Dancing by Numbers
By: Elise Hugus, November 10, 2011
Macallen Coats/Treeline Artists - Jeff Bujak is a Northampton, MA based keyboardist/producer/IDM composer.
Get ready for some IDM this weekend.
Whoa, hang on. It’s not some weird kind of sex game. It has nothing to do with D&D.
No, IDM is a genre of music that defies genre. Part electronica, part jazz, part classical, part jam band, “intelligent dance music” has punched its way out of urban centers in recent years, finding a following in what would seem to be unlikely circles.
In many ways, IDM producer Jeff Bujak exemplifies the renaissance of electronic music in American pop culture. After abandoning his classical piano training at age 13 and getting an associates degree in business, Bujak found himself playing keys with the Arizona-based folk-jam band Somebody’s Closet when he got his first taste of electronica.
He was hooked.
While on tour of the Northeast, Bujak said he noticed a difference in the audiences. There was more competition for their attention, but they also responded to a moodier groove.
Bujak began incorporating “dark, cloudy, and snowy” themes in his music, finding an outlet for this new, exciting sound in electronic beat production and the Fender Rhodes.
Like many electronic dance musicians, Bujak prefers the umbrella term “EDM” to describe his work, finding “IDM” a little pretentious. Still, it’s an appealing way for artists and their fans to think about music and movement: a logical, mathematically-driven mashup of everything from trance to dubstep to prog rock—and even some classical music undertones.
“Dance music needs to follow certain patterns in order to make people dance. I think with IDM, the intelligent part is being able to change it on the fly. It’s like jam music—jam electronica. It’s thinking outside the box, being able to do it right then. It’s not that I’m smarter than everyone else,” Bujak said by phone from his home in Northampton.
Perhaps all musicians are mathematicians. But hearing Bujak describe his writing process (nothing is actually scored) or watching a video of a live show, I get the inklings of what it’s like to see a modern-day Mozart at work.
“I visually see my songs in a waveform from left to right. In my head, I write in 4/4 beat, which is more comfortable for everybody. The human body is just synced to fours, and people want something after 16 beats. They’re going to expect something to crescendo, but I’ll take it somewhere else. I’ll do a beat cut, going from dance music to dubstep. It’s math, absolutely all math,” he says.
Prepare for sensory overload
So what makes a Bujak show different from a typical DJ set? True, he’s got a laptop and lights—and even a hula-hooper with a fiber optic LED-lit hoop or the random poi twirler or fire-eater. But he’s also got keyboards and effect pedals. The only samples you’ll hear are stripped-down references from the Talking Heads, Nirvana, and Snoop Dog—even the Nintendo theme song.
After more than four years on the road, Bujak says his particular breed of music is catching on, slowly but surely, across America.
“With IDM, people don’t know why they like it yet,” he says. “Whether it’s going to be huge, I want to keep trying. I do see growth in it. My following is increasing, so I know I’m doing something right.”
Having played on the Cape and the Vineyard in the past, Bujak knows what he’s getting into. He says playing venues where people are used to a steady stream of rock cover bands is part of the fun of being an IDM artist.
“I love playing smaller dive bars. The experience of being where people don’t expect you, where you can give them sensory overload, is really what I want. I want to saturate people’s eyes and minds,” Bujak says.
“We’ll make a story out of it.”
If you go…
Jeff Bujak @ the House of Bud’s
Saturday, November 12
959 Bearses’ Way, Hyannis
10 PM 21+ $5 cover