Butler, M. 2012. Electronia, Dance, and Club Music.

Butler, Mark (ed.) 2012. Electronica, Dance, and Club Music. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Introduction –  Pp. xi -2

Diverse scenes, genres within EDM.  Mode of creation through electronics, laptops – performance based often upon live events, integrated with the “performing audience” of dance (Butler 2006, 47) – emphasis of personal agency within contexts of consumption – dancing as discipline and freedom. Differentiating between raves and clubs – clubs as fixed, raves as singular, unique events. Roots in disco augment the “synthetic” and “artificial” – which, from dominant rock roots, implies lack of authenticity (xii). Academic study of EDM begins in 1990’s, working in themes of popular rock music and cultural studies of 1970s.  Rave is not “a postmodernist collage of sound with no coherent structure, narrative, or direction”, but a responsive to sociocultural norms within rave scenes (Tagg 1994, 18); rave, then, is “something you immerse yourself into with other people. There is no guitar hero or rock star or corresponding musical-structural to identify with… You are just one of many other individuals who constitute the musical whole, the whole ground” (Tagg, 17). Understanding of identity as fluid, process-based, and plural – multiplex and contigent – “Belongings may be long-lasting or temporary. Ravers, for example, often describe a feeling of community shared with other dancers, including those who are complete strangers and not spoken to; this is a desirable experience even though that ‘community’ only exists within a singular event.  Because the belongings that arise within clubs and raves are such an important experiential goal of EDMS, the borders of these spaces – their doors- are carefully monitored” (xxv).  Thus, the stylized knowledge required to belong becomes a means of boundary maintenance – Genres become highly specialized, then, according to McLeod (2001) in several ways: 1) response to evolution in musical styles, 2) merchandising strategies, 3) consumer culture’s acceleration, 4) cultural appropriation – ^can this, then, be related to the pursuit of rave fashion evolution?  Thornton (1995) examines how EDM insiders often dichotomize mainstream as homogenizing, and their alternative tastes as more complex and unmappable; these come with gendered implications of who is more likely to consume what. Pini (1997) looks at how women within rave culture offer opportunities of dance as a means to produce cultural sameness  – as a way to express sexuality without offering sexual invitation – a way to incorporate “male gaze” and surveillance into a simultaneous embodiment of being watcher and watched –performance and audience – to return surveillance with agent acknowledgement and responsive surveillance.

Thornton, Sarah. 1995. Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Tagg, Philip. “From Refrain to Rave: The Decline of the Figure and the Rise of the Underground.”  Pp. 7-20

Mellers and Harman 1962  – pop music as a means to communicate ideologies and patterns of behavior, more than just meanings of lyrics and social functions of music.

Mellers, W. and A. Harman. 1962. Man and His Symbols.  London.

Rodgers, Tara. “On the Process and Aesthetics of Sampling in Electronic Music Production” Pp. 89-96

Sampling not as a dissolution of boundaries of human/machine generated music – instead, sampling offers musical stylings that convey cultural and political commentary.  Electronically produced music through sequencers, mergers between software and digital instruments. Use of sampling in Afrodiasporic music and expression inverts the obfuscation of the sample’s origin, and instead work to highlight the sample. “In a 1998 New York Times article, Evelyn McDonnell observes that few electronic music producers are women, and that ‘when women run the gizmos, they are considered exceptions, iconoclastic loners – performance artists. When men do it, they create a genre in their own image’ (McConnell 1998).  This account from Le Tigre illustrates, similarly, that when women electronic musicians cultivate a ‘lo-fi’ aesthetic, they are often maligned for lacking production knowledge or technical skill, and linked aesthetically with older musical genres like punk or Riot Grrl. When men articulate a comparable ‘aesthetics of failure,’ they are instead hailed by critics (and by themselves) for creating an innovative genre of electronic music like ‘glitch’ techno” (93). Issues of collapsing time and meanings of samples by DJs, who say that they only acquire meaning in the re-assemblage. Samples, from their selection, convey a type of cultural membership, and work to reinforce and integrate some boundaries. However, can often be read through ‘exoticism’ in postcolonial literature, or through the disembodiment of the feminine through some feminist writers (Rose 1994 and Bradby 1993 respectively).


Bradby, B. 1993. “Sampling Sexuality: Gender, Technology, and the Body in Dance Music.” Popular Music 12(2).

McDonnell, E. 1998. “Why aren’t more Geeks with the Gizmos Girls?” New York Times 12 April 1998.

Rose, T. 1994. Black Noise: Rap  Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press.

