7 June 2013

How to put on a Free party!

It's getting around to that time of the year again and people begin to think about planning 'picnics' and 'barbecues' outside in the open air for their friends and family. In the woods? On the beach? In a field? Smashing! Here's a few do's and do nots that may help you have a cracking party.

here comes the summer...

Round up the crew, blag a rig and a van, find a venue, ring your mates and tell them where and when, score, set up the rig at the venue, switch it on and Bob’s your father’s brother.

Most Important Things:
Nice People in Safety
Top Sounds & Visuals
Interesting Venue
No Grief

The best thing about putting on a free party is that all your friends are there. Word of mouth is usually the best way, and you’ll only get friends and friends of friends etc. Advertising in other ways may attract unwanted ‘guests’. To help each and every one of your crowd correctly to experience the ‘dance energy rush’ in an environment of relative comfort and safety here’s a few tips:

Always check squatted venues at least a day or two before the party for:

Safe floors, ceilings walls, broken glass, electricity etc. (we found misguided revellers using a hanging live power outlet as a swing!), running water, flushing toilets and sufficient fire exits.

Essential safety kit:

At least one C02 (black) fire extinguisher. Trained first-aider with a decent first aid kit. Mobile phone.

A 12 volt Halogen floodlight is useful for setting up (you can run it off a car battery).

A 240 volt floodlight (or more) in case there are dangerous dark areas.


It’s all dull, and some of it’s expensive, but there’s nothing that kills a party more effectively than someone dying in blood-soaked agony on the dance-floor.

If you can’t think of any good music to play — let someone else do it. If, after announcing your intention to organise the party in the pub on Tuesday night you aren’t bombarded by endless DJ’s, all of whom who will guarantee to ‘rock it’ with their ‘fuckin’ mental’ collection of ‘white labels’, then, and only then, resort to "Now that’s what I call Absolutely the most ‘avin it, Hardcore Industrial Ultimate Rave Dance Anthem Classics in the pan-dimensional multiverse before and since the Big-Bang" from K-Tel.

Your sound-system should have three important qualities — bass, midrange and treble. Many have only two or even one of these, but all three will seriously enhance your listening pleasure. Alternatively, soak your ears in Ketamine and Brew and lie face down in the scoop bin which was all you could afford with your last Housing Benefit cheque and forget about the irrelevant higher frequencies.

A good choice of venue will greatly enhance everyone’s fun. Beautiful countryside makes a cheap and effective backdrop. A sunrise is infinitely less expensive than a laser and a squillion times brighter. Indoors, everyone will be happier if there’s somewhere reasonably comfortable and quieter to sit down.

Drugs of all sorts may be available at your party, and will have an affect on the atmosphere. If you’re planning to sell alcohol, remember the penalties can be severe and the police may use this to get you if they can’t use party related laws. If you’re bringing the sound system you’ll be the first to be searched for illegal drugs. A good way round the sale of alcohol problem is to buy it in bulk, which everyone can ‘chip in’ for in advance (e.g. from France) and have a list of people who ‘chipped in’ ready to show the police if necessary. If you find that there are dealers at your party are selling drugs, no-one will thank you if they get sold horse tranquilliser as ecstasy. Take some ecstasy testing kits if you can, for the safety of those who will take it, but don’t carry any illegal drugs with them (obvious really!)

Avoiding grief is the biggest challenge faced by anyone putting on a free party in Britain today. No matter how careful the organisers are to be safe and conscientious, some people just can’t handle seeing other people having a good time — especially if they’re not invited! Outdoor and indoor events face grief from the police (Criminal Justice Act, Public Licensing Laws), angry neighbours, uninvited guests and the weather:

The ideal location is one where no-one can see the party or hear the music other than those attending. Sound travels a long way outside, partying in quarries and deep valleys can be very effective at limiting the range of noise disturbance, whereas trees reduce the volume much less. As a rule of thumb, if you can see a building from the soundsystem then they can hear the music. The amount of noise which constitutes a disturbance has frequently been debated. Some moaning ninnies will strain to hear a faintly audible whisper of a kick-drum, with the windows open and consider this an infringement of their rights as a miserable, party-pooping, tory (probably) land-owning killjoy. On the other hand pick your site badly and you could keep hundreds of people awake all night needlessly.

The C.J.A. allows the police to insist you leave the site if they think that the party may cause serious distress to local people. Serious distress has not been defined in law and presumably if the police eject a party from a site which would not have caused a problem, they could be taken to court over it, but as yet no-one known to us has had the time or the means to try this. To order you to leave the land, the order has to come from a superintendent or higher ranking officer, although this often comes as a signed standard letter. In one case, the soundsystem refused to leave land when issued with this order in East Sussex and in the morning the police confiscated some of the system. If you successfully argued that no distress was or could be caused by the party you might get compensation for the loss of the rig and get it back, but this argument has never been tested in law (to our knowledge). 

Under the C.J.A., a confiscated soundsystem can be destroyed if the owners are convicted, and the maximum sentence for organising a ‘rave’ includes five years in prison. These laws apply whether or not you have permission from the landowner of the party site, although the police are less likely to prevent parties on land with permission. Outdoor events are not subject to the same licensing laws as indoor ones, although a marquee might be construed as ‘indoors’ for such purposes.

Wherever you party, cleaning up afterwards is essential. Why should we fuck up the countryside for a party —after all industry and roads do it much more effectively. Cleaning up keeps on the good side of locals and helps perpetuate the outdoor free partyvibe—man!

Partying indoors throws up a whole new legal minefield. Theoretically any gathering in a building with music and dancing to which the public have access is subject to an entertainment licence under the neatly titled Local Government Act (1982) Miscellaneous Provisions. Prosecution under this act is at the discretion of the Local Authority (usually) and in most cases this is too expensive and time consuming for them to undertake. However if pushed this will happen and it’s very hard to fight. The only defence is to show that all reasonable precautions were taken to ensure that no uninvited guests had access to the building. In the eyes of the average magistrate, this means having 6 or more bruisers in bomber jackets with headset walkie-talkies strutting around as though they just stepped off the set of Bladerunner. Taking money on the door also implies a licence is required. To the best of our knowledge, no case of this kind which has gone to court has ever been won by the defendant. The maximum penalty is £20,000 and/or six months, although a fine of a few hundred is more usual. Once again ownership of the building makes things easier although this law still applies. If you can prove that all the people at the party were invited—you do not have to have a licence.

The other angles the police may use to try and stop the event are breaking and entering and abstraction(?!) If you’re cracking a squat for a party do it at least one or two nights before the event, so if you get caught you’re only looking for somewhere to live and not standing with a jemmy in one hand and a record box in the other. A discrete window can be left open for access on the night of the event. Most buildings are accessible without causing damage, if you break a lock or something getting in, this is enough to get you nicked for criminal damage - so replace it. Locks don’t cost much and might be useful on the night. Once you’re in get the tools (jemmy, bolt-croppers, screwdrivers etc.) off the premises immediately.

Abstraction is stealing electricity. Check the state of the power before the night of the party. If there is power in the building go to your local electricity board shop and pay for some (£2O will do) in advance. They will normally accept the advance payment, and rarely inform anyone. If the police suggest that you’re stealing the lecky, you can produce a receipt! If possible have a generator on hand as a back-up.

