a s s e m b l a g e techno music V 1.1 S S E M B L A G E rave culture NOV 92 issue editor

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________________________________________________________ /\ . . . . . . . . . /__\ s s e m b l a g e techno \/ music V 1.1 / \S S E M B L A G E rave /\ culture NOV 92 issue editor russell potter rapotter@colby.edu ________________________________________________________ _Assemblage_ is a deliberately ephemeral, occasional, mobile journal that will publish reviews of techno/rave music, raves, dances, along with articles on the social implications of this music (if any). Freelance reviews, signed or unsigned, are welcome. ==================================================== BEGIN PART 2 ==================================================== DANCE! Music, Body, and the Reign of the Senses Russell A. Potter (c) 1992 Russell A. Potter This text may be freely shared among individuals, but may not be republished in any form without the consent of the author. 1. The dance as a sovereign gesture. In Georges Bataille's text, _Sovereignty_, he delineates a cultural domain, a domain that is sovereign in the sense that it is neither _for_ nor _about_ anything else. The sovereign, for Bataille, is opposed both to utility and objectivity; it is useless, it disdains use, and it scorns the (bourgeois) world of 'things.' It chooses the present rather than the past or the future; the transgressive rather than the obedient; its domain is excess, the realm of eroticism and the indecipherable. Yet at the same time, the sovereign is crucial, for it represents that share of each society's (and each individual's) life which is unsubjected to the constraints of work, to the endless deferral of desire which is sublimation. Without such epiphanies of unsubjection, society itself would burst under the strain; the refusal of society's boundaries is the (re)marking of those very boundaries. Thus, inevitably, the value of the sovereign is also its undoing, and necessitates its continuing re-doing; it is not enough to dance once, one must dance and dance dance again. Not the dance as a performance, offered for the consumption of others, but the dance of Dionysos, the dance as the social ritual which marks and exceeds the limits of the social. Dance is the supreme gesture of abandon, the embrace of the moment, the abeyance of work and the annihilation of guilt, neurosis, and the burden of the past. If there is a revolt against the continual demand of bourgeois society, the demand to work in order to accumulate things (including leisure itself, insofar as it is a thing), this revolt can only take place in the domain of the sovereign, and its technic will be the dance. 2. Dance: technic of the totality Dance is not merely on the side of the subject (s/he who dances), but also on the side of the object (s/he with whom s/he dances); it is spectacular as well as completely interior. In fact, the dance is capable of holding in abeyance the entire subject/object split. The associated technics of dance, from the earliest times, amplify this abeyance of the subject: incense, masks, hallucinogenic drugs, firelight or dim light, costumes, perfume, the relentless pounding of the beat. Current technology amplifies these technics still more, with strobe lights, lasers, black lights, moving dancefloors, neon, and an even wider palette of drugs. Such was the genesis of technorave music: in the industrial wastelands, whether of Detroit or Leeds, organizers rented disused warehouses, silent icons of the post-industrial wasteland. Portable sound and light systems would be set up, invitations spread by fliers, over computer networks, or by word of mouth, and by a few hours after nightfall the warehouse would be full. The dance lasted, often, till the morning ("rave till dawn," a phrase borrowed from the hip-hop dj's exhortation "On and on / till the break of dawn"), an incursion against the day, against society, against work, against the eternally deferred bourgeois happiness whose promise had long ago whithered in the shadows of vacant steel mills and ghostly factories. Yet this history is but one phosphorescent fragment of the eternal return of the dance; from the dances of Dionysos to the medieval carnivals, from the bootleg whisky and jug-band blues of southern barrelhouses in the 1880's to the prohibition mix of bathtub gin and jazz at 1930's speakeasies, to whenever and wherever the Grateful Dead pulled into a concert, be it the 60's or the 90's. This link between music and the body of the social is no anomaly; if there is any anomaly it is the hypercephalic spectacle of the audience at a symphony, each deeply lost in thought, their limbs motionless at their sides, where any suggestion of physicality (even a sneeze!) is regarded with horror . . . 