In the realm of music psychology and the world of rave culture, we speak to Alice Yang who’s studying the subject at Minerva University, to understand why techno music have captivated countless enthusiasts.
Can you explain the form of meditative state that many people feel when listening to techno music?
"Most people will never forget that feeling after witnessing their favourite set—a state of euphoria, walking out of the club in an entranced awe after dancing away all your problems. Yes, this could simply be because the music was amazing, or as commonly misconceived, because of drugs, but as we explore biological and psychological structures of our brains, we discover that techno has actually has many therapeutic effects. Humans are instinctively attuned to repetitive rhythms. Being an in-group species, we needed to
follow the footsteps of our group members for survival. These repetitions have strong emphasis on bass-heavy grooves–the backbone of techno. The therapeutic effects of listening makes techno more than just something we hear; layers and repetitions within a complete techno set makes a common language–one that people understand without any requirement of previous encounters—a common communicator between both
complete strangers and one’s own mind. That’s the differentiating factor separating music from the hundreds of other languages that exist in the world, whether spoken or unspoken–is that it can be understood by all regardless of any previous knowledge of its contents—making it one of the most effective forms of communication between complete strangers.
Simultaneous to this bonding factor within the crowd on the dance floor, the sense of therapy
experienced forms because of techno culture’s opportune features that allows an exploration of each’s unconscious psyches, which actually make up more than 90% of our brains. The unconscious contains our memories including those that are repressed, and as this is not consciously accessible, we cannot actively deal with unresolved trauma—crucial to mental wellbeing. Within the psyche, feelings are contained in the ego, which is self-centred by nature, meaning that through using one’s own imagination, people are able to gain pleasure depending on how they interpret sensory information input. However, this act requires a
willingness to emotionally surrender to this unconscious interpretation which in techno, comes with an entire established culture with everything you need to surrender to this language of the unconscious even though you might not have ever come across it before–club environments, drugs, established behavioural norms, feelings of safety by awareness teams, etc."
"Thus, this combination of techno’s intrinsic biological alignment to neural processes and
environmental features within club culture, when people listen to something they resonate with, because music, although expressive contains no objective content–individuals can interpret it according to their imaginations and reflect on feelings and experiences that other forms of language don’t permit–that’s why scholars often refer to music as ‘the language of the unconscious’, allowing us to explore the entirety of our psyches and providing psychological relief and therapeutic effects."
"With its repetitive rhythms and melodies, techno music has the power to transport listeners into a meditative state of consciousness, where the complexities of the human brain find harmony." – Alice Yang.
Some people say that they go to ‘Sunday Church Service’ when they head to Berghain for a dance. What with this makes sense would you say?
Power and politics aside, religion’s purpose has always been to satisfy the human need to belong to be a part of something greater than themselves, because let’s be real, life is confusing and we all don’t really know why or for what we are here. Rave culture was founded on the basis of acceptance of diversity and liberation from systemic structures. Historically, rave environments were initiated to create a space where marginalized groups could come together and be themselves, free from the stigmas and limitations put onto them by dominant cultural groups within their nations. These founding values result in communities founded on the basis of acceptance of all individuals irrespective of their background or place in society,
whereas other religions were founded on the basis of maintaining power for the dominant cultural group– making exclusivity at its basis.
In techno clubs and especially Berghain, strangers can come together in a completely liberated environment, possibly one of the only existing environments free from socially constructed norms, forming an alternate society where diversity is the norm, and all the core components of humanity—leading with love — are celebrated; an alternate society where each’s ideal becomes reality. This instills hope in individuals that such a place is still possible, and even more so, yielding belonging, purpose, and love for all people, not only those that society dictates have the right to be loved. In that sense, Berghain is the church for the religion of all people, where coming together means promoting these values of love and acceptance not only for themselves but for each other–something people may lack simply by living their everyday lives because of the way that society is structured.
However, this religion isn’t limited to marginalised groups, it is open to all–even the most
privileged in society, providing a space where anyone can be liberated from their taught values and explore their own morals outside of those being told to them by society. Being one of the oldest and most established techno clubs yields an already established culture of liberation. Aided by all the components of club culture tailored to allow this exploration of individual morals through delving into the unconscious, such as brilliant
light shows that align perfectly with the music, the energy of the crowd, and the expectations that come with going into Berghain–only then can even the biggest disbeliever in alternative societal structures be not exactly converted, but open to different possibilities outside of the ones they already know. This person may see others behaving outside of social norms (which in Berghain, is the norm), prompting them to question their own beliefs of what they were taught to be “true” or “good”.
It’s not only music that can make us want to escape the pressure of life/society that we all feel in different ways. But also the queer spaces. What in this escapism makes queer spaces important for us?
Berghain operates today as not just an accepted but praised institution of cultural, political, and societal deconstruction. Without institutions like these, the world may not even know that current structures may not be the best fit for the bases of human nature with all its categorical limitations, as they wouldn’t know anything else other than what they learn the society growing up. In Berghain, audience members can fully see the fluidity of all components of life such as sexual and racial identities, expression of those identities, intermingling of different groups, etc.–-direct evidence that social categorisations are not fixed.
This fluidity is evidenced within themselves and others alike in these environments, creating a concrete understanding that social categorisations of everything may be wrong, and that there may indeed be better alternatives to ways of living.
Through being able to temporarily dissociate from the empirical world in rave environments and submerge freely and completely into their unconscious mind, the crowd is able to experience at least in part their authentic feelings, emotions, beliefs, and values outside of those being told to them, allowing each to reconstructing their individual identity in a way that aligns with values that are actually true to them versus values implanted by society. I can’t speak for everyone, but for me, exploring my personal values made me realize that many societal values are a form of manipulation that drives already established structures such as
the economy, people in power, etc. to keep these structures intact. Meanwhile, there’s been a 13% rise in mental illness and substance abuse in the last decade alone. Clearly, this signifies that current political and cultural structures don’t work.
Understanding techno culture engrained in me that a more free-flowing structure of living is better aligned with human nature—its emphases on diversity and acceptance within a safe space brings out humanity’s best—love. It teaches us to lead with love as opposed to monetary things that western society tells us we should value—which brings out the worst in human nature and teaches the wrong values. In combination with feelings of belonging through the language of music—a counterculture on the basis of
authenticity and liberation is formed, drawing huge implications for both liberations of the self–and–if the experiences are prominent enough (such as through occurring repeatedly in environments like Berghain), overtime there holds huge potential for change in the real world: music, creating societal progress.