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British Youth Culture: Week 10
Transcript of British Youth Culture: Week 10
But has this changed, finally:
"Brits 2016: Stormzy criticises awards for lack of diversity among nominees in new song 'One Take Freestyle':
'Last year, they told the mandem that to be nominated you've gotta go on UK charts / So what do we do? We chart' ".
Brits 2018: Stormzy wins!
Dominant sounds are electronic, synthesised, sometimes analogue but mostly digital. (BPM important: at least 120 BPM).
- Dominance of baseline
- Programmed repetitive beats
- Role of DJ/ Sound engineer
- Produced largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals (only makes sense in certain conditions- crowds, lights, drugs
- Lyrically minimal
- The song or the track?
- EDM: Introductory themes/questions
- EDM as subculture
- Overview of EDM genres: electronic to grime
- Some key themes: Dance Music vs Pop, Authorship, Technology, Hedonism
Big shift in the conceptualization of subculture: It changes all of this: incorporation, consumption, authenticity, the role of the artist, resistance, the meaning of music, youth, gender, race, authenticity.
Or maybe it is the subculture of the present day? The subculture of hyper-accelerated Postmodernism?
Postmodernism: the style of the age of information- fragments, samples, the past all around us and available for re-use (think of spotify compared to a record shop).
Postmodernism: globalised, networked, instantaneous digital communication, saturated with technology, hyper-consumerist.
Postmodernism: meta (self-referential), self-conscious, self-aware.
British youth culture of the twentieth century to be shaped by Mod’s European outlook’: Richard Weight,
Brief History of Electronic (and Dance) Music
1970s: Soul, ‘Krautrock’, Disco
1980s: Techno, House, electro-pop, Synth Pop/New Romantics, Balearic Beat, Madchester/Scally, Rave and Acid House
1990s: Trance, Trip-Hop, Big Beat, Jungle (aka hardcore, drum n bass), UK garage,
2000s: Dubstep, Grime (primarily a development of UK garage, drum and bass and dancehall),
- Detroit,early 80s combines euro futurism with soul and funk:
‘It sounded like science experiment that had escaped from the lab’ Bob Stanley, Y
eah, yeah, Yeah
US soul, funk + European techno combine: ‘kraftwerk were so stiff they were funky’: Carl Craig, DJ.
Afrika Bambatta's ‘Planet Rock’, a hugely influential dance track, called at the time ‘Electro’ uses Kraftwerk
UK; early - mid 1980s - 'Synthpop':( early 80s
Link here to Modernism ( as we know it):
Pete Saville designer: ‘You’re involved with this thing called the ‘new wave’ and it’s your first introduction to
Pop Art was the only thing I knew about..I was seeing all these things that middle class people had been denied. They fit together and it makes sense…I kind of curated a proposition of how I would like modern life to be’,Peter Saville, in Weight,
‘It was totally
and the Hacienda was like walking into a space-ship. It was so modernistic and it followed on from everything we were doing at Factory. I mean we were all ex-mods.. and that’s what we were doing . The colours, the simplicity, it was all modernism’ in Weight, Mod, 367.
Note the modernistic aesthetic: industrial, functional, basically engineering.
So the Hacienda the first UK warehouse type space:
- Anyone can get in (compare Disco clubs
- Industrial space/ Sound System
- Play Chicago House and Detroit Techno.
OR 1987- Steve Hurley
Jack your Body
‘People were appalled, they genuinely didn’t know what the hell to make of this record.’
Jack your Body’ was monotonous, little more than a baseline and a dust-bim lid rhythm , with Hurley’s odd, disembodied voice repeating the title’ in,Bob Stanley, 611.
‘Britain was the prism and the portal through which a version of America was transmitted to the rest of Europe’
‘House was a cocktail of American and European musical styles that was distilled in the multiracial gay clubs of Chicago, like the Warehouse, and then transmitted to Europe by touring American Djs and pirate radio stations’
Why didn't House music take off in the US?
‘just as punk had been more successful in the UK because of the nation’s more acute class- consciousness so House became more popular here because of Britain’s less acute racial divisions and more liberal attitudes to sexuality’ Weight,
US teens prefer rap or rock:
Public Enemy’s Chuck D. on House; “ it’s sophisticated, anti-black, the most artificial shit I ever heard. It represents the gay scene, it’s separating black people from their past and their culture, it’s upwardly mobile’.
‘MDMA is a remarkable chemical, combining the the sensory intensification and auditory enhancement of marijuana and low-dose LSD, the sleep-defying energy-boosting effects of speed, and the uninhibited conviviality of alcohol’ Simon Reynolds,
Raves- no violence, no overt 'sexuality', no aggression
'When large numbers of people took ecstasy together the drug catalysed a strange and wondrous atmosphere of collective intimacy, an electric sense of connection between complete strangers. Even more significantly MDMA turned out to have a uniquely synergistic/synesthetic interaction with music, especially up-tempo, repetitive, electronic dance music’. Simon Reynolds, xiv.
Discussion Points/ Key themes
1.EDM vs Pop; The aesthetics of music itself:musically simplistic; mechanical, brutally repetitive rhythm, dumbed down, naïve. The song?
