Thursday 16th September
Paper Session A – Dance Culture in the time of Corona (Chair: TBC)
The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Mental Health of German EDM DJs
The COVID-19 crisis places an unprecedented strain on an industry already characterized by poor mental health due to challenging working conditions: the intensity of touring schedules, pressure to succeed, and the imbalance between the euphoria of the show followed by exhaustion, loneliness, and self-doubt – all these factors may cause mental health issues such as substance use disorder, depression, and anxiety.
Current measures to prevent the rapid spread of COVID-19 seem to precisely remove these pathogenic factors: clubs are closed; gigs and tours are cancelled. While this exceptional situation can lead to further challenges for many artists, such as fear of losing their livelihoods, overextension and high stress, the lockdown also represents for some a long-awaited break from everyday business. This may be accompanied by a rising awareness of personal needs and self-reflection on the DJ-profession.
This paper discusses the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the mental health of DJs in Electronic Dance Music (EDM). By using first-person accounts based on narrative-biographic interviews with EDM DJs conducted during the first lockdown in Germany, I analyze the self-perceptions of artists regarding their working environment, living conditions, and related (mental) health challenges. I show how the COVID-19 crisis is related to their previous life situation, mental state, and personal self-concepts of being a DJ. I further argue that the current crisis may not only have a negative impact on the (already poor) mental health of creative professionals but may also bring health-promoting potential.The Impact of the COVID-19 Crisis on the Mental Health of German EDM DJs
Dr. Melanie Ptatscheck is a postdoctoral researcher and works as a lecturer at Cologne University of Music and Dance, Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt Weimar, and Popakademie Baden-Württemberg. She holds a PhD in popular music studies from Leuphana University of Lueneburg and an MA in popular music and media from the University of Paderborn. Focusing on mental health from a social science perspective, she works at the interface between public health and popular music studies. Her research interests include the mental health and wellbeing of musicians, careers in music and labour markets, self-concepts, and narrative theory.
The ‘Virtual EDM-Event’: Family viewing during the Covid-19 Pandemic
The loss of the freedom to attend (un)licenced EDM venues during the Covid-19 emergency has led to a proliferation of that which I shall call the ‘virtual EDM event’. The majority of these events are free on the basis that a tradition of paying for live EDM streams has not been established. For instance, the online music-broadcasting platform called the ‘Boiler Room’ functions as a promotional site for viewing the DJ and EDM-venue through the filming of the physical event. In the current environment of social distancing and a stay at home to stay safe ethos, this paper will examine the temporality of multiple socio-interactivities that occur within the mediation of a multi-screen live event online. Elsewhere I defined the emergence of that which I have called the ‘virtual festival’ (2020) within EDMC during the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, I examined the terms ‘reschedule’ and ‘postponement’ as strategies that highlight the issue of an unstable economic system in which EDMC is inseparable, no matter if an event is monetised or not-for-profit within the milieu of late capitalism. Here I will illustrate through the use of a ‘micro-virtual ethnography’ (Armour, 2019) the emergence of a new interactive dichotomy in which the empty dance floor is replaced by the visibility of attendees in the domestic sphere of the home through the example of a particular ‘virtual EDM event’ that demonstrates the development of the ‘EDM family dynamic’ (Armour, 2019) online. As such, I will focus on the live performance of a world-leading German DJ/producer who uses YouTube and Zoom to host a weekly event called ‘Paul van Dyke’s Sunday Sessions’ and the emergence of fan interactions with the DJ that go beyond that which can be achieved within the socio-physical environment of the dance floor.
Zoe Armour is completing a PhD in electronic dance music culture and is a sessional lecturer in the Media Discourse Centre at De Montfort University, Leicester. She is the author of two book chapters. The first explores the conceptualisation of neo-tribes theory in relation to ageing clubbers and the Internet (Palgrave). The second book chapter introduces the concept of niche-rave and British Free Party Counterculture in the late 1990s (Routledge). Zoe also has a feature article in a special edition on ageing and EDM in Dancecult that focuses on the baby rave phenomenon and her conceptualisation of fluid-multigenerationality and live/unauthored heritage. She is a member of IASPM and KISMIF and follows the group for Subcultures, Popular Music and Social Change. Her work is interdisciplinary and draws from the fields of cultural sociology, popular music, memory studies, media & communication and film.
Dance music and the COVID-19 Pandemic: The perspective of UK artists on sustaining and developing careers in the absence of live music events.
With the World Health Organization declaring the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) an international pandemic on 11th March 2020, most countries adopted national ‘lockdowns’, including the cancellation of live music events. This study explores the effects on dance artists working in the UK and involves input from DJs/producers of international acclaim, in addition to those operating in the Central Belt area of Scotland. It examines music consumption, artist finance, and communication technology before the pandemic, highlighting several issues. As the physical experience of clubbing is hugely important to dance music culture, how have artists utilised online methods to connect with fans? As artists relied on live music for income, how have they coped financially? Since live streaming is not a viable income option for most artists, where do they see the value in it? With social media rising in importance in career development, how has the pandemic affected social media use throughout the scene?
This study’s main research method was semi-structured video-call interviews. Two groups were identified as suitable participants: Group 1) established DJs/producers with experience of at least one year of regular live performance, with most income coming from music; and Group 2) semi-professional, local DJs/producers, with most income coming from outside music. Points in data were collated and coded, highlighting the most prominently discussed areas and forming the basis for the discussion. From this analysis, four themes emerged: audience engagement (subthemes of releasing music, live streaming, and other online content); social media (subthemes of dance community, and artist marketing/networking); finance (subthemes of effect of no touring, support, and alternative incomes); and creative practices (subthemes of production and club selections). The participant data gathered is new, unique, and gives valuable insight from the perspective of dance artists. As data is yet to be fully analysed, suggestions for further research and practice are yet to be made.
Euan Pattie is a Masters student at Edinburgh Napier University. His prime area of focus is in dance music culture and perceptions of electronic performance. He is also a producer and performer of original electronic pieces, examples of which can be found at www.euanpattie.com.
Has anything actually changed? Considerations on political economy and ideology within the post-Covid EDM scene
Having been away from actively participating in the goa-trance community for many years, I yearned to get back into dancing to electronic beats. I came across events called Ecstatic Dance and was intrigued, but my plan to attend an Ecstatic Dance event fell through after the first lockdown hit in March 2020. Hence, my introduction to one of these dance communities happened through the computer screen and my living room as the dance floor. With an academic background in dance studies, I couldn’t help not to start observing these events from an ethnochoreological point of view. In this auto-ethnographic research I reflect on different aspects in which this experience has had an impact on me, and what these gatherings meant to some of the members of that particular Ecstatic Dance community which I will keep anonymous for privacy reasons. These experiences and observations offered me a great insight into the benefits and obstacles of virtual Ecstatic Dance gatherings during the first lockdown. I also argue that these virtually held events could even be seen as a chance to gain a wider and new audience to expand their dancing communities and how this may stabilize their existence for the post-pandemic era.
Vincent Jenewein is a graduate student in philosophy at Freie Universität Berlin. His research focuses on the philosophy of electronic music, utilizing the aesthetics of Theodor Adorno and Gilles Deleuze. He is also a long-time DJ and producer of electronic dance music and a music writer.
Paper Session B – Tempo Tribes, Flow States, Digital Cumbia, and Raving Poetry (Chair Botond Vitos)
Graham St John
Raving Poet of the Apocalypse: Terence McKenna as Medium
The acid house rave scene of the early nineties sought its champions and there was no bard more willing, more vocal, and more weird, than Terence McKenna (1946-2000), the man for whom raving was a novelty signal in the forecasted apocalypse. A slate of productions between 1991-93 – by The Shamen, Space Time Continuum/Rose X and Zuvuya – had one feature in common, besides their collaboration with McKenna. They all recorded McKenna speaking in an alien tongue. That is, they all featured performances of McKenna emulating the “elf chatter” he claimed was “unhooked from English” and that had poured out of him in trance states on DMT and psychoactive mushrooms. Subsequently, electronic music producers mined the elven sprechen of this surreal psychopomp as if it was precious sonic ore. McKenna himself stated that he was not a “channel” or “medium” as such, for rather than channelling any intelligible language or message, the spontaneous emissions enabled him to uncover “the source of meaning before it is contextually located.” The idea has held appeal among electronic musicians, notably within psychedelic trance, where McKenna’s mind became iconic for going out of one’s mind.
Drawing on material from an intellectual biography of McKenna forthcoming with MIT Press,
this paper discusses this appeal, exploring McKenna’s role as a medium – not of language, or meaning (an “articulated revelation”), but of the unspeakable. As digital alchemists sample from a vast archive of McKenna’s spoken word material to sculpt epic audio-narratives of dream travel, soul flight and cosmic transit, McKenna’s voice became a medium for transcendent states. Elven or regular, McKenna’s mellifluous raves hold appeal within psychedelic electronica two decades after his death, with producers regarding his voice as a sonic template for the unknown, the transdimensional, the apocalypse of the self – an aesthetic we might name McKennaesque.