3. Dance: The loss of self Like the eastern disciplines of Yoga and Zen, the point of the dance is the _loss_ of subjectivity, the immersion of the tyrannical ego in the bath of undifferentiated subjectivity. It is thus necessarily a collectivity of the most profound kind, even more so than riot and revolutions -- for riots and revolutions have their aims, their goals, and are directed to those ends, whereas the energy of the dance is entirely consumed in the polymorphous conflagration of the senses. Sexualities, personas, postures -- all are lifted from whatever 'place' society may assign, and mobilized in the great enactment of the dance, which is both acknowledgement and reversal of all the other 'acts' which one must 'put on' to maintain one's position in society. Thus the place of the dance is anyplace: under the stars, under the rusted i-beams of the industrial bombshelters of the past, under the glow of lasers, black lights, and strobes. The time of the dance is the eternal present of the senses, a deliberate forgetting and abandonment of the myriad threads which weave us into our neurotic fixations with what has been, or will be. For once, all the energy we waste at these devotions is set free, and mobilized into the collective and limitless space of the rave. To see, and to be seen; to smell, to taste, above all always to be in motion: this is the complete abeyance of time and the reign of the _useful_. The time of the dance is no time at all, it is measured only in the endless stream of beats, now faster, now slower, now fast and hard again . . . . 4. Industrial, Techno and the Return of the Carnival In the shadow of the Black Death and the ceaseless invasions and counter-invasions of mercenary knights, the inhabitants of what would later be named the "Middle Ages" celebrated life in the inverted rituals of the Carnival: Anti-Masses were conducted by celebrants who walked backwards and wore the heads of asses; young girls and boys were crowned kings and annointed bishops; men and women exchanged clothes and roles, and everywhere people drank and danced in a frenzy of life, life which declared this day its territory and refused its accursed pasts and futures. The domain of the Carnivalesque was also the domain of the Carnal, of desire unrefused, of the celebration of fucking, pissing, defecating, and puking, of all the human exchanges upon which the territory of the social had set its prohibition. The technologies of this carnival were relatively simple: facepaint made from roots and grasses; costumes and masks of leather, wool, and bark; for the inebriation of the senses there was mead, wine, and ale; for hallucinatory excursions there was ergot, henbane, and nightshade. This is the domain that Hans Peter Duerr calls _Traumzeit_, or Dreamtime; it is the "other" time that continually erupts into the pious days and hours of both sacred and secular calendars. And, when the "middle ages" gradually faded into memory with the incursion of industrial technology, this "time" was for a moment quelled; where, after all, could one stage a carnival among the narrow, sooty streets of the new industrial cities of the UK and the USA? Where it survived, as in New Orleans, the Carnival became perversely the property of the propertied; with costumes and floats consuming thousands of hours and thousands of dollars, the display of the carnival was appropriated from the masses (though drink, at least, and the license of the lewd, was left them). Yet even as it appeared to extinguish the spark of the Carnival, industrial culture could not permanently repress it. Ironically, it was the industrial muse that itself supplied the soundtrack for the return of the Carnival, whether in the mechanical noises and imagery of the 20's and 30's (e.g. _Metropolis_ or the _Ballet Mechanique_) or in the rancorous resonances of Einstuerzende Neubaten, who made music by banging on bridges and hammering on discarded metal tubes. Just as the Carnival had founded its reaction upon the bourgeois-Christian ethos of its day by tearing open a gateway to the pagan past, "Industrial" music attacked the despair of the post-industrial landscape by re-appropriating the very objects that society had discarded: disused warehouses, vacant fields, and abandoned amusement parks. It was bricolage and pastiche from the start, and its beat was provided by the very technologies it mobilized against; in the heart of the machine, it appeared, was a beat, and the beat initiated the very dance that was the undoing of the world the machine made. The Gothic ruins of the 90's, the empty rustbelt caverns of smelters, foundries, and warehouses, thus became the scene of a new cyberindustrial fusion, in