Dyer,  Richard. “In Defence of Disco.” Pp.121-128

Disco as critiqued for being a capitalist enterprise, through its mode of production and its ideological expression (issues of exchange and use-values – where does one measure the inherent worth of dance?).  Instead, gay culture has appropriated disco as a commodity that is not used as it was intended  – instead “the anarchy of capitalism throws up commodities that an oppressed group can take up and cobble together its own culture” (123) – in this, disco becomes subversive and a site of forming gay identity. Unlike popular music, which creates eroticism in a subtle way, disco is explicit, and often raunchy – with persistent rhythms that work to emphasize full-body expressiveness, instead of phallo-centered rock thrusts.  Likewise, disco promotes romanticism and lyricism that incorporates feeling, rather than alienation. Materialism, so too, is emphasized in disco – not just in terms of consumption, but in interrogating the production and construction of (im)material things.

Hughes, Walter. “In the Empire of the Beat: Discipline and Disco.”  Pp.129-140

Disco’s condemnation often came in homophobic generalizations – where commercialism and artificiality were associated with the decadence and “mindlessness” of its consumers.  Movie Saturday Night Fever worked to heterosexualize disco, but only through gay-bashing and the rape of women, as well as the aesthetic choice to not dance to African-American divas. If disco music works to ‘kill music’ – homoerotic pressure for recruitment, dominance? Lyrical content of labor (“work your body”)  – power, dominance of the beat. Revelry in feminine, blackness?  Sites of disempowerment, but identification? Rise of AIDS epidemic came to associate disease with disco – “fever, tainted love, etc)

Lawrence, Tim. “’I Want to See All My Friends at Once:’ Arthur Russell and the Queering of Disco.” Pp. 141-164

Disco as a site for interpellating and socialization of gay identity – themes of eroticism, loss, betrayal, s/M thematics – the performance and construction of sexuality. Disco reappropriated  by heteropatriarchy in Saturday Night Fever, where men group together to hustle, but also emerge on the dance floor as straight couples, with men leading women (suburbanization of disco).

Bradby, Barbara. “Sampling Sexuality: Gender, Technology and the Body in Dance Music.”  Pp.177-198

Feminists as suspicious of pop music – as typification of what girls should be concerned with (and thus, changing) (McRobbie 1978) – and as a masculine culture that tends to exclude women (Frith and McRobbie 1979). Why has there not been more examination of pop music, particularly with the sexuality and themes that seem to pervade it?  Significant feminist review HAS occurred on pop music, but is often marginalized. Cohen (1992) as a source for how men in rock bands work to exclude women’s participation – but other work has allowed insight as to how girls are becoming creators of meaning of the music that they consume (Fiske 1989, Bradby 1990). Utopianism of dance has often obscured some of the sexist tendencies that are replicated within this genre. Descriptions attributing art, authenticity, creativity that have tended to exclude women in rock music are also employed to denigrate women in electronic music.  Interestingly, the reappropriation of women’s vocals and samplings by women electronic musicians has not been met with similar success – instead, a recycling of traditional representations of women by women artists becomes a part of both live and sampled performances.  Due to traditional associations between music and gendering – “there is an obvious way in which women have once again been equated with sexuality, the body, emotion and nature in dance music, while men have been assigned to the realm of culture, technology and language” (179) – as a lineage of gendered roles in terms of Enlightenment era universalism and rationality.  Postmodern concerns of locating women’s concerns within other social locations, avoid speaking for other women’s groups, and the awareness of analysis as situated and partial – good, however, these requisites, too, need interrogation.  Why should we decenter something that is already so unstable, as women’s experiences? Tendency for women’s subjectivity to be relegated to pop music, while men’s realms sat within rock. Presence of women’s punk bands, movement of gays and lesbians to disco (Dyer 1990), and the promotion of women’s music movments within the USA  (Lont 1985) created a fragmentation of female participation but, also, “the resultant break up of the apparent monolith of rock masculinity gave way not to the reconstitution of an equally monolithic female or gay subject centre stage, but to a multiplicity of more partial, ironic, sexual subjectivities, celebrating artifice, not authenticity, as Frith put  it” (180, see Frith 1988, 2). Women’s role within music has been more focused upon sex, rather than feminine caretaking work or motherhood – the ‘liberation’ of female sexuality without motherhood, and the mother as sexually repressive. Understanding the “cyborg” of Haraway – breaking down sexes’ attachment with nature/machine dichotomies – where women are no longer representative of the natural, but instead may offer integration of fluidity of sexuality and sexual embodiment, rejecting the altogether natural or assumed embodiment of mothering and associated metaphoric extensions (1990). “If one looks at actual, gendered dance in the 1990s, there seems to be little change in the construction of gender and technology that rock music set up, whereby the association of men and technology was part of the erotic spectacle of live performance, and women’s relationship to technology tended to be passive, male-controlled and hidden in studios” (183). Use of black female bodies to vocalize and to centralize visual performance – use of black male voices to rap – racializing gender components to dance – often, produced by white male djs. Anonymity of female vocalists, relative fame of DJ men. Use of “idealized” women to represent the female vocalist – sometimes, when female vocalists themselves are altogether removed from music videos and replaced with models, lip-syncing words – inauthenticating the female body’s association with her expression.


