By: Charles Bowen

Covering The Contemporary Sound Beat

Cutting-Edge Music. Now, I’m not going to suggest that you wouldn’t know the difference

between punk rock and hip-hop or between techno and breakbeat. But let’s say that someone else in your newsroom is still a little dazed about today’s music and its various genres.

Reporting on music offers a lot of opportunities to stick your foot in your mouth. Stumble in print over the use of a term such as “indie rock” and your phone is going to ring. So, before you cover that concert or interview those visiting performers, maybe you want to do a little woodshedding.

A site called Epitonic.com is primarily devoted to sharing the new downloadable music of independent and underground artists from around the world, the next century’s version of garage bands. The site has established relationships with record labels that allow it to publish tracks from their artists’ releases. It also writes about the music and invites visitors to browse a catalog.

But, in addition, Epitonic.com has launched, as a public service, a great series of audio “walkthroughs” that invite you to read – and, more importantly, to hear – the

difference between various genres of new music. Have you been quietly agonizing over the difference between abstract and downtempo? Since you’re afraid to ask, check in with Epitonic, which bills itself as the “epicenter of downloadable music for the aurally fixated.”

To get started, visit the site at http://www.epitonic.com and click the “Genres” tab at the top of the introductory page. After that, simply select one of the hyperlinked terms:

o Rock, which includes sublinked clickables to “Folk/Acoustic,” “Indie Rock,” “Math Rock,” and “Punk Rock.”

o Electronica, with sublinks to “Abstract,” “Ambient,” “Breakbeat,” “Downtempo,” “Drum and Bass,” “House,” “Techno,” and “Trance.”

o Hip-Hop and related rap evolutions.

o Experimental, covering musical ventures beyond jazz, rock, and other established idioms.

o 20th Century Composers, from the impressionists, such as Debussy and Ravel, to the inventive, such as John Cage.

Each link you click takes you to the first of multiple screens of text and graphics about that particular genre. Also on the top of each new page is anicon that reads, “Music Genre Walkthrough.” Click that icon and the site loads your sound player, such as RealAudio, and plays up to five minutes of narration and musical samples to give you a taste of that particular musical style.

For each section, there is a scrollable box of related artists and recording labels in that field. Click any name in the box to read more about those performers and see additional information on their major recordings.

You also can use the site to search for a specific song. Just type the song’s name in the search box at the top of the introductory page. You’ll then see a list of results with the newest matches at the top. You also can use the search box to look for specific artists. In addition, you can browse an alphabetical listing of artists. Go to the “List Music By” pull-down menu on the right corner of the page and select an artist.

Other considerations in using Epitonic for your writing and editing:

o If you decide to report on the site in your music or youth culture columns, be sure to mention the quality of the music here. Unlike many MP3 music sites out there, Epitonic.com exercises some editorial control, searching out the good, new stuff. However, it is not a resource for building up a downloadable music collection, since it rarely features more than a few tracks from a given album.

o Another feature of the site is Epitonic Radio, using a downloadable version of the WiredPlanet player, which automatically displays the names of artists and songs being played by featured Epitonic.com radio stations. Listeners rate the songs, buy CDs, and click to additional songs.

o You also might want to tell your readers about the freebies. The site regularly has contests and promotions, passing along CDs, T-shirts, and Rio MP3 players given to them by record labels and other companies. Register online with an e-mail address.

Bowen writes columns, articles and books from West Virginia, and is host of the daily Internet News syndicated radio show (http://www.netnewstoday.com).


Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher

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