Often, the key to success seems to be not to give the police a reason to stop the event. A long-term empty industrial building, a few streets away from any residential areas can be partied all night without any authorities being aware. If you are careful about not inflicting too much damage, clean up afterwards and put your own locks on you might be able to party it again in a month. However, too many parties in the same building brings other problems and soon the crowd will expand to include small time local mafia and other thugs who have their own unpleasant profit motives for attending. A good phone network of friends and moving the venue each time will keep numbers manageable and idiots away.

In general when dealing with the police, environmental health and any other officials or general busybodies and members of the public, remain calm and courteous at all times. This is a disarming tactic which will render even the most puffing, ruddy faced retired ex-colonel’s barking complaint ineffective. Listen to what the police say, reason intelligently and don’t believe a word of it without consideration. They will lie to you, steal your genny from behind your back and to hell with the law if it serves their purpose.

If you think your event might result in a prosecution — take measures to protect yourselves against potentially biased court proceedings. Take photographs of all the safety precautions you have undertaken, and have a reasonable number of visible stewards. Don’t take money on the door, clean up afterwards and take photographs of the site afterwards. If possible have a camcorder available to record the event particularly interactions with the police.

Lastly a few DO’s and DON’Ts:


DO hassle stressed people with head-torches and screwdrivers when the music’s mysteriously stopped saying "Oi mate, can I borrow your miners helmet to skin up with."

DO poke bits of metal into unknown boxes on the wall with coloured lights, saying "Beam me up Scotty".

DO gather round the police when they arrive, waving empty bottles and shouting "Remember the Beanfield, bastard pig wanker?"

DON’T help clear anything up at the end, but instead lie around in a pool of piss and dog turd informing the organisers that they’re slaves to the system.

DO arrive at a pitch-black Welsh hillside in November with only a small nightie, high-heels and two pills (previously ingested if possible).

DO believe the police when they tell you the party’s cancelled (as they never lie), and on no account bother to try to find a different way onto the site, returning 40 miles to your flat to watch telly.

DO park across the access road to the party so that ambulances can’t get in.


DO give out printed flyers saying "Illegal Rave" in large letters a week in advance to give the police ample time to plan their operation.

DON’T pick outdoor sites with ample parking as muddy dodgems in the morning is a top laugh and modern ambulances have wings.

DON’T bother with a tarpaulin to cover the rig as it never rains in Britain.

DO put generators inside buildings as Carbon Monoxide heightens the effects of ecstasy

DON’T bother bringing any water to the party. If someone dies of dehydration it’s their own stupid fault ...your honour.

Good Luck and Enjoy!

Ecstasy testing kits available from http://olddrugs.greenparty.org.uk/substance/xtc.php#content or 1a, Waterlow Road, London N19 5NJ for £17.00 inc.

thanks to SchNEWS


Organising a Rave

OK, so what follows is a practical guide to organising your own free party! But before we start there are a few issues which I need to address. In the U.K we have something called the Criminal Justice Act. This was introduced as a direct response to the booming rave culture of the late 80s. What this act did was give the Police power to shut down any gathering that they believed to be dangerous or anti-social.

You need to be aware that any organised gathering on public land or on land that you don't have permission to use can be shut down by the plod and all the equipment can be confiscated.


The Venue

You've got various options for the venue and some very important decisions to make which could make or break your rave:

1. Do you want to rave outside?

The first problem you have is permission. Do you have permission to use the land you've got your eye on? Do you care!? Most outdoor rave worthy land is owned by a farmer. Farmers are notoriously odd when it comes to these sort of events; some of them will be accommodating and some will shoot at you if you step foot on anything they own so play it cool! The majority of farmers understand one language - money! Get your hand in your pocket and pay the man for the privilege. Or come to an arrangement where you charge per car (but charging for entry is another area where you want to be careful and you'll need to find trust worthy people who don't mind missing the party to take responsibility of this).

Some of the best raves I've been to have been in the Lake District under a clear sky and when you hit that sunrise at 3 or 4 in the morning it can be a great place to be. But there are obvious caveats - the main one being rain! If it's going to be wet (and it usually is when you don't want it to be) then you need to protect your gear. So that means covers, tarpaulins and some sort of scaffold type rig to hold those covers in place.

Wind as well can be an issue so if you're going to be raving outside think about using the natural relief of the land to shelter your set-up from the worst of it.

You should also check out the entrance and exits; especially if you are going to have lots of cars involved. What looks like a sound piece of ground can quickly turn into a quagmire after a bit of rain and a few cars are thrown into the mix.

2. Do you want to rave inside?

If you've got an indoor venue sorted then you've already removed at lot of the issues which are associated with the bloody awful British weather. But you have opened another box of issues!
If you have a proper venue available for hire then all licensing, entry control, security and staging is made a lot simpler but you may have rules laid down by the cops and the venue owners. Because of this I wouldn't recommend using a proper venue for anything other than a proper club night. But we’re talking about proper raves here so...

3. What are the other options?

The best option is a privately owned building... Not a house! I'm thinking more of a barn or disused storage space like a warehouse. If you can get permission to use something like this then you're onto a winner! As long as it's weather proof you can protect your ravers and your sound system from the elements; but you don't have the usual red tape associated with using a proper venue.

The best rave I organised was in an old church! It was completely empty except for a few hymn books. It still had the huge stained glass windows in place and it gave the whole night a gothic feel.

Whatever venue you choose you face a brush with the law if you don't have permission to be there, and even if you do have permission to be there, then you still have to be concerned with several other issues. If there are neighbours near by then they have rights and they can be the biggest issue you'll face as most people will pick up the phone and call the old bill straight away. Don't forget that the Police have the right to break up the party whatever the circumstances.

Never work your own door.

The Music and the Lighting

Once you've got the venue sorted you need to fill it full of stuff that makes people rave! It's completely up to you how far you go with this but there is no limit. Some raves I've been to have had huge marquees full of dangling fluorescent decorations and crazy characters walking round on stilts! The only limits are budget and imagination. However there are essentials which you will not be able to rave without.

1. The Sound System
The most important bit of kit is the sound system. Without that there is no party! If you don't have one then you're going to have to hire it. The best way to go about hiring a sound system is through word of mouth. There will be people who have organised raves before you -- the same as there will be people who organise raves after you've gone! So ask around, where do you get your sound systems from? What size do you go for? Are they reliable?

You'll have to dip into the piggy bank but there are often sound system owners out there who are sympathetic to your cause and will rent you a sound system at a decent rate. If you're lucky you can hire a guy who'll sort all that out for you. If not then you're going to have to hire the system yourself, set it up and get it running. If you don't know what you're doing then don't bother! Pay someone else!

The cops have plenty of "soft intelligence" on who is involved in free parties.

Authorities automatically assume those linked with the entertaiments or music industry (licensed or otherwise) will have a pre-disposition to criminal activity - this is a prejudice older than the Police service themseves (the first legal restrictions on travelling musicians in Britain were made in the 1300s!)

Cops have no problems about holding a hired rig, and if the "hire company reps" attend the police they would probably be interviewed (although not under arrest) as cops tried to find out whether they knew the party was unlicensed or not. they may also (if they suspect collusion) accuse the hire company of knowingly aiding this event - which leaves them open to further civil and criminal penalties.

Even if a legitimate company complained they would just say "yes, you have had a financial loss but what about the landowners/building owners? you can't make profit at someone elses cost..." 

