AuthorsMorrison, Simon A.
AffiliationUniversity of Chester, University of Leeds
MetadataShow full item record
AbstractRave culture began very much as a scene for the cognisant in-crowd. Any broader understanding of the role of the DJ within that scene was limited, almost exclusively, by the parameters of the dancefloor, the walls of the warehouse. As the police discovered when they began to move against the nascent rave scene in the 1980s, they were handicapped principally by a complete lack of understanding as to what they were dealing with. It is only now, with the benefits of time, hindsight and an expanding academic and cultural literature that serious attempts can be made to understand what has become known as EDMC. This proposed chapter aims firstly to separate the construct of the DJ from the broader subcultural context of EDMC, and instead examine the DJ as focus for literary exploration. Identifying literary representations of DJs, the chapter will look at the way the society of the dancefloor has been represented in contemporary literature, and how these texts have broadened the understanding of DJ culture for a possibly non-participatory readership. The chapter will ultimately argue that such literature has in fact assisted the enculturation of the DJ by elevating them beyond the physical nightclub and into one built from words, their tropes and modes not merely known by a restricted number of clubbers, but an infinite crowd of readers. The chapter will examine the actual function of the DJ – whether leader of, or servant to, the dancefloor – and will then consider what fictional representations of the DJ archetype may add to the on-going, broader understanding of the practices within DJ cultures. Establishing a theoretical platform from which to build an argument, the chapter will draw on the likes of Calcutt & Shephard and Whissen to examine where club fiction might sit within the broader subgenre of cult fiction, and how the role of the DJ is explored within that realm of club fiction. In order to do this, the work will consider works by Hebdige on subcultures and Muggleton on post-subcultures and will investigate whether a homology exists between the musical and cultural setting and the literature which reports it. The chapter will also look at the environment of the nightclub and consider how Middleton’s “signifying structures” might relate to the interplay of music, fashion, drug consumption and behavioural patterns that each contribute to the context within which the DJ resides. The DJ’s work, after all, is about the “mix”. However where, in fact, does the DJ fit into this interplay of power relations, into this mix? One of Middleton’s homological “structural resonances” is undoubtedly language, in this case the language of the dancefloor. The key aspiration of EDM texts is authenticity and that is dictated, and constructed, by semantics. Here the chapter will introduce the literary notion of verisimilitude: how the life and work of the DJ is translated successfully into the printed word via a naturalistic encapsulation of the syntax of the dancefloor, and what is lost and gained in the process of that translation. A nightclub is a cauldron of colour and energy. The chapter will identify and consider how an author might capture that intangible magic and transcribe it utilising the written word. It might be argued that authenticity is in fact achieved through the homology of language and experience, in constructing a believable fictional environment within which the DJ might play. But is there an inevitable disconnect between the literal and the literary? Chemical Generation writers such as Irvine Welsh, Jeff Noon and Pat W. Henderson sit within a lineage of countercultural writers, who have all had to draw on specific literary techniques in order to authentically capture the spirit and energy of their particular countercultural environment. Whether Jack Kerouac on jazz or Hunter S. Thompson on rock, when in comes to writing about music, these writers have all had to reach for a kind of artistic synethesia. Each of these writers has had to find a voice with which to describe the music, and the techniques of the production of that music. The chapter will also contemplate where club culture writers might lie, in terms of a lineage of countercultural scribes. In terms of methodology, the chapter will then focus on one novel, or perhaps a number of short stories, as a kind of literary springboard into a broader discussion of these more theoretical ideas, holding the text/s up against the theories of the likes of Hebdige, Muggleton, Middleton et al. It will also incorporate primary research with the likes of the DJ Graeme Park, principally known for his residency at the Hacienda in Manchester. In conversation, he explains how the writer Pat W. Henderson asked Park’s permission to feature him in a fictional work, which raises interesting notions of diegetic and non-diegetic involvement of DJs and electronic music texts in literature. This work, Henderson’s third novel entitled Club, is currently an unpublished manuscript but Henderson will allow the author of this chapter access to that primary manuscript to assist this research, and to discuss his inspiration. It will be important to compare genuine representations of DJs such as Graeme Park and John Digweed, with fictional DJ characters, such as Lloyd, in the Irvine Welsh short story, ‘The Undefeated’. Again, notions of verisimilitude come to the fore, in terms of confidently capturing the techniques of the DJ and their music, in order to achieve authenticity. The central argument of the chapter will propose that the appearance of Chemical Generation writers has undoubtedly engendered a broader enculturation of EDMC. In terms of DJ cultures, the production of knowledge is necessarily limited when restricted to participants. Fictional representations of the DJ, therefore, add a cultural dynamic to our understanding of the DJ and the tropes and modes of a DJ’s character, function and behaviour. With the emergence of Chemical Generation authors, you no longer had to physically go to a club to discover what might take place within it walls, and how its soundtrack might be constructed. It might therefore be argued that the archetype of the DJ has passed into mainstream understanding via the process of its cultural representation. Moving forwards, the role of EDM texts will become increasingly important. As the participants of that initial explosion of acid house culture grow older and retire from the dancefloor, what will be left (aside, of course, from the music itself) will be these such texts, which will form a socio-historical archive moving forwards, by which EDMC will be considered.
CitationMorrison, S. A. (2013). DJ-driven literature. In B. A. Attias, A Gavanas, & H. C. Reitveld (eds.) DJ culture in the mix. New York: Bloomsbury.
DescriptionIn this chapter the author identifies a central research interest: musico-literary intermediality, and the away authors attempted to write fiction based on the rave scene
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