1. It may be valid to argue that raving is essentially a continuation of an ancient performative behavior and nothing fundamentally new. However, the essential components by which a rave identifies itself as a rave are technologically produced, and beyond this, social relations between participants are mediated by technology. I’ve mentioned that the liminal phase of the rave process is experienced spiritually. It has been noted by several writers that a main motivation for participation in a rave is to become immersed in the feeling of communitas that is generated at the event. It is significant to note that this communitas (or even ecstatic trance) is achieved through hi-tech means—particularly through mass dancing to music comprised of simulated and sampled sounds, often enhanced by pharmaceutical technology.21 In Generation Ecstasy, Simon Reynolds refers to the various musics (or “hallucinogenres” of rave) as “sampladelia,” or “perception-warping music” which deconstructs “the metaphysics of presence” (Reynolds 41, 44). Ravers, involved in what they themselves term “ecstatic trance dancing,” speak of submitting themselves to the will of the DJ, often referred to as a shaman. Hence the term “technoshamanism“ is used by participants to denote this essentializing aspect of the rave.

    House music is the sound of the cultural blender running at warp speed. It’s a techno-shamanic dervish. (Heley)

    Watch dancing at Innercense, October 1998

    Watch video of DJ at Innercense

  2. As René Lysloff writes, “trance is actualized via the interaction of the human and the machine, implicating a postmodern “secular religion” where technology itself is worshipped” (“DJ Shamanism” 11). In fact, the credo of technopaganism may be found at hyperreal.org, along with prayers such as “We thank the Technology Goddess for giving us the ability to rave”…“We finally wish that the Technology Goddess will receive our ecstasy while raving as an offering and a celebration of her omnipotence.” This ethos of abandoning oneself to the will of the machine and dissolving into a communal mass of dancers has remained one of rave’s most salient aspects, dating back to proto-rave techno of the early 1980s.22

  3. The rave event is also distinguished as a technocultural artifact by the fact that its planning phase, as well as its restoration phase, takes place in virtual space. This forum, in scope and nature of social relationship, is not something that could be replicated in reality. The anonymity afforded by faceless interaction in virtual space, it has been noted, leads to the kinds of interactions that would not take place in real life, due to actual or perceived censure of the content of the message. As the drug Ecstasy removes fear, allegedly the element which controls our behavior23 for the purpose of establishing a greater communitas, I suggest that the virtual forum serves as an extension of this chemical agent for the raver. Technology additionally mediates social interaction in the rave scene through the sheer volume of the music—a situation which dictates that the nature of communication between participants will be non-verbal.

  4. We construct our technologies, and our technologies construct us and our times. (Turkle 46)

  5. It is interesting, and perhaps seemingly contradictory, that the aesthetics of both “the primitive” (described earlier) and hi-technology are core identifying components of the rave. This essential “techno-primitive” ideology became evident to me as I tried to understand the process by which a gamelan has recently been incorporated into the San Francisco rave scene. In August of 1997, at a rave in the foothills of the Sierra mountains, a five-member American version of a Balinese gamelan group based in Santa Cruz, California became part of the Vibe.24 Via an emotionally powerful performance experience that fused techno with traditional Balinese gamelan music, the group’s participation in this event (Harmony’s “4x4”) led to subsequent invitations to perform at raves in the San Francisco area, as well as an invitation to cut a collaborative CD with a rave musician in May of 1998. The gamelan, Anak Swarasanti,25 has since performed repeatedly at raves hosted by various Bay Area collectives, descriptions and photos of which can be found on their webpage.

    Anak Swarasanti is a type of ceremonial orchestra known in Bali as gamelan angklung. It is a 4-tone ensemble consisting primarily of four-keyed bronze metallophones of different sizes or registers, the keys of which are suspended over bamboo resonators. Other instruments of the gamelan angklung include a horizontally mounted row of knobbed gongs, two drums, a small pair of cymbals, bamboo flute, a small vertically suspended gong, and a small horizontally mounted gong used for time-keeping (Tenzer 86).26

  6. In Bali, the ubiquitous gamelan angklung ensemble—usually 1-2 per village (Tener 87)27 —traditionally performs at temple anniversary ceremonies, processions, cremations, and village festivals.It is one of three theoretically required ceremonial gamelan in village ritual life (along with the larger gamelan gong, and the processional orchestra gamelan beleganjur) (McPhee 6; Bakan 11). Although the ensemble has traditionally served a Hindu-Bali ceremonial function, performances of contemporary music, or adaptations of non-ceremonial pieces for gamelan angklung have more recently begun to take place in various secular settings (Sedana, letter). gamelan angklung groups now take part in government sponsored gamelan competitions (Bakan 97). And while membership in gamelan angklung groups has traditionally been confined to males, females have lately been seen performing this music in Balinese conservatory settings (Sedana, letter).

