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Composing EDMC Possession Trance Methods in Urban Electronic Folk Music Culture Dr. Rupert Till Senior Lecturer in Music Technology University of Huddersfield DJ, club promoter, clubber, since 1991

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composing edmc

Composing EDMC

Possession Trance Methods in Urban Electronic Folk Music Culture

Dr. Rupert Till
  • Senior Lecturer in Music Technology
  • University of Huddersfield
  • DJ, club promoter, clubber, since 1991
  • Live chill out band ‘Chillage People’ - album on i-tunes, tracks on Liquid Sound Design & Ambient Planet vol.1
  • BA Performing Arts (music), MA Music Technology (composition), (PhD composition)
  • Offer research supervision in club club culture musicology, cultural studies, ethnomusicology, composition, electronica and music technology on MA in Computer Composition MMus Contemporary Music Studies and MPhil / PhD
we will be passing through
We will be passing through…
  • Definitions & Methodology
  • Physicality & Duality
  • Lineage
  • The Homeless Self and Communitas
  • Possession Trance Methodology
  • A small experiment for you to take part in
  • Trance Symptoms
  • Theory - what is going on?
  • There are many different ways to approach popular music studies:-
  • Ethnomusicology - field work in clubs - participant observation / emic
  • Musicology - describe/analyse the harmony, timbres, structure, melody, rhythm
  • Critical Musicology includes context
  • Cultural Studies - investigate surrounding culture
  • Sociology/anthropology - look at the people
  • Historical - trace lineage
club culture or edmc
Club Culture or EDMC
  • Club Culture comes from Sarah Thornton’s first book on topic, discussing subcultural capital
  • From Birmingham school’s discussion of subculture, Hebdige’s Subculture the meaning of style
  • EDMC is Electronic Dance Music Culture. Graham St. John and others (including me) prefer this term as it includes non-club events such as festivals
  • Dance music includes ballet, tarantellas…
  • Rave = large scale events c.1989 - 1992 early commercialisation of acid house in UK, dated term used by media. Don’t use this term.
edmc is a possession trance cult
EDMC is a possession trance cult

How does music act

to send people into a trance?

What techniques are used?

trance method
Trance Method
  • Musicians induce trance in participants
  • Musicians do not go into trance
  • Shamanic trance - Shaman makes own music and trances alone
  • Possession trance - musicians make music, dancer(s) trance
  • EDMC = possession trance
silencing the inner voice
Silencing the inner voice
  • A trance is deep listening, when the inner narrative is silenced
  • Music does this in general, keeps the brain busy
  • Rhythms are important
  • As is Dancing
  • Nodding / headbanging is very common in traditional trance cultures
i could make the people dance
I could make the people dance
  • African American music such as funk and disco has interlocking complex rhythms

This rhythm is very common in African and Latin Music. It creates off beats and syncopation

There is also complex interaction of duple and triple time (3 or 4)

ewe tribe rhythm
Ewe Tribe Rhythm

bell| GO * GO * GO GO * GO * GO * GO |

clap| dzi * * dzi * * dzi * * dzi * * |

Both|(B) * GO dzi GO GO dzi GO * (B) * GO|

Top part is


Lower Part is simply three quavers

This combination includes multiple time signatures and

syncopation, disguise and confusion of where the first beat of

the bar lies, confusion of phrase lengths. When dancing the

body is put into and then removed from being synchronised

to the beat.

it s oh so quiet
It’s oh so quiet
  • Let’s have a few seconds silence….
  • Did you have thoughts running through your head? An internal conversation? ‘Hearing voices’?
  • We are going to try using rhythmic interlocking parts to try to still your mind and begin the process of trance.
dr chill s experiment
Dr. Chill’s Experiment
  • For this to work you need to all close your eyes when I tell you, and not open them again until I say.
  • You also have to believe in yourselves, that you look fantastic and feel great (which is of course true)
  • Feel free to adapt the instructions if you need to, but try to go with what I suggest…
  • Stand up and Close your eyes
  • Place parts of a beat in the body
everybody dance now
Everybody dance now
  • Head upwards on hi-hat crotchet beats
  • 4 to the floor BD crotchets in the knees
  • On 1 & 3 shaker left and right foot
  • Head nod forward on 2 & 4 clap part
  • Triplet rhythms bass part in hands, left & right alternating or three of each
  • Now add in the ewe tribe syncopated rhythm on a high synth to another part of the body while maintaining the others. Try your shoulders, hips or belly
  • I’m going to add some echo effects try to include them
  • Keeping dancing, now open your eyes. Look around, smile at someone, know that they are not judging you, everything is ok.
dr chill s experiment cont
Dr. Chill’s experiment (cont.)
  • Maintaining these multiple rhythms in the body, keeps the left brain busy and allows the more instinctive side freedom
  • This is of course a very simple rhythm not a complex piece of dance music.
  • Sensory deprivation (eyes shut) is an important part of achieving a trance state
  • While doing that did the internal converation stop?
things to note
Things to note
  • Repetition important and exact
  • So small changes can seem large
  • Large changes can be huge
  • The ‘Ewe tribe’ rhythm repeats after 6 bars, creating a contradiction in phrase length
  • It is in these subtleties that one must search to understand the important elements of dance music
  • Build up happens over time - over an hour/more once beatmixed records built up by DJ in set
other musical elements
Other musical elements
  • Echoes add extra layers of rhythm
  • Gradual changes in timbre over time as repetitions happen
  • Filter sweeps produce motion over time
  • Often little harmony in the music, like funk or African Polyphony

