They're No Friends of Mine...

If we take our cue from Men Without Hats, and I believe we all should, then we are condemned meaningless friendless existence.

I was at a DJ thing* on Saturday, and the dancing was horrible. It was a mess: people gyrating, bopping, swinging such that one would think that the flashing lights had sent everyone into an epileptic shock. It was as if that the Libertarians have invaded our clubs, and Ayn Rand is shaking it in front of me. We have removed the structure and rules of dancing, and created a state of nature that would terrify Hobbes.

I prefer dancing with steps, rules, and fundamentals upon which one can expand. Steps give the shy dancer a way to join in. Great dancers shine with steps, their style and grace lifts them above everyone else despite the formalities of the dance. Most importantly, steps create a shared language that allows you to immediately, and confidently, communicate with a partner.

This is analogous to an important difference between Classical Music and Jam Bands. It is through the use of tone, interpretation of fortes, pianos, crescendos, and decrescendos, the artist proves that they are not a machine just reciting what is on a page. Luciano Pavarotti and Yo-Yo Ma may be performing the same music that countless others have, but you can tell when they are playing. Jam bands typically use a basic major chord progression to serve as a bland background around which one can solo seemingly endlessly. The problem is that there are rarely any decent melodies around which to frame a solo, and the chord progression isn’t interesting enough to challenge the soloist. The result is that given a large degree of freedom, the music has no personality.

The problem is that we don’t have any great dance music to inspire our feet. Whether techno, or dancepunk, or whatever, the current crop of dance music all has the same basic characteristics. The bass drum has to pound out every quarter note like we are so rhythmically challenged that we will forget the beat without it being driven into our head. The high hat is often closed and playing 16th notes. Finally, the music builds to a “chorus” that is a barrage of noise, I assume connoting a frenzy or intensity, that washes away back to the basic beat with little instrumentation. If the art of being a DJ is to seemlessly mix one song into the next, then this is the perfect music because it all sounds the same to begin with. This is music meant to coerce you into dancing. The beat screams “you should be dancing”, but the music usually lacks that intangible quality that is the “groove.” You’re moving, but not happy about it.

*I don't know what to call these things. Concert clearly isn't appropriate. Gig? Show?

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