Reposting from Tumblr: A thought on Live EDM and Cookies

[This is being reposted from my all-too-frequently-updated Tumblr,, when it really REALLY belongs here as well.]

aka “Odyssey throws his hat into the ‘Digital DJing vs Vinyl” ring.

I was thinking about live performances recently, about this notion of straightforward Controllerism (such as using a Launchpad or MIDI Fighter) vs. Vinyl DJing vs. DJing with, say, a DJ Controller. There seems to be a great deal of debate and argument going on about the legitimacy of each one, with Controllerism receiving such labels as “illegitimate”, “not DJing”, “too easy”, “just pushing play”, and the like, while Vinyl proponents seem to get this notion of being “behind the times” or “too stuck up” or various things. There are quips about the “middle ground” as well, but… I’m straying from my point.

I’d just like to say… that DJing (which I will use to be short for “performing live electronic music” instead of the strictest form of “disk jockeying”) is a lot like making cookies.

I could see using strictly Vinyl records as making the cookies from scratch. YOU grind the flour, YOU make the chocolate, YOU get the eggs from the chickens… and so on. Your craft is in your hands, literally— every part of it is entirely within your control, about as analog as it gets. The positives of this include the fact that you can entirely craft your sound as you like it, there’s a more soulful and genuine experience to it, and one could suggest that it’s more “wholesome” as a result.

Using something like, say, Traktor with a Kontrol S2/S4/Numark Mixtrack (Pro?) is a bit more like using a recipe, or using some storebought ingredients. It’s not ENTIRELY your handiwork, but you’re still putting work into the process, and you DO have some say over how much of which (kinds of) ingredients go into the mix before you bake them. With successful work you still have a good cookie with enough of your own “flavor” to them to get the job done, without putting in a lot of back-breaking work. No cows to milk, no chickens to take eggs from.

Using just controllers is a bit like buying cookie dough from the store, like in those tubs or refrigerated rolls. You want a specific style of cookie? Want to be sure you’re getting the same thing every time? Don’t need much variety? This will do the trick just fine. After all, not every cookie HAS to be a big, culturally enriching experience with days upon days of management and labor, right? And, chances are good, if you liked that first cookie, you’ll like the next one just as much.

So, which one is “more legitimate”? None, really. Sometimes you DO want that specific, strong experience where everything is completely in place and fine-tuned, and sometimes, you just want a frickin’ cookie. Chances are, most parties you cater won’t care if your cookies were made in-house or if they’re Nestlé Toll House. A cookie’s a cookie, for the most part.

The fact that one batch is made with storebought dough doesn’t make it less of a cookie. Lazier, perhaps? Or at least dependent upon less work, and indeed a lot of people will go this way and suddenly think they’re master bakers (and be entirely wrong). But ultimately, as long as it satisfies the basic needs of a cookie being, say, round, sweet, soft and filling, it has succeeded at being a cookie.

The fact that one batch was made entirely from scratch doesn’t make it a “better” cookie by default— not everyone will like your fancy-ass ingredients just because they’re fancy, and you’re not a better person for doing it that way. Perhaps you have a set of skills the other two don’t have, but you’re still making cookies, which puts you in the same ring as store-bought dough over there.

The fact that one batch is based on a recipe and isn’t entirely made from scratch doesn’t make it a “worse” cookie, either— perhaps the reason they used storebought ingredients was because those work just fine and save them a whole lot of trouble. Granted, they don’t get such fine-tuned control over the taste of their cookies, but it still has some of their character without deviating too much from being cookies in their own right.

All three approaches have at least a modicum of effort to them, and it actually IS possible to be lazy with all three. And, chances are? Audiences can’t always tell which one you’re doing, nor do they usually care— they’re getting cookies, plenty of them, and in most cases they’re grateful for the ones you’re making, and want more.

Just… don’t act like they’re made one way when they’re the other. Seriously. And quit getting pissed off at everyone not making cookies YOUR desired way— nobody is obligated to suit your exact tastes, y’know.

That… is how I see DJing EDM (Electronic Dance Music) as similar to baking cookies.

What Do You Think?