Electric Funk is Alive and Well in the Music of Dan Deacon


Electronic funk is alive and well in the music of Dan Deacon. The Baltimore-based musician has a hand in nearly every facet of his audio and visual performances, from composition to lighting design to video production. His latest album Bromst is a concept album of sorts, an exploration of the human body’s different systems: circulatory, digestive, nervous, etc.

Deacon studied Music Composition at SUNY Purchase, where he learned how to write for orchestra (and perhaps how to compose “thematic” albums). While there he also began incorporating electronics into his music and worked as a music teacher in New York City public schools.

He continues to work with children as a teaching artist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. When not on tour or recording, Deacon can often be found working at Red Room Collective, a non-profit arts organization in Baltimore.

You may not have heard of Dan Deacon, but you should. Dan Deacon is a composer and musician from Baltimore, MD who creates music that can only be described as “electronic funk.” I say “funk” because he makes music that makes you want to dance. And I say “electronic” because much of it is composed on a computer and does not use traditional instruments.

Dan Deacon’s compositions are typically created with the computer program Max/MSP, which allows for the manipulation of sound in many ways. One common technique used by Mr. Deacon is to take a sound, such as a flute tone, and to manipulate it so that it sounds like it is being played faster and faster until it becomes an indistinguishable mess of noise. This noise can then be slowed down so that it sounds like an orchestra playing very slowly.

As one might expect from the description above, Dan Deacon’s compositions are usually very abstract in nature; however, he does compose more structured works as well. In fact, he has recently finished composing a piece for string quartet (a group of four string players) that will be premiered by the Carpe Diem String Quartet in February 2008 at Carnegie Hall in New York City!

For a guy who makes music that sounds like the soundtrack to a hyper-speed video game, Dan Deacon is surprisingly calm.

“I think the live show is one of the most important things about being in a band,” Deacon says coolly over the phone from his Baltimore home. “It’s why people go see bands, and it’s why I go see bands.”

Deacon’s music isn’t necessarily enjoyable in small doses. It’s fast, intense and often difficult to listen to, but in a live setting those qualities become strengths.

“I’m not a fan of electronic music where people just stand there,” he explains. “I want to be involved and have fun with everyone else.”

Deacon has been making music under his own name since 2003 and has released three albums on Carpark Records. His latest album, Bromst (pronounced “broom-st”), was released in March and is a departure from his previous work. The album is more focused on song structure than its predecessors and features more conventional drumming and guitar playing than on Spiderman of the Rings or Meetle Mice.

The new album is also more personal than his previous work, with songs about love and loss taking center stage amid the frenetic sounds

[An] enthusiastic, energetic and fascinatingly unique guy, Dan Deacon is the most popular electronic musician in Baltimore. This isn’t so much a reflection on the quality of his music as it is on the fact that he tours constantly and has a strong following throughout the East Coast and Midwest. However, his music is truly amazing and deserves to be heard by more people.

Dan was born in New York City but moved to Baltimore in 2001 to attend college at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). He studied video, sound installation and composition for eight years before graduating in 2007. While at MICA he met Dina Kelberman, who went on to become one of his frequent collaborators. They performed together as part of Wham City, a collective of musicians, artists and filmmakers started by Deacon and some friends from college.

After graduating from MICA, Deacon moved from Baltimore to Los Angeles for 11 months before returning to Baltimore in 2008. He now operates a recording studio out of a building in Hampden called the Copycat Building which houses more than 80 artists. In addition to making his own music, he also produces other bands’ albums there.

The first Dan Deacon album I heard was Spiderman of the

In the crowded field of electronic music, there is no shortage of laptop-wielding composers who focus on the intellectual and academic aspects of their work. But Dan Deacon is not one of them. The Baltimore-based composer has made a name for himself with a blend of manic electro-pop that’s perfect for marathon dance parties.

“My goal when I make music is to make music to make people dance,” he says. “I’ve always played shows for dancers.”

“I think about music more as a physical thing,” he says. “It’s something that you hear, but you also feel it in your body and you feel it in your chest and you feel it on your skin. I like to make music that feels good. That’s my goal.”

That physicality has been present in Deacon’s work from the start, but his most recent album, Bromst, was his first time working with a live band—a group of Brooklyn musicians he met through friends, including cellist/vocalist Amber Miller, who also happens to be his girlfriend.

The results are surprisingly organic-sounding given Deacon’s reputation as an electronic musician. This may have something to do with the fact that Deacon doesn’t use any pre-

I’m not sure if Dan Deacon is the future of music, but he’s certainly the present. If you’re an electronic musician, who else can you name that’s doing such interesting things? If you’re a fan of electronic music and haven’t heard his album Bromst yet, I recommend it to you.

Dan Deacon is best known for his chaotic and crazy live performances, but his new album Bromst is much more than that. It’s more like a classical symphony than anything else I can think of: it starts off with the bass line from Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and that bass line appears again in one of the last tracks, “Snookered.”

Dan Deacon has a solid background in electronic music theory and programming. His first album was strictly electronic; this one incorporates some live instruments as well. The result is a kind of fusion between symphonic and electronic work, which seems to me entirely appropriate given that he’s working in 2009 not 1899.

During my freshman year at college, I was working at a restaurant downtown and was introduced to an entire new world of music. It wasn’t like I had never heard electronic music before; I grew up on video game music and was heavily into Daft Punk for most of high school. But the music I heard that night took me completely by surprise.

It was a Saturday evening in mid-September, 2004. The restaurant I worked at had only been open for a few weeks and we were still working out some kinks. That night, the reservation book had somehow managed to double-book nearly every table on the floor, which resulted in a constant state of complete mayhem. We were all running around like headless chickens trying to accommodate everyone as best we could; clearly this wasn’t going according to plan.

Enter Dan Deacon’s Spiderman of the Rings album. It was the soundtrack to a particularly intense moment during one of the worst nights of my life. This is how it unfolded:

I’m standing in the kitchen talking with one of my coworkers when suddenly our manager comes sprinting through the door, completely red in the face and out of breath from sprinting across the dining room. He starts yelling about how we’ve made a huge mistake and that we


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