Graham St John, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist specialising in transformational events, movements and figures. He is a recipient of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie European Fellowship forthcoming at the University of Huddersfield (Project – Event Horizon: An Audiography of Transformation). Among his nine books are Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT (North Atlantic Books 2015), and Global Tribe: Technology, Spirituality and Psytrance (Equinox 2012), and he is currently completing an intellectual biography of Terence McKenna (forthcoming with MIT Press). Graham is Executive Editor of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture. His website is: www.edgecentral.net
The DJ-as-researcher approach: Methods emerging through ‘digital’ cumbia fieldwork
This presentation reflects on the ethnomusicological research methods informed by the creative practice of a DJ/producer who has been embedded in ‘digital’ cumbia for well over a decade, and aims to explore how a collaborative DJ-as-researcher approach enhances research of emerging ‘digital’ musical formations. Digital cumbia has been celebrated globally as a Latin American genre of electronic dance music (EDM) fused with the Colombian folk music of cumbia, made possible in the mid-2000s by the emergent digital technologies of social media and music production software. Whilst this presentation only briefly outlines the particularities of ‘digital cumbia’ as an EDM genre, the emphasis is on ‘digital’ cumbia as a process, or processes, have impacted this ethnomusicological study of ‘digital’ cumbia. In this way, this approach can contribute to the study of other ‘digital’ musical formations which have emerged largely through social media since the mid-2000s. My research has applied ethnographic methods associated with ethnomusicology: a combination of semi-structured interviews and participant observation gathered through fieldwork. However, my approach has also reflected my practice as a touring DJ/producer. Online fieldwork done remotely via social media has been backed up with physical travel to the locations studied online, enriching the sense of being in the field, but importantly also built rapport with research participants as fellow DJs. Utilizing social media posts as digital field notes has added audio-visual data, but also provides ongoing on- and offline engagement with the research. Live streaming of interviews, shout-outs, and selfies have emerged as being beneficial to both researcher and research participants, as it communicates the research to a broader public and adds to the respective profiles as DJs/producers. This multi-sited and highly mediated DJ-as-researcher approach reflects the complexity of ‘digital’ cumbia, and contemporary EDM practices.
Moses Iten is a PhD candidate in Media & Communication at RMIT, researching Digital Cumbia music undertaking fieldwork online and in Melbourne, Berlin, Mexico City, Monterrey, Buenos Aires and Bogota. Moses has a 15+ year practice as a DJ/music producer and with his Cumbia Cosmonauts project has received support from the Australia Council, and toured all over the world. In 2014, Moses co-founded Cumbia Massive, a collective inspired by Mexican sound system culture to showcase DJs and producers of tropical music and contemporary Latin American electronic dance music around Australia. Moses has been a regular host on community radio; producer of numerous music-based feature documentaries for ABC Radio National; and recently assisted in the Spanish to English translation of the book Ojos Suaves/Soft Eyes: Sound System Cumbia from Mexico to the World by Mirjam Wirz. Moses holds a Master of Community Cultural Development from the Victorian College of the Arts (University of Melbourne) and a Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Journalism) & International Studies (Mexico) from the University of Technology, Sydney.
Bridges Between Tempo Tribes: A Practice-Based Study of Metric Modulation in Techno
Techno was initially associated with futurism and machine music. Nearly four decades on, however, the genre is past canon formation and is in a stage of performing tradition. The rhythmic vocabulary remains largely unchanged, still technically shaped by the affordances of cheap consumer 1980s machines: short repetitive sequences, polymetric patterns and a steady tempo. This practice-based research investigates how to extend the rhythmic vocabulary of techno. Modern technology enables a wealth of rhythmic techniques otherwise foreign to the genre. A short repetitive sequence is apt to be used as a pivot pattern in metric modulation. Polymetric patterns, idiomatic in techno, imply various tempi. Precise tempo changes can be programmed in a DAW or performed with a CDJ. The research was conducted through record production, remix production, DJ performance and live performance. The main composition technique explored was metric modulation. Related secondary techniques included nontrivial polyrhythms, Risset rhythms and polytemporal counterpoint. A practice-based publication, The Upward Spiral (2020), was released as an album on Mute and its techno sub-label NovaMute. Remixes were produced for established artists and released by various labels. I witnessed DJs incorporate my album tracks and remixes in their performances. I incorporated album tracks and remixes in my own DJ and live performances at various venues including Berghain and Fabric. My research reveals that it is possible to use metric modulation and maintain a techno groove. Furthermore, metric modulation can provide smooth musical bridges between techno and other EDM repertoire.
Dr Nicolas Bougaïeff is an artist and researcher based in Berlin. His latest album The Upward Spiral (Mute 2020) has been described as “exhilarating and unpredictable from start to finish” and “a fresh, fearless perspective on techno”. Bougaïeff has performed at Berghain, Fabric and many other clubs across Europe and North America. He co-founded software company Liine with Richie Hawtin and others in 2010, which engineered the Lemur app used in 2018 by astronaut Alexander Gerst on the International Space Station in a live jam with Kraftwerk. He completed a degree in electroacoustic composition from the Montreal Music Conservatoire and his PhD in 2013 at Huddersfield University focused on minimal techno composition. He is currently a recipient of a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship to develop a theoretical framework for the composition and production of techno.
Flow States: An Autoethnographic Study of Ambient Techno and Chillout Music Production.
Much like more uptempo forms of electronic dance music, downtempo genres were popularised from 1989 but has roots stretching back to the late 1960s and 1970s, with the White Room at Heaven nightclub a particularly important moment. There are links with a number of forms, such as ambient, ambient dub, ambient techno, chillout, downtempo, ambient house, chillhop, and trip hop. These musics connect with ecstatic forms of trance, rather than uptempo possession styles, to reference Rouget’s binary division in Music and Trance (1985). Listeners use such music to induce states of relaxation, stillness, meditation, blissful somatic consciousness, euphoria, or to lower tension or stress levels, in various contexts.
This paper looks at the techniques used by musicians composing in such styles, and how they interact with for example ecstatic trance, deep listening, time, space, flow states, entrainment, and various techniques that relate to mystical or spiritual traditions. It explores phenomenological approaches and embodiment, in discussing how specific musical or production techniques aim to manipulate the listener’s experiential perceptions of space and time, as well as their mood and state of consciousness. Rather than focus on the listener’s experience however, this presentation examines the lived experience of a producer, through an emic autoethnographic research study of the author’s practice and processes as a producer of music in this form. As practice led research, music examples illustrate various approaches, and link them to intended affect, examining the affordances of chillout compositions.
Professor Rupert Till is Associate Dean International of the School of Arts and Humanities, at the University of Huddersfield UK. He is Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music, and Editor of the Cambridge University Press series Elements in Popular Music. His PhD in composition in 2000 was the first to focus on practice based composition of popular music, including Downtempo Electronica, or Chillout Music as part of the submission. His book Pop Cult explored relationships between religion and popular music, and he has published on a range of popular music subjects, including electronic dance music, Prince, stardom and celebrity, songwriting, and metal. He has also explored ancient music and acoustics, releasing 5 CDs of music played on reconstructed ancient instruments as part of the European Music Archaeology Project, exploring the acoustics of caves that feature Palaeolithic paintings, studying the acoustics of Stonehenge, and of the Hypogeum in Malta. He also composes and produces ambient electronica as Professor Chill, releasing an album Dub Archaeology on Twin Records in 2018, with an EP soon to be released on Disco Gecko records. He joined the Dancecult Research Network when it was founded, and is an International Advisory Board Member of Dancecult Journal. He also hosted Dancecult Conference Sessions at the IASPM International Conference in Kassel in 2017, and at the Crosstown Traffic Conference in Huddersfield in 2018, which was a joint conference with Dancecult and IASPM UK and Ireland Branch. He is currently writing a book which explores popular music composition.
Alistair Fraser, Brian Belle-Fortune, DJ Flight, Chris Christodoulou
A panel discussion on the impact and significance of Brian Belle-Fortune’s ‘All Crew Muss Big Up’
Just over twenty years since Brian Belle-Fortune published All Crew Muss Big Up: Journeys Through Jungle Drum & Bass Culture (Deptford Forum Publishing, 1999), drum & bass music remains as vibrant as ever and despite recurring claims over that period about the genre’s demise. Yet, the drum & bass scene and industry has changed in numerous ways since 1999; the people, sites, practices, and cultures captured so evocatively by Belle-Fortune in 1999 have evolved and developed since. It also necessary to acknowledge how the current public health situation in the UK and beyond is introducing new challenges for drum & bass practitioners and followers. All Crew Muss Big Up intervened at the end of an extraordinary decade of drum & bass music’s growth and expansion. Against the backdrop of a diminished role for the traditional music press and media, All Crews Muss Big Up is an excellent example of the continued relevance of book publications for shedding light on under-documented underground dance music.