They would then say the only way they could recover their loss would be to make a criminal or civil claim against the organisers alleging they had been duped into supplying sound equipment for an illegal event. Obviously if they are friends the hirers would be unwilling to do this!

2. The Music
You need DJs! This is the easiest AND the hardest part of the night to organise! You need to decide what music is going to make people rave their tits off and you need to plan a night of perfect musical balance, flow and style for the night to be a rip roaring success. You also need to make sure you have enough DJs to cover the whole night, but not too many DJs or you'll have a conflict on your hands!

When people hear you're organising a rave the word soon gets about and before you know it you'll have people you've never heard of asking for sets. It really is up to you who and what gets played but you may have to tread on some toes in the process.

Once the DJs all turn up you have the added pain in the arse of organising their set times and what order they play. Someone will not be happy playing first, someone will try and play for longer, someone will get too pissed to play and someone will turn up claiming that his uncle's milk man told him he could play for half an hour. My advice... treat DJs like animals! Be strict but not aggressive. Tell them all what the script is and if they don't like it they're not playing. Try not to change set times and keep everything running as planned; but remember... this is your night! Don't let the DJ dictate to you!

You might need to hire decks and a mixer if the sound system dude hasn't supplied them. Try and borrow them primarily (it may require giving a DJ the prime set but that's the way it goes!). If a DJ wants any specific gear other than two high quality turntables and a decent mixer, then they'll have to bring their own!

3. The Lights
The lights are also very important and some people go to town in this department. As with the sound system you need to know what you're doing or it could turn messy! If you've got the budget then go crazy! Get lasers, traffic lights, strobes, beams - the whole nine yards! It all helps create the rave experience.

If you're holding the rave in a venue which has no street or natural lighting then you will need flood lights for certain areas, such as the main entrance and socialising areas. These aren't essential but they do improve the experience for all.

If you feel that you don't have enough knowledge of the above area and you would like to know more then check out: avforums.com.

The Other Bits

1. The Generator
The generator is one of the easiest things to sort out. Most people know someone with a generator of some description; however make sure it has the power to do the job! If you don't know of anyone who'll lend you a generator then every town, city or village has somewhere nearby that will rent you a generator. If you can't find anywhere then try hss.com [no affiliation]. They allow you to order and pick up at a fairly reasonable rate.

The size of generator needed will depend on the size of the sound system, the lighting rig and anything else you are planning that needs power. You should be able to get a good indication of the size needed from the parties involved in these various areas. It may make more sense to hire several generators for different needs. That way if one goes wrong not everything is affected!

Another generator tip: go for diesel, its cheaper! And get plenty of it on standby.

1. Air Conditioning and Heating

Depending on the venue, you may need to hire heater or air conditioners to improve the experience for your ravers. If then venue is small and cramped then air conditioning hire is essential and will prevent anyone passing out from too much hardcore raving!

Likewise, if you're planning a rave in winter then the venue may need extra heat and heater hire might be another necessity.


As well as the lights and the sound system if you've got the budget then why not get all the extras which improve the rave experience? You can go for smoke machines, fireworks, jugglers, magicians, MCs etc... The sky is the limit really!


Hhhm. Now this can be an area where things go wrong! Too much marketing and you may get overrun. If the venue can't cope then you're in a whole world of trouble. Decide what you're trying to achieve and then decide your level of marketing from there. If you want a low key event with friends only then just put the word about and let everyone else do the rest.

But never under estimate the power of the grapevine! Don't over do it or you may end up in a whole world of trouble!

From - http://ezinearticles.com/?Organising-a-Rave&id=1930703


The Guide to having a Free Party 


There are many elements to running a successful party. Certainly this document isn't going to tell you how to run your party, nor what exactly makes a good event. We'll leave that for you to decide. However we hope that the following guidelines (gathered from experience) prove useful...

The Party:

1. Don't over estimate the power of sound: 

A good sound system and dj's won't necessarily make a good party. A successful party comes from a crowd of people enjoying themselves and having fun. Room to move is important, so is a good vibe, amenities (food and drinks stalls, toilets, etc), having enough light, somewhere chill out, to sit and relax, and keeping trouble makers out. 

Rather than focussing all your attention on the sound system and artists, remember that details count. 

2. You are not criminals: 

Don't be fooled by the authorities, you are not criminals! Respect the law, don't give the authorities the power to stop your party by breaking it. 

3. Health and safety: 

Always have a first aid kit on hand together with the numbers of a hospital and other emergency services. If possible someone experienced in first aid should be present at your party. 

Make a free supply of water available, also keep some fruit handy. Place fire extinguishers near electrical equipment, make sure people know where they are and how to use them.

Before a party, try to clear any broken glass and dangerous debris away to help avoid accidents. Highlight your toilets, bins and keep entrances clear of people and equipment. Wires should be trailed above head height not exposed. Gangways and fire exits must be kept clear; fireproof all backdrops and decor.

If someone looks unwell, approach them in a non threatening manner and ask how they are. If they ask for your help take the time to offer them the support they need. 

4. Parking: 

Keep parked vehicles off public roads. Bad parking practice can harm a party in several ways. They can alert the authorities to the fact that something is going on. They can give them a valid reason to try to stop the proceedings and they can make it difficult for emergency services to get on to your site. 

5. Vandalism and troublemakers: 

Don't tolerate vandalism or anti social behavior. Act as a group, show a determined and united front, politely ask those responsible to stop being disruptive. Let them know their behavior isn't wanted at the party, perhaps stop the music in order to get their full attention. Suggest that they should leave if they don't feel able to contribute to a positive vibe. 

6. Rubbish: 

Remove any rubbish left after a party, put it into bags and dispose of it safely. Hopefully you've enjoyed the beauty of your surroundings, remember to leave them the way you found them :)

7. Running a hotline:

Prefix directions to your party with the date and time of the party. That way if your crew is out one week and resting the next, you save prospective party goers a potentially long trek out to an idle site. 

If you have a website, post directions online at the last minute and give out the URL. The web is a good way for party goer's to plan their drive to your site. Good reference websites for driving directions are: the Ordinance Survey Maps website for the UK and Map Quest for Europe and the US.

Don't let your hotline idle. Whether it's active or not, try to at least leave a message telling people what you're up to or how to find out what you'll be up to in the future. If you change hotline numbers, make sure you leave a link from the old to the new.

Be as accurate and descriptive as possible with your directions. If your party is in the countryside, use landmarks as a reference (bridges, pubs, etc) and leave noticeable markers on the road (signs, cones, etc). If the party is in town, carefully spell out the name of the road and neighborhood the party is in. Also it's useful to stress a postcode, in case there are more than one roads with the same name in that town. Of course it's important to give out the name of the town your party is in, not everyone trying to reach you will be local or familiar with your area.

Speak clearly, mobile phones often don't enjoy the best reception. Make it as easy as possible for the listener to understand your directions. If you move site remember to update your hotline messages. If you've given out a hotline number, expect people to use it. Getting to a party can be stressful, make an effort to communicate calmly with the person listening to your directions.

8. Handling the police and authorities:

Have only a small number of people deal with any police presence. Be civil, polite and communicate that your party isn't aimed at disruption, you have gathered to have fun as a group... peacefully. 

Avoid conflict, mediate with them, listen to what they have to say. It may be that simply turning the volume down a little, opening fire exits (ed: don't miss read that statement! we're not suggesting you should open fire on the authorities) or moving some of those cars parked around the site might appease them enough to let the party continue. 

