Editor’s note: Anastassia will be writing a series of articles about the techno music scene in NYC. This is her first article.
It’s January 13, the night of my first party of the new year in New York. I open my eyes. The DJ duo Mind Against come into focus. Their dark outlines move masterfully beneath the strobe lights, fingers taking turns twisting knobs on the deck. Twist—the bass disappears. Twist—percussion enters. I can feel the heat emanating from the bodies around me, moving as one in the darkness. Then I hear the far-off twinkle of the melody of their latest released track. The one we all know and love and came for. I yell in happiness and turn to my friend. He hears it, too. We both grin at one another as “Days Gone” starts to play. A journey awaits. Everyone goes wild, pounding fists and feet to the epic synths as they grow louder. This is the moment we have all been waiting for. The duo raise their hands in satisfaction, one throws back his head, and the track speaks for itself. This is the moment they have been waiting for, too.
This is just one of countless incomparable live techno music experiences I continue to gather and be fascinated by. I first came to realize the power of this music when a friend went to Movement, an electronic music festival that takes place every year in Detroit. I was addicted to watching the videos he shared of secret after-hour parties. Hearing the fast-paced, hypnotic music so full of raw, unsubdued energy filled my body with a rhythmic strength that I couldn’t shake for days.
A few months later, I went abroad. By completely coincidental circumstance, I ended up at one such party in a warehouse in Prague. I set aside everything for the night and surrendered myself to the music. It’s been a love affair with techno ever since.
The quick beat that characterizes electronic dance music is a powerful and addicting motivator, especially when heard live. Journalist Hunter S. Thompson said, “Music has always been a matter of Energy to me…Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel.” The exchange and reception of (positive) energy is central to the techno scene.
Nothing unites people quite like knowing that no matter who they are or where they come from, something that is so special to them is equally as special to thousands of others in the moment. Being emotionally connected to the music connects people to its atmosphere, including everyone in it. This intimate feeling of unity is especially profound for those that may struggle with connecting with others.
Daniel Levitin, author of “This Is Your Brain on Music,” discovered that our bodies physically respond to music by releasing feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. We rely on music for emotional regulation because it influences our moods.
Techno, a subgenre of electronic dance music, originated in the heart of Detroit, Michigan, during the 1980s. It arose from a blend of African American soul and synthesizer-made music, and migrated first from DJs’ basements to gay clubs. Science fiction lent itself as inspiration for early artists’ futuristic techno sound. Following the Great Depression, they envisioned, through their music, a transformed society. After the techno wave in Detroit, it was picked up by the Germans in Berlin and popularized in Europe. Today, techno is an even bigger part of the European lifestyle than in the U.S.
Techno and other electronic dance music lovers term the party scene as “raving.” This term varies in meaning, from dressing up in colorful clothing for a festival to just going to a techno club, but usually means being out for an entire night of committed dancing and enjoyment.
In the U.S., the techno scene is most prominent in the Big Apple. Other cities like Los Angeles and Detroit remain key players as well, but what sets New York apart is its massive population, providing diverse but consistent demand for electronic music, as well as its access to dozens of techno-qualifying venues with proper sound systems, active promoters, and their ability to afford hosting big-name DJs from around the world.
As with anything, it is possible to take raving too far. That is, one prevalent aspect of the techno party scene is substance abuse, which enhances the experience of music in the brain. This comes from the search for a transcendent experience. One particularly common drug, MDMA, also known as molly, targets and increases the level of chemicals in the brain responsible for happiness. Nonetheless, the majority of party-goers enjoy safe, legal experiences as often as dozens of times a month without so much as tired feet the following day.