A further two decades on – with so much good music having been released, with record labels shifting from vinyl to digital releases, with prominent venues coming and going, and indeed with the passing of some well-known drum & bass artists – it is time to take stock of the book’s impact and significance on drum & bass culture, while also using it as a vehicle to consider the future of drum & bass. In this panel discussion, then, we place Brian Belle-Fortune at the centre by asking him to reflect on the book’s impact. We then invite contributions from one of the best-known female drum & bass DJs, DJ Flight, and two academics who have published articles on drum & bass music in Dancecult, Dr Chris Christodoulou (Course Leader of BA Contemporary Media Practice at the University of Westminster) and Dr Alistair Fraser (Lecturer in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University, Ireland). Their focus will be on noting facets of the book’s significance; and on how a reading of All Crew Muss Big Up might be able to illuminate the future of drum & bass culture.
Alistair Fraser is a lecturer in the Department of Geography at Maynooth University, Ireland. He holds a PhD in Geography from the Ohio State University, USA. His first book is Global Foodscapes: Oppression and Resistance in the Life of Food (Routledge, 2017). Other works include articles in Journal of Peasant Studies, Journal of Rural Studies, Environment & Planning A, and Geoforum.
Paper Session C – Collaboration, Convention and Communities (Chair: Toby Young)
Back-To-Net – A system for collaborative DJ set over the Internet
This paper presents Back-To-Net, a system that allows two DJs in different geographical locations to perform a back-to-back DJ set over the Internet, eventually with an audience at both ends. At the core of the system there is an algorithm that continuously measure and manage the network propagation latency of the audio signals against the tempo of the music. The system is modelled as a finite state machine, following the different iterative stages commonly found in a back-to-back DJ set. The algorithm also routes the audio signal according to the current state of the system.
Technologies and techniques networked-music performances has been available for almost two decades. However, two DJs playing back-to-back DJ present different requirements and characteristics compared to a musical ensemble. On one side, the latency tolerance is significantly lower: an ensemble can tolerate audio latency of up to 25 milliseconds, while a latency higher than a few milliseconds determines audible misalignments when beatmatching computer-generated music. However, the proposed system takes advantage of two aspects: DJs play with audio recordings with a fixed tempo and in a back-to-back set DJs do not mix simultaneously, but one at a time. Back-To-Net alternatively shifts the round trip latency only on one of the two sides, providing to the DJ that is actively mixing a latency-free interaction. When the latency is shifted to the other party, the system uses strategies that minimize audible effects, which are detrimental for the temporal structure of the music.
The system is currently implemented in a proof-of-concept prototype, which requires a separate computer connected to a wired network and equipped with a soundcard with at least two stereo outputs and one stereo input (or mono if stereophony is not important). Back-To-Net is compatible with any type of DJ setup ranging from traditional analog mixer with turntables, to modern digital DJ systems.
Stefano Fasciani is an Associate Professor at the Department of Musicology at the University of Oslo. He has an academic background in electronic engineering and professional experience in the semiconductor industry and in the club scene. His research and personal interest are focused on technologies for sonic arts, including sound and music computing, sound synthesis and analysis, applied machine learning, human-computer interaction, networked music performances, digital signal processing, and real-time embedded systems.
Anatomy of the DJ Set: Genre, Style, and Structure in Bass Music Performance
This paper responds to the post-pandemic resurgence of live streaming and online events in electronic dance music, asking: how do we analyse a DJ set? I begin by outlining the relevance of DJ analysis to EDM studies and the practical challenges of undertaking DJ performance analysis. Literature in the field has so far focused on the canonical genres of house and techno (Butler 2006, 2014) and could be expanded to include aspects of hip-hop turntablism (Smith 2013). In this discussion, I argue that genre strongly shapes the structure and content of any DJ set through the prioritisation of certain affects or ‘technologies’, such as groove in techno or rupture and ‘the drop’ (Spencer 2021) in dubstep. Drawing on Butler’s research and newer contributions (Gilli 2021), I also present a general framework for analysing DJ sets at meta, macro, and micro planes of analysis—noting how meta factors like audience identity or branding can interact with both the horizontal (macro) and vertical (micro) arrangement of sounds over time. Finally, I discuss the preliminary findings from my analysis of a 2015 Boiler Room performance by Bristol duo Gorgon Sound. These artists’ hybrid approach to dub and literacy across multiple genres and performance styles results in an equally hybrid DJ set, which I visualise at the macro level. Ultimately, this paper aims to expand the scope of DJ performance analysis by bringing it into the realm of bass culture, and arguing that the significance of genre should not be overlooked.
Ivan Mouraviev is a PhD student in music at the University of Bristol, UK. He has presented research at international conferences on topics such as affect theory (IASPM UK&I) and global hip-hop (RMA-BFE). His thesis examines DJ culture and performance practices in dub and dubstep scenes, considering the music’s mediation as archetypal “bass music” in which sonic affect plays a central role.
“This one is at least CTM-ish…” – Discourse on Discord
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic music events have been cancelled and online platforms have become the meeting points for electronic dance music communities in Europe. Events and festivals have begun to stream their programmes on different sites (e.g. Twitch, Vimeo, YouTube) where participants can interact with each other; in some cases even with the organisers and musicians. Platforms designed for creating communities, such as Discord (n.d.), have become more important than ever (Curry, 2021), as well as external tools for online events.
However, members of EDMCs have always been interested in technology-based communication, see, for example, in the creation of online fan networks or even fandom. Many of the first web discussion forums were also dedicated to music, of which several were to electronic (dance) music, e.g. We are the Music Makers Forum since 1999. And this part of the popular music history goes back to even earlier times. One of the aims of this paper is to give a short historical overview on such online platforms, including applications during the ARPANET period, tape trading over FTPs and peer-to-peer networks to understand that these early evolvements were predecessors of the above-mentioned platforms used in the current pandemic.
After this short historical overview, I will present, as a member of the curatorial team, the case study of Club Transmediale Festival 2021 (CTM; Berlin, Germany) which implemented the instant messaging and digital distribution platform Discord as a supplementary tool for the communication among its communities. By analysing the continuous conversations between the CTM community members, I will trace back their collective identities that are expressed via their discourses (Benwell & Stokoe, 2012). To present my results, I will use the methods of computer-mediated discourse analysis (e.g. Herring, 2014) and my model of the discourse community of electronic dance music (Jóri, 2021).
As a result, we will see how EDM-related virtual scenes (Bennett & Peterson, 2004) have been present and active before and during the current pandemic, and how their format and importance have been changed throughout EDM histories.
Anita Jóri is a Post-Doc research associate at the Vilém Flusser Archive, Berlin University of the Arts (Universität der Künste Berlin, UdK). Jóri’s research and publications focus on the discursive and terminological aspects of electronic (dance) music culture. She is also the first chairperson of the German Association for Music Business and Music Culture Research (GMM) and one of the curators of CTM Festival’s Discourse programme. She is also one of the editors of the books The New Age of Electronic Dance Music and Club Culture (Springer, 2020) and Musik & Empowerment (Springer, 2020).
8-bit Music on Twitch: how the Chiptune Scene is overcoming the Pandemic
In Brian Eno’s concept of Scenius, artists are not “lone geniuses”, but instead form part of a scene, i.e. a network of creators and consumers that inspire each other and exchange tools, techniques and ideas through a common language (Kleon, 2021). In this paper, Scenius is applied to the chiptune music scene, which is characterized by a strong DIY ethic and mutual curiosity. Chiptune is a style of lo-fi electronic music that emerged in the early 70s and 80s. In this era, special chips were built that could transform electrical impulses from a computer into analogue sound waves. Musicians and programmers developed code for these chips, transforming arcade machines, early games consoles and personal computers into musical instruments. The resulting unique 8-bit sound continues to inspire musicians in the present day (McAlpine, 2018). Modern chiptune artists use a mixture of tracker software, hardware hacking (Farrell, 2020) and software emulations, often fusing chip sounds with modern pop and EDM.
The global lockdown following the Coronavirus pandemic meant that chiptune live events were largely moved into an online streaming setting in 2020. The author reflects on her own experiences as a performer at streamed events including the Women in Games conference, Gamechangers, a fundraiser event organised by UKIE (the trade association for the UK games industry) and Infinite Lives, a series of chiptune live-shows curated by French organisers A Bit of Chiptune and All You Can Eat. While the streaming gigs lacked the feeling of collective effervescence experienced at in-person concerts (Fikentscher, 2013), the audience sizes in these virtual settings had increased, as did the income earned. The author concludes that for the close-knit, yet geographically scattered chiptune community, virtual concerts help bridge physical distance and provide a new platform for mutual support and collaboration (Scenius). Due to the close relationship with gaming culture, where live streaming has been popular even before the pandemic, the transition to a virtual streaming format felt natural.
