The Beauty in the Beast

Happiness across the cultures.

Electronic Dance Music and Well-Being

What is the connection between EDM and human well-being?

I remember going to my first 'Rave'.

I was 13, and I am pretty sure my mother forced my brother to take me in the classic 'You can go if you take your little sister' scenario.

My brother dressed me in enough glitter to signal an airplane, shoved me in the back of my moms car, and we drove to our city's industrial area. Surrounded by factories and warehouses I will admit that I was slightly intimidated. I was excited to go, but had no idea what to expect. 'Raves' at that time were even more controversial than they are today. It was common for them to be raided by the police and shut down. We left the safety of my moms car... opened a random warehouse door, and I was greeted with sights and sounds that would change my life.

My brother led me straight to the 'best spot to actually feel the music' (aka right in front of the speakers). For the rest of the night I heard nothing but the music. The energy that surrounded me was electric, I had no option but to dance dance dance, the combination between the music and movement was euphoric.

Considering that I was surrounded by people much much older than me, in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of nowhere.... I felt safe. My brother disappeared into the crowd shortly after he positioned me in front of the speaker, and I spent the rest of the night dancing, and watching all the people around me.

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I knew my brother wouldn't let anything happen to me, and everyone I met was extremely kind. They all shared a love of music, and a primal need to dance. Now true there was a lot of drugs at the party but I was completely unaware. I was never offered, nor did I pay enough attention to see anyone doing drugs. Some very nice people gave me a sucker and a bottle of water....but for me....it was all about the music.

For a 13-year-old girl who wasn't very popular at school, the fact that I was in a place that I felt so welcomed, despite being clearly 'different', changed my life. I would sit for hours outside my brother’s door waiting for him to listen to the latest 'track' hoping that he would get sick of it and give it to his little sister.

I have come a long way from the glitter covered 13 year old, and my music choices have become more varied, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for Electronic Dance Music (EDM). Apparently I am not alone.... EDM has become perhaps the most popular genre of music in the world.

I have been to Trance Parties in remote areas of South Africa, grooved to some Drum and Bass in Thailand, and chilled to Progressive house in London. It seems to be a 'universal' thing.... there is nowhere I have been that doesn't have a version of EDM.

Festivals all over the world feature DJ's, and they continue to draw crowds in the hundreds of thousands.

What is it about music, and specifically EDM that draws people in?

There has been a plethora of research done on Music and Human Well-Being, but little of it has focused specifically on EDM. Over the next year I will be focusing my efforts on exploring the question of EDM and Human Well Being; What effects does it have? What is the experience of the concert go-er? The DJ? The promoter?  What are the negative effects of EDM?  What does Law Enforcement think about it?

Drawing on the science of positive psychology, as well as more direct informal research with DJ's, Festival Organizers, and fans of EDM, I will try to get to the bottom of the question; What is it about music, and the culture surrounding it.... that makes us human.... and makes our life worth living? 

Music can be a spiritual experience.

Music can be casual fun.

Music can be so many things to so many people.

What does it mean to you?

 

Copyright @Jaime Booth Cundy 2013

Jaime Cundy is a writer and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania's Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program.

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