interlock of parts important

another world
Another World
  • Electronic and enveloping sounds draw the listener into an alien/other world
  • Boom Festival has a ‘liminal village’
  • characterised by ambiguity, openness and indeterminacy. One’s sense of identity dissolves to some extent bringing about disorientation. Liminality is a period of transition, during which your normal limits to thought, self-understanding, and behavior are relaxed, opening the way to something new. According to the anthropologist Victor Turner the liminal stage of a ritual is a period during which one is ‘Betwixt and between’, ‘Neither here nor there’
  • Boom Festival, Boom Festival 2006 Website, available at [Accessed 10 July 2007]
another world19
Another World
  • Another term used in this context is the Temporary Autonomous Zone
  • Hakim Bey, T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Ontological Anarchy, Poetic Terrorism, (Brooklyn, 1985).
cyborg planet
Cyborg Planet
  • ‘by destroying a sense of self, the merging with technology becomes a cyborgian rite of passage which needs to be repeated for as long as the identity crisis prevails’
  • Hillegonda Rietveld, ‘Sacrificial Cyborg and Communal Soul’, in Graham St. John (ed.), Rave Culture and Religion, (Abingdon, 2004), p. 59.
  • Voices are processed to sound electronic
  • Computer repetition is exact and robotic, humanly impossible
  • Sci-fi computer noises common. Techno aesthetic
  • EDMC is urban folk music in the age of mechanical reproduction
enhancing the trance
Enhancing the Trance
  • Overloading - high volume/bass overloads the inputs of the brain and physically vibrates body cavities
  • Volume and tempo increases are used in traditional trance cultures and in EDMC - breakdown sections followed by builds in volume, snare rolls, pause… then BOOM!
other elements
Other elements
  • Cultural Expectation - setting, sacred space, sacred or ‘meaningful’ musical references
  • Use of flashing lights, strobes, mandalas, psychedelic patterns, entoptic imagery, fractals, entoptic imagery, turing patterns

Hyper-ventilation raised heart and breathing rate can alone cause trances

some drug taking leads to trance
(some) drug taking leads to trance
  • Ecstasy (MDMA) - It floods the brain with
  • serotonin, the chemical related in the brain to happinessandwell-being, and
  • dopamine, which stimulates motor activity, speeds up the metabolism, causing overheating, filling the person with energy, encourages them (in an EDMC context) to dance for hours on end, and creates euphoria.
  • Changes brain chemistry - linked to mood swings, depression
  • Also other drugs/polydrug esp. cocaine/ketamine
  • Serotonin and psychedelics keyhole trance effect
summary of music
Summary of music
  • Low frequencies at loud levels
  • Repetition, polyrhythm, multiple time signatures, disguise of downbeat, syncopation, variation within
  • Volume and tempo increases
  • High tempo
  • Link/sync with other artforms and cultural references
other dance forms
Other dance forms
  • Drum’n’bass
  • Same cultural expectation
  • Same rhythmic interlock
  • Same techno aesthetic
  • Same triplets
  • Same 5 followed by quaver crotchet 3
  • Crisis leads to and preceeds trance
  • Crisis of homeless self
  • Crisis often caused by/related to disorientating early stages of drug effects
  • (aka ‘coming up’)
  • Collapse (having to sit/lie down)
symtoms of entrancement
Symtoms of Entrancement
  • After the crisis passes there is a
  • Loss of time
  • Shaking/trembling
  • Eyes rolling
  • Pupil dilation
  • Unusual movements
body sync
Body sync
  • Entrainment
  • The synchronisation of two rhythms
  • Two clocks on a board may find their pendulums synchronise
  • Heartbeat may synchronise to the music (from field work interviews)
  • Brainwaves may synchronise to music tempo
  • Dance music ranges from 115 - 180bpm (120 - 160 common)
  • This corresponds to a raised hearbeat like a sustained cardio-vascular workout
  • It is no coincidence 130 bpm is a common EDM tempo and heart rate when doing a strenous workout
the homeless self
The Homeless Self
  • ‘A world once charged with religious significance had been “disenchanted” by “the tremendous cosmos of the modern economic order’”
  • Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (London, 1992), p. 104, quoted in Ehrenreich pp. 143–4.
the homeless self33
The Homeless Self
  • Existential crisis since the Enlightenment / reformation
  • Individualisation of society, deconstruction of traditional communities and meaning, disenchantment of life, global communication fracturing culture
  • Adds up to create homelessness
  • Heelas, P. and Woodhead, L., ‘Homeless Minds Today?’ in Peter Berger and the Study of Religion, Woodhead, L.,, Heelas, P., and Martin, D. (eds), (London, 2001).