Dr. Kirsten Hermes is an interdisciplinary researcher, book author, senior lecturer (University of Westminster), violinist and audio-visual artist, bridging scientific and creative domains in her work. She tours internationally under the moniker Nyokeë, integrating the iconic sound of retro games consoles into high-energy electropop tracks, accompanied by moving graphics. Together with Joe Smith, she is also in a hybrid neoclassical and electronic band called Emb:re. Kirsten holds a PhD in sound perception from the University of Surrey (UK), which was funded by the British Engineering and Physical Sciences Council. She also holds a Masters Degree in Audio Production from the University of Westminster. Kirsten regularly publishes interdisciplinary book chapters and academic papers, combining scientific and technical knowledge with creative practice. Her first sole-authored book “Performing Electronic Music Live” will be published by Routledge in November 2021.
Paper Session D – New Spaces and Practices in Global Dance Music Scenes (Chair: Alistair Fraser)
Free The Night in Northern Ireland
It is widely accepted that COVID-19 has drastically changed the ways in which fans of electronic music participate in their local and global scenes. The pandemic has also severely affected DJs and other creative workers who rely heavily on live events to make a living. For small countries like Northern Ireland (NI), not only does COVID-19 pose a threat to its local scenes, but strict licensing laws and other sociocultural factors prevent this thriving nation from reaching its full potential. NI is rich in many cultural, historical and political arenas. Although part of the United Kingdom (UK), it has been argued that NI is out of step with the rest of the UK, and this is certainly reflected in its night-time economy. Free The Night (FTN) is a campaign comprising of creative workers in electronic music who are keen to create progressive, safe and culturally rich nightlife environments for everyone in NI.
In this paper, I introduce and discuss how the national activist campaign, FTN, is changing the landscape for a better nightlife in NI. Drawing on our current research design, I map the qualitative element of our evidence gathering by focusing on three key findings. The first indicates that NI’s strict licensing laws negatively affect electronic music scenes. Secondly, there is lack of recognition of nightlife and electronic music as an important part of arts and cultural sectors. Lastly, there is an urgent need to retain and regain NI’s creatives.
Ciara Power is a PhD researcher in anthropology and ethnomusicology from Queen’s University Belfast. Her research documents and connects the experiences of creative workers and fans of electronic music in Belfast and Dublin. She is interested in learning about the aspects that might affect, help, or limit creative workers and fans when working and attending events in electronic music, particularly in the age of COVID-19. Ciara is a recipient of a Northern Bridge Consortium funding award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, and the Larmor University scholarship with Queen’s University Belfast. She also volunteers as a research consultant and campaigner for Free The Night.
Recovering Sample Authorship: Deepest India and the Case of Sohan Lal
Sohan Lal was a lesser known Sufi singer from Punjab, India, whose performance of Bulleh Shah’s kafi verses were recorded for British company Zero G’s 1997 Deepest India royalty-free sample library. Over the last two decades, the sample library proliferated in a wide range of global popular music genres. Lal’s voice became one of the library’s most prominent samples, and has appeared in dozens of popular songs and garnering hundreds of millions of YouTube views. Despite the prominence of Lal’s voice, the singer’s identity has generally not been recognized.
Drawing on ethnography between 2017–20 in Punjab, India, as well as interviews with music producers in Europe and India, this paper traces the Deepest India project. I examine how the legality, economics, and aesthetics surrounding authorship are not only shaped by music technologies and sampling practices, but are also problematized by the collective nature of performing kafi. I interrogate how the technical construction of sample libraries and sampling tools play a critical role in how music producers navigate samples as a means of self-expression. Last, I consider the dynamics and implications of sampling sounds from marginalized spaces. Sample libraries are frequently employed in contemporary music production spanning a wide range of genres, and this paper uniquely contributes to scholarship of music production, music technology, and South Asia.
Chris McGuinness is a PhD Candidate in Ethnomusicology at The Graduate Center of the City University of New York and an American Institute of Indian Studies 2019-20 Junior Fellow. His dissertation examines electronic dance music production and production technology in Mumbai, India. He has extensive experience working in India as a music producer for diverse media.
#CoVideoWatching: sharing the pandemic experiences in comments under YouTube music videos
Belarus didn’t introduce Covid-lockdowns, the president was long denying that the disease existed and our society’s health depended mostly on our own responsibility. In spring 2020 I was self-quarantined at a colleague’s flat in Minsk – sick for several weeks, making a new electro EP and listening to music on YouTube.
Reading the comments under the music videos I’ve noticed people telling how this or that song was a perfect ‘corona anthem’ or has ‘predicted it all’ and how the music helped them to survive the sickness and isolation. People were supporting each other, dreaming about post-Covid parties and discussing the prospects of vaccines development. It felt as if the whole world – or a large part of it – was united by a common tragedy. I’ve started collecting screenshots of such personal epiphanies and empathy, but then the political events in my country pushed this topic far back. I was still checking for such comments once in a while and noticed that over the year their content has changed. Covid deniers and anti-vaxxers have joined the threads and YouTube music videos became yet another platform for spreading disinformation and conspiracies. A year and a half after the pandemic start the world has unsynced and fragmented. Some countries are now completing vaccination and seemingly taking the situation under control, returning to a degree of ‘normality’, others are struggling but even throwing test raves – still others are burning with suffering that sees no end. But music still unites people separated by the sanitary and political barriers.
In this paper I’m revisiting those old comments threads and analyzing the new ones to see how do the comments under YouTube music videos reflect the situation of ‘one world united & separated under a plague’.
Pavel Niakhayeu (aka Pavel Ambiont, Nieviadomy Artyst) is an electronic musician, A/V artist and researcher from Belarus focused on the local electronic and alternative music scenes. Teaches a course on Sound, Music and Technologies in Contemporary Cultures at the Department of Social Sciences at the European Humanities University (Vilnius, LT). Co-founder of Mental Force Festival and A/V program curator of Artes Liberales festival in Minsk. Head of Force Carriers techno/electro label. Co-editor of ‘P.S.Soundscapes’ (2018) – a volume on sound and music studies in the Post-Socialist region. Current projects include ‘Political Soundwalks’ – an archive of field recordings of the Belarusian political protests – https://walklistencreate.org/walkingpiece/political-soundwalks-listening-to-the-political-protests-in-minsk-belarus-2020-2021/
Anna Gavanas, Johan Jansson, Vera Schlaucher Ståhl
Curated by pioneers, spaces and resistance: the development of electronic dance music in Stockholm
Stockholm has for a long period of time been an important node in the international music industry, producing influential artists in various genres, song writers, music instruments and globally used streaming services. More specifically, Stockholm has also been a center for emerging electronic dance music scenes, and as such an important context for pioneers, gatekeepers and the (re)fashioning of cultural expressions and musical genres. The paper unfolds our understanding of curatorial processes by structuring the analysis around three theoretically informed, independent although interrelated themes. The first theme emphasizes the role of translocal flows and highlights a set of key persons important in the process of bringing electronic dance music to Stockholm and thus having a key role in how specific cultural expressions are developing and simultaneously re-interpreted in different local/global locations. The second theme focuses on space, i.e. how the local milieu provides spaces for electronic dance music to develop such as nightclub scenes, public youth recreation centers and rave parties as important (urban) spaces for curation. In the third theme, the role of policy and mainstream media is analyzed in relation to the development of, and resistance to, the first waves of electronic dance music in the Swedish context. The presentation will include original maps of Stockholm clubs 1965-2015 as well as photos of pioneers and spaces.
Anna Gavanas is an associate professor (docent) and holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology. She has recently published a book on Swedish dance music history (Från Diskofeber till Rejvhysteri) and is affiliated with the Swedish Labour Movement’s Archives and Library. She has a background in Cultural and Electronic Dance Music Studies, focusing on technological change, social networks, cultural capital and gender in European DJ cultures. In addition, Gavanas’ research fields include migration, policy anthropology, welfare states and working life in the EU as well as Swedish retirement migrants in Spain. Johan Jansson is an associate professor at the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Uppsala University. His research concerns the spatial organization of (economic) activities, spatially and socially embedded processes (e.g. knowledge, creativity, values) and how technology alter dynamics of distance/proximity. Empirically Jansson focuses is on for example cultural industries (e.g. music, theater, arts, design), the internet industry, local milieus, urban/rural and regional development. Primarily he uses qualitative methods such as interviews, observations, secondary material and qualitative data analysis.