2.Authorship and Originality: ‘Dance cultures have, over many years, been somewhat less concerned with authorship, with performance identity, than is the case with other music cultures such as rock’ Hesmondhalgh 246
3. Hedonism, Youth, drugs, dancing/ the physical
4. The (post)-human condition; music for cyborgs? or the Body?
So then Acid House mutates into Rave Culture:
ey features of Acid House/Rave culture (1987 on):
-Taking Drugs, lots of (MDMA/Ecstasy)
-Music (Acid House, Techno, Jungle)
-Dancing, all night and most of the next day
-The ‘Rave’ (in club, then warehouse, fields, back to club)
-Fashion (day-glo, Hippy-chic, infantile, beach-wear,
-The 'Vibe' ( 'on one', post-hippy communalism, ecstasy/trance,blissed out, ‘togetherness’),
- The scene (community/gathering, tribe), the Weekend, out of town
On the one hand friendly and accessible and sells well: ‘Happy Hardcore’, ‘handbag House’, ‘Big Beat’ and ‘Trip Hop’.You may know some of these: Underworld, Fatboy Slim, The Orb, Chemical Bros,
on the other side, the alienating terror- noise of
, which then provided offshoots like
grime, which is where UK dance music is today.
ot the singer, the DJ:
'The electronic music DJ; party leader, sonic entertainer, auditory artist, sonic entertainer, music programmer, record mixer, beatmashser, cultural masher, music producer, creative music archivist, record collector, sex symbol, role model, upwardly mobile brand, youth marketing tool, dancefloor parent, witch doctor, tantric yogi, cyborgian shaman, the embodiment of studio–generated music’,
DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music,
Attias et al, 1.
: 'Music shaped by and for drug experiences (even bad drug experiences) can go further out precisely because its not made with enduring art status or avant-garde cachet as a goal. Hardcore rave’s dance floor functionalism and druggy hedonism make it more wildly warped that the output of most self-conscious experimentalists’: Simon Reynolds, Energy Flash, xvii
Even as I cherish its power to empty my head, I’ve found this “mindless” music endlessly thought-provoking. And despite its ostensibly escapist nature, rave has actually politicised me, made me think harder about questions of class, race, gender, technology. Mostly devoid of lyrics and almost never overtly political rave music – like dub reggae and hip hop – uses sound and rhythm to construct psychic landscapes of exile and utopia’: Reynolds
, (xx ).
DANCE vs POP
Clubs - Gigs
DJ - Songwriter
Impersonal - Personal
Faceless - Charismatic artists
Technophilia - Technophobia
Synthetic - Organic
Instrumentals - Lyrics
Extroverted - Introverted
For Body - For Mind
Pre-recorded - Live
Undifferentiated - Original
Mindless - Intelligent
Empty - Substantive
Pleasure - Pathos
Hedonistic - Austere
Sexual Excess - Sexual Austerity
Ecstasy - Alcohol
Entertainment - Art
Future orientated - Past orientated
Song - Track
Organic - Computer
Apolitical - Oppositional
Samples - Original
Aesthetics- is dance anti-music
no lyrical complexity,
anti-intellectual, conformist etc
4. Does dance appeal to the 'post-human condition': the end of fixed, stable, centred human identity, individuals who have personal, internal thoughts and feelings that they can communicate to others.
Technology, media, information flows end this?
'Media determines our condition': Friedrich Kittler,
Gramophone, Film Typewriter.
More next week
was introduced by Steve Redhead (1990) in response to what he perceived as an apparent breakdown of previous youth subcultural divisions evident in emergent dance music culture of the late 1980s and early 1990s” ; Andy Bennett, 'The post-subcultural turn: some reflections 10 years on'.
UK, later 1980s: pop and dance music moving together.
The real shift came with entrepreneur Tony Wilson who created the record label 'Factory' and pioneered the fusion of rock and dance genres that became 'Baggy';
Bands such as New Order, Primal Scream, Stone Roses and Happy Mondays;.
Backlash/Moral panic: The huge crowds, the convoys of old vehicles, the squatting on land, the huge gatherings, the easy availability of ecstasy, soon generated 'a
( where have we seen that before). Raves were soon criminalised:
The 1994 Criminal Justice Act, Section 63 (1)(b): police officers have the power to remove people from events at which music “wholly or predominantly characterised by the emission of a succession of repetitive beats” is being played.
Dance presents a major shift, or a break in the development of pop music and with ‘traditional’ youth culture: one that is still being worked through today.
We talked about Britpop being the big thing of the 90- but really it wasn’t – the big underground thing was dance music!
We can say that where pop/rock, even the extreme stuff, such as punk or reggae, was always finally acceptable, made familiar, incorporated into a vision of Britain, or made commercial in some way; dance music has never really been encompassed or approved by the social or the political.
Tony Blair or David Cameron could never be seen at a Rave, as they would for a rock concert!
It was and remains, for the mainstream, strange and other, shocking, incomprehensible, .In Britain at least it has been coded as youth music, or black music, or the music of the deprived and dangerous inner cities.
