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TO JAMES STEPHENS (The Mail, 4/19), who felt compelled to lash out at a community that has, as far as I know, never done him any harm, I have this to say: “Easy there, tiger.”
That Stephens openly states that he is “an outsider to the current dance craze” but then proceeds to critique DJs, producers, club- and ravegoers, and fans of dance music alike is remarkable. The humorous tirade that follows certainly speaks volumes to his ignorance. Club culture is no “craze,” for one; the music in itself is a constantly changing and evolving means of expression drawing on influences dating back to the disco era and the European techno-pop of bands like Kraftwerk. Throughout its development, dance music has reflected, and reflected upon, genres as disparate as hiphop, gospel, and industrial. If going-on 30 years is a “passing fad” to Stephens, then so be it.
For me personally, the magic of the club scene is almost entirely in the music. I was thrilled to see Washington City Paper’s coverage of Dubfire and Sharam (“Deep Dis,” 4/5). I would ask Stephens whether he has ever listened, really listened to the kind of music that these guys are producing. It is a deep and circulating mix of percussion and melody that allows for multiple interpretations and moods. I buy their albums not for the dance floor, but for my home stereo. I find equal enjoyment bopping around the room to the music and sprawling on the floor with my headphones on and my eyes closed. Some people have Beethoven or Mozart—I have Deep Dish or Farley and Heller. So be it, but I don’t appreciate being told to “fuck off.”
Dance music—good dance music—is the epitome of what musical snobs have always hated and misunderstood about pop music: The skill lies in the simplicity. There are rarely changes in time signature, key, or even chords in dance music. But to me a DJ’s or a producer’s skill to drop in the perfect break or beat matches the painter’s skill to add one last dab of color to make a portrait come to life. It is something to marvel.
As for the plain sleeves and lack of packaging that Stephens derides, I would suggest that they reflect a notion of subtlety not often found on the pop-music scene. Because there is no recognizable name and no splashy cover art (and rarely enough money for any marketing whatsoever), the purchase of a record usually comes only after careful hunting and listening on the part of the buyer—I would have expected Stephens to understand this, what with his preference for “true ‘alternative’” and “events and happenings that won’t be attended by thousands.”
And does Stephens really think that true raves attract the number of people they do (and what, I ask, is wrong with an “oversize party”?) because they’re advertised on the radio or there’s some free ticket giveaway? He should stop and think about what kind of experience would draw people together the way the clubs and raves do. He might get a better sense for the simple, inexplicable pleasure dance music and its community provides.
via the Internet