Vera Schlaucher Ståhl is an Architect from the Royal Technical High School in Stockholm. Her work deals with the ”club death” of Stockholm and explores alternative musical experiences. She has mapped the main clubs of Stockholm 1965-2015
Friday 17th September
Paper Session E – Renegade Raves and the New Dance Floor (Chair: TBC)
Maria Giaever Lopez
‘Suicide rigs’ in the free party scene: negotiating fun amidst lockdown restrictions
This paper explores the nature of the ‘suicide rig’ within the free party movement in the United Kingdom during the pandemic and the ease of restrictions. ‘Suicide rigs’, a figure not new in the underground music scene, are organised by anonymous crews which gather or build for the occasion low-value portable sound systems knowingly that the police will seize them at the end of the party. In addition, the free parties are organised anonymously in order to prevent the crew’s prosecution. The aim of these practices is not to lose good quality equipment as the breach of Covid restrictions give police has increased the possibilities of seizure in these non-regulated parties. Through this participant observation during October 2020 and July 2021, this research analyses the ways that the British free party underground scene has continued to make parties and what these practices mean for the rave scene and leisure in general. Importantly, this paper builds upon recent work (Holm, 2021) which emphasizes the importance of ‘fun’ for understanding social processes and (non)compliance with pandemic restrictions. This view on fun conceptualizes it as an end in itself, showing how economic, political or resistant motives are insufficient to explain the nature of fun and the risks youth take to experience it. The figure of the suicide rig exemplifies the importance of fun and escape for some youth in the UK during the lockdown, and how they negotiate through it their will of partying.
Maria is currently conducting a PhD in Sociology at the University of Westminster (London) on the Palestinian electronic music scene focusing on resistance practices, pleasure and other dynamics within it. She is also a Visiting Lecturer on qualitative research methods at Westminster. She holds a double degree in Law and Political Science from the University of Valencia (2013-2018) and an MSc on Social Sciences Research Methods from the University of Bristol (2018-2019). Her area of interest includes electronic music scenes, power, resistance and pleasure, particularly focusing on non-regulated spaces (DIY practices) or conflict/(neo)colonial regions. Also, feminist and decolonial methodologies are among her research interests as well as underpinning her work. Lately, she has been conducting independent research on ‘free party’ culture and migration, presented at the International Night Studies Conference (July 2020). Beyond the academic, Maria is involved in circus, sound-system and feminist collectives in the city of Bristol and Valencia.
Business Teshno (Amir Lehman)
Whiteness in Electronic Music: the Paradigmatic Case of Plague Raves
On March 15th of 2020, the anonymous Twitter account “Business Teshno” (@businessteshno) began documenting the DJs and industry professionals who flouted government guidance and organized shows. Over the course of the pandemic, the account has furthermore exposed some of the complicity in EDMC media. This presentation gives a brief overview of Business Teshno’s posting history up to the present and the trends they were able to observe. The presentation will close with a brief statement from the person/people that run the Business Teshno account. In their statement, Business Teshno aim to connect the emergence of raves in countries with less coronavirus restrictions with whiteness in the electronic dance music industry.
As they wish to maintain their anonymity, the presentation will be made in their stead by a surrogate.
Amir Lehman is a graduate student at University College London, studying the semiotics and interactive dimensions of EDMCs. Business Teshno is anonymous.
Plague Raving: DJ Culture in the Pandemic
Plague raves, within the media’s vernacular, describes any social dancing occurring during the 2020/21 pandemic. However, a distinction can be drawn between lockdown restriction-breaking illegal parties, and legal club events taking place in countries with low COVID-19 cases and/or limited pandemic controls. ‘Name DJs’, consistently charging upwards of $4k per set pre-pandemic, could tour as porous border restrictions facilitated international travel for ‘legitimate business’. As a result, an opportunistic migration of dance music personnel and capital traversed from countries’ whose social control measures prohibited parties into the global south, often with attendant super-spreader consequences. This paper discusses the latter phenomena and focuses on the reaction to such activities with dance music scenes.
Through analysis of social media conversations amongst clubbers and DJs – correlated with data from an online survey (n=200) and semi-structured interviews (n=21) – the paper aims to demonstrate how such activities have polarised opinion within online dance music communities. Narratives around dance music’s association with freedom are cited as justification alongside supposed minimal individuated risk. These are examined against broader moral frameworks around social risk and public goods.
The findings point to a fractured response within dance music scenes. The longing to dance and re-experience its sociality after protracted lockdowns negates the relevance or importance of plague raves for many clubbers who comment. Others suggest plague raves exemplify DJs whose performative actions as ‘being underground’ are at odds with their earning disproportionately mainstream salaries which trump any concern for party attendees or health systems. Consequently, the reactions to ‘plague rave’ DJs behaviour illuminates that beneath their façade of unity and feelgood hedonism, global and local dance music scenes are beset by moral labyrinths around wealth; notoriety; individual and social risk; ongoing agendas surrounding clubber safety; and the wider position of dance music as a cultural and social artefact.
Richard Anderson is a long-time techno and acid producer and sometime DJ. He is a University of Liverpool PhD candidate and MA graduate. His MA dissertation focused on an ethnographic study of aspiring musicians’ use of internet platforms for career development. His ongoing NWCDTP/AHRC funded PhD is examining the persistence of ‘the underground’ in dance music scenes. Given the time this research is being undertaken in, it will take into account the dual threats to social dancing of gentrification and COVID-19 recovery.
The importance of space and materiality: Notes for the design of the dance floor of the future
The spatiality of the dance floor is far from being a stable and immutable category. This space is characterized by architectural reverberation and visual cues; regulated by proximity, darkness, circulation, emptiness, and transit; and assembled through the embodiment of the dance floor experience as a sensorial — sonic, visual, haptic — experience. Esteves (2018) noticed this phenomenon, pointing the club as a phenomenological-spatial apparatus capable of assembling the material and technological aspects of the space with the social and performative components of the event creating a total space, transforming the club from a container of events into the event itself (p.132).
Just a few years before the pandemic, I conducted my doctoral research exploring different material and architectonic aspects involved in the design of dance floor experience. A conclusion of that ethnographic endeavour – based on participatory observation and interviews – was the construction of a theoretical model of the dance floor experience seen as a network built by four assemblages: the social, performative, social, and experiential assemblage. As the pandemic struck, the access to clubs was prohibited, and some attempts to recreate the dance floor experience have emerged – i.e., internet live streaming and VR – and while these attempts are still lacking in intensity in comparison with the conventional dance floor, they are valuable examples of the possibilities that technology can offer to re-design the dance floor. This paper aims to leave a pre-covid testimony about some important aspects and theoretical concepts regarding the material context of the club, with the aim to reach future researchers and creators, to inform their decisions for creating the dance floor of the future. The future for the dance floor is uncertain, but the spirit of clubbing will not fade away any time soon, what might change is the material and technological context of the club experience.
César Lugo-Elías holds a Ph.D. (2021) from the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto, Portugal. His research explores the role of the material, technological, and social arrangements in the design of the dance floor experience. He also has a M.A. in Interaction Design (2015) and a B.A. in Object Design (2012) from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim, Germany; as well as a degree (Licentiate) in Cultural Heritage Conservation (2006) at the School of Conservation in Guadalajara, Mexico. His academic activity has been granted by the FCT in Portugal; the Andrew W. Mellow Foundation in Washington D.C.; and the DAAD in Germany. He has worked for public institutions and design studios in Mexico, USA, Germany, and Hungary. Cesar is currently developing an art residency in Porto, Portugal, and continues his creative and DJing activities under the name Dr. Santo.
Paper Session F – Identity, Empathy, Ecstatic Dance and Virtuality.(Chair: Graham St John)
“Redlining & Religion”: A Socio-Economic Argument for House Music’s Identity
The ‘Godfather of House’ Frankie Knuckles referred to house music as “a church for the children fallen from grace”. Early house music was littered with religious references. Occasionally these links were subtle, but with constant exposure they became extremely overt. On the surface gospel singers, church organs, and club names, referencing a range of religious practice, can be identified. On a subtler level lies a discussion of lyrical content, the role of the DJ, and the sense of euphoria that pervaded the scene. Where did these religious, or quasi-religious, inclusions spring from? The paper explores the impact of redlining on musical education in Chicago, proposing that musical education was often only accessible to young African Americans through the church, rather than through school music programmes. Although the Fair Housing Act outlawed the practice of redlining in 1968, the racially motivated economic sanctions the practice imposed on African American neighbourhoods cast a long shadow. This paper presents authoritative voices from early house music (DJs, vocalists, producers) from newly conducted interviews and archival sources, in addition to historic redlining maps of the city, to identify the source of house music’s religious language.
Liam Maloney is an Associate Lecturer in the Music Research Centre, at the University of York, UK. His research concerns the history and (incomplete) historiography of early dance music; primarily those of disco, post-disco, and house music. His recent work has explored approaches to excavating and examining DJs’ praxis through archaeological methods, studies on racial inequality in dance music history, the cultural-religious implications of sampling sacred sources, and defining possible approaches to studying personal listening histories. He also operates the ‘Foundations of House’ research project (foundationofhouse.com) that gathers archival material, novel interviews, and scholarly research material to promote and support house music scholarship.
