In an interesting contradiction, techno music also demands everything from the listener. It is a deterritorialized music, where the identity and the personal statements of its producers and DJs exist only in the periphery of the cultural wave in which they’re participating, and not in the music itself. The extreme end of this spectrum of depersonalization (and at the same time a statement against commercial parties where DJs are treated like idols), many DIY free party crews choose to place the DJs behind opaque pieces of fabric to distance them from the crowd and to prohibit visual contact. The sound itself doesn’t convey any explicit messages, positions or ideas; it gives the impression that it could have been made by anyone. As a result, the combination of the moves and gestures of the people dancing to those sounds end up becoming the music and the party itself, much more than in any other genre, allowing for a co-production of the experience necessary for any kind of pagan ritual. Already from the bacchanalia in praise of Dionysus and the Bacchae by Euripides we see the all-inclusive stance towards participation in ecstasy and orgasmic frenzy becoming a necessary condition for the latter. Igor Stravinski, describing the dream which gave birth to one of the most important pagan works of classical music, The Rites of Spring, talks about a circle of wise old men who stay inert while young girls in front of them dance themselves to death in order to appease the wrath of God. The healing dances of the Navajo Indians included complex purification rituals which could last up to nine days and culminated in a collective, nightlong dance, where the shamans’ role was limited to one of guidance. The Celtic origins of Halloween, two thousand years before, were based on a culture of collective production of the holiday – the decorated pumpkins and the pranks weren’t devised by any leaders. “If you see a group of people blasting trance music from a small speaker in the square,” a friend of mine once said, “you’ll understand much more about who they are and what they do in their lives than if they were playing rock music”. Techno is a kind of music which one does, possibly more than one listens to. It is tied in a very specific subculture made real in its participants’ lives.
Whatever the case may be with raves, it is certain that their organizers prepare them, wait for them and experience them with a kind of religious fervor. The process of preparation has a ritualistic aspect, both for the organizers and those who participate in the rave. Organizing such a high-decibel event in the middle of nowhere is no small task – and similarly important is the aesthetic and psychic preparation of the people who attend. A rave is an Event without any special fluctuations in terms of experience: it is a place where one goes knowing in advance that the occasion will be memorable, that it will be easy to recall images and moments afterwards: their position inside the warehouse, the changes in their emotional landscape as they alternated between different people, places and drugs. Weirdly, this doesn’t happen because raves are necessarily happy experiences for the ravers. For many of them, what follows is a period of chemical (lack of serotonin) and emotional (before/after comparison) decline, sometimes brutally so. But pleasure itself in raves has the brutal texture of serotonin over-secretion: the inability to concentrate, the tight jaws, the inhuman exhaustion, the force with which one is brought into an ecstatic place by a cocktail of stimuli, those are neither very tender nor organic: they are brutal enough to drive away the superego, stress, the demand for pleasure and the possibilities of failure. In this description full of contradictions, we should add another uniqueness of the raves: although people are generally capable of evaluating their experiences as positive or negative, raves are stubbornly disjointed experiences; even if someone has a generally good impression for the political or aesthetic aspects of the raves, they are generally incapable of deciding if a specific rave was “worth it” or if pleasure managed to overpower the resultant melancholy. Both in their evaluation after some time and as they’re experienced real-time in full, raves seem to strike an impressive balance between the mask of tragedy and comedy.
Lastly, something noteworthy in the Greek rave scene: especially in their DIY versions, raves in Athens are growing in number, while collective structures and spaces for self-organized expressions are steadily decreasing. Whether those two are related and in what way, as well as the degree in which raves are political, are questions which can’t be answered in this text. Nevertheless, we’d like to make some observations that we think would be necessary in this kind of conversation. First of all, politics (in their narrow sense) happen wherever many people are gathered in order to join a political process. We like this almost tautological definition not only because it highlights the importance of political self-consciousness and reflection (for one to be aware that what they’re doing is political and to reflect and plan on how they are doing it), but also because it does justice to the historical weight and the changes brought in the world by explicitly political movements of any kind. Apart from that, the secondary politicization of things (including raves) remains extremely important and can be mostly analyzed in the following: the kind of culture they promote and its political aspects, the kind of relationships they create between people, the kind of emotional space they occupy, and the forms of possible life they point toward. As we said, raves are collective experiences, but the way they are collective is unusual. They could be mistaken for an individualistic experience: an individualist cult, everybody dancing alone, in the edges or the center of a big space, staring only at the speakers. Only if someone attends a party themselves can they understand that the collectivity of a rave is defined in a meta-level. It isn’t the group of people, the conversations, the collective dance, the social norms and the stress all those entail. Raves, like Fisher says, are both a symptom and a transcendence of their age, and that’s the reason they can be stress-reducing experiences. The colors, the drugs, the thud of the bass, all of them often seeming only replicas of things, offer a fertile ground for depersonalization. The collective acceptance of behaviors that in other contexts would certainly be socially awkward offers a very direct release to desire, as the subject that has and acts on those desires both is and isn’t you. What are the consequences of this collective-beyond-the-coll ective in the lives of ravers outside the raves, and which is its fullest political interpretation? Those are matters for another time.
AND NOW EACH STEP TOWARDS TRANSCENDENCE CREATES A NEW NORMALITY
AND THE GLUTTONY OF PLEASURES WITHIN PLEASURE ARE LIKE DEATH
AND NEW ANXIETIES LURK IN THE DISTANCE