Partying with Hello Kitty: How Electronic Dance Music and Rave Culture are transforming, commercializing, and globalizing youth culture in the twenty-first century
AuthorScott, Geoffrey Robert
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This thesis will demonstrate how electronic dance music (EDM) has evolved from the musical underground during the second half of the twentieth century into the mainstream, commercial powerhouse it is now in the early twenty-first-century world. EDM at its core is a musical style characterized by the use of synthetic, electronic sounds. The combination of technological devices such as drum machines, repetitive bass lines, electronic builds and releases and inorganic noises in tandem with instrumental and vocal samples makes EDM an incredibly malleable style of dance music that has branched into a variety of forms over the course of its less than fifty year existence. Innovations in technology, like the tape reel, the Moog synthesizer, the vinyl mixer and the computer have led to new ways of contemplating and creating music. I argue that the innovative musical voices of late modernism and early postmodernism set the foundation for early EDM, who were not afraid to harness the new synthetic sounds at their disposal. Electronic dance music can trace its roots back to the repetitive, minimalist structures used since the 1960's by postmodern composers such as Philip Glass and the electronic instrumentation of artists like Terry Riley and John Cage. Owing to its flexibility, EDM has also been re-contextualized in different cultures. In Japan for instance, it has been stripped of its subversive association to drugs and raves and is now used as a motor to exaggerate the youthful vitality of young pop idols, whose "kawaii" ("cute") image depends on the energy for which EDM is also famous today. Another consequence of the musical globalization of EDM is the corporatization and commercialization of the music, where electronic dance music producers and DJs are now paid millions of dollars to push products and headline enormous international music festivals. EDM is now a mainstay of popular culture around urban centers of the world, and as such it is being used by different forces for creating art as well as for profit. This study aims to illuminate these forces by tracing EDM's path throughout history, using musical examples to show its evolution as well as the ways it is being re-contextualized as an increasingly globalized commodity.