Bradby, B. 1990. “Do-talk and don’t-talk: The Division of the Subject in Girl-Group Music.” In On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word. Ed. By S. Frith and A. Goodwin. (New York: 238-257).

Cohen, S. 1992. Rock Culture in Liverpool: Popular Music in the Makings. Oxford.

Dyer, R. 1990. “In Defence of Disco.” In On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word. Ed. S. Frith and A. Goodwin. New York 410-418.

Fiske, J. 1989. Reading the Popular. Boston.

Frith, S. 1988. Music for Pleasure. Oxford.

Frith, S. and A. McRobbie. 1979. “Rock and Sexuality.” Screen Education  29:3-19.

Haraway, D. 1990. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the 1980’s” in Feminism/Postmodernism. Ed. L. Nicholson. London – 190-233.

Lont, C. 1985. “A History of the Women’s Music Industry in the USA 1960-1985.” Paper delivered to the Third International Conference of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music. Montreal, Canada, July.

McRobbie, A. 1978. “Working Class Girls and the Culture of Femininity.” In Women Take Issue (London): 96-131.

Loza, Susana. “Sampling (Hetero)sexuality: Diva-ness and Discipline in Electronic Dance Music.” Pp. 199-208

Electronic dance music as envisioning immortality, superseding flesh and humanity.  Fabrications of integrations between natural and machine – cyborgs and fembots, exploring boundary transgressions between humanity and machine – often over-sexed and augmented by machinery (through plastic surgery or through digital drawings). Recreations of human voice, cries of ecstasy, robotization of voice. “A cyborg diva melts binaries, crosses genders, slips into other species and genres, samples multiple regenerated and denatured vocals. This cyborg’s sexuality is a liquid loop, liberated yet situated by the circuit of its libidinal motions.  She is the gendered, androgynous, sexless, and sex-filled diva…” Mechanical woman is under control of man, but embraces a sexuality that confounds male power. Mechanical woman can also assert racialized elements – sampling on heterosexuality and race, pressing diva-ness (audience, orchestral accompaniments) of the corporal through the technological. Heterosexuality as consistently dramatizing itself:  “Indeed, in its effort to naturalize itself as the original, heterosexuality must be understood as a compulsive and compulsory repetition that can only produce the effect of its own originality; in other words, compulsory heterosexual identities, those ontologically consolidated phantasms of ‘man’ and ‘woman’, are theatrically produced effects that posture as grounds, origins, the normative measure of the real… Hence, if it were not for the notion of the homosexual as copy, there would be no construction  of the heterosexual as origin (Butler 1991, 21-22). Gendering of the diva may reveal the construction of gender, the performativity of gender. McClary (1991): “Music does not just passively reflect society; it also serves as a public forum within which various models of gender organisation (along with many other aspects of social life) are asserted, adopted, contested, and negotiated” (8, here 204).  The inquisition of sexual biology and the queering of drag through postmodern lyrical content and subversive recording techniques that obscure the ‘sex categories’ of performing diva – dissolution of gender and sex, programming between dualities.  Can people really imagine an eroticism that is not embodied, or rooted in the body?


Butler, J. 1991. “Imitation and Gender Subordination.” In Inside/Out: Lesbian Theories, Gay Theories. Ed. D. Fuss. New York.

McClary, S. 1991. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis.