So the main problem seems to be that dance is not pop. There is a huge split that opens up here, from the late 80s, between those who value pop ( the artist, the fact of the song, the meaning of the song) and those who promote dance ( the DJ, the track, the experience of dancing , being entranced, ‘blissed out’).
Another major paradox- while dance music seems to contain all the required ingredients for a true subculture- a surrogate family, a replacement belief system, a re-using to different ends of parent technology and forms – that have been dreamed of since Rock n Roll, it also seems to be a failure of these ideals.
It seems apolitical and purely hedonistic (drugs, dancing), mindless, dumb (repetitive, simple), without meaning ( what does ‘Pump Up the Volume’ mean), etc
The pre-history of electronica:
So the Hacienda, then all of Britain starts to play US Techno and Chicago House, combination this wtih a European sensibility. Sound familiar?
Kratwerk, Disco, Goiorgio Moroder
So Detroit Techno was produced by Europhile, arty, geeky middle class kids in their bedrooms: these were suburban, house –bound loners: The sound is austere, more glacial , totally tonal. An attempt to use technology to describe an uncanny , technological future that would resemble the cities of SF like Blade Runner:
2. SO what was House music? Where did it come from?
Like techno in Detroit, remember, House music, developed first in the US, in Chicago, in the mid- 80s, at a club called the
(hence the name).
House used cheap technology, bass samplers and synthesisers, tape recorders, later computers, and this was used, along with European electronic import singles, to make new tapes, that DJ like Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy could play in clubs. So simple 4/4 beat, minimalist, repetitive, stripped down, solid base-line.
A massive simplificatgion and amplification of EDM!
So basic rhythm tracks, drums and baselines, would be stripped from other records, or made from scratch from cheap machines, various effects added ( extended breaks, repeated phrases, echoes, reverb) and a vocal ( simple, repertoire) put over the top.
So again with dance music,
House was a combination of US disco, funk and soul, combined with European Electronic music. House was a cocktail of European and US musical styles distilled in multiracial clubs in Chicago.
One contender for first House record: "On and On", by Chicago DJ Jesse Saunders is sometimes cited as the 'first house record',
So House, in the US, is considered trashy, cheap, throwaway. Not a big success: most producers came to the UK. US audiences don't like it. This is the era of rap, grunge, stadium rock, r n b.
BUT Brits love it, give it a twist or two and mutates in the UK, in late 1980s as House, or
House music soon starts a craze:
British house music quickly set itself apart from the original Chicago house sound: many of the early hits were based on sample montage, rap was often used for vocals (far more than in the US)] and humour, playful was frequently an important element. + hooks, bleeps, novelty.
early House inspired UK releases such as "Pump Up The Volume" by MARRS (1987), "Theme from S'Express" by S'Express (1988):
So where a few band in the 1960s – like the Beatles and the Beach Boys – used some electronic effects in their music- the first people to make electronic pop music were really an extremely unlikely band called Kraftwerk in the 1970s.
Their first electronic album
‘Autobhan’ in 1974, and the Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation.
The group's simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder ( that produces robotic synthesised speech) or generated by computer-speech software. Later used synths such as the minimoog
1980s synthesizers had become much cheaper and easier to use Along with the establishment of MIDI in 1982 (a standardizes way of connecting synthesizers and sequencers to computers) and the development of digital audio, the creation of purely electronic sounds and their manipulation became much simpler. You could create electronic pop without much in the way of musical ability!
later taken up by the ‘New Romantic’ movement (think 80s glamour – lots of linen suits, big hair, international playboy look, supermodels, success, money, aspirational) together with the rise of MTV, led to success for large numbers of British synthpop acts, including Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet
With all the money rolling in from New Order, the 'Hacienda' nightclub built in 1982.
this thirty second burst of electronica was the basis for a revolution that started at the turn of the 80s’
'By the time Brtipop was in full sing in the mid 1990s the bouncy melodic beats of House had swept the nations bars and clubs... the rave market worth 2 billion in 1993'.
Or, 'Love Can't Turn Around,,
Farley Jackmaster Funk, featuring Darryl Pandy
'Rave began to gather up all the threads of youth culture and knit them back together. Black and white, male and female, rock and soul fans, crusties and sloanes. There were no door policies here.'
fantasy/ Utopia/ Wonderland
'In fields and warehouses, and aircraft hangars for a while it felt for a while as if were building an alternative society'; Sheryl Garratt, Adventures in Wonderland
+ generational (under 25s), alternate reality, escapism, hedonism,
See Human Traffic (1999)
Then, into the 1990s; mainstream and fragmentation into discintc genres and subgenres:
But Grime, from east London, early 2000s, really: funny, witty, irony, posturing and dressing up, inter-generational, communal, multi-cultural, tolerant... and socially committed.
-Postmoderrnism as critique of 'depth' model (of expression itself
- Weakening of historical knowledge (fake news!)
- Collapse of distinction between 'High' and 'Low' culture
- Death of the subject
- The waning of affect
- Dominance of pastiche
empty, made up of signs (labels), depthless, no 'real' Patrick Bateman