Future music invades the Grammys

For me, the best part of the Grammys Sunday night wasn’t on the telecast. It was the three pre-awards to the amazing dubstep artist Skrillex: Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album (both for “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”) and Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical (for “Cinema” remix track from Electroman).

“Bass riffs that sound like fire-breathing dragons, vocal melodies that closely resemble Central African Mbenga Mbuti Pygmy music, and deftly placed vocal samples that typically propel huge rave crowds into a frenzy” is how Electronic Musician (March 2012) described Skrillex’s electrifying music. (To me, it suggests something alien created by a frenetic, superintelligent dancing robot.)

So why is Skrillex’s music — and that of other awesome dance/electronica musicians and DJs like Deadmau5 (pronounced “dead mouse”), who performed at the Grammys and had three nominations) — such a hit right now?

I asked Yale Fox, a top DJ & nightlife psychologist who was recently awarded a 2011 TED Fellowship, for an insider’s explanation. ”This is ‘future music’ — the sounds literally sound like they’re from the future, or really what we think the future will sound like,” he told me in a Skype interview.

Fox ties it back to The Matrix. “Music and emotion go hand and hand, so even though this all happens at a more implicit, emotional level, it plays a part in the greater whole. The Matrix represents one of humanity’s fears: the technology that we create eventually destroys us.

“Hollywood sound designers speculated what the Sentinels in The Matrix would sound like, and they did a fantastic job, which made it believable. If you listen closely to Skrillex’s lead synth basslines, they also possess that terrifying feel.

“Predicting the future is a survival mechanism crafted by evolution for the simple idea that if we can predict the future, we can anticipate something bad that’s going to happen and prevent it.”