EDM: An Art Form Best Enjoyed in its Intersection of Crime
Music plays an enormous part in defining our past and present culture. Whereas the happy and upbeat music of the 1950s endorsed the idealistic, “peachy-keen” mentality, the punk music of the 1970s was fashioned as a means for rebellion against authority and societal norms. One specific genre of music has become revolutionary in our society today. Electronic Dance Music, or EDM, has changed both the art of music and human’s social engagement patterns. Its surrounding culture promotes many positive ideals, including the value of unity and mutual respect. An adverse aspect of the culture is that it is heavily associated with recreational drug use. The birth of what is now EDM took place in Europe around the late 1980’s. It started out specifically in the house music genre, (wheras now it is considered an umbrella term for similar genres such as house, techno, trance, dubstep, and trap), which became increasingly popular in European clubs. It was yet to be widely received by Americans, until popular music artists began to incorporate aspects of the genre in their music and collaborate with upcoming DJs (those who typically create and mix EDM). DJ performances at large events, such as Tiesto’s performance at the 2004 Summer Olympics and Daft Punk’s performance at the Coachella Music Festival in 2006, are what solidified the come up of EDM. EDM has significantly changed the music industry. EDM yields a completely new sound, and is crafted in a creative and innovative way. It allows people that have the creative intelligence, but lack the natural vocal or musical equipment, to create music. These people are called DJs and they combine sounds, melodies, and often, other artists’ lyrics to generate energetic beats that are fun for people to dance to. EDM also appeals to other senses besides auditory. At concert events, EDM is most always paired with visual effects. Behind the DJ booth, there are typically visual effects (such as graphics, video clips, visualizers, etc.) that the DJ has crafted himself to go along with his music. Additionally, DJs create a light show, complete with different colored lights, strobe lights, and even things like fire. The combination of all these effects makes for an entirely different and thrilling music experience, which explains the increase in EDM’s popularity. EDM has also had an impact on people’s social interaction. It has become increasingly popular in the club setting, replacing previous front-runners such as hip-hop. This has led to a much happier and carefree atmosphere, as EDM beats and lyrics typically promote the appreciation and love of life and people. Hip-hop, for example, tends to overly promote sex, and usually it is in a way that is degrading toward women. This yields the well-known “grinding” form of dance, where the woman rubs her butt against the man’s crotch. EDM diverts from material that pressures people to dance sexually and encourages both males and females to dance in whatever way they want, separately or together. In addition, EDM has become the leading genre at music festivals. Its positive lyrics and beats are said to foster “good vibes” at such events, which allows for people to enjoy themselves without the fear of being judged. EDM has come to possess a recognizable culture, one that prides itself on a modernized hippie mentality. EDM enthusiasts support a credo called “P.L.U.R.” which stands for Peace, Love, Unity, Respect. First, EDM followers typically believe that hostility serves no other purpose than to feed the ego. Thus, they promote peace among all people and avoid using violence to solve issues. Second is love. Love exists in the sense of acts and feelings of goodwill toward others. The third is based off of the human condition. The belief is that all human beings share certain characteristics, key events, and situations, and that these mutual experiences unite the species. Lastly, is respect, in which people must show regard for the feelings of others and themselves. The mantra itself is not always fervently endorsed, as the acronym sometimes carries a negative stigma. However, most EDM followers cannot deny that these are some of the ideals that they identify with and support the most. Just as these principles align with the attitude of the 1960’s, so does the consequent stigma of drug abuse within the culture. The use of drugs is directly tied to concerts and festivals involving EDM. Typically, one’s first impression of this association would be that it is a negative aspect, which of course, makes sense. First, most of the drugs that are taken within this culture are illicit, and, thus, punishable by law. Second, drugs are recognizably very harmful for the brain and body and can even be fatal when taken in great excess. However, drugs simultaneously play a positive role in the EDM culture, more specifically, the drug, MDMA. MDMA is a psychostimulant, most commonly taken at EDM concerts and festivals, and in places such as nightclubs that play EDM. MDMA gives users an overall euphoric feeling, increases their sociability, and increases empathy or feelings or closeness towards others. While EDM followers undoubtedly believe and promote some or all of the P.L.U.R. ideals on their own, MDMA is a large component in furthering or solidifying these beliefs. When people are experiencing the effects of MDMA together, they automatically create a special bond with each other, and are able to relate on a deeper and more spiritual level. When multiple people are experiencing this in the same area, for example, say, at a music festival, the overall atmosphere is positively enhanced and everyone feels a sense of closeness and understanding towards those around them. This creates a sense of unity – everyone has set aside their differences and has come to listen to the same music with people that have similar outlooks on life. Although the use of MDMA and other drugs is inherently criminal, an argument in its defense can be made in regards to how it makes people feel and, more importantly, how it makes people feel about each other. When used safely and in moderation, it can open people’s minds and unite them in their experience of EDM and above all, life itself. EDM is an art form that has undoubtedly transformed more than just the music game. It has transformed human experience.