Liquid Modernity = post-enlightenment

‘postmodernity … brings ‘re-enchantment’ of the world after the protracted and earnest, though in the end inconclusive, modern struggle to dis-enchant it … Dignity has been returned to emotions; legitimacy to the ‘inexplicable’, nay irrational, sympathies and loyalties which cannot ‘explain themselves’ in terms of their usefulness and purpose.… Fear of the void has been blunted and assuaged … we learn to learn to live with events and acts that are… inexplicable. Some of us would even say that it is such events and acts that constitute the hard, irremovable core of the human predicament.

  • Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodern Ethics, (Oxford, 1993), p. 33.
One solution is a transgressive EDMC: it provides
  • Communitas: The spontaneous love and solidarity that can arise within a community of equals
  • Victor Turner. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press. 1966
  • Collective Effervescence: The ritually induced passion or ecstasy that cements social bonds forms the ultimate basis of religion
  • Emile Durkheim. The Elementary Forms of Religious Life. New York: Free Press. 1915

(See Ehrenreich)

edmc is universal
EDMC is universal?

The importance of music in ritual, and, as it were, in addressing the supernatural. This seems to me to be truly a universal, shared by all known societies, however different the sound. Another universal is the use of music to provide some kind of fundamental change in an individual’s consciousness, or in the ambiance of a gathering….And it is virtually universally associated with dance; not all music is danced, but there is hardly any dance that is not in some sense accompanied by music.

Bruno Nettl, An Ethnomusicologist Contemplates Musical Universals, in Nils L. Wallin, Bjorn Merker, Steven Brown (eds), The Origins of Music, (Cambridge, 2000), p. 469.

ehrenreich p 18
Ehrenreich p.18

‘These ingredients of ecstatic rituals and festivities – music, dancing, eating, drinking or indulging in other mind-altering drugs, costuming and/or various forms of self-decoration, such as face and body painting – seem to be universal’

