Introduction This dissertation is an analysis of the phenomenon of 'rave culture'. Implicit within my writing is the notion that rave is a part of popular culture rather than a subculture.
I think it would be useful at this point to provide a definition of subculture: Subcultures define themselves as other' and 'subordinate' to 'the dominant' culture. The early work of Stuart Hall and Dick Hebdige has been chiefly concerned with the ways in which subcultures subvert and pose a resistance to the 'established order' through their expressive dress codes and rituals.
Rave departs from these theories of youth culture, since it has not established an identifiable dress code nor consciously set itself apart from the wider culture. Cultural critics have found it difficult to argue that rave poses any resistance to anything at all. This essay is really an exploration into what rave does do, if its objective is not to subvert. What is rave an expression of? What is its function? What is its position politically?
These are the questions that I am fundamentally concerned with. I came to rave culture as an outsider looking in, and from a rather peculiar position of a young person commenting on the activity of my peers.
I have found it a rich subject to explore, enabling me to discuss some of my own creative, personal and political interests which relate very closely to my studio practice: The research has reasserted my belief in the value of looking at and learning from popular culture.
It is also worth outlining the direct links between rave and theatre. The origins of theatre, according to the Greek tradition, are in the Bacchic rites or drunken orgies of ancient Greece.
Later, with the building of amphitheatres in Greece, the orgiastic element was replaced by more stylised representations of human life, which were given a text and performed repeatedly.
The element of spontaneity and direct experience was reduced as the participator became the spectator. The modern rave begins where theatre also began. Raves are spontaneous, participatory events, which create a powerful emotional experience for the raver as they revel in dionysian bliss.
They are also popular, unique events. My studio practice is largely concerned with finding ways to involve the audience, and to put them inside the theatrical world with the performers. I aim to create an emotional event for the audience, so perhaps these roots are worth re-living and re-learning from as theatre struggles to compete with more popular media like film and TV. The sources for my research have been diverse: This essay is really a collage created out of all of these discourses, and I hope it goes some way towards an understanding of a rave event.
I shall begin this dissertation with a brief history of the development of rave events and rave music. I shall then consider the structure of rave music, the way in which meanings are communicated, and what possible interpretations could be made from recent rave output. I will consider the narcissistic and pre-oedipal sexuality of ravers, and the pleasure they experience through loss of 'self' and 'fixed' identity. I shall also look at the use of collage within raves, in the context of both surrealism and subcultural theory.
All of these areas involve a discussion of the related issues of boundaries and difference. I shall finally conclude my research by considering the political dimension of rave which is manifested in the loss of traditional boundaries, in the questions it raises about the ownership of culture and about the prevailing The Rave Experience The experience of taking part in a rave is a highly sensory one. This has to do with the loudness and repetitiveness of the music which ravers can physically feel, the effect of the drug Ecstasy which is most commonly associated with raving, and the physical effects of non-stop dancing.
This is not to say that other types of club events are not sensory, they are in varying degrees, but sensory overload is an essential part of the experience of raving.
The point is to dance until you do 'lose control'. Rave dancers reach the point of frenzy, rather like the religious dances of Santa Maria where the people dance until the spirit enters them.
This emphasis on dancing to a frenzy is not new to Britain but is perhaps a new phenomenon for large numbers of British people to experience. Rave provides ways to 'dance yourself back into your body', and is about self acceptance, and self-love.
And all of a sudden I got this huge whoosh running through my body and out of it sort of thing - I don't know where it went - a huge energy force almost. And then going mad again, just dancing again and going crazy. The rhythm just grabs hold of you.
It was then briefly revived by the mods. It did not come back into fashion until the illegal warehouse party scene in London in the early eighties.
The crowd was mixed, black and white, and it is likely that the term 'rave' came from Jamaican usage rather than a revival of any previous usage in Britain. Stuart Cosgrove in his article "Acid Enterprises" argues that the London warehouse party scene was the 'emergent' phase of Acid Rouse.
It is this history which is often forgotten in discussion on the roots of raves. The primary aim of these parties was to hear 'good soulful music' which wasn't being played in the commercial West End clubs of the time and to dance.
The venues were usually old industrial units in Old Street and Rosebery Avenue, which didn't hold an entertainment licence. The events themselves would last all night and sometimes Into the following day.
Choice poisons were strong lager and speed for those who could stomach it. There was a thrill at being at an illegal event, being part of a large well kept secret and taking part in something mildly subversive and mythic.