9. A note on personal freedom:

We believe that it is the responsibility of the individual to look after themselves as grown and educated adults. We choose to make our own choices. We choose the right to party and free ourselves through dance and music. Most of all we recognise that personal freedom should not interfere with the freedom of others..."


Despite the dastardly efforts of the Criminal Justice Act, free parties are still kicking off every weekend all around the country.

Just because they're free, that doesn't mean you shouldn't respect the place where the party kicks off, or the people who are putting it on. 

Here's a few guidelines that should be followed at all free events:
  • Be prepared to be self sufficient. Facilities will be minimal.
  • Park sensibly, keep site roads clear.
  • Be friendly to local residents, ramblers etc. Smile - you're at a free party!
  • Bury your shit!!
  • Don't trash the site - take a bin bag
  • If you go for a wander, close any gates behind you
  • Don't let your dog run wild
  • Respect local wildlife
  • Fires - use dead not live wood (it don't burn in any case)
  • Make a donation - if someone passes a bucket round, don't be a mean git. It costs money to put on a free event.
It's also wise to be prepared just in case your party kicks off with a police bust. 

More info:

Information and legal help on drugs arrests
124-128 City Road, London, EC1V 2NJ
Helpline 0845 4500 215ask@release.org.uk
(open 11am-1pm and 2pm-4pm, Monday-Friday)
Tel: +44 (0)20 7324 2989
Fax: +44 (0)20 7324 2977


The Good Free Party Goer's Guide


Often rules exist in an unspoken form. By outlining the following that apply to good party going behaviour we hope to preserve the positive nature of parties, keep safe and show ourselves to be responsible.

1. Getting to the party:

Call the party hotline before you leave. Take a note of the information given and look up the site on a map. The web is a good place for road maps, useful directions can be found on the Ordinance Survey Maps (UK) and Map Quest web sites (Europe & US). 

Regardless of the fact that you must never drive under the influence, it's also important that the person helping you to navigate should do the same. Finding a party can be difficult, party sites are often hidden and out of sight.

Take a mobile phone and a map with you. Parties often change site, also the directions you were given won't always be 100% accurate or easy to follow. 

As you get closer to the site of a party, be careful not to play your music too loud or cause a disruption by driving recklessly. Respect the locals right to a good night's sleep and remember bringing attention to yourself, also brings attention to the party!

2. Parking: 

Keep parked vehicles off public roads. Bad parking practice can harm a party in several ways. They can alert the authorities to the fact that something is going on. They can give them a valid reason to try to stop the proceedings and they can make it difficult for emergency services to get on to your site. 

3. Vandalism: 

Don't tolerate vandalism or anti social behaviour. Act as a group, show a determined and united front, politely ask those responsible to stop being disruptive. Let them know their behaviour isn't wanted at the party, perhaps stop the music in order to get their full attention. Suggest that they should leave if they don't feel able to contribute to a positive vibe. 

4. Trouble makers:

At a party you are never alone no matter how chaotic the mood or your surroundings are. A party is a gathering of like minded individuals after a common goal. Feel free to ask those around you for help or to help someone you think might be under pressure from trouble makers.

5. Rubbish: 

Party goers, remove your rubbish as you leave a site, put it into bags and dispose of it safely. Hopefully you've enjoyed the beauty of your surroundings, remember to leave them the way you found them :)

6. Helping others:

If someone looks unwell, approach them in a non threatening manner and ask how they are. If they ask for your help take the time to offer them the support they need. If they are sick, ask them what is wrong and enlist the help of those responsible for the party to help them... 

7. What should you do if the party you're at is threatened by the police:

a. If you spot the police moving towards a party you're at, quietly tell a member of the sound system but don't approach them!

b. Stay near the sound system, move yourselves around it closely and keep dancing.

c. It's important that the sound system should be able to count on your help to keep their equipment and themselves safe as well as the party going.

d. Don't harass, insult or antagonise the police, it's not helpful. 

e. Smile! Don't let them stop you having fun. The best defense to offer them is to keep enjoying yourself and having fun...

8. A note on personal freedom:

As party goers we believe that it is the responsibility of the individual to look after themselves as grown and educated adults. We choose to make our own choices. We choose the right to party and free ourselves through dance and music."

9. Useful items to bring to a party:

a. A road map (A-Z [in London], AA [in the UK] or MapQuest Maps - Driving Directions - Map [elsewhere])
b. A (charged up) mobile phone.
c. Some snacks (fruit, bottled water, biscuits, etc)
d. Depending on the weather: suncream or waterproofs and warm clothes.
e. A blanket to lie on.
f. Some toilet paper.
g. A small spade or trowel to accompany the above.
h. Some rubbish bags.
i. A positive attitude.

10. Also remember to...

a. Respect any locals' privacy, keep the noise down on your way there.
b. Bag your rubbish before you leave.
c. Use dead wood rather than living trees.
d. Park your car properly if you can and don't cause an obstruction.

11. And above all!




Peace, Love, Unity and Respect - The party vibe collective.


What is a Free Party?

by Derek Williams

A Free party also known as a rave, a doof, ateuf or a teknival depending on the context is an all night or longer event, where people go to dance, socialise and have fun in an uninhibited way. Consider them temporary autonomous zones or TAZ...

The venue could be anything from a disused warehouse or office block, to a forest, a field or a beach. At night expect dark areas lit only by coloured beams of light and strobes, although production values vary and you might find just about anything, even expensive lasers.

The crowd is mostly young ranging from 18 to 25, although there's no age limit and there are plenty of older party goers and a few younger ones too.

Something I like about free parties is the way a conversation about living in an old van on a traveler site can be followed by a conversation about Microsoft's Windows NT operating system. Despite what you might have been told, there is no stereotypical free party person.

There are some common features though, a friendly and outgoing personality, an 'up-for-it' attitude, a love of music and a communal atmosphere. And you won't find a dress code at a rave although rave clothing and raver wear have become established fashions.
What is a Free Party?
Drugs are a feature of raves and free parties of course, although their use is generally limited to substances deemed more "social or recreational" rather than the harder drugs. And while it's true that there is drug use at raves, it's not the problematic type of hard drug abuse often seen amongst the socially excluded, in particular hard drugs of addiction (heroin and crack) simply aren't a part of the scene.

A big requirement of a good free party is that it shouldn't be motivated by financial gain. Entry should either be free, or at most require only a small cover charge to meet the organisers' expenses. Also in this context we understand the term "free party" to mean "free" in the sense that you're being welcomed into a space without limitations imposed on expression or behaviour by the organisers.

A true free party will keep going until it there are simply no more people left in attendance, the organisers decide they've had enough or the police decide to stop the event. It's not unheard of for parties to last whole weekends or longer.

What is a Free Party? 

Who runs Raves and Free parties?

Real free parties are organised by enthusiasts rather than people trying to make money. Enthusiasts working together form sound systems with members bearing responsibility for different aspects of a party from power, to maintaining sound and lighting equipment, Dj'ing [sometimes performing live], running the bar, painting back-drops and decorations, and so on. Essentially each person contributes what they can to help shape the wider group effort.

Sound systems are clearly the driving force behind the free party scene. Often they collaborate to stage bigger events offering a choice of different music, areas and better facilities. Given that each system has it's particular style, ideology and following, these events are generally more varied, often attracting larger crowds.