which the boundaries between human and machine were deconstructed under the strobes and lasers of that very machine. The capital-industrial machine itself, inevitably, has attempted to appropriate and commodify this new form, and yet it is always _too little_ and _too late_. By the time the music "industry" had figured out how to market "industrial" music, that music had already shifted, mutated, taken on a new skin like some recombinant virus, to once again penetrate the system and begin (re)producing its subversive beats. Acid House, Hip-Hop, or Technorave; all have continued to evolve at an astonishing pace, making new incursions from sites just outside the genre-lines of record store bins (is Consolidated hip-hop? Techno? Industrial? What about Eon? Greater Than One? The Beatnigs?). Similarly, just as 1-900 RAVE hotlines have tried to capitalize the space of ever-changing rave numbers, or high-tech high-cover-charge clubs have tried to divert the curious by making "rave" a thing and selling it by the inch, ravers have mobilized away, finding new venues, new lines of communication, new formats. With luck, and with dedication, this process will continue, and the commodity shell-game will always be a step away. The new technologies make it easier, in fact, to evade commodification; with a small array of machines and mixers that could fit into a bedroom or a panel truck, rave DJ's can stay one mix ahead. In the UK, even as various government ministers condemned "ravers" and "travellers," their condemnations were sampled and set to a beat within 24 hours; in the USA George Bush and Tipper Gore have been relentlessly sampled by everyone from Ice-T to Consolidated to Front Line Assembly. It is difficult to resist the massmedia machine by rebuttal, but via the appropriation enabled by sampling, parody is only a beat away. Long may the hip-hop crews and rave DJ's continue, and long may the dance repeat its refusal of the strictures of society . . . ========================================================================= Reflections on the Rave Generation by Robert Hooker, Chicago Il ========================================================================= I went to a rave and I started to feel old. Here in Chicago it is pretty hip to go to a Rave; most of my friends have never heard of one. In my late twenties, I am in the uncomfortable situation being between two great cultural happenings; hippies and ravers. There is sort of an empty feeling in the middle. I like to rave because it exposes me to youth, but it can also make me feel a little old. At a Rave I don't rediscover my youth but I discover the youth of a new generation that I am not one of, that I don't fully understand. I become very aware that this new generation that is coming of age now, the first post-cold-war generation, is very different then myself and my generation. Also I feel for the first time that I am one of the old people that these kids are the youth that is opposed to me as the old. For young and old oppose each other and even though we try to make up middle grounds (the pathetic "Middle-Aged" is a case in point) you are generally one or the other. At I rave I really become aware of a generation gap that, even though it does not affect myself that much, keeps most of my friends away. The last rave I went to was an all ages things here in Chicago full of high school students all dresses in the latest rave fashion. In fact there was so much Cross Colors and Fresh Jive that it seemed more like a parody of a rave then a rave itself. Though I enjoyed myself thoroughly and love techno music more then anything I grew up with, the rave continued to leave me with a confused feeling that I could not put my finger on. After this Rave my group went to a Punk/Heavy Metal bar by visited by an older crowd. Walking into the bar looked like walking into a crypt, the punks, dead heads and metal heads (we are a generation of heads) look like walking zombies, corpses, worshipers of death in black leather. It felt comfortable to be back among "normal" people. Then it hit me, what it meant to be my generation. Our generation in all its trends was driven by an ever present awareness of death and hopelessness produced by the anxiety of the cold war. We embraced death for what it seemed to be to us; the only future we had any reason to believe in. Death runs throughout so many of our trends, heavy metal, punk, Terminator. Yet this is not the zeitgeist of the rave generation. The cold war was ending when they were in elementary school. But what drives the Rave set in their baggy pants and funky hats, sucking on their glow-in-the-dark lollypops? Consumerism, oralism, dancing? What is in the mind of this first post cold war generation? For a