There was an atmosphere of being 'cool' as if they were knowingly reinventing a speakeasy during prohibition. By the mid 80's the warehouse party scene had become more popular and influential. The music was fat-back funk, East Coast hip-hop, rare groove and increasingly Chicago and Detroit house music.
The warehouse parties were becoming bigger and more entrepreneurial. Promoters started to hire official venues and toys such as dodgems and bucking broncos. For some, small fortunes were made, but in many instances the profits went back into the scene to fund pirate radio stations and small independent dance labels. At the same time major record companies began to woo the age group by repackaging old releases onto CDs.
The attention was diverted away from the development of new music and led the way for young people to push for their own developments in music via the independent labels. Rave also originated from one of the least respected forms of popular culture - the package holiday. It was in the upmarket clubs of Ibiza: Pasha, Amnesia, Glory's and Manhattans, that Balearic beat was created. DJ's would mix together musical forms as diverse as 'Public Enemy' and 'The Woodentops', to create that eclectic, highly danceable, don't care holiday feel A small group of metropolitan ravers would return annually to spend their summer together.
In the 'Shoom' club in Streatham opened to try to resurrect that holiday vibe on British shores. The crowd came in appropriately tacky holiday gear - bandanas, shorts, bright colours, sunglasses and the smiley-logo.
In Britain the music became known as Acid House. By summer the media, particularly the tabloids, exploded with 'Acid House. The crowds were bigger, younger, apparently more hedonistic, and definitely more suburban.
Warehouses were no longer big enough to hold the crowds and so rural environments were used: Many of the parties took place around the M25 nicknamed the magic roundabout , to maximise their audience. I was at school at this time and friends of mine would hear about a rave on a pirate radio station usually Kiss FM and get hold of some tickets.
On the tickets was a telephone number, and so at an appointed hour on the evening of a rave, they would phone up and be given another number to phone later on. In this way, the location of a rave was not revealed until the last possible moment, so as not to alert the police. The secrecy and clandestine nature of getting to the event was an important part of the thrill of raving. By the time the police found out the location, it was already teeming with ravers ready for a night of mayhem.
The patterns of behaviour at these huge events owed more to Club holidays, stadium rock concerts and football matches rather than the cool sophisti-cation of the early warehouse parties.
This period is often read as a reflection of the materialism of eighties enterprise culture. By the Acid house cult had died out, but the Rave scene was attracting an increasingly wide audience, including indie kids, football fans and travellers.
Music turned towards more soulful melodic forms of deep-house, Italian and Garage. The atmospere at raves became more mellow, as people sought to create a feeling of 'togetherness'. In , the introduction of the Entertainment Act made it more difficult for raves and clubs to operate. Clubs could have their licence reviewed 7 times a year and the penalties for holding unlicensed public entertainment were increased.
As a result the early nineties saw two strands within rave activity, but there was considerable overlap between them. The most visible part of rave activity now took place in clubs such as 'The Seven Aces' in Hackney, a licensed venue which held regular rave nights and sent out newsletters to members to keep the scene going.
This can be seen as the beginning of the institutionalisation of raves. The market research group 'The Henley Centre For Forecasting' predicted in that "rave is not just a cult but part of a whole new formation of leisure patterns. The first rave to arrive at Wembley was in April of and there have been many others since. The other strand discernible in the early nineties was the convergence of hippie, traveller, squatting and crustie cliques in the summer free festival circuit, for example Glastonbury, Urban Free Festival, and The Hackney Homeless Festival.
These witnessed some of the biggest and longest gatherings. For example the week long occupation of public land at Castle Morton in May was initiated by a nomadic sound system collective called Spiral Tribal and their festival-going followers. By the end of the week numbers had swelled to 50, as weekend ravers converged on Avon. These events would be a cross between a rave, a fun fair, a festival, and a pagan event.
These groups would put on raves for free, or to raise money for housing, environmental or arts projects. Ecology, paganism, ancient culture and ethnicity were revived, alongside the appropriation of yuppie icons such as the mobile phone and fax machine which were used for producing sociable raves and at the same time created an atmosphere of social protest.
What is a rave today? A rave is a place where a group of people meet together to dance to electronically engineered music. It could take place in a derelict warehouse, a club, a beach, a field, an aircraft hangar or a sports arena. It may be free, and it may charge an entrance fee or raise money for charity.
Each has its own discourse.