Sieving for Qualia: The Semiotics of Empathogenic Experience
The use of empathogenic substances at EDMC events is well noted in both academic and popular literature. Drawing from Charles Sanders Peirce’s theory of signs and current research in linguistic anthropology, this paper examines the semiotics of ecstasy experience. In particular, it posits the substance as a kind of sieve, or sifter (Kockelman 2011, 2013) that functions as an affordance for sensory intensity and phatic possibility. The first dimension, an extension of Goodman’s (2009) “narcosonic,” expands the interpretive envelope of the dance music event. Through this process, qualities like the texture and timbre of music, the movement of light, and smells are magnified through the experience of the drug user. The proprioceptive intensification of these qualia (Chumley and Harkness 2013) serves to anchor the transformative experience of the EDMC event, as the apexes of qualitative intensity remain otherwise inaccessible in sobriety. The second dimension, the phatic, is the manner in which the drug narrows interpersonal communicative variability. This narrowing function allows for the transient interactional intensity with strangers found in many EDMC spheres. Evidence for this is found in the use of “nomic” (Agha 2007) statements by participants about their experiences. With this, the paper aims to introduce semiotic approaches to EDMC studies and establish empirical grounding for future research.
Amir Lehman is a graduate student in linguistics at University College London. His research looks at joint attention and language in situated interaction, as well as the semiotic dimensions of EDMCs.
Stephanie SK Marbach
Separated Through the Screen – Can We Still Connect? An Auto-Ethnographic Case Study on Virtual Ecstatic Dance Gatherings During Lockdown
Having been away from actively participating in the goa-trance community for many years, I yearned to get back into dancing to electronic beats. I came across events called Ecstatic Dance and was intrigued, but my plan to attend one of these events fell through after the first lockdown hit in March 2020. Hence, my introduction to one of their dance communities happened through the computer screen and my living room as the dance floor instead. With an academic background in dance studies, I couldn’t help not to start observing these events from an ethnochoreological point of view. In this auto-ethnographic research I reflect on different aspects in which this experience has had an impact on me, and what these gatherings meant to some of the members of that particular Ecstatic Dance community – which I will keep anonymous for privacy reasons. These experiences and observations offered me a great insight into the benefits and obstacles of virtual Ecstatic Dance gatherings during the first lockdown. I also argue that these virtually held events could even be seen as a chance to gain a wider and new audience to expand their dancing communities and how this may stabilize their existence for the post-pandemic era.
Stephanie SK Marbach is an independent dance researcher based in Switzerland and Ireland. Her dance background lies within several types of historical dances, dances of Ireland and the electronic / gothic dance scene. After gathering extensive work experience as a primary school teacher in Switzerland she went on to do a Master of Arts in Irish Dance Studies at the University of Limerick in Ireland. Now applying her acquired skills from both educations she is interested in the documentation, preservation and transmission of dance heritage. She is the founder of Scéalta Damhsa – a project created to collect and preserve oral dance history – and ‘Let’s Talk!’ – a subproject offering a monthly online discussion on dance related topics.
João Beira and Emília Simão
The evolution of electronic music in the Covid era: Creating visualization strategies beyond the screen
Electronic music events have the power to create highly sensory experiences, and this expansion of senses – a primordial condition of human consciousness – has now a continuum in on-line immersive places/spaces. Since 1950, artists have used artificial agents in their artworks in parallel with scientific research in cybernetics, artificial intelligence (AI) and artificial life (AL) and today, an increasing number of artists work with machine learning and other adaptive systems (Sofian, 2021). This scenario ends up being transversal to various artistic fields, from digital and new media art to electronic music and its consumption. In the 2000s, platforms such as Second Life introduced the concept of virtual events and was slowly evolving in terms of popularity, today these events in environments originally designed for games in a much more comprehensive way, mixing electronic music with other artistic performances, from virtual raves to musicians generated by AI and live shows inside MOOGs. DJ Jeff Mills predicted in a 2018 interview to Techno Station Magazine that the physical DJ standing behind a set-up could disappear: “I don’t know what will replace it, but I’m almost sure that it will be gone”(https://www.technostation.tv/jeff-mills-predicts-future-electronic-music/). By switching the sense of reality and the audience’s perception, immersive environments are transforming the publics and the artists (Douglas & Hargadon, 2000). The bodies are disappearing letting avatars take their place and the experience itself takes on other proportions and in many cases, dancers only use their bodies as interfaces (Mitchell, 2010). These new techniques and approaches are deconstructing boundaries between worlds and bringing major transformations to the relationship between music and virtual environments through algorithms, customization and with extended reality (XR). Further, a pandemic came to opening the way and accelerated all these processes, people were/are confined and need more alternatives, whether to dance, listen to music or socialize in more attractive environments than IRL. With this paper, we aim to explore some examples and stimulate discussion and reflection on this topic.
Emilia Simao is Director and Professor of Multimedia and Arts at the Escola Superior Gallaecia (ESG) and at the Portuguese Catholic University (UCP) Portugal. She focuses her research on EDMC, Neo-Tribes, Digital Aesthetics and Media Arts. Emilia is the founder/co-coordinator of ObEMMA- Electronic Music and Media Art Observatory and also a member of CITCEM- Research Centre for Culture, Space and Memory (UP). She co-authored/edited several international edited books on EDMC, Immersive Environments and New Media Arts.
Joao Beira is a visual artist, art director and researcher, working on immersive and augmented visualizations. His work combines artistic activity with academic and scientific research using software development for interactive and generative visualizations. Joao is also the founder and creative director of DATAGRAMA VISUALS, a collective of international artist-coders that create immersive environments and perform live visuals and also Professor of Multimedia and Arts at the Escola Superior Gallaecia (ESG) and Escola Superior Artística do Porto (ESAP), Portugal.
Paper Session G – Disco, Nightlife and Online Spaces (Chair: TBC)
Site-Making in Club Culture: Creative Strategies for Building Club Spaces Online
At the start of the Covid-19 lockdown in March 2021, clubs globally were forced to shut, pushing some spaces into the online realm. Throughout each lockdown, organisations and individuals have come up with a variety of ways to occupy this online space with livestreams, purpose-built virtual club spaces, and even live events on online gaming platforms such as Minecraft. Much like the club-spaces used in ‘normal’ times, these were designed spaces; some reflecting real spaces, some completely new, and some hybrid spaces, produced from a collage of real and imagined sites.
This paper will present an artistic analysis of how site is made in club spaces. It will draw parallels between the intersubjective art spaces outlined in Nicholas Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics and participation in club spaces, with people and bodies defining the production of site. It will also consider notions of site-specificity in club spaces, and how site is constructed specific to certain locations. This analysis can be applied to varying extents to some of the online sites that have been produced throughout the 2020 and 2021. The case studies of United We Stream, Club Quarantäne and syncers.club present three contrasting ways that site has be created and re-created in online spaces. From this analysis and its application to online case-studies, a set of creative strategies for site-making in online club spaces becomes apparent. These strategies may be applicable to promoters and clubs thinking about how they might produce immersive club experiences online. However, as the nightlife industry moves back into the physical space, are these creative strategies still relevant? Does online site-making still have a place in club culture? Or is the online club purely a surrogate for immersive experiences that only exist in the absence of physical space? These are the questions that this paper will address.
Jack McNeill is a recent PhD graduate from the University of York. His primary research interest is in the relationship between visual and performance arts and the club. Using ethnographic and autoethnographic methods, Jack considers the role of performance, space, site, and intersubjectivity as artistic strategies with which new creative work can be produced. His primary medium is sound, producing physical installations and electroacoustic work, and has recently collaborated with filmmakers, digital artists, virtual reality artists, dancers, and theatre makers. He has presented work at Copeland Park Gallery (London), CCA (Glasgow), Leeds First Direct Arena, the University of Leeds and the University of York. Jack is also a DJ and producer, with releases on Blackbox Records, and performances in the UK and Europe. He is also a regular feature on the UK’s online radio scene, with a residency at AAJA Deptford, and guest appearances on Threads and Netil Radio. Jack is the co-founder of London based Artificial Hells Studio, whose primary focus is presenting practice-based research around club culture to non-expert audiences. Curating regular happenings at Grow Tottenham, Artificial Hells has invited musicians, visual artists, performance artists, DJs and more to present their work and perform in the space. The group also recently presented a multimedia installation at We The Curious science centre in Bristol for Simple Things Festival.
Robbe Van Bogaert – Vibecare
Eventsure created an international training program for nightlife venues about safety, crowd management, after covid in one vibecare strategy. This strategy is also part of chapter two of the global nightlife recovery plan.
Robbe Van Bogaert is the founder of EVENTSURE. He is the co-founder of the creative factory MEATPACK and TAGS ( The Antwerp Graffiti and Street art museum) in Antwerp, Belgium. He is the crowd conductor from the Eventsure tribe by being both organizer and DJ for many years. He works for the city of Antwerp and he made his mark in the nightlife and event coordination for youth for the city of Antwerp.