duality physicality
Duality & Physicality
  • Cartesian duality - body bad/mind good - St. Augustine brings neoplatonic/Manichean influences, original sin = sex between Adam & Eve, negative attitude to body spread via Calvinism across western culture
  • I think therefore I am - I feel therefore I am - I am
  • Development of homeless self
  • Oppositional relationship in Western Culture between church and dancing, sacred and profane - ‘Dancing in the Streets’, Barbara Ehrenreich
blues vs gospel
Blues vs. Gospel
  • This duality made more explicit in African American culture
  • Blues linked to Juke (or Jook) joints
  • Centres of music, alcohol, dancing, drugs, gambling, prostitution
  • Gospel music & culture key site of African American cultural heritage
  • But does not have such a negative attitude to the body
clubbing lineage
Clubbing lineage
  • Blues / jazz / gospel
  • Soul
  • Funk
  • Disco
  • Ska / rocksteady / reggae
  • Hip Hop
  • House
  • All appropriated by white culture
  • Feminised dancefloor culture is then undanced by male dominated music industry until DISCO
transgressional disco
Transgressional Disco
  • ‘Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked The Gay Revolution’, David Carter
  • Riots centred around a gay bar
  • The right to dancing together in public became a political issue - sexualised atmosphere
  • The Sanctuary club opened in an old church
  • Gay clubs created blueprint for clubs - Studio 54, the Loft, Paradise Garage
  • Big sound systems, lighting effects, all night dancing, drug taking, 2 record decks, DJ culture, Latin influence, use of synths, polyrhythmic, transgressional, underground, gospel/religious undertones
underground desire
Underground Desire
  • EDMC is therefore transgressional - oppositional to mainstream culture
  • Disrespect for aura of recording and performer
  • Dancing as focus not pop icons or stardom
  • ‘DJ Culture’, by Ulf Poshardt, DJ as performer, creates new texts from vinyl records, which act as texts themselves
  • Membership of a secretive club / cult - ‘This is Our House’ by Hillegonda Rietveld, club as home. DJ as curator. Initiation, belonging.
  • Cottage industry outside of music industry.
what do the theorists say
What do the theorists say?
  • Hillegonda Rietveld, ‘Sacrificial Cyborg and Communal Soul’, in Graham St. John (ed.), Rave Culture and Religion, (Abingdon, 2004), p. 59.
what do the theorists say46
What do the theorists say?
  • Gilbert Rouget, Music and Trance: a Theory of the Relations between Music and Possession (Chicago 1985).
  • Possession Trance requires cultural expectations. Musicians cause dancing, dancing brings about trance.
  • Shamanic Trance involves Shaman making their own music and is generally indivdual
what do the theorists say47
What do the theorists say?
  • In ‘Rave Culture and Religion’, Rave as religious ‘fete’ or celebration (Gaultier), or New Religious Movement aka Cult (Olaveson)
what do the theorists say48
What do the theorists say?
  • Global Tribe: Religion, Technology, and Trance Culture, (forthcoming)GrahamSt. Johndescribes 4 areas in trance music of ‘Tribes, ritual, trance & hope’
  • Describes ‘Fearless leaps into uncertainty’
  • And theories of ‘Neo-tribes’
  • St. John carries out huge amount of field work, spends his life travelling to EDMC events and then writing up
  • Also Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures on techno-tribes
what do the theorists say49
What do the theorists say?
  • Gordon Lynch and Emily Badger, ‘The Mainstream Post Rave Scene as a Secondary Institution: A British Perspective’, Culture and Religion Journal, 7/1 (2006): 27 – 40
  • Secondary institutions have no ‘order of things to be obeyed … and therefore provide much greater freedom for people to exercise autonomy’

Heelas and Woodhead, p.53

unlike a primary institution like the Catholic Church

what do the theorists say50
What do the theorists say?
  • Francois Gauthier, ‘Orpheus and the Underground: Raves and Implicit Religion – From Interpretation to Critique’, Implicit Religion, 8/3 (2005): 217 – 265
  • Implicit religion uses techniques developed to study religion to study those things that do not present themselves as religious but secular, although they seem clearly to be religious, such as atheism or being vegan.
what do the theorists say51
What do the theorists say?
  • Robin Sylvan, Trance Formation: The Spiritual and Religious Dimensions of Dimensions of Global Rave Culture (Abingdon, 2005).
  • Cultural religion combined with ‘Oceanic experience’
what do the theorists say52
What do the theorists say?

Perhaps it was millenium fever?

‘Tonight I’m gonna party like its 1999’.

Prince - Purple Rain

what do i think
What do I think?
  • ‘Possession Trance Ritual in Electronic Dance Music Culture: A Popular Ritual Technology for Reenchantment, Addressing the Crisis of the Homeless Self, and Reinserting the Individual into the Community’,

in Exploring Religion and the Sacred in a Media Age, ed. Chris Deacy, Ashgate, Forthcoming.

  • Club culture is a contemporary form of possession trance, containing remnants of African culture transmitted from African American culture. It is a response to the crisis of the homeless self, a result of a Cartesian dualistic approach to the body.
what do i think54
What do I think?
  • We are unnaturally resisting our connection with the cosmos, with the world, with mankind, with the nation, with the family …We cannot bear connection. That is our malady. We must break away, and be isolate. We call that being free, being individual. Beyond a certain point, which we have reached, it is suicide. Perhaps we have chosen suicide.
  • D. H. Lawrence, Apocalypse and the Writings on Revelation, Mara Calnins (ed.), (Cambridge, 2002),
what do i think55
What do I think?

To dance is to inscribe music in space, and this inscription is realised by means of a constant modification of the relations between the various parts of the body. The dancer’s awareness of his body is totally transformed by this process. Insofar as it is a spur to dancing, therefore, music does appear to be capable of profoundly modifying the relation of the self with itself, or, in other words, the structure of consciousness. Psychologically music also modifies the experience of being, in space and time simultaneously.

  • Rouget, p. 121.
what do i think56
What do I think?

The possession cult of EDMC is an artefact of the post-enlightenment. (call it postmodernity, posthistorical or liquid times, the modernists can stay in the past with their high modernity).

It is part of reconstruction and reenchantment, of the new reformation.

It is taking on roles fulfilled in the past by mainstream religions.