Is Dubstep Avant Garde Musical Genius? PBS Want To Know

Is dubstep avant garde musical genius?

Or did PBS just give conservatives the ultimate ammo for nuking the National Endowment For The Arts?

This video, via the PBS Idea Channel, makes the case that dubstep is the most recent member of the long-established Avant Garde community:

There is a long history of avant garde musicians and thinkers promoting the concept of noise and non-instrumental sounds as MUSIC, much to the horror of their audience. But over the past century, changes in technology and music genres have primed listeners, allowing mainstream audiences to enjoy the beautiful noise of Skrillex, Bassnectar & the whole Dubstep movement.

Give it a look and then weigh in below!

47 thoughts on “Is Dubstep Avant Garde Musical Genius? PBS Want To Know

  1. I would not say musical genius , but a nice change. To me most electronic music has not changed sense it came about. But everything eventuality does the same thing. And you know different strokes. Plus dubstep is very good live, you don’t have to know how to dance, just nod back and forth.

  2. Surely the fact that dubstep is a definable, evolved (as opposed to an immediate result of experimentation), well populated genre it is by definition NOT avant garde?

  3. he has kind of a shallow knowledge of dubstep. but i still agree with him.

    btw. skrillex and the bigger producers today are actually, in the numbers, including compensation for inflation are more successful than anybody in the past, including frank sinatra, and mozart. that is a mathematical fact.

    1. Oh i guess you have access to mozarts personal bank about.

      I’m sort bu a guy wearing that kind of glasses can’t. Be taken seriously.

      1. What does being successful and earning money have to do with being a genius? Those who make the money usually are the ones that steal the ideas from the actual geniuses.

  4. idk, ….yes the sounds are hard to complex to make but most of the producers are probably using alot of samples and presets, probably not making them… i cant imagine a bunch of “bros” and “dudes” really studying FM synthesis and Additive synthesis to a technician level, the musical content doesn’t have to span more than a few notes in its range, and the form of composition is relative to Klangfarbenmelodie

  5. to me, once again, this is an absolut redundant approach as with the painful neverending “is it art or not” debate.

    there is without a doubt a avant garde influence with many artists, many spanning off in multiple projects or just single tracks into realms of what from a conceptual standpoint art-historically clearly overlaps with the concepts of classical avant garde.

    in my opinion, considering the absolutely non-experimental beatconstrucion (using a 1/32 grid is really not experimental) and most simplistic pentatonics and harmonies used in 80% of most tracks, that consider themselves dubstep today (i even already have to leave wonky or the futurebeatmaker scene out to make my point) massively overrule the generic harsh sounddesign that suggests experiment but is often in it’s usage so carefully calculated and therefore lame and inoffensive, that it makes it way to easy to take in. simply being “upfront” and aggressive doesn’t make anything an experiment or avant garde for that matter.

    having said that, the main point i want to make, that a genre is never completely enclosed in itself, but fluid into anything else (genre, technique) there is.

  6. Noting avant garde in dubstep. It’s just “advanced” techno with and IDM feel. Better than listening to David Guetta, but listening to dubstep doesn’t make you a true music lover. At least not if your dubstep reference is Skrillex

      1. Actually I meant that some genre imply intensive creation, while some others don’t. I’m not saying Skrillex is not a good producer, but his music is sooo commercial that I believe we can’t say there’s anything avantgarde in it.

        It’s like saying Marilyn Manson was avant-garde.

  7. Dubstep ‘was’ avant garde in its earlier form prior to 2006 when it started gaining popularity . Many don’t know of its history and development actually.

    It is hilarious that:

    Many think it’s a new genre

    That most of what people are calling Dubstep actually isn’t!

    Where is the ‘dub’present in what Skrillex, Excision and other American ‘Brostep’ or ‘Popstep’ producers release?

    Look to the uk producers such as Hatcha, Lost, Raggs, El B, Tunnidge, Mala, Emalkay et al and you will find some Dub and some Avant Garde music that comes closer to the conception of what Dubstep actually is.