Should I pay to go to a free party? 

Having said that free parties organisers may or may not ask for a donation on the door, they will let you in at a discount if you look poor or ask nicely enough. Some parties however are entirely free, since it's possible for organisers to cover their costs by running a small bar or a [record] stall. Overall though, organising a party is an expensive business requiring a lot of time, energy and effort. If you're asked for a donation, be generous!

Also, once inside consider volunteering to help out as well. There's always something you can do, from tidying up at the end of the party, to lending a hand with some carrying and fetching...

Where can I find one?

Free parties, teknivals and squat parties aren't hard to find, it's just a matter of finding people who are already in that scene. Parties kick off every weekend in London and all over the world. Just keep an ear to the ground for the sound of dancing feet... 


Turning the Beat Around: Reinterpretation, Metrical Dissonance, and Asymmetry in Electronic Dance Music

Haydn's String Quartet Op. 77 No. 2:
A Metrical Analysis

Electronic dance music raises interesting structural, semiotic, and aesthetic questions by having a distinctive overall formal structure and by its rejection of harmony as a primary musical parameter.

ABSTRACT: This paper considers some of the issues involved in the analysis of rhythm and meter in electronic dance music. It begins by considering metrical dissonance and ambiguity within the context of a layered approach to musical meter; it also highlights some of the distinctive ways in which these phenomena are manifested in this repertory. The second half of the paper focuses on the use of asymmetrical patterns in electronic dance music and considers some broader questions of rhythmic and metrical theory. Throughout, the paper draws upon a number of different music-theoretical sources, including work by Harald Krebs, Jay Rahn, and Christopher Hasty, as well as scholarship in ethnomusicology and cognitive science.

Mark J. Butler


[1] Within the past decade, music-theoretical analysis of popular music has become increasingly common. Nonetheless, until quite recently the purview of such research has been relatively limited, focusing mainly on classic and art rock from the 1960s and 70s. While these repertoires have provided fertile ground for analytical exploration, several more recent genres and styles raise interesting structural, semiotic, and aesthetic questions that also merit study.

[2] One of the most distinctive types of contemporary popular music is electronic dance music, a broad category that includes styles such as techno, house, drum-n-bass, and trance.(1) Electronic dance music differs from both rock and art music in a number of ways, all of which suggest avenues for productive theoretical investigation. While many genres of popular music are distinguished from each other on the basis of "surface" differences such as instrumentation or lyrical content, electronic dance music presents a distinctive overall formal structure in addition to its characteristic instrumentation. It also differs from most other types of Western music in its rejection of harmony as a primary musical parameter. Its use of pitch is typically restricted, with the majority of musical development taking place instead in the realms of rhythm, meter, texture, and timbre. Consequently, these areas should be principal concerns for the analyst wishing to pursue a close examination of musical sound in this repertoire.

[3] Rhythm provides an ideal starting point, as it seems to be the element to which listeners and fans of EDM relate most directly. This connection is most immediately apparent on the dance floor, where audiences physically enact the rhythms of the music. Written discussions of electronic dance music also tend to highlight its rhythmic qualities--references to its "unrelenting rhythm," "pulsing dance rhythms," and "irresistible tribal rhythm" are common(2)--and fans often refer to the music simply as "beats" (as in, "let's go to the club and hear some beats"). Yet EDM poses a challenge to the analyst, for it differs in many ways from the repertoires that current music-theoretical models of rhythm and meter were developed to address. Transcription can give the impression that it is less complex rhythmically than these other bodies of music: although it typically consists of many different textural layers, each of which has a different rhythmic pattern, these patterns can appear quite simple when considered individually, and they repeat for long periods of time without changing. Nonetheless, the experience of listening to electronic dance music is neither simple nor monotonous, for it engages one's perception of rhythm and meter in a number of interesting ways. In this paper I will examine some of the issues involved in the analysis of rhythm and meter in this repertoire. In the first half of my paper, I will consider metrical dissonance and ambiguity within the context of a layered approach to musical meter. The discussion, which will be centered upon several short musical examples, will also highlight some of the distinctive ways in which these phenomena are manifested in EDM. The second half of my paper will focus on the use of asymmetrical patterns in EDM. Though this section will begin with two musical examples, it will develop into a more general discussion focusing on broader questions of rhythmic and metrical theory. Throughout the paper I will draw upon scholarly work in a number of different fields, including music theory, ethnomusicology, and cognitive science.

[4] Let us first consider a brief musical example, an excerpt from the song "Piku" by The Chemical Brothers. At the beginning of this example, two distinct textural layers, defined by timbre and by rhythmic patterns, are audible; they are not aligned, however (Example 1a). Accents are created by register in the synthesizer pattern and by attack-point spacing in the percussion part, thus suggesting two different streams of quarter-note pulses. This state of nonalignment continues for about thirty seconds. Although the balance between the two parts changes as the example unfolds, neither beat pattern stands out clearly as the dominant one. Thus one can easily shift attention from one pattern to another, so that the figure/ground relationship between the two patterns reverses.(3) In fact, the reader is encouraged to do so while listening to the example.

[5] This pattern forms what Harald Krebs would describe as a displacement dissonance, a type of metrical dissonance in which two or more layers of the same length are nonaligned.(4) The term metrical dissonance is derived from Maury Yeston's discussion of rhythmic consonance and dissonance.(5) Like Yeston, Krebs believes that meter is formed by the interaction of several different layers of motion. Usually at least three layers are present: the pulse layer, which is the fastest regular layer of motion, and two or more slower-moving interpretive layers, which group the pulse layer into larger units. In 3/4 time, for example, there is a pulse layer consisting of eighth-note motion, one interpretive layer of quarter-note motion, and a larger interpretive layer of dotted-half-note motion.(6)

[6] A displacement dissonance occurs when an interpretive layer sounds like it is displaced from a metrical layer; the conflicting layer is called the antimetrical layer. Since electronic sound production facilitates this sort of nonalignment, it is not surprising that it is a frequent source of metrical dissonance in EDM. InExample 1a, a sixteenth-note pulse layer is grouped by two different patterns moving in quarter notes. This excerpt differs from most of Krebs' examples, however, because it is in a certain sense prior to meter; there is no larger layer grouping the quarter notes into measures. This heightens the ambiguity of the example: it is unclear which layer is metrical and which is antimetrical.(7) If we decide to focus on the synthesizer pattern, then we hear the snare drum being displaced by three sixteenth notes, a dissonance that Krebs would describe as D4+3.(8) On the other hand, if we attend to the snare drum pattern, then we hear the synthesizer as displaced by a single sixteenth-note, or D4+1. Both of these possibilities are summarized at the bottom ofExample 1a. According to Krebs, the closer a dissonance is to a state of alignment, the greater the intensity of its dissonance. In this example, then, either possibility creates a rather strong dissonance. If the layers were displaced by two sixteenth notes, however, the dissonance would be less intense; furthermore, there would be less opportunity for reinterpretation.