    Watch gamelan angklung rehearsal in Denpasar, Bali (September 1990)

    Listen to secular music adapted for gamelan angklung (angklung kebyar genre)

  7. In Northern California, gamelan angklung Anak Swarasanti rehearses weekly and performs fairly regularly in the Santa Cruz community. Some of the group’s appearances have included “ceremonial” functions (such as First Night Santa Cruz, and the opening of a film festival at a downtown movie theater), but most performances are purely for entertainment (e.g., a benefit for a Tibetan health program, summer music festivals, college performances, and local garden parties).

    Watch Anak Swarasanti play marching gamelan at Camp Harmony 2000

    The Anak Swarasanti website includes descriptions and photos of its various performance venues. The gamelan’s membership is mixed in gender (currently 3 females, 7 males) and age (24-45). Members are either working professionals (most are in the hi-tech industry) or university students (including one music major).

    The repertoire performed by this American group includes traditional and contemporary compositions for gamelan.

    Listen to excerpts of traditional angklung pieces from Anak's 1998 CD

  8. Compositions for gamelan angklung are cyclical in form, enabling them to be shortened or lengthened depending on the demands of the performance context. In the rave context, in which Anak Swarasanti is normally expected to play a set several hours long, the group collectively arranges extended versions of traditional ceremonial pieces. At raves the group always performs in what is known as the “ambient space.”(pictured below)This is a room or space set apart from the main dance location(s), where ravers can come at any point during the evening to “chill out,” or take a breather from the more extreme goings-on at the event. Although some dancing does take place here, people usually use the space to be still (sometimes frighteningly still). There are usually mattresses to lie on or rugs to sit on. The music in the ambient space (usually of the ambient subgenre) is generally calmer, quieter, may be rhythmic or non-rhythmic, and is meant to function in an atmospheric way.

    Watch video of ambient space at Harmony 2000

    A traditional blessing: watch a musician sprinkle holy water on the gamelan

  9. The gamelan (although always rhythmic), with its seamless, minimalist, and repetitively structured sounds, fits well into this scheme. However, its presentation is almost always mediated by the addition of a layer of technologically-produced music added to the texture. This is not meant to be a simple overlay of synthesized music contributing to the generalized ethereal soundscape of the ambient space, but an interactive relationship between rave musicians and the gamelan. This ideal is illustrated by the following excerpt of an email sent by a member of Anak Swarasanti when the group was in the planning stages of a rave appearance in the spring of 2000.

    - start off with a fast piece, followed by a slow piece. that will keep
    people interested from the start, and then you can decide from their reactions if they want an ambient meditative set or a more upbeat dancable set. basically, have two lineups ready to play, one more ambient, the other more energized, and then just choose which one is appropriate based on the response of the first two songs.

    - cut the gig in half. it was a little long for people who are there to rave.

    - use more of the big gongs. for example: have the gongs match beats with the dj, phase the dj out, bring in the gamelan, and reverse that at the end of the gamelan set. possibly even keep the gongs (in different varieties) playing continously between songs, so there is no silence. participation (like dancing or meditation) is much easier with continued sound, rather than silence between songs (which is more like a concert, where concerts are generally nonparticipatory).
    And this from a DJ to the sfraves list:
    I’ve been banging my head against a rock trying to
    figureout what to play during my slot. So…

    I will be taking the eternal crack posse into a musical dimension of
    sounds from just about every genre because I can’t think of anything elset o play on the techno system from 6pm till 7:30 (right after Joey Mazolla and before MAC of the North). Should be interesting… we’ll see what happens.