    I call Tiesto and Armin Van Burrito, and all the other ‘Vans’- pop dance, it is not trance at all, in fact what is trancy about that presentation?

    So why call harsh or glitchy pop with wobbles Dubstep and even avant garde?

    Avante garde music or art is by nature experimental, cutting edge and in many cases quite eccentric. In some cases it’s refreshing and in others annoying.

    I can link Brian eno or most stuff on ninja tune or warp records as svante garde but I cannot use that word with integrity , applied to Dubstep.

    We saw the birth of electronic dance music in the early 80s with synth pop, then early USA electro ( which was joined by old school hip hop), then Chicago house/ Detroit techno, then acid.

    The uk and Europe developed techno and England especially pioneered drum and bass ( followed by awful hardcore).

    Trance followed but the pop potential quickly diluted it and we saw uk garage for awhile which was quickly followed by the first strains of Dubstep in the very early 2000s

    Underground bass music had its birth and cultivation in England. When America got hold of it, it got trashed basically.

    Most of what you hear is Mashup, not Dubstep and I’d hardly call it avant garde.

    Please tell me what is avant garde about teenagers wearing hoods using words like sick, hench, ho and buying CDs that have covers like 80s gore movies?

  8. Electronica has always been a mimic of sorts to other musical styles and instruments. Dub Step is really just another leaf of the vast electronica tree…the style and sounds used are not new. When I first heard Skrillex I immedeatly thought of “Big Black” and told my 20 year old daughter that this is nothing new, check out Big Black and you will hear a lot of similarities. 80’s industrial hardcore, ambient and experimental electronica with performance art of the period seems to of had more influence that they are given credit for. Dub Step is not musical genius….maybe more marketing and timing genius or just luck.

  9. zaxisios is same author as miner- synthead, I had to use pseudonym as a pop up came on iPhone saying it wouldn’t publish , strange but both attempts published

  10. lmao off at all the angrty dads who swear the only “real avant garde” stuff just happened to be when they where teenagers. it’s amazing how that works out, isn’t it? ask any dude over 40 when music was “the best” and invariable it will be their senior year of high school!

    1. i’m over 40, actually 50… and music was most cirtinly not “the best” in 1980, no matter what the casio loving hippsters say. there just happens to be some great liturgical music form around 900ad also that classical stuff had some good composers then a little more recently there was mingus and brubeck, they were ok right? seeing that this is a synth site, how about xenakis and subotnick? i kinda like them. am i too old to like square pusher and apex twin? feels to me like there’s been a lot of avant guard and prob will continue to be, but i don’t see dub step fitting into that category, it’s too germain and simple minded.

  11. Avante Garde is an attempt to explore uncharted sound scapes right? If Dubstep is Avante Garde why does every Dubstep “producer” I know constantly try to emulate the sounds of their contemporaries? Then they organize those “Avante Garde” sounds into a very conservative template which we all know as the dubstep song structure. Kmart has been using dubstep for its new television adverts. Im excited to see the Kmart ads which feature John Cage and Hugh Le Caine’s work.

    1. ‘Zackly put. If it sounds like every other example of the narrowly-defined subgenre, it’s not avant-garde (no matter how pretentious or off-puttingly obnoxious or “aesthetically challenging” the noises are). It’s not art eiither, just entertainment of a very crude and grotesque sort.
      The question posed in the video misses the point. Creativity is not a given in art-making. THere is no formula for ‘capturing’ it and an artist must work very hard to learn a new thought process and take a path of discovery which he leads his audience on in order to share his discovery with them.
      Being a cool manipulator of formulaic expressions, gestures, ideas, etc. does not resemble this process at all. The fact that these DJs and controllerists are popular and well paid should indicate that they in fact populate a corner of mainstream entertainment very far from the avant-gard or art in general.

  12. What are you thinking, you say the same lie every minute to make it sound true, dupstep can be just a tool for a song only if it need it, not a musical advance. Crazy.

