Machine possession: Dancing to repetitive beats

Book chapter


Rietveld, HC (2018). Machine possession: Dancing to repetitive beats. in: Levaux, C and Julien, O (ed.) Over and Over: Exploring Repetition in Popular Music New York and London Bloomsbury Academic.
AuthorsRietveld, HC
EditorsLevaux, C and Julien, O
Abstract

This chapter addresses repetition in techno music in terms of tension between acceleration and inertia. Techno is a type of electronic music that foregrounds its machine generated sounds. Usually this particular musical aesthetic is associated with a repetitive type of dance music (Fink, 2005), its hypnotic four-to-the-floor beat historically shaped via house music and disco during the mid-to late 1980s (Rietveld, 2004). The sonic textures of techno articulate “a way of knowing” (Henriques, 2011) in the context of dominance of information communication technologies, and a post-humanist sense of being within “the technoculture” (Robins and Webster, 1999). During the 1990s, techno subgenres, such as drum’n’bass seemed to brutally increase in tempo to nerve-shattering extremes of 170 bpm. Later during that decade in London, the strutting pace of American club music was converted to a jittery dance music that at some point was indicated as speed garage. However, at the start of the millennium, the accelerated break beats of drum’n’bass and speed garage were stripped to emphasise the bass in a subgenre named ‘dub step’. Here, the relaxed bass-lines of 1970s dub reggae were turned into a deeply aquatic, yet growling, electronic sound, submerging dancers in what seems a continuous sonic depth charge. It is argued here that dub step is an example of a musical response to an accelerated culture, to an information overload that inevitably leads to inertia. In terms of increasing communication speeds and exponential multiplication of data, it feels as though we have arrived at the edge of a metaphorical black hole, at an event horizon where density of information halts movement. Within contemporary musical, aesthetics, then, the pulses of repetitive beats may even fuse into what humanly can only be perceived as drone music.

Keywordsrepetition; accelerated culture; technoculture; electronic dance music
Year2018
Book titleOver and Over: Exploring Repetition in Popular Music
PublisherBloomsbury Academic
Place of publicationNew York and London
Edition1
ISBN9781501324888
Publication dates
Print22 Feb 2018
Publication process dates
Deposited29 Nov 2017
Accepted03 Nov 2017
Web address (URL)https://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/over-and-over-9781501324888/
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