God is a DJ

This is a saying that makes no sense at all unless it makes total sense. Either you get it or you don't. You've been there or you haven't. You're down or you're not. For those of you who know what it means... right on. For those of you who don't, read on. Maybe I can explain it, maybe I can't, but I'll damn sure give it a shot.

This phrase applies almost uniquely to live performances of electronic music before a reasonably to ridiculously large audience. It's a little magic that occurs when the stars are in alignment and the records are in sync. It's mass hysteria geared toward bliss, a unanimous surrender of control to a higher groove. It requires a certain degree of skill on the part of your DJ, and a bit of faith on the part of the audience.

For those of you completely unaware of electronic music, techno, house, drum & bass, jungle, et al., what you're missing is an extremely beat-oriented music. The various styles of electronic music all have their own theories about "The Beat" regarding how it should sound and what patterns it should follow; but in nearly all cases "The Beat" is the backbone, the core, the heart, the meat and potatoes of the music. Whatever else is going on, and a great deal else is often going on, it all falls apart without "The Beat."

This feature of the music, combined with the loud volumes at which it is usually played, usually leads crowds of people gathered to enjoy performances of this music to move in rhythmic, often similar ways. Again, there are many styles, steps, and moves associated with the dancing you see at clubs and raves; but as they all revolve around "The Beat," they tend to blend well in large groups. Additionally, you may notice people begin to dance in a style or fashion all their own, yet slowly meld their dancing style to the overall crowd groove. The extent to which you witness this phenomenon in your personal experiences may vary greatly, but hopefully you will notice it to some degree. This phenomenon can be described as a physical manifestation of an emotional response to both the music and the unification of the crowd around the music.

You see, for those of us who enjoy electronic music, it's easy to lose yourself in it. Whatever your musical tastes, imagine the reaction you have to hearing one of your favorite songs played loudly and proudly while surrounded by like-minded people who you know enjoy this music as much as you. You become inexplicably ecstatic. You move because your body cannot be at rest in such a state of rapture. You look to your friends and peers and wordlessly experience incredibly meaningful communion through nothing more than eye contact, facial expressions, and body language. You say nothing, and yet everything is said. Nothing has been created, given, or taken, yet you have shared something of infinite value. We fans of electronic music experience this frequently, often among complete strangers. A unity is created out of thin air, and it runs through us all.

That said, this unity, which is created out of the common joy of the crowd, is centered around "The Beat". And "The Beat," of course, is controlled by the DJ. Thus, the DJ exhibits a tremendous control over the crowd when he controls "The Beat" with considerable skill and style. As the crowd loses itself in the common experience, the focus becomes the music, and finally the DJ. A good DJ will read this, and begin to feed off the crowd energy. He* will raise the tempo and/or the volume, which raises the energy, which causes the crowd to react in kind. Then he will lower the energy, which brings the crowd down into a relaxing groove. He will introduce new beats, new samples, new effects, mad scratching skills, and a bevy of other tricks to constantly keep the crowd on their toes and the energy through the roof.

And at some point, at the really good shows, "The Moment" arrives. "The Moment" is the highlight of any show. The bass line drops out. The samples groove in mellow harmony. The crowd slows, relaxes, refocuses. Then, the DJ gives a look. A look that is sly, full of intrigue, yet totally benevolent. The crowd senses something, smells something in the wind, and the anticipation builds. The DJ hovers a deft finger over the crossfader. The crowd begins to boil, seeking a release from the pressure building exponentially in anticipation.

The samples drop out of the mix.

There is a low, soft, regular beat accompanied by a simple melody.

The air is brimming with negative sound space, and every cubic nanometer of it is crammed with aural possibility.

There is just enough of a groove to keep the crowd together for a few seconds longer, though who knows when they will break?

How much longer can they last?

The DJ waits for the precise moment. The crowd is about to lose control; the magic will peak and fall off a cliff of anticipation, to its certain death. The DJ will wait, with the precision of a surgeon, for the exact moment when maximum potential and kinetic energies align...






And then he lets it drop.

An aural onslaught of his sickest grooves and hottest samples, blended with the coolest effects and most ridiculous scratching skills. And this empire of sound is built on one, massive, monolithic, dominating Beat. "The Beat."

And the crowd explodes in ecstatic rapture. PLUR abounds, is flowing over, seeping through the cracks. Dance becomes a primitive way of attempting to express the indescribable joy you feel. You wish you could explain it, but know there's no need, everyone around you feels the same way. Magic, friends, true magic.

Later that night you begin to realize that, for that moment, or maybe even most of that night, you had absolutely no control of your own body or emotions. You were completely, willingly, wholly at the will of the music. And the music was at the will of the DJ. That DJ was like a God...

...so maybe, just maybe...

God is a DJ


P.S.: For an example of this phenomenon, check out the movie "Groove." While mkb might be right about it not being a cinematic masterpiece, there is a prime example of "The Moment" in Digweed's set at the end. And even though you're not really there, you can almost feel it.

*: As a disclaimer, I will be using the male third person pronoun throughout this writeup purely for simplicity's sake. I think the whole "s/he" thing really ruins the flow of writing and reading. This is not to say I feel that women don't make good DJs. I've seen girls throw down smoking sets and truly tear the roof off the mothasucka. Please don't take offense.

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