Start of a Scene

At some point over the course of the last few months I didn’t necessarily become “tired” of  “objectively” analyzing the world of dance music in America, but there certainly did become a point where I felt the desire to form some sort of my own controlled experiment.  From my brief research, it would seem that many scholars of contemporary dance music also play some role in participating in or planning events–Wayne Marshall’s “Beat Research” parties are a prime example. So about a month ago I decided to test how Brown University would react to an event where the music was of the variety that would not appear on the pop dance charts. The first event we put on was the Spring Weekend Party, three weeks ago at the Colosseum in Providence, RI.  To the best of my knowledge, it was one of the first independently-run events at Brown that took a club in Providence and attempted to turn it into a space one might find in a much more global city such as New York or London.  My last several blog posts, to varying extents, have attempted to chart a shift, from hip-hop to what I like to refer to as “ambient-influenced” dance music.  Hence, at this event, I attempted to create a night in which modern, more ambient music played a more prominent role. Starting around 11:30, myself, Christopher Joseph, and then Nicolas Jaar played against a backdrop of LED’s, haze, and twin 15W RGB lasers.

There wasn’t a pop song played for three hours, yet the response was overwhelmingly positive.  Whether this was a result of the copious alcohol and ecstasy use amongst the crowd may yet to be seen, but what is certain however, is that students stayed for over 3 hours dancing to music most of them were unfamiliar with. Even though there was a somewhat tangential interest in the performative aspect of the “spinning” most people seemed to either accept the unfamiliar, yet omnipresent beat, or at least use it as a backdrop to socialize.  At no point, however, was the party ever about singing along to that song that has been blaring over the radio for the last few months. In essence, the party seemed to be a prime example of how this new form of electronic music lends itself to simply being used.  For example, if the music was of the more popular variety it is likely that party-goers would be singing along to it, enjoying the way in which pop music creates a communal experience amongst those who have similar experiences with the music itself.  However when, the music is structurally unfamiliar–that is impossible to sing along to as it fails to follow the verse-chorus-verse structure common in pop music–it seems to simply pump energy into the room whether its casual dancing while holding a beer or full-body gyrations.  What remains to be seen, however, and what we will be examining in the future is how much this newly found audience is willing to pay and how willing they are to commit this experience.

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