[7] Example 1b, another excerpt from "Piku," begins in the same place as the previous example but continues further into the song. I suggest listening to the example apart from the transcription at first; as before, try to experiment with different figure/ground relationships, and note the nonalignment of the layers.
[Example 1b RealAudio 56K / LAN]

[8] Near the end of the example, a bass drum with a regular half-note pulse enters (see Example 1b). This new layer seems to solve the problem of nonalignment. The snare drum part of Example 1a drops out, and the new synthesizer pattern seems like a union of the previously nonaligned layers, combining the two-eighths pattern on B and G-sharp with the sixteenth note/dotted-eighth rhythmic pattern previously played by the snare drum (see brackets in Example 1b).(9)

[9] In this example, the entrance of a new layer resolves a metrical dissonance. In other cases, such an entrance may actually create a metrical dissonance. For example, at the beginning of the song "Cups" from Underworld's 1998 album Beaucoup Fish, the synthesizer pattern clearly begins on the downbeat of a 4/4 measure, as shown in Example 2a. This hearing is soon confirmed by a cymbal pattern articulating a quarter-note pulse. After about fifteen seconds of the synthesizer pattern, however, a loud drumbeat comes in with a different pattern, whose entrance is offset from the previously established measure by a single eighth note. If one focuses on this drumbeat, it is possible to hear the beat pattern shift, so that the synthesizer and cymbal patterns now seem to occur on offbeats. As shown in Example 2b, the repetition of these patterns suggests a D8+1 displacement dissonance. At this point, though, the evidence for this hearing remains inconclusive; conservative listeners may not be willing to give up the initial metrical framework just yet.(10) The displacement becomes definitive, however, after the first eight bars of the drumbeat, when a new synthesizer pattern begins to reinforce the downbeat of the drumbeat pattern (Example 2c).

[10] Electronic dance music is not the only type of popular music in which displacement dissonances occur, of course. Other scholars have pointed out related phenomena in repertoires such as rock, jazz, and blues. For instance, Dave Headlam has discussed the use of metrical conflict and "metric shift" in "Rollin' and Tumblin'," a work that began as a blues song and was subsequently recorded by the rock band Cream. Headlam's analysis centers on a motive that appears in several versions of the song. In recordings by blues musicians such as Muddy Waters, the motive is syncopated, emphasizing beats 2 and 4 of each 4/4 bar. This pattern of accentuation is highlighted further in the 1966 Cream version, when a newly added drum pattern (which initially reinforced the prevailing meter) is shifted one beat over, producing a displacement dissonance. The conflict created by this dissonance is eventually resolved, however, during the B section of the song, in which both the motive (now appearing one beat earlier) and the drum pattern align perfectly with the meter.(11)

[11] Another example of metrical dissonance in rock is provided by John Covach, who discusses the presentation, development, and eventual resolution of a metrical dissonance across the course of Yes's song "Close to the Edge."(12) Examples of metrical dissonance are also easily found in jazz.(13) For the purposes of the present discussion, then, the significance of these metrical phenomena lies not in the mere fact of their occurrence in electronic dance music, but rather in the distinctive ways in which they are used. For instance, consider how the metrical dissonances described above are situated within the larger works of which they are a part. In the EDM examples, metrical dissonance almost always occurs as part of a process unfolding continuously in real time. In comparison, in the examples discussed by Headlam and Covach, related metrical dissonances are generally separated from each other temporally, sometimes by rather considerable distances (for instance, the time interval between the second and third appearance of the dissonance in "Close to the Edge" is approximately 9 minutes). After their initial presentations, their implications and inherent tensions are developed in various ways, as might occur with a motive in a Classical work.(14) The exploration of motivic possibilities is also a well-known feature of jazz improvisation, and Cynthia Folio's examples can be understood in these terms.(15) In electronic dance music, on the other hand, the emphasis is not so much on the long-range exploration of a motive's possibilities as it is on producing an immediate and striking effect--either to create a point of formal articulation (as in Example 1b, in which the resolution of the opening metrical dissonance coincides with the beginning of the work's first groove), or to introduce an element of surprise (as in Example 2, in which an otherwise straightforward textural buildup is complicated by the introduction of a displacement dissonance).

[12] Furthermore, while the types of metrical dissonance discussed by Krebs can occur in many different repertoires, they are particularly relevant to electronic dance music for a number of reasons. As discussed above (paragraph 5), the Yeston/Krebs model conceptualizes meter as the union of several layers of motion. As in the music of Robert Schumann (the composer upon whom Krebs has focused most extensively), these layers are particularly clear in electronic dance music. They often appear as discrete elements of the texture, individuated by timbre, register, and pattern repetition. For instance, in a 4/4 meter, one might find one part of the texture articulating a quarter-note pulse, another moving primarily in eighth notes, and a third emphasizing the whole-note layer, with each element being registrally and timbrally distinct. Dissonant layers usually stand out clearly as well.

[13] The situation just described might not seem all that unusual in and of itself. In electronic dance music, however, this layered approach to metrical construction is further emphasized by the relative equality of its textural layers. No single voice dominates the texture: in contrast to the vast majority of commercial popular music produced in America and Europe since the advent of rock-n-roll, EDM is not vocal music; in general, its only verbal elements are short, fragmentary samples.(16) Neither does it replace solo voices with instrumental ones: unlike a great deal of classical (and other) instrumental music, it does not as a general rule employ melody-and-accompaniment textures. 

[14] Layering is also absolutely essential to the way electronic dance music is recorded and performed. In the studio, EDM is produced in a multi-channel environment, which allows all of its sound sources to be controlled independently, so that layers of motion can be combined in a variety of interesting ways. Of course, this technology is not limited to EDM; in fact, it is commonplace in contemporary popular music. In most pop traditions, however, audiences expect performers to be able to produce reasonable facsimiles of their recordings in live performance, a factor that may limit the complexity of metrical dissonance. This is not the case in EDM, though. In this repertoire, a completely different tradition of live performance exists, one in which DJs, rather than studio artists, take center stage.(17) For the most part, records are treated not as finished products but as raw material for manipulation by the DJ. While the music that one hears at a nightclub or a rave originates in the studio, records are rarely heard in their original studio-produced forms. Instead, they are manipulated and combined with other records in a real-time process that produces substantially different compositions. The DJ uses turntables to play two or more records at once and a mixing board to control the balance between the records (one record is usually more prominent). The mixing board also allows the DJ to control the high, middle, and low range of each record, which makes it possible to manipulate layers within as well as between records. This capability facilitates the real-time creation of displacement dissonances like those seen in Examples 1a/1b and 2 (which are taken from studio-produced recordings). For instance, reinterpretations (cf. Example 2b) can be created by playing a pattern such as that found in Example 2a on one record, then bringing in the bass drum of another record on the offbeats. The lower, more resonant bass drum sound "turns the beat around," but the first pattern persists, thereby producing a displacement dissonance. Conversely, given a situation like that of Example 2c, the DJ might use the high- and low-range controls to remove the bass drum and high synth pattern, thus calling a seemingly clear metrical interpretation into question.