    Immediately afterwards, I hope to be joining the gamelan Anak Swarasanti in the ambient area for a special marathon sunset peformance. For those of you who have missed previous performances of this gamelan… these are an incredible performance experience, practicing an ever developing traditional form from Bali that has elements that have only really been
    explored in western music at an esoteric level through the 20th century composers and a few really interesting bands in more popular music (sonic youth, primus, king crimson, mbv). If you’ve been looking for music historically associated with hypnotic mental states, this is the real stuff… all presented with great reverence for the culture from which it came (and a gong that I love sitting next to cause it just goes BBBBBBAAAAAAAAAHAHHHHHHHnnnnnHnnnHHHHHHHHHMMMMmmmmmmmmm

    I’ll be joining them with a [computer] notebook running some bizarre german sound design software and digital effects on some instruments in the ensemble… so expect a collage of audio textures that balances somewhere between futuristic electronic experimental works with the awe inspiring interlocking cyclical progressions from across the pacific. (DJ AndyW, posted 15 August 2000)
    Listen to an excerpt from Anak Swarasanti’s first appearance at a rave in 1997

  10. Although I have yet to discuss this with the event organizers, I believe that the sound of the gamelan “unplugged,” with its sharply contrasting non-synthesized timbre, would be like a rip in the acoustic fabric of the carefully designed aural space, causing a disturbance in the ravers’ aesthetic experience.28 With regard to additional technological mediation, aside from the dialogue between sample-based music and the gamelan, Anak Swarasanti is usually located within a psychedelic “set” in the ambient space. The group normally performs on a platform surrounded by blacklight-activated banners and other lighting paraphernalia.

    Watch Anak Swarasanti at early evening ambient space, Harmony 2000

    Watch Anak Swaransanti in the ambient space at Expansion 2.0

    Watch Anak Swarasanti's early evening performance at Harmony's 4x4

  11. Comments posted to the sfraves discussion list, along with repeat invitations to perform at raves in the Bay area, underscore the successful appropriation of the gamelan by the San Francisco rave scene.

    …as I melted through the visible sound atmosphere plastic polyester neon vibrant flower piece, my soul radiating from my eyes and every other inch of my joyful physical and spiritual being. Got there and Hak was just tearing that room to pieces making the floor bounce with his wicked vibey jungle....then I reached a nirvana/euphoric state sitting right in front of the gamelan orchestra, absorbing their message and sending it back with equal love. (posted 26 March 2000)

    i must say that it is rare these days for parties to be throw for the
    right reason at all… i grew up in the early moon tribe era and have always used dance to find my Self but lately the parties seem to be all about getting fucked on 3 hits of e and running around yelling plur (which most people don’t live by to begin with), excuse me if i sound jaded, it is not my intention…warmth was a lovely party, i especially enjoyed dancing to the space of the gamelan (despite the mocking i received from the muscle boys)… all in all though, it was a wonderful event and i hope this time is a turning point within the scene (underground or not) and that the events will return to their spiritual roots… (posted 26 March 2000)

    Well, I figured I’d put down my thoughts on Warmth this past Saturday. Overall I thought the party rocked. I definately loved the gamelan. I have heard gamalan before of a different style, and saturday’s set was much more listenable to me. I danced a bit toward the end of the gamelan set, but wished more folks were dancing so I wouldn’t feel so self conscous :-) But maybe ya shouldn’t dance when folks is prayin :-) I also wished they had orchestrated the switch from gamelan back to dj’s a bit better so that there could have been more of a conection. . . .It just kinda felt like BAM! back from ecstatic music to THUMP THUMP THUMP. (posted 27 March 2000)

    To: sfraves@hyperreal.org
    Subject: Re: Help! I need Complex Music!

    If you want to step outside of electronic dance music, Bach fugues are the most complex things you’ll find in western music prior to about 1900.

    I STRONGLY recommend that you listen to some gamelan. There are two types of gamelan, Javanese and Balinese, which are closely related to one another (I personally prefer Balinese). The music is played on sets of tuned gongs, metallophones (sort of like xylophones), one drum, and occaisionally a stringed instrument or voices. The slower pieces tend to sound like trance, the faster stuff is like jungle played at twice the normal speed. I believe COTS had a gamelan group play at sunshine of your love--can anyone post some reactions to that? (posted 23 March 2000)

  12. How might we interpret this appropriation? There are several reasons or possible combinations of factors leading to this phenomenon. For the purposes of this article, I suggest two possibilities: the shared use and value (in both Balinese and rave contexts) of a particular kind of musical structure that is commonly present in communal participatory events leading to altered states of consciousness—specifically, the use of repetitive, minimalistic, seamless cyclings of sonic patterns accompanied by a relentlessly driving or metronomic rhythm; and, the self-conscious desire of ravers to associate themselves with icons of a generic “ethnic-ness.”

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