late-twenties such as myself the question becomes how do you read a rave, how do you decode a rave. What in their world are they referencing, what principle, hopes, fears give rise to the rave. What is the meaning to their oralism, their embracing of consumerism, their loose clothing the color of gum additives? But what would have been my answer if I had been asked at 17 for the meaning of my generation and its trends? I could not have answered. Probably no one could have answered. Probably no one can provide the meaning of an social movement while it is still going on. Case in point are the endless stupid explanations of the 60's written during the 60's. Today the rave generation is simply creating raving, they are making a cultural happening occur. They are raving a rave into existence rather then reading a meaning into the rave. Not until they have finished their college years, not until Rave is over and they are faced with a new generation which makes them aware of themselves, will the Ravers find the words to describe what went on, not until it is all over will they be able to tell me what it was the made them what they are, or how they see the world different then I. Then rave will stop being a movement but an influence, a way of looking, a kind of theory. These theories or outlooks on the world are what is left behind by once dynamic vital social happenings, like the skeleton left behind by a dead animal. You can not have both the skeleton and the living body. Probably just as you can not rave and read the rave at the same time. It is only after the hand is done writing that we can read what has been written. Perhaps this is the very essence of what distinguishes creation of criticism- creation is a living, vital process of becoming, a process so dynamic that the bonds between signs and meanings are unable to solidify. Creation is governed play and a desire for fun. Criticism is a later process, only after creative energy has been finished with a thing can we read the meaning left behind. Criticism is concerned with things left us, things that are now absent from direct experience. Criticism is governed by a desire to make the world an object- governed by rules. Creation is interested in the new, the fun, the young, criticism is interested in preservation, tradition, history, timelessness. For now, "Rave" is still an indeterminate word; the Rave scene is still free of the burdensome weight of meaning. We will only be able to read its meaning after it is over. But the same is true of any cultural happening. We can only think about the now in terms of the then. Probably this accounts for such bad name choices for modern trends. We talk about Cyberpunk long after the punks are gone, We say Industrial music when we live in a post-industrial society (perhaps rock and jazz are the real industrial music), we even call our age POSTmodern. We can only think about what is in terms of what was. I have set out to write about raving but have come to the realization that I can not "write", "write" in a deep sense much deeper then just describing, then meaning of raving. For now a Rave is just strange symbols without fixed meaning. the rave isstill the domain of play, of Sesame's Treet and glow-in-the-dark real neat stuff. And this is why the drugs, balloons, and dancing is so much fun; turn off the brain--forget the semiotics of American popular culture is the only way to keep up with the times--the only way to Rave. ============================================================================== HAVE WE BEEN HERE BEFORE? HIPPIES AND RAVERS, 60s and 90s Arthur Chandler (arthurc@sfsuvax1.sfsu.edu) ============================================================================== When I walk down Haight Street in San Francisco these days, I think of Mark Twain's saying: "History may not repeat itself, but it rhymes." Haight St. 1992 looks a lot like Haight Street 1967: offbeat clothing, street music, vivid posters, dope bums and psychedelic messiahs, tourists cautiously looking for a hip good time.... "Yep," I say to myself, "It sure looks like...." But wait a minute, Mark: "light" rhymes with "night" and "fight." They're not the same thing at all. Are those similarities signs of something deeper -- a common connection between the 60s and the 90s? Is Ecstasy an updated version of Blue Cheer LSD, and is house music just acid rock in new clothing? To the point: do the similarities reach down to the heart, or are they just a matter of surface style? Do the spirits of the era rhyme? To someone who has lived through both eras, the most striking similarity is the music scene. When the tribes gathered in the Summer of Love, they were called by he music: Santana, it's A Beautiful Day, Jefferson Airplane, the