“Daya Dou Doum” (1974) – a retrospective study of Patsy Gallant’s possible first steps towards disco music
A study of Canadian singer Patsy Gallant’s song “Daya Dou Doum”, which was included on her French language album Toi l’enfant (1974). A digression from the Southern rock sound that Patsy was pursuing in the period, the track is a lone representative of African American grooves in the album. At the same time, a new movement rooted in underground nightclub scenes was emerging. DJs re-purposed and mixed rock, jazz, Afro-beat and soul/funk recordings in their sets. In spite of the diversity, the music featured common attributes, which were eventually consolidated in the form of an autonomous genre named “disco music”. From 1975 to 1979, Patsy embraced disco music and gained international popularity as “Canada’s Disco Queen”. In this study, I analyze “Daya Dou Doum” under different perspectives – musical, sonic and cultural – in order to highlight the now-obscure track in Gallant’s discography as an early step on the process that led her to disco music. I transcribe the arrangement with the help of digital music workstations and audio isolation tools, compare the resulting scores with the key aspects of disco music, and explore cultural and historical aspects related to “Daya Dou Doum” based on various authors such as Alice Echols, Kai Fikentscher, Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton, and James Arena, as well as on Patsy Gallant’s first-hand accounts.
Alexei Michailowsky is a PhD in Music at Universidade Federal do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and is currently pursuing a second PhD at York University in Toronto, Canada. A specialist in groove-based musicology, record production and synthesizer music, he is currently investigating obscure Canadian grooves from the 1970s and 1980s.
Flora Pitrolo and Marko Zubak
Global Dance Cultures in the 1970s and 1980s: Disco Heterotopias
After years of unduly neglect, scholars have increasingly taken disco seriously over the past decade and a half, examining both its underground roots and its more conventional aspects; however the genre’s capacity to be absorbed and remodelled across a fascinating geographical range has yet to be comprehensively charted. This volume attends to disco’s global journey between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, from oil boom Nigeria to socialist Yugoslavia, from post-colonial India to war-torn Lebanon, from communist China to neighbouring Japan. A range of scholars from different disciplines, investigate the whys and hows of disco’s evolution across a number of diverse ideological, social, political, economical and linguistic contexts where it acquired different forms, meanings and functions. The volume analyses the channels and infrastructure disco travelled through, the musical forms, styles, and traditions it adopted, the various ways it located itself on cultural mainstreams or peripheries, its links to parallel artistic phenomena, to distinct sexual and racial politics, and to particular groups, subcultures and spaces of the social city and of the built environment. The variety of these issues is addressed via framework that treats disco as both a musical genre and a wider cultural phenomenon, and readily engages with its ‘inauthentic’ aspects, including imitative or derivative bents that have hitherto tainted its analysis. Disco’s manifold manifestations are grouped together under the rubric of heterotopia (Foucault 1967) in a wish to capture global local disco scenes in contexts that are to varying degrees marginal or peripheral to the anglophone paradigm and thus do justice to layers of non-hegemonic space opened up by disco as a dance culture marked by forms of ‘escapism’. Another key framing concept, that of ‘crate digging’ allowed on the other hand bridging and balancing different registers of writing, uniting DJs, collectors, journalists, and academics in a compilation of disco researchers, featuring the likes of Will Straw and Tim Lawrence or diggers such as Ernesto Chahoud and Uchenna Ikonne. By presenting this volume, we would map out the scholarly and pop-cultural territories traversed and uncovered by it, providing an overview of the compendium’s content alongside a discussion of its conceptual, methodological and curatorial underpinning.
Flora Pitrolo received her PhD in Drama, Theatre and Performance Studies in 2014. She has since worked as Research Associate at University of Kent on large Creative Europe and AHRC- funded projects and has lectured at Roehampton University, Queen Mary University of London, Goldsmiths College, Syracuse University London and at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. Her work investigates alternative European performance and music cultures of the 1980s, with a special focus on Italy. She has published both as a scholar (Theatre Journal, About Performance, Studies in Theatre and Performance) and as a journalist (she was Editor of Archival and Reissues for leading UK electronic music portal JunoPlus between 2014-2016, and her radio-programme A Colder Consciousness has broadcast since 2011 on London’s Resonance FM and on Skopje’s Kanal103). She is active in London as a DJ and runs a record label specialising in reissues of 1980s electronica. Her most recent project is the archive book Syxty Sorriso & Altre Storie (Rome: Yard Press, 2017) on performance art in early 1980s Milan.
Marko Zubak holds a PhD in history from the Central European University in Budapest. He is a research associate at the Croatian Institute of History in Zagreb, focusing on popular, alternative and youth cultures and media in the second half of the 20th century in Eastern Europe on which he taught at several universities (Zagreb, Budapest, Klagenfurt). He published on these topics, including a monograph The Yugoslav Youth Press (1968-1980): Student Movements, Youth Subcultures and Alternative Communist Media (2018, Srednja Europa). His recent interest focus on popular music and club cultures. He has curated two exhibitions (‘Yugoslav Youth Press as Underground Press: 1968-1972’; ‘Stayin’ Alive: Socialist Disco Culture’) that have travelled around the region and collaborated on many others, most recently on ‘Restless Youth: 70 years of growing up in Europe, 1945 to now” at the House of European History in Brussels.
Paper Session H – (Chair: Tommy Symmes)
Tiago Andre Moreira Pereira
Boomland, the (re)connecting experience has been postponed (again)
For the past two decades the concept of ‘festival’ has evolved into new connotations on the sociocultural field. There has been a social effervescence around the transformational festival meme which triggered new perspectives on the so called alternative movement. As festivals are on hold the rise of mental health disorders are becoming one of the most discussed topics in world societies. Covid-19 is in fact the worst enemy humanity faces nowadays and its overall impact is yet to be understood. Global gatherings have been suspended since 2020. While some festivals successfully migrate to digital platforms, Boom Festival cannot fill the gap of its devotees on world wide web. This paper examines the importance of global gatherings in nowadays world along with data analysis to expand social circumstances and cultural frameworks that configure the subjective dispositions and drive the demand for Boom Festival in Portugal. Boom Festival may be not only transformational but also a living sanctuary that reconnects word tribes allowing purification and healing to its participants. In conclusion, this paper main purpose is to analyze the impact the Boom Festival experience can have on the lives of those who live it. Even though international events are on the verge to a digital reformation, the impact of territorial and global gatherings can not be replaced on world wide web. According to this research individuals had returned every two years to Boomland as a quest for a living sanctuary, to (re)connect to the tribe. For the time being Boom Festival postponed its 2020 and 2021 editions and it is uncertain if 2022 will ever happen. Reconnecting Global Dance Cultures is paramount but the good old dancing days amid thousands of souls seems a step too far for the actual global emergence.
Tiago André Pereira holds a PhD in Science of Culture from the UTAD, Portugal. He worked as a journalist, creative writer and independent producer/director in audiovisual field (2008-2013). His portfolio includes two short films (Submissa, 2014) and [in] seguro (2007) and a fictional drama book called “Uma História de Interior” (2014). He created “Past Words” and “Spacetime travellers” blogs, where he publishes aleatory texts and reviews from audiovisual content available on world wide web.
Jason Del Gandio
The EDM Vibe: More than Affect
This presentation explores the scholarly study of the EDM vibe. To date, most (if not all) EDM scholarship theorizes “the vibe” through varying degrees of affectivity. In brief, affectivity refers to the experiential relationships between material bodies. In the case of EDM culture, affect theorization rightly emphasizes music, dance, lighting effects, crowds, and aesthetics. However, non-academic participants of EDM culture(s) often put forward non-material understandings of the vibe. Those non-material accounts commonly reference universal energy, cosmic vibrations, spiritual forces, and/or mysticism. That is to say, there seems to be a gap between scholarly and non-scholarly accounts of the vibe. This presentation seeks to bridge this gap by offering up different ways to theorize the vibe. As of now, I see at least four ways to understand the vibe: (1) physics—atoms, waves, and particles that vibrate material reality into existence; (2) physical vibrations—sound and light waves that vibrate through space and produce experiential effects on our bodies; (3) electromagnetism—electromagnetic fields that are generated by and extend beyond our bodies; and (4) metaphysical—a primordial, nonmaterial force that enables/gives rise to the very possibility of material reality. I also offer my own theory of the vibe that I refer to as “bodily emanation.” I define bodily emanation as a tangible, felt energy that radiates from and is experienced through our bodies. Within my theorization, I suspend the question of “Is the vibe physical or metaphysical?” Instead, I use a phenomenological lens to understand the vibe as an experiential reality. My hope is that this presentation helps EDM scholars broaden and deepen their theoretical possibilities for understanding the vibe.
Jason Del Gandio (PhD) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and Social Influence at Temple University (Philadelphia, USA). His research works at the intersections of performance (embodiment and aesthetics), philosophy (reason and thought systems), and rhetoric (message and audience). Most of his career has been dedicated to issues of social justice, but he’s always had a love affair with the vibe and underground dance scenes. You can read more about his work at www.jasondelgandio.net.
