Jimi Hendrix once said “music is religion!” And he was a guitar god, so that counts for something. Where else is there a cult-like following of sound waves? Right here, obviously.
To be honest, it is quite tempting to draw comparisons between electronic music culture and religion. In a way, truly starting to experience electronic music in all its facets and depth is a revelation. We gather in the weekends and clubbing becomes an integral part of your life, and to some of us music provides a new purpose.
Can we credibly claim though that some sort of divinity is nested in carefully crafted soundscapes?
Entertaining these ideas is as attractive as is the ease with which pious rhetoric will debunk them. There is no higher power, no institutionalised authority, not a credible system of ethics, nor a 2000-year old history. Subcultures, the preacher might argue, are part of the divine plan, not on par with it. As fun as it might be to tackle any monotheistic worldview’s preconceptions, let us instead be like water and shift the frame.
Religion can be approached in two ways, through substantive or functional definitions. The first is a ‘what is’ type, the second a ‘what does it do’ type. Unless you’re a monk or a spiritual seeker, the second type should be most useful. Functions of religion are plentiful, and we could make a further distinction in what it does for the individual and for the group. Here a list of two big ones for each:
- Sense of meaning and purpose in life
- Social control
- Social cohesion
Does electronic music play a part in the construction of your identity? Does it provide an over-arching goal and direction? Or does it contribute to your social network? Are there dance moves you’d advise your friends to do only in closed quarters? Does it infuse your bonds with something akin to the wind: invisible and hard to describe, but you know it’s there, you can feel it. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section. I don’t have answers, only questions.
Picture credits: Jeremy Sudibyo