  13. Hmm… I would assume that somebody making a video about avantgarde at least knows what the word actually means.
    No it doesn’t mean noisy and weird, not does it mean underground or alternative.
    But fortunately this has been pointed out by other commenters already.

  14. I voted yes. I’m pretty good and I tried to record a dubstep song despite my reservations about “the official soundtrack of robots raping each other”. That shit is hard as “%#”.

  15. i am wondering why “avant garde” is automatically “genius” ..

    there is plenty of stupid, garbage avant garde music that is not dubstep

    there is plenty of stupid, garbage music that IS dubstep

    as to whether dubstep is “avant garde”.. it depends on how you define the term, but in the most technical sense it is avant garde music, in much the same way that booty bass music is avant garde, and also techno, breakbeat, electro, etc. etc.

    the drama over who has the biggest (musical) dick or whatever, thats not new either..

    in the more ordinary world of what is enjoyable to listen to, its a matter of personal opinion, where i consider >90% of it to be horribly annoying bullshit, but if you dig it that is your choice.. doubt i could handle that kind of dudebro crowd either, but again, whatever floats your boat

  16. Avante guarde is, by definition, the cutting edge, pushing the boundaries beyond what most consider music or art. Dubstep as a pop culture phenomenon therefor is not avante guarde. The wonderful point being made (incorrectly) is that Dubstep has it’s roots in glitch and noise music, which were very much avante guarde, and has take what was not long ago something that many would find amusical and made it not only considered music, but pop music at that. It could be said Dubstep killed the avante guarde label of glitchy music by making it pop.

    1. people who consider themselves “fine artists” are usually pretentious jackasses that often think their opinions and subjectivity are facts and objectivity…

      heres a hint, “artist”… first learn how to actually spell the french term for “advance guard”

      the point is that “normal” is subjective and therefore what is “avant garde” for your grandma isnt the same thing that is “avant garde” for the hipster club girl

  17. It’s cute the way his knowledge of experimental noise music went from 1940’s musique concrete straight to dubstep, ignoring the trajectory of Power Electronics, Harsh Noise, Industrial Noise, PowerNoise, Japanoise etc… yes, clearly after musique concrete you could only find examples of noise as music in punk rock (actually just noisy music), and not in, say, Merboz, Masonna, Throbbing Gristle, etc… or of course the more recent Power/Rhythmic Noise that fused EDM with Noise in a similar way to what Brostep does. Hipsters like this guy need to stop co-opting trends without understanding their interrelationships, but that being one of the defining aspects of hipsters, I doubt we’ll see anything of the sort occur.

  18. ugh. based on this dude’s idea of what avant garde means you could apply his hypothesis to industrial, detroit techno, trance, idm, minimal and every genre of electronic music since the discovery of electricity.

  19. I just want to say that i love this video. The cheat @ club technochocolate, S&SLP in the backround, that guy is damn awesome.

  20. If anything pop dubstep is a facist, conservative attack on noise music and the avant garde. Glitch and digital noise was about breaking and pushing beyond the technological boundaries of gear and producing something uniquely human. Pop dubstep has taken these same elements and applied rigid composition and pitch rules making liveless factory music ready to be consumed. The music has become a safe and complacent way to release aggression and dissatisfaction with modern life, without having to actually do anything.

  21. First off this is a ridiculous question haha. Dubstep has been around for 10 years max. That’s not nearly enough time to call it anything but ….dubstep. Maybe it is avant-garde musical genius. But we’ve barely scratched the surface of dubstep, both as a musical genre and as a dance culture, and to ask this question at this point in time is premature.

    Btw this video sucks. Sorry PBS. Try harder.

  22. If you are looking for Avant-Guarde Noise….you can’t get better than Merzbow. Never heard any avant guarde music that actually had a steady beat to it.

  23. His knowledge of Dubstep is lacking.
    True Dubstep fans do not all like Skrillex and the harsh sounding stuff.
    Some of us actually do like how it started, Deep basslines, Adstract sounds. Wobbles etc.
    Todays Dubstep should be in a diff category as It sounds shit. Well, what they play on the radio anyway.

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