what will DnB evolve in to and what shapes musical evolution?
The following is an interesting paper submitted back in 2016 to an academic journal titled ‘ Cultural Evolution of Music’ and which starts to explore the link between cultural evolution and musical evolution and how they are much more closely tied than they appear. Savage Cultural Evolution of Music
Musicology delves deep in to just how intrinsically linked the future of music is to culture, and how culture influences if not determines sounds and what ultimately is being played. Check out this rather cool Frankenstein like experiment in which, researchers first populated their ‘tune world’ with short clips of sound encoded by a computer program, even including genetic mutations, to mimic sexual reproduction of noise, so that new generations of sound would evolve and older ones die once they had reproduced. Members of the public were then invited to a website called Darwin Tunes (Kudos folks…. Great name) to start selecting and shaping what they liked. The public began to influence what noises the computer programme used to bump digital uglies and as a result what previous generations were killed off…. Is it me or does this program sound like it belongs in the writing team for an uplifting series such as EastEnders… Death… Misery…. Lots of booze…. “Get Outta my Pub!!” How Listeners Shape The Evo
You see it is our love and our passion which plays a huge part in the direction music takes and of course, as we evolve, so will the music which we listen to. However, we are not passive in this process. In other words, it isn’t only producers who get to decide what is aired.
In short, I simply cannot state whether DnB as we know it will or will not die. Yes, it will change and evolve but, not without you having your say. If we choose to spend time engaging with anything less than what we love (DRUM & BASS… Yayyyyy!!! J), then yes, what we now know as Drum & Bass may well pass and evolve in to something more unfamiliar.
However, let’s not underestimate our collective voice and the steer that we provide to how music evolves. Therefore, think about your music… be drawn by what offers you something more than just noise and be steered by what sets you alight. If that is DnB…. Then yes, it will survive
I suppose one could call it a form of natural selection.