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Blog // Creativity
November 3, 2004

The Death of Dance Music

Is Dance music culturally significant? Reading a recent piece in The Guardian got me wondering about what contribution Dance Music has made to society.

I could hardly supress my laughter reading Alexis Petridis’ lament for the passing of Dance music as a cultural artefact. In contrast to the ways Soul music gave expression to the struggles of the civil rights ear and Punk music gave voice to the disenfranchised youth of the cold war 70s, Dance music was nothing other than the soundtrack to the self-indulgent, postponed adolescence of an aimless sub-generation.

OK, that’s harsh. But, just because you loved a genre of music, or it was the soundtrack to your youth, doesn’t mean it was culturally important, or that it changed the world.

Contrary to what Petridis’ claims, Dance music might not have fallen away because it was commercially exploited (beware the ones who blame the multinationals first), but becasse it simply wasn’t very good. Unless music has something to say, something intrinsically interesting, then it doesn’t survive beyond the moment that birthed it. This is true for so many genres whose popularly rises and wanes. Most dance music was production line dross. This happens in all sorts of pop music. Take a moment look at the demo versions of software like Propellerhead Reason or Ableton Live and see if you yourself can’t come up with some interesting Dance music of your own, without the need for expensive clubs, mountains of CDs, or tickets to Ibiza.

That’s not to say that those pieces of software do not have potential in the hands of competent musicians. The video demonstration by Avi Bortnick, clearly shows what a creative mind can do with this stuff. The technology isn’t the problem either way.

Dance music will probably have a legacy, but probably not the cultural legacy that Petridis might claim for it. It will live on as the technology used to create it takes hold in the work of more sophisticated and able musicians. We will continue to see music that pushes the tools, sounds, and learnings from Dance music production. That music probably will have something to say – probably because it aims to be something more engaging and compelling than Dance music ever managed to be.

Toni 20 years ago

LOL @ the idea that dance music might have a cultural significance. In a way it does, because thousands of kids will have experienced the first drug hit or pulled their first girl to it, so it will carry fond memories for many. But your point about the raison d’etre of that form was on the nail – it was there to make money from suckers, not to express something particular or transmit a message other than “take drugs and have sex for a good time”.

Jazzmatic 5000 19 years ago

This is the typical reaction that comes from people who don’t understand dance music.
I think most people’s problem with dance music is it’s ease. Punk was a style that you didn’t really need have any musical talent to make. It had a very D.I.Y ethos which lent itself to Acid House in a way.
I get really annoyed by those music purists who write off dance music as not being an important youth movement. Did the criminal justice act of 1994 not mean anything?

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