House Music is a Feeling…

The “Summer of Love”. The first idea that pops into one’s head after hearing or reading that title is likely Woodstock; or hippies, San Francisco, Free Love, and many other terms associated with the music and free spirited performers and festival-goers that participated in that infamous outdoor music festival during the summer of 1969.  It need not a grand introduction.  However, the “Second Summer of Love” might seem a bit more obscure.  This summer was a few decades later in 1988 when electronic music and rave culture burst onto the UK music and social scene (Reynolds). It quickly spread through the rest of Europe and other countries including Canada and the United States.  Most recently creating an upsurge on the Asian mainstream, particularly in Tokyo (McClure). It is vital to be aware of the cross-cultural influence house music has.  It’s roots began in the UK, it’s musical development was heavily influenced by DJs in the United States, and the mecca of everything house is Ibiza, Spain. Electronic music started as the counter-culture party scene and has recently begun to establish its place in the mainstream; gradually, and unconsciously, distancing itself from the previously implied association with drugs such as ecstasy, cocaine, and amphetamines and emphasizing the love, enjoyment, and appreciation of great music.

Raves emerged in the late 1980’s in Manchester, UK and quickly spread to London.  They ranged from small underground parties with as little as thirty people to massive crowds of tens of thousands in sports stadiums and open air venues (Farley).  In the beginning of their popularity, they were quite secretive, after-hours parties intended to reduce their exposure to the broad public and law enforcement, especially.  This is why the term “underground” is associated with early raves, as they were surrounded with secrecy and restricted access (U.S. Department of Justice).  Secrecy was required due to the prevalent use of drugs such as MDMA (ecstasy/amphetamine), cocaine, and LSD.  These drugs were interrelated with the early scene as an integral part of the dance culture. MDMA is common within the raving world due to the combination of effects it has on the body and the music and lighting used at raves.  MDMA is a mood lifting drug, which causes euphoric feelings and “increased awareness and appreciation” (Erowid) of music, tactile sensation, light, and smells (Erowid).  Djs and promoters enhance the experience by incorporating bright light shows, changes in tempo, volume, and bass of the music and providing sweet drinks and fruits to rave-goers (U.S. Department of Justice).

By the early 1990’s, raves were common throughout Europe and started emerging in North America.  Teenagers took over the scene, rather than the young adults who had been participating earlier on.  This led to events becoming highly promoted and less secretive to capitalize off the profitability potential of this popular activity (U.S. Department of Justice). Later in the 1990’s, when locations were kept to secrecy, it was more so for the tradition and novelty rather than necessity.

Dance music “roots lie firmly in the United States” (Tong) with large influence from DJ Frankie Knuckles and Chicago club, the Warehouse.  However, in the US the scene was heavily concentrated in Chicago, New York and Detroit rather than spread across the whole country (Tong).  The UK and greater Europe was where dance music “took over mainstream ‘90s youth culture” (Tong).  Even though DJs found success in the UK, they only came to the States to do “big festival shows.  They didn’t build the foundations by touring” (Tong) and record companies did not take this genre seriously.  House music really took a turn into mainstream when online file sharing became popular with sites such as Napster.  Electronic music was already entwined with technology and “DJs have always been among the earliest adopters of new media” (Tong).  This genre most easily shifted into the virtual world of music.  The success of online music retailer, Beatport, has greatly influenced the popularity of electronic music, with Canadian DJ Deadmau5 being one of the first acts to break out through online music retail (Tong).  Electronic music is now embraced by major events and festivals in cities all around the world including Coachella (California, US), Ultra Music Festival (Florida, US) Bal en Blanc (Montreal, Canada), Love Parade (Berlin, Germany), numerous gay pride festivals, and the summer home of everything electronica: Ibiza, Spain.

Love Parade, Berlin, Germany (what aren’t trees are people).

The new image of raving is not so much about the allure of the forbidden or taboo and many legitimate clubs aim to recreate the feeling of the original raves, such as Ministry of Sound in London, UK (Farley).  The ideology of this pastime is shifting from counterculture/drug-culture to “deejay culture” (Silver q. In Farley).  Emphasis is being put on big name DJs, like 80‘s rock stars. The new faces and sounds of electronic music are coming forth. DJs such as A-trak, Chromeo and MSTRKRFT are making big names for themselves after flying under the radar for years (Mason).  “The figure of the superstar DJ- holding court over thousands at gigs worldwide, yet never able to make anything stick at retail…is fading” (Mason).  The days of the “globetrotting” (Mason) DJ is being replaced by artists that do it all, meaning, “DJ, play live, produce, remix, endorse- and who crave broad appeal” (Mason).  This is how and why electronic music is becoming a piece of mainstream music. DJs must be dynamic to keep up with the next best track, and also be the one producing that next best track. Conversely, many mainstream artists are starting to incorporate dance music into their sound.  At 2009’s Ultra Music Festival in South Beach Miami, many unconventional duos of artists played together such as “Timbaland and Paul Van Dyk…Will.I.Am [from the Black Eyed Peas]…with David Guetta…Tiesto…and Nelly Furtado” (Mason).  The biggest name to infiltrate the pop scene is French DJ David Guetta.  His 2009 release of One Love took him from popular DJ, within that genre, to international Grammy-winning superstar. Since then he has worked with Rihanna, the Black-Eyed Peas, Kelly Rowland, LMFAO, and Estelle.  Most recently, house music bass tracks and sounds can be heard in top 40 hits: Britney Spears’ “‘Til the World Ends”, J-Lo featuring Pitbull, “On the Floor” and Enrich Eglasias’ featuring Ludacris’ “Tonight”.