[15] Thus, while a layered conception of musical meter can be applied to many different repertoires, it is particularly well suited to electronic dance music, in which a layered approach is fundamental to musical construction. As we have seen, this approach manifests itself in a variety of ways: in techniques of performance and production, in the connection between metrical and textural layers, and in the relative equality of textural layers. In fact, this last feature promotes another distinctive characteristic of this repertoire: in many cases, especially near the beginning of a track, there is no definitive accentual interpretation of a passage. Examples 1 and 2 demonstrate this phenomenon quite clearly. In Example 1a, as previously discussed, it is unclear which layer is metrical and which is antimetrical; in Example 2, a layer that is suggested as metrical eventually turns out to be antimetrical.(18) The absence of a definite interpretation in such situations encourages the listener to experiment with different interpretations. In repetitive music such as EDM, this ambiguity often plays a crucial role in the creation of musical interest. In fact, Steve Reich has noted a similar phenomenon in minimalist music. Of his own music, he says: "If I compose music that is to use repeating patterns and is also to remain interesting I must build in rhythmic ambiguity to make it possible for the ear to hear a given pattern beginning and ending in different places depending on slight differences of accent and on how one listens."(19)

[16] In the previous examples, ambiguity was created by the interaction of two or more patterns. As Reich's statement suggests, however, individual patterns can also be inherently ambiguous. In fact, extreme simplicity often promotes such ambiguity. For example, consider the TICK-tock-TICK-tock-TICK-tock pattern of a clock. By focusing on the "tock," one can easily hear the opposite accentual pattern: tick-TOCK-tick-TOCK-tick-TOCK.(20)

[17] This type of ambiguity also figures prominently in electronic dance music. As an example, let us consider another track by Underworld. This song, entitled "Moaner," begins with a drumbeat articulating a steady quarter-note pulse; between these beats, a synthesizer plays three sixteenth notes, as shown in Example 3a. It seems probable that the drumbeat, being louder and longer in duration, would play the primary role in determining the accentual pattern. The synthesizer sound also attracts attention, however, by changing timbrally and dynamically, while the sound of the drumbeat does not vary. As one focuses on the synthesizer sound, one can hear an accent on the second sixteenth note of the pattern, as shown in Example 3b. It is also possible to hear an accent on the third sixteenth, as seen in Example 3c. This last hearing begins to be especially noticeable after about fourteen seconds of the song. At this point, the timbre of the sound begins to change, as a process called a filter sweep, which gradually begins to emphasize the upper partials, is applied to it. The sound crescendos at the same time. Underworld also draws attention to the sound changes by altering the drum pattern very slightly just before the changes begin.

[18] In a sense, the interpretations shown in Examples 3b and 3c create displacement dissonances with the drumbeat. These dissonances differ from the one heard in Example 2c, however, since they are created by the reinterpretation of an already-sounding pattern, rather than by the entrance of a new pattern. As such, they are inherently more fragile: if one focuses too much on the drumbeat, the new interpretations of the synthesizer pattern seem to fade away.

[19] In addition to highlighting the ambiguity found in these examples, I have tried to emphasize the way that accentual and/or metrical interpretations evolve or emerge while one listens to them. In this respect, I am inspired by the work of Christopher Hasty and Gretchen Horlacher, who have captured this quality of musical experience very effectively in their approaches to meter. For instance, Hasty writes that "a piece of music, while it is going on, is incomplete and not fully determinate--while it is going on, it is open, indeterminate, and in the process of becoming a piece of music."(21) The processual quality that Hasty describes is particularly noticeable in electronic dance music. As in minimalist and other types of repetitive music, processes unfold very gradually in EDM. Patterns are repeated for long periods of time. For example, in "Moaner," the patterns heard in Example 3 repeat almost constantly throughout the length of the song--approximately 7-1/2 minutes. Such repetition is an asset in minimal music,(22) since it gives the listener time to rehearse different rhythmic interpretations. Although other sounds enter throughout the course of the song, masking the original, accentually indeterminate pattern, it continues to be heard beneath the surface, giving the entire song an aura of instability.

[20] We have now heard several examples of the rhythmic and metrical phenomena that occur in electronic dance music, including displacement dissonances and various types of ambiguity. In the next portion of this paper, I will focus on another feature--namely, the use of asymmetrical patterns. Although I will begin by looking at two musical examples, the majority of my discussion will focus on certain broader questions of rhythmic and metrical theory. I will highlight the issues raised by EDM's asymmetrical patterns and will suggest some approaches that are particularly useful for dealing with them.

[21] All of the examples considered thus far have contained layers of steady quarter-note or half-note motion (even though the metrical context of these layers was not always clear). However, while electronic dance music often features even rhythms very prominently, this is not always the case. For instance, in the track "Compression" by Everything But the Girl, a prominent drumbeat repeats the pattern quarter-eighth/quarter-eighth/quarter throughout. Timbral changes within the pattern suggest divisions after each of the eighth notes, and almost all of the rhythmic patterns in the track reinforce this 3+3+2 division; the only exception is the triplet pattern played by Synthesizer 1, which occurs at a low dynamic level. (See Example 4, a-e.) Thus there is very little to suggest a quarter-note pulse in this track. A 3+3+2 pattern (again divided into quarter-eighth/quarter-eighth/quarter) also underlies much of Underworld's "Pearls Girl" (though the variable fourth measure departs from this organization). (Example 5 (audio only): 56KLAN)

[22] Patterns that divide a measure asymmetrically occur in a number of different repertories, including folk music of the Balkans and drum ensemble music of sub-Saharan Africa. In some cases, especially in the former repertory, the number of pulses in the measure is a prime number, which means that the beat patterns comprising the meter must be irregularly spaced. In electronic dance music, however--as in much African percussion music--the measure contains a nonprime number of pulses.(23) This makes it considerably more difficult to determine the meter when asymmetrical patterns are prevalent, since the measure can also be divided evenly. Should the recurring asymmetrical patterns be considered metrical, resulting in meters such as 3+3+2/8 or 3+3+3+3+4/16, or should they be treated as syncopations against a regular background?

[23] In addressing this question, it is useful to see what scholars of African music have to say, as some of them have given considerable attention to the issue.(24) Thus in the next few paragraphs I will focus primarily on their arguments, though I will also relate their observations to electronic dance music. In general, Africanists' opinions on meter and asymmetrical patterns seem to fall into two different schools of thought. On the one hand, scholars such as Robert Kaufmann argue that regularly recurring asymmetrical patterns can become metrical, so that they do not seem syncopated.(25) In such cases, notes that would be accented in a 4/4 meter might sound syncopated in a meter such as 3+3+2/8. For instance (returning for the moment to EDM), in Example 4b the third note of the Synthesizer 1 part, which would fall on a half-note beat in 4/4 time, would be syncopated if the beats follow a 3+3+2 division.

[24] On the other hand, quite a few ethnomusicologists have rejected this sort of interpretation, arguing instead that listeners infer a background of evenly spaced beats behind groupings such as 3+3+2.(26) The view of meter as a grid--a regular background against which irregularity can occur--is also central to many music-theoretical models of meter. One of its most influential expressions occurs in A Generative Theory of Tonal Music. In this work, Lerdahl and Jackendoff posit the regular alternation of strong and weak beats as aprecondition for meter. In their well-formedness rules for meter, they stipulate that "at each metrical level, strong beats are spaced either two or three beats apart" and that "each metrical level must consist of equally spaced beats."(27) And while they focus specifically on Western tonal music, another music theorist, David Temperley, has recently applied their approach to both African traditional music and Western rock music.(28)

[25] Scholars of African music have objected to the grid approach for a number of reasons. Some, like Kaufmann and Stone, feel that it represents a "Western" approach to meter rather than an African one.(29)Others, while not denying that the grid can be applied to African music, question whether it really suits the music. Thus the question becomes not so much "is the meter 3+3+2/8 or 4/4?", but rather "what is the best way of conceptualizing rhythm and meter in music in which asymmetrical patterns are prominent?". This question is equally applicable to EDM featuring such patterns. While it is certainly possible to accommodate the 3+3+2 rhythms of "Compression" and "Pearls Girl" within a background of evenly spaced metrical beats, such a maneuver says little about how these patterns relate to that background.(30)