D’Andrea, Anthony. “The Spiritual Economy of Nightclubs and Raves: Osho Sannyasins as Party Promoters in Ibiza and Pune/Goa.” Pp.227-242

Socioeconomic components of nomadic spirituality and countercultural religiosity that is present in many manifestations of electronic dance music.  Focus on transnational identity, transpersonal experience, and spatial displacement – concludes that “the commodification of alternative lifestyles by tourism and entertainment industries indexes not only the ambivalent desires of mainstream societies toward utopian lifestyles; it also suggests that transitional countercultures constitute a privileged analytical site that anticipates social trends and predicaments of complex globalisation” (227). Capitalism’s thick role in undermining hippie and counterculturalism, where tourist enterprise replaces bohemian spaces. With Ibiza and Goa as hosting several historical waves of multinational expatriates, casting of utopia is had – where handcrafters, healers, yoginis, party promoters, etc. all participate in expressive economies of pleasure and self-exploration – leisure and travel. Migrants and nomads often retreat to India for the winter, bringing back wares and ideas to sell – purveying an “imaginary of oriental exoticism intertwined with a need for renewing expressive subjectivities” (229).  Criminalization of parties fosters a mobility of events, a mobility of identity.

St John, Graham. “Electronic Dance Music Culture and Religion: An Overview.” Pp.243-268

CCCS held youth subculture as tragic and ineffectual under traditional Marxist approaches of the 1970s (see Clarke et al 1976, Hebdige 1979) – in addition to postmodernist lamentation of fragmented meaning – however, recent studies examine youth culture to possess significance, meaning, and purpose.  McRobbie (1990) – in 1980s, dance was underscored with femininity and girlhood, and understudied by mostly male researchers of CCCS (who were focused on under- and working class masculinist subcultures as a way to resist class oppression, or so it was said). Postmodernists viewed rave as a “fantasy of liberation” (Melechi 1993, 33 here 244) – Baudrillardian hyppereality of ecstasy and implosion of meaning.


Clarke, J., S. Hall, T. Jefferson, and B. Roberts. 1976. “Subcultures, Cultures, and Class.” In Resistance through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain. Edited by S. Hall and T. Jefferson. Pp. 9-74. London: Hutchinson and Compay.

Hebdige, D.  1979. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. London: Methuen.

McRobbie, A. 1990. “Settling Accounts with Subcultures: A Feminist Critique.” In On Record: Rock, Pop and the Written Word. Edited by S. Frith and A. Goodwin. Pp. 56-65. New York: Pantheon.

Melechi, A. 1993. “The Ecstasy of Disappearance.” In Rave Off: Politics and Deviance in Contemporary Youth Culture. Edited by S. Redhead. Pp. 29-40. Aldershot: Avebury.

McLeod, Kembrew. “Genres, Subgenres, Sub-subgenres and More: Musical and Social Differentiation within Electronic/Dance Music Communities.” Pp. 289-306

Popular music genres as constructed within cultural and commercial contexts and processes (Frith 1996) – prominent use of differentiation and adjectives to label subgenres in response to rapid evolution of EDM, marketing strategies of production companies, voracious consumer culture, and consistent appropriation of music of non-whites by white, middle/upper class people in Europe and US. Ability to name offers cultural capital within EDM community. Genres are often controlled by men, with men most often producing and consuming EDM. Often, genres become gendered, through casting Other genres as feminized, or mainstream – lending to a masculinist, homosocial environment.  “Even among youth cultures, there is a double articulation of the lowly and feminine: disparaged other cultures are characterized as feminine and girls’ cultures are devalued as imitative and passive. Authentic culture is, by contrast, depicted in gender-free or masculine terms and remains the prerogative of boys” (Thornton 1996, 104-105 here 303). Boundary maintenance offered by exclusion, and constructed/regulated through discourse. Music magazines and internet communities as sites of generation and gate-keeping, operating on overlapping fields of cultural production (and consumption) a la Bourdieu. 1950’s rock and roll had been replaced by 1970s music for listening, rather than for dancing – disco brought back integration of corporality of music – and brought with it a draw in Black and gay cultures (who had been marginalized in the production and consumption of rock music, and demonstrated through the homophobic and racist policing of discotheques). House music of 1980s and 1990s integrated hiphop, rap, and disco divas.  Development of different genres through tempo, tonality, keys, dynamic usage, sampling sites.  “Subcultures are often ways of creating job opportunities as more traditional careers disappear…. In this undocumented, unrecorded and largely ‘hidden economy’ sector, subcultures stand at one end of the culture industry spectrum and the glamorous world of the star and entertainment industry at the other” (McRobbie 1994, 162 – here 199 ^however, with integration of subculture into the mainstream, does this still stand true?)


Frith, Simon. 1996. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

McRobbie, Angela. 1994. Postmodernism and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge.

Thornton, Sarah. 1996. Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Hanover, CT: University of New England Press.