From Left: Chris Willis, David Guetta, Fergie, LMFAO (Background)

Advertisers have seen this shift and taken advantage of its huge popularity.  Toyota sponsored a U.S. Tour of house duo Groove Armada, U.S. DJ/Producer Moby has licensed his 1999 album “Play” to movies and commercials, and DKNY used “John Digweed’s song ‘Heaven Sent’ to promote a fragrance with the same [sounding] name, ‘Heaven Scent’” (Farley).  Advertisers hone in to underground movements quickly, “so that they can make use of sounds and images that aren’t necessarily familiar but that pique interest” (Farley).

Felix da Housecat’s Remix of Nina Simone “Sinnerman”

Ravers, the insiders, are “wary and weary” (Farley) of the media’s, the outsiders, “embrace” of this culture and many believe press coverage is partly to blame for the ecstasy boom.  However, some of the biggest acts in electronic music say they are drug free.  German DJ Paul Van Dyk, number 6 DJ on DJ Mag’s Top 100 DJs list (DJ Mag) was “introduced to electronic music in East Germany when he secretly tuned into West German radio as a kid” (Farley) and appreciated it the same as he does now so feels no need to alter that with drugs (Farley).  Ben Wilke, a 17-year old raver says he goes, “to dance and have a good time…A lot of people don’t understand it, but the guitar thing’s been done.  Electronic music is all I listen to.  It beats my heart” (Wilke q. In Farley).  Many ravers feel the same way.  There is a bizarre emotional connection people have to house music that keeps them coming back year after year.  Many of the yearly dance events, such as Montreal’s Bal en Blanc, find groups of old friends that that have been going together for years, or others that now only have the opportunity see each other during that one night affair.  It is a kind of community that is formed within the house music genre.  Popular British DJ Grant Nelson released a DJ-tool in 2006 entitled “Seasons of Jack”:

In the beginning there was Jack/And Jack had a groove/

And from this groove came the groove of all grooves/And

while one day viciously soaring down on his box/ Jack only

declared: LET THERE BE HOUSE/And house music was born/

I am, you see, I am the creator/And this is my house/And in

my house there is only house music/But I am not so selfish

because once you enter my house it then becomes our house/

And our house music/And you see, no one man owns house

because house music is a universal language spoke and

understood by all/You see, house is a feeling, and no one can

understand, really, unless you’re deep into the vibe of house.


This clever adjustment of a Christian view on how the earth was created emphasizes the deep connection people feel to house music.  It is more than a genre of music they listen to, it encompasses their life; their experiences, emotions and relationships are defined in the music they listen to, relate to, and experience with all senses.

Electronic is truly the music heard and felt around the world.  It is able to unite different genres by incorporating musical elements from a variety of origins and appeal to a broad audience.  It is very much like an ongoing summer of love, spreading the appreciation for good music, good vibes and occasionally, good drugs as it flows from rave to rave, party to party, club to club. It’s ideology may be rooted in counterculture but it has shifted to one of of inclusion and optimism.

Works Cited

Erowid. “MDMA: Effects.” Web. 9 April 2009 at chemicalsmdma/mdma_effects.shtml

Farley, Christopher John. “Rave new world: it’s more than just ecstasy. The youth culture is in thrall to deejays and floats on the relentless beat of electronic music.” Time Canada 5 June 2000: cover,42-4. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

Mason, Kerri. “Upstarts at the party: a changing of the guard at the Winter Music Conference.” Billboard 18 Apr. 2009: 31. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

McClure, Steve. “Techno emerges from shadows in Japan. (techno music)(part one).” Billboard 8 Feb. 1997: 1+. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

Nelson, Grant. “Seasons of Jack”. No Label, December 2006. Vinyl

Reynolds, Simon. Energy Flash: A Journey Through Rave Music and Dance Culture. Picador Publishing: August, 1998.

Tong, Pete. “Back from the rave: why the dance music revival has important lessons for the rest of the biz.” Billboard 5 June 2010: 4. Pop Culture eCollection. Web. 14 Mar. 2011.

“Top 100 DJs.” DJ Mag. Web. 20 April, 2011

U.S Department of Justice. Information Bulletin: Raves. National Drug Intelligence Center, April 2000 Web. 9 April, 2011


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