Jasmine A. Henry
Sounds of the “Hyperghetto”: Sonic Counter-Storytelling in Jersey Club Music Performance
In the decades following the Newark, New Jersey rebellion, one of 159 racial uprisings that erupted during the “Long, Hot Summer of 1967,” Black communities endured the debilitating consequences of post-rebellion property damage, racialized poverty, police hyper-surveillance, and mass incarceration. Concurrently, Newark political leaders and creatives connected to the growing currents of late-1960s and 1970s Black cultural nationalism, countered these systemic inequities with Black Power and Arts movement activism and artistic traditions. Despite recent urban renewal efforts, contemporary Newark continues to be a tale of two cities. Notably, mainstream media and scholarly narratives depict Newark as a dangerous “hyperghetto” overrun by pathologized urban outcasts (Wacquant, 2008) whereas residents view the city as a place of Black cultural vitality.
In this paper, I show how contemporary Black urban youth in Newark purposefully and inadvertently challenge their “hyperghetto” status through the performance of Jersey club music, a Newark-originated, post-disco dance music subgenre that emerged in the late-1990s. Drawing from critical race counterstorytelling and Black critical geography theories, I argue that Jersey club performance functions as a form of embodied counter-sonic discourse that is collectively articulated and negotiated among Black youth in Newark. Based on participant observation and in-depth interviews with music producers, DJs, event organizers and dancers, I present a case study of #LinkUpTuesdays @ Quarantine Park, a pandemic-era, DIY dance battle series centered around Jersey club music. Through this work, I reveal how the scene participants’ insistent rhythms and rapid footwork 1) articulate oft-overshadowed narratives of Black urban joy, pride, agency and empowerment and 2) produce sonic interventions against larger systemic forces that threaten to dictate their lives. By centering Black youth experience, I depict the “hyperghetto” as an important site of (ethno)musicological scrutiny and problematize ghettoization narratives that silence contemporary Black DIY music scenes and participants.
Jasmine A. Henry (she/her) is a Musicology PhD candidate at Rutgers University, Predoctoral Music Fellow at William Paterson University, and Future of Music Faculty Fellow at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Her dissertation entitled, “Jersey Club: Race, Place and Independent Music Production in Newark, New Jersey” illuminates the significance of contemporary Black independent music-making through a critical race examination of music production, placemaking, and performance practices. She was recently awarded the Society of American Music’s Mark Tucker and the University of North Texas’ Graham Phipps Paper awards for this work. You may find her recently published scholarship on popular music, race, and technology in the Popular Culture Studies Journal and Journal of the Society for American Music. As an educator, she has designed and taught music business, music technology, and music history courses at The New School, Rutgers University, Felician University, and several other higher education institutions. As a live sound engineer, she has entertained international audiences through her work on critically acclaimed productions such as the Blue Man Group and HBO’s The Newsroom. Henry currently serves as the Media Lab Director at the Newark School of the Arts where she provides marginalized youth with access to music technologies and regularly works in collaboration with the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), United Nations, and Prudential Center to design and host multimedia performances. Website: www.jasminehenryaudio.com
tobias c. van Veen, Bernardo Attias, Maria Alexandra Urbano and PDS Mix
Taking the Mix to Twitch: Online DJ Culture During the Pandemic
With soundsystems off the streets and clubs closed during the pandemic, many DJs have turned to Twitch as an online venue for playing music. Interactive online performance in general allows for new developments in aesthetics and audience through the sociotechnical creativity of streaming arts that encompass all manner of sound, video, and interactivity. This panel investigates the development of DJ cultures on Twitch, with particular emphasis upon the aesthetics, economics, and social communitas of online participatory platforms. Twitch is a streaming social network, originally developed as an online media platform for videogamers to live broadcast their gaming activity along with commentary and virtual interaction. The sociotechnical features of Twitch have been adopted by DJs to provide forms of virtual social engagement, including live text chat with custom emotes, participatory challenges, and the ability to support channels with subscriptions and microcurrencies. The platform encourages streamers to “raid” each other’s channels, which creates transational affiliations and networks, often providing levels of exposure for DJs from many smaller, localized scenes, including those in the Global South. We are particularly interested in how the embodied experience of dancefloor communitas is transformed through virtual social environments, creating new social codas and forms of belonging. This panel showcases research on the Twitch DJ scene, sourced through our own “participant ethnography” as DJs and hosts of the vinyl tagteam Twitch DJ show, @pandemixDJs (http://twitch.tv/pandemixDJs), and through our organisation of the Planet Techno! RAIDFEST (https://raidfest.com), which has linked together techno DJs from across five continents. This panel will address the many aspects of Twitch DJ culture, from the sociotechnical production of online participatory communitas to the microfinance currencies and gambling economics of Twitch, while considering the greater social, cultural, and philosophical implications around the transition to virtual social environments since the pandemic began.
Maria Alexandra Urbano. Like the rest, psytrance festivals broke down during COVID-19. My research proposal, looking for breaks and up-lifts in psytrance festivals’ dancefloors around the globe from DJ’s and fans perspectives, took on a new meaning: the notion of break & up-lift expanded inexorably. After a moment of despair, in which my DJ activity slowed down, the research focused on my reflection about the slowing down process: which of my DJ tasks changed and how, which festivals resisted the pandemic, and which psytrance music, and particularly sound, characteristics emerge during this time (2019-2022). In theoretical terms, centred on psytrance festivals’ DJ performance, auto-ethnography, uncertain environment, and live stream experiences became the key words.
For this research I consider performances before and during the pandemics in twenty-five psytrance festivals in five continental regions. The main output turned out to be what I name as the five main sound bites from the pandemics Break to the psytrance festivals phenomenon: characteristics and geo references in psytrance performance, underground vs commercial, sound profile: electronic and acoustic, melodies, voices and remixes, psychedelic and/or Tribal rhythms.
Dr. tobias c. van Veen is Visiting Professor in Politics at Acadia University, with doctorates in Communication Studies and Philosophy from McGill University. His research addresses philosophy of race, sound, and technology in critical media studies, and he has published widely on Afrofuturism, posthumanism, and electronic dance music cultures (EDMC). Tobias is co-editor of the Afrofuturist Studies & Speculative Arts series at Lexington Books; lead editor of the “Black Lives, Black Politics, Black Futures” special issue of TOPIA: Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (2018); editor of the Afrofuturism special issue of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture (2013); and co-editor of the special issue Echoes from the Dub Diaspora (2015). Since 1993 tobias has exhibited with galleries and festivals worldwide as a media/sound artist and curator, photographer and filmmaker. He hosts the Other Planes: Afro/Futurism podcast on CreativeDisturbance.org and spins cosmic house & techno vinyl at http://twitch.tv/pandemixDJs.
Bernardo Alexander Attias is Professor of Communication Studies at California State University, Northridge with specialties in rhetoric, cultural studies, and freedom of speech. He has been teaching in the Department since 1994 and has taught courses on peace and conflict, crime and punishment, freedom of speech, communication and technology, intercultural communication, performance studies, and popular culture. He coedited the collection DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music (Bloomsbury), and has published essays about the Velvet Underground, the war on terrorism, and feminist heterotopia. His research areas include popular music studies, DJ culture, sexuality and the law, sex work, and conspiracy theory. Dr. Attias is also a DJ and occasional performance artist.
Maria Alexandra Urbano, PhD student at NOVA FCSH, received a master’s degree from the same school about the use of music in the Portuguese Colonial War in Cabinda, Angola(1970-74) under the guidance of Maria de São José Côrte-Real . She is a DJ and producer of psychedelic trance. She also has a degree in piano and music therapy. Currently she is working on her PhD on psychedelic trance, studying terminological aspects to understand relation between audible characteristics of melodic and rhythmic samples of psychedelic trance and fandom dynamics, involving fan behavior in different parts of the world through a collaborative ethnography developed in festivals in India, Israel, Brazil, Mexico, USA, Europe, South Africa and Australia, where she performs as a Psytrance DJ.
PDS MIX (aka Pimpdaddysupreme) is a DJ, Multimedia Creative, Livestreamer, and Infringementalist based in Nashville, TN. Since 1997, PDS has been producing and performing plunderphonic work that defies and critiques the modern interpretation and enforcement of copyright, typically by deconstructing, subverting, and juxtaposing pop culture to create transformative, yet “illegal”, art. A member of Snuggles, Bootie Mashup, and Crumplbangers, he is a pioneer of the international Bootleg / Bastard Pop / Mashup scene and currently documents that history in the ongoing interview series, Masters Of Mash. With over two decades as a professional DJ, he has worked with MTV Networks, WFMU, and Louis Vuitton; has been featured on NPR; performed on stage at the Grand Ole Opry, at private parties for clients like Kings Of Leon, and opened for Cult Of The Dead Cow at 2600 Magazine’s H.O.P.E. conference. When live events went on extended hiatus, PDS and the team at Bootie Mashup pivoted to livestreaming. Frequently performing on Bootie Mashup’s Twitch channel, and at events like Crumplstock, he also utilizes his expansive vinyl archive for shows on his own channel like Goth Taco Mukbang, Disco After Dark, and Wax Facts. You can catch him in the mix multiple nights a week at https://twitch.tv/pdsmix