Thornton, Sarah. “Exploring the Meaning of Mainstream (Or Why Sharon and Tracy Dance around their Handbags”. Pp. 307-338

Ethnographic introduction of her experience clubbing – Hebdige 1979 as casting mainstream as bourgeoisie subject to youth cultures’ avant-garde. However, “Hebdige’s multiple opposition of avant-garde-versus-bourgois, subordinate-versus-dominant, subculture-versus mainstream is an orderly ideal which crumbles when applied to historically specific groups of youth” (313). Evaluates McRobbie’s  (1984) – Dance and Social Fantasy – where AR maintains binaries of mainstream and alternativity, but instead of celebrating alternativity, suggests that dancing acts as a means of creative expression for women, where they can control and resist imposed powers (of class, gender, etc.)  – questions the oversimplification  of the mainstream and the Othered alternative. However, on the other extreme, we have Grossberg (1987) that notes that mainstream and subculture have a fluidity in boundaries, where they cannot be distinguished from the other – “the mass audience of pop, the mainstream of style, is the postmodern subculture (151, here 317), inverting understandings of authenticity – here, pursuit of individualism becomes conformity, and co-optation is the true authentic. Clubs as consistently in flux – “Individual clubbers and ravers are part of one crowd, then another, then grow out of going out dancing altogether. The musics with which club crowds affiliate themselves are characterized by a fast turnover of singles, artists, and genres. Club culture is faddish and fragmented. Even if the music and the lothes are globally marketed, the crowds are local, segregated and subject to distinctions dependent on the smallest of cultural minutae” (318-319) – clubbing as homogenous, but also distinguished between hip and unhip, in relation to the mainstream (often classed, often gendered connotations). Girls more likely to identify and offer admission to enjoying pop music. Use of appropriated, orientalist notions of black cultural tropes, and exoticized others. “Subcultural capital is the linchpin of an alternative hierarchy in which the axes of age, gender, sexuality and race are all employed in order to keep the determinations of class, income and occupation at bay” (325). Sexuality as a divider in club clientele and reputation, as is fashion – an inherently classed idea, with often racial implications.  “Clothing is a potent indicator of the social aspiration and position; as Tom Wolfe once put it, ‘fashion is the code language of status’ (Wolfe 1974, 23 here 334). As forms of objectified subcultural and economic capital, clothes frequently act as metonyms for larger social strata” (334).

Grossberg, Lawrence.  1987. “The Politics of Music: American Images and British Articulations.” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory XI/1-2.


McRobbie, A. 1984.”Dance and Social Fantasy.” Gender and Generation. Ed. A. McRobbie and M. Nava. London: Macmillan.

Wolfe, Tom. 1974. “Funky Chic.” Rolling Stone. 3 January.

Pini, Maria. “Women and the Early British Rave Scene.” Pp. 339-356

management – predominantly male.  “In this sense, women’s invisibility can be seen as twofold; their marginality doubled by a perspective which attends solely to the more visible – and traditionally more ‘meaningful’ – levels of involvement and so reconstructs male experience as the ‘significant’ object of its story.  Rave affords “unsupervised adventure” (Rumsey and Little 1989 ^ however, is this true, with transcript data?) – and the production of a pleasure-seeking self, replacing the ‘hard’ and political with the celebratory and ecstatic. Examines how experiences and understandings are generated and reproduced within the scene – (textuality).  “The notion of ‘textuality’ is used to suggest that far from being basic to the activities involved, certain emotions and experiences are actually ‘bound up’ with cultural narratives and organisational practices, which make up the background of, and give meaning to these practices” (Curt 1994, here 342). Experience as “lived, negotiated and understood through a variety of ‘storying practices’” (342) – through these practices, identity is produced. Women comparing raves as a platonic experience, rather than predatory, unsafe ones, like the contrasted pubs or discos. Sense of community, belonging distanced feelings of anxiety.  Interrelation of body, spirit, mind, and machines prompt a blurring of identity and boundaries of self – where self-consciousness and individuality are discouraged – and looking (the ability to watch and be watched) is simultaneously exacted by men and women dancing. Women as offered agency to give self pleasure, and construct pleasure on their own terms.

Curt, B. 1994. Textuality and Tectonics. Buckinghamshire: Open University Press.

Rumsey, G. and H. Little. 1989. “Women and Pop: A Series of Lost Encounters.” In Zoot Suits and Second Hand Dresses, edited by A. McRobbie. Basingstoke and London: Macmillan.


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