Contemporary Instrumental Music

This is a term I use to describe the music I make.

However, I’m never quite sure if it’s accurate or not. It seems to be the closest description I can find, but still not right because it is too general and covers a wide range of different styles.

So I’m trying to decide which genre I belong to.

I know my compositions are made with synthesizers so I automatically want to label it ‘Electronic’, but when I search for Electronic music, the results are always about House, EDM or another in the long list of dance genres which night club DJs play to their adorning crowds. It doesn’t describe my music.

I’ve researched ambient music, which people often describe as relaxing elongated soundscapes, usually without any form of beat or percussion. They tend to be slow, evolving and long, but also beautiful at the same time. A landscape for the ears. From Brian Eno’s Music For Airports to Music for Tundra by Tim Hecker, ambient challenges the boundaries of sound and is definitely contemporary. Its structure is a sea of calm water with a rich inner detail on closer inspection. This is not the music I make so not the genre I’m looking for.

Then there is modern classical, made with haunting natural instruments and played by brilliant musicians with years of study, practice and understanding. Nils Frahm and Max Richter come to mind as unique sounding troubadours of contemporay classical music. I feel inadequate compared to their achievements, yet I too have built up years of experience and knowledge in my own style.

So where do I fit in?

Downtempo is a more recently formed genre that describes a melancholic sound that I can relate to and find myself drawn to. It often has gentle yet dark vocals, laid over a sombre beat. This feels closer but still not right.

I draw inspiration from alternative music in many forms and tend to listen to songs with lyrics as much as songs without. My tracks usually do contain drums and bass, but nothing like the genre drum and bass. They are medium paced, much like indie music might be, not fast like dance or slow like ambient. I have used piano sounds frequently, sometimes treated with effects, other times sparse and empty, but always in combination with other interesting sounds. I have taken thoughts on compositional ideas from Beethoven to Bowie, Bonobo to Billie Eilish. But it sounds nothing like them. I have sifted through vast volumes of synth sounds, effects and changed them to my own taste, trying to find new ‘contempoary’ ideas.

And so the combination forms a sound I can’t pin down to an existing genre.

Is this good or bad?

Another genre I’ve seen is intelligent dance music, which Wikipedia describes as ‘better suited to home listening than dancing’. I can relate to this and feel headphones or computer speakers are more appropriate to my tracks than large club sound systems. IDM was also born in the 1990’s and I’m composing in 2020, so this isn’t right either.

Chillwave is a more recent genre (late 2000s), and is said to be dreamy, retro and electro, which is similar to me, but also lo-fi and simple, which is not.

I’m still searching…

andyjones Written by:

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