Can Electronica Survive Multiple Mutations and Splits?
One of the weirdest and most sublime conversations I’ve ever had about house music took place at the back of a recreational vehicle going from San Francisco to Los Angeles. There were about twenty of us in the moving recreational vehicle or RV. There were all sorts of chemical compounds being taken for recreational purposes. There were all sort of fermented plant secretion-labeled alcohol that were being consumed on that mobile vehicular platform. As you can well imagine, there was a lot of smoke that contained the chemical compound THC within that enclosed vehicular space.
Everybody was having a good time and to really take things to a higher level – and I say that with no irony or pun in mind – a friend of mine leaned over to my ear and told me that one of the most profound ideas that really shot through my mind. His words hit me like some sort of crystal bullet, in an otherwise very dark night.
He told me that electronica and anything related to electronic dance music is like a cult. It’s like a religion. It has its own original sin. It has its own conception of redemption. It has its own conception of renewal and rebirth, being born again, and being made better. It also has its own internal rules. There are sets of dos and don’ts. There is also a sense of identity.
His ideas really blew my mind in so many ways. Maybe it was because I was drunk off my ass, but it made all the sense in the world. In fact, a lot of the things that I was questioning regarding electronic dance music basically got blown away. He wiped the slate clean. Everything fell into place. It was like that “Aha!” moment when people are trying to solve some sort of mathematical equation.
If you think about it, cults, religion, and spirituality are just human aspirations. They are products of our ability to make sense of the world. Now of course religion is presented in the form of a supernatural revelation, it doesn’t come from within you. It comes from outside. As the Christian bible says: Faith comes from hearing. In other words, there has to be some external trigger.
What really blew my mind was that electronica and dance music have the same patterns. Just as religion was split due to doctrinal differences, electronica has fragmented into several hundred different musical classifications. If this sounds familiar from a religious perspective, it should, because in the United States, there are at least 16,000 different religious denominations. It all started from the original Jesus movement which was an off-shoot of Judaism and then, thanks to the Roman emperor Constantine, it became paganized and became Roman Catholicism.
I’d say 90% of Roman Catholicism is actually just pagan practices and doctrines presented in Christian form or dressed up in Christian garb. When Catholicism colonized different countries, it spread so rapidly, not because people understood Apostle Paul’s message of salvation and redemption, but because the Catholic missionaries simply took local pagan belief systems and dressed them up. Local gods became saints and local goddesses became Mother Mary.
This ability to mutate across many different cultural expressions and seemingly impregnable barriers of cultural imagination is the key analogy to electronic dance music’s survival. It has gone through multiple mutations and instead of looking at this as a question of surviving such mutations, I think we need to look at it from a different perspective. We have to frame this issue in terms of the fact that electronica survives by mutating. It survives by dressing up other existing musical trends in its own terms. In other words, it’s like religion.