Electronic Dance Music Events

Authored by: Graham St John

The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture

Print publication date:  March  2015
Online publication date:  March  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415638661
eBook ISBN: 9781315724478
Adobe ISBN: 9781317531067


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That electronic dance music (EDM) events have been popular contexts for the expression of religious sensibilities worldwide is a circumstance recognized among scholars. The “religious,” “spiritual,” or “tribal” character of momentous events is asservated across a spectrum of genres, from early disco and house to hip-hop, acid house, techno, hardcore, trance, and dub. The enchantment of raving in dedicated urban clubs or forest hinterlands; the transfiguring impact of ecstatic dancing with strange compatriots and expatriate strangers at times in-between and beyond the law aided by digital, cyber, and chemical technics; the declaration of clubbing and other events as “shamanic,” “devotional,” “sublime,” and otherwise “life changing:” all are commonplace in the reports of those native to global EDM scenes. That these scenes are as much contexts for appropriations of religious symbolism as they are contexts for inspirational experiences, often facilitated by psychoactivating compounds, suggests that this field is cross-cut with religious s[t]imulation—the simulation and/or stimulation of religious sensibilities. That participants “sample” religion speaks to the technologics endogenous to EDM, where sampling technics are deployed to remix existing sounds in dance tracks performed for populations in a multitude of social dance contexts. But sampling does not mean that the outcome is simply a “copy,” nor EDM duplicitous, for found sounds are typically adapted to forge novel works performed within unique phenomenal events—dance floors at parties, clubs, and festivals—where individuals interface with the music and one another in contexts where they claim to “feel more alive” than at any other time in their lives. This chapter explores this innovative and interactive experience with attention to what I call “media-shamanism” within psychedelic trance (or psytrance) culture. That is, it investigates how the remix is purposed to liminal design imperatives and thus to an acutely transitional project within an EDM movement. I offer specific attention to processes by which vocal content from film and other popular cultural sources is reconfigured by psytrance DJ/producers within a media ecology that services a liminal atmosphere and potentiates mystical states of consciousness in which gnostic “truths” are revealed. Demonstrating that this super-liminalization possesses objectives in common with the Human Potential Movement, the chapter contributes to the study of the remix as a core component of spiritual experience among participants in late modern culture.

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