immortal Dead and, beyond all others, the Beatles. The hippie tribes gathered at Fillmore West, the Avalon Ballroom, the Family Dog, and in the green spaces of Golden Gate Park. They got high and danced to the music and the lights. Now the music calls again. . . Now they gather in Toontown and in dusty warehouses, and on the beaches. They get high and dance to the music and the lights. But at first glance (and first hearing), raver music doesn't rhyme with psychedelic music. Lyrics don't matter as music to the ravers as they did to the hippies. When and if the human voice does shout through, it's often sampled and jacked out of the human realm. Words and phrases are cut up and recombined, and the original thought and emotion are lost or transformed into a kind of mantra (listen to what Orb does to the words of the breathles s narrator in "Little Fluffy Clouds"). House and techno seem harder, digitally insistent; the spirit that pervades the tribal music of Cyberia is that of the microchip. At the concerts, the music makers have changed their instruments. DJs have replaced live musicians jamming down on their axes. Here in San Francisco, Jeno and Garth rules; here Grace Slick and Paul Kantner rocked the crowds a quarter of a century ago. Moving from one turntable to another, adjusting the mix, rocking one record back and forth until its music is ready to be wedged in under the current sounds from the other turntable -- the DJs moves are far away from the lead guitar smiling at the bassist, both of them trading licks and feeding them to the keyboard player as they all take the pulses from the flailing drummer. But though the musics and their makers look and sound so different, the rhyme of the 60s and 90s is real, like "light" and "bright." Above all, around all, there is Community. A strong sense of community pervades the core of the raver community, as it did among the hippies. The community is held together by a common (if not quite universal) sense of tolerance and fellowship with the whole world. Like the "Gathering of the Tribes" in Golden gate park in the 1960s, raves are open to everyone. Well, maybe not quite everyone. The rhyme ends here. dancing with a thousand raving brothers and sisters under the full moon on the beach or under the mutating fractals uncoiling on the projection screen -- "One world! No color or gender barriers! Come, Unity!" shouts the yes-voice within the raver. But later, as he/she chills out and appraises other people, a small worry whispers, "Who are those suits and high schoolers coming across the bridges and through the tunnels to *our* rave? And that too chummy dude over there who keeps trying to score E -- ten to one he's a cop." The hippies always had a sense of community and, in their Higher Moments, a perception of being part of the whole human community. But (except for the dopers who took too much speed) the paranoia about outsiders didn't set in late in the movement -- and it proved to be one of the dissolving agents of the hippies community. "Suspicion on our part justifies deceit in others," said La Rochefoucauld; and once the worm of suspicion gets going, it eats he heart out of a community. There are signs that the worm may be loose in the raver world. There exists,among a number of ravers, a kind of clubbiness, a sense of being "in" and wanting others to stay out. The exclusiveness isn't race- or gender-motivated; it seems o emerge from a kind of inner-circle hipness. "Don't let them -- Joe Lawyer and Jane Realestate, Freddie teenybopper and Marvin Mediaman, Professor Anna List -- into the rave scene, or it's all over for us!" "Your name's not down, you're not coming in." The community becomes a members-only party, where acceptance into the "real" rave community is dependent upon knowing the "right" people: the ones who know where the real action is tonight, and who let you know when and where it is ("And don't tell anyone you can't trust!"). This suspicion of outsiders leads me to one final point of difference -- the last non-rhyme -- between hardcore hippies and ravers. In the 1960s, the ideal philosophy of the hippies could be summed up in the phrase, "ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE." Love for another person, for the music, for whatever in life you've given your heart to. Love is all you need. The song said it; and, for better and for worse, many of them/us believed it and tried to live up to the possibilities and consequences of that idealism. I don't find this common ground of idealism among ravers. or maybe I should ask the question (and end the essay) thus: How do YOU fill in the blank? ALL YOU NEED IS __________________________ [END OF PART 2 OF *ASSEMBLAGE* 1.1]


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