[26] Furthermore, even if one accepts the separation between rhythm and meter that is fundamental to most grid approaches, there is much to suggest that the whole relationship between the two is different in EDM and African music. In much common-practice-era Western music, departures from the metrical structure end up reinforcing it; they pull against it just enough to call attention to it. Scholars have suggested that this phenomenon occurs with syncopation in rock as well; for instance, Temperley, arguing that rock syncopations are best understood as displacements from specific metrical beats, writes that "syncopated rhythms often seem to reinforce the metre of a song rather than conflicting with it."(31) In African percussion music, on the other hand, the rhythms of the surface tend to set up expectations of their own through persistent repetition, in spite of their irregular spacing within the measure. Thus Jay Rahn writes:
[Asymmetrical] ostinatos . . . are not mere outgrowths of the referential meters of the pieces in which they occur. In each case, they represent persistent deviations from the divisive patterns that accompany them. . . . Ethnomusicologists have observed that African musicians say these sorts of asymmetrical time lines represent an audible point of reference for the ensemble as a whole. That is, in some instances, African performers apparently find their point of rhythmic orientation within a dense texture not with respect to a pulsating pattern or a divisive, unsyncopated pattern, but rather in relation to a seemingly syncopated pattern that appears to deviate constantly from the meter of the piece.(32)
In comparison, meter seems to be more purely referential, a simple yardstick rather than the focus of compositional attention--in the words of Arthur M. Jones, "a kind of metronome which exists behind the music."(33)

[27] I contend that many of the same conditions apply to electronic dance music in which asymmetrical patterns are prominent. Although almost all EDM can be transcribed in 4/4 (or, less commonly, 2/4), the ways in which the music is layered (cf. paragraphs 12-14), in combination with its persistent repetition of rhythmic patterns over long spans of time, encourages the listener to attend to the periodicities of individual layers rather than focusing on how those layers deviate from a single underlying structure.(34)

[28] These observations suggest a shift in emphasis, a change in the way rhythm is viewed with respect to meter in electronic dance music. Rhythm begins to seem not so much like a foreground phenomenon embellishing some deep background structure, but rather as a structurally significant element in its own right. Writers studying other repertoires have suggested similar changes in focus. For instance, Dave Headlam, in a discussion of rhythm and meter in the country blues, writes:
Is it more useful to regard, for instance, Robert Johnson's songs as beginning from a regular metrical basis, as many writers do, with the surface described as "irregular"? Or is an irregular (or, better, not necessarily regular) rhythmic approach more appropriate, with any regular surface meter regarded as a compositional and performance by-product of the grouping structures?(35)
[29] Likewise, Jay Rahn argues with respect to African music that "one might like to determine how such syncopated patterns can be considered 'rhythms of reference' and whether there is any sense in which they can be viewed as regular. Rather than describing these patterns negatively (e.g., as deviations from a divisive organization), perhaps one can discern positive features in their structures."(36) To this end, he has explored the special properties of these rhythms. In fact, Rahn is one of a number of writers whose work suggests alternatives to grid-based views of asymmetrical patterns. In the rest of this section (paragraphs 30-36), I will explore three of these alternatives. It is not my goal in discussing this research to suggest an all-encompassing model of asymmetry (or, more generally, of rhythm and meter) in electronic dance music, for much additional research would needed before such a model could be proposed. I believe, however, that the approaches of these authors will suggest some ways in which the construction of a broader model might proceed.

[30] Much of Rahn's work in this area builds upon diatonic set theory, drawing parallels between pitch collections such as 7-35--a set that has long been treated as "structurally privileged"--and asymmetrical rhythm patterns.(37) For instance, following Clough and Douthett,(38) Rahn notes that these "diatonic rhythms" are maximally even: in informal terms, this means that the number of attacks within each pattern is distributed as evenly as possible among the pulses in the cycle. This property can also be seen in EDM, which contains many of the diatonic rhythms that Rahn discusses. For example, the quarter-eighth/quarter-eighth/quarter (2+1+2+1+2) pattern of Example 4 and Example 5 (Audio only: 56K LAN) is a maximally even distribution of five attacks among eight pulses--in contrast, for example, to the foursquare rhythm eighth-eighth-eighth-eighth-half.(39) Furthermore, while certain foursquare patterns (e.g., four quarter notes in 4/4 time) are also maximally even, diatonic rhythms such as 2+1+2+1+2 are maximally individuated as well. In other words, each note within the pattern has a unique set of relationships with every other note. For instance, in the 2+1+2+1+2 pattern, the third note occurs three pulses after the first note, one pulse after the second note, two pulses before the fourth note, and three pulses before the last note; no other note within the pattern has the same set of relations to its surrounding notes. In addition, in contrast to maximally individuated foursquare rhythms (for example, half-quarter-eighth-eighth), notes within diatonic rhythms cannot be easily ranked in terms of metrical strength.(40)

[31] The properties cited by Rahn suggest possible reasons for the special presence of the asymmetrical patterns that occur in electronic dance music--the way in which they seem to stand on their own apart from any metrical grid. For instance, attacks within maximally even asymmetrical patterns are almost as regular as metrical beats. Because of the slight irregularities of these patterns, however, each attack has a unique relationship to every other attack, which is not the case in completely even rhythms. These structural features distinguish this type of organization from that of meter, even though the rhythms produced by diatonic organization can coexist with a variety of metrical structures.

[32] A quite different, though not unrelated, approach to the "presence" of asymmetrical patterns is suggested by some of Stephen Handel's recent work. In a 1998 article, Handel considers how metrical structure interacts with a special type of grouping known as figural organization.(41) When figural organization is in effect, tones are heard as discrete groups. The listener attends to the number of tones constituting each group, but not to the exact timing between the groups. This means that different rhythms can have the same figural organization. For instance, in a 16-pulse pattern, the rhythms X.X..X....X.X... andX.X....X..X.X... (where Xs stand for attacks, dots stand for unarticulated beats, and tones separated by only one beat are considered part of the same group) have an identical figural organization, which Handel defines as two tones, silence, one tone, silence, two tones, silence (or 2-1-2-).(42) Cognitive psychologists have claimed that meter is necessary to compensate for the imprecision of figural hearing--that listeners use it to measure the differences between otherwise similar rhythms. The three experiments that form the basis of Handel's article suggest, however, that figural organization may be just as important as meter in rhythmic perception. Handel found that listeners tend to have a hard time discriminating between rhythms with the same figural structure;(43) furthermore, the effect of meter (and of various strategies aimed at highlighting metrical organization) is particularly limited in "weakly metric" patterns (those in which the majority of attacks do not coincide with tactus-level beats). Handel's focus on the relationship between meter and "weakly metric" rhythms makes his work promising for scholars of electronic dance music, since asymmetrical patterns frequently intermingle with even rhythms in this repertory. (A classic example is 808 State's track "Cubik," in which a prominent 3+3+3+3+4 synthesizer pattern sounds against even quarter-note drumbeats.) Handel's findings, like those of Rahn, discourage us from viewing asymmetrical rhythms as embellishments of a metrical background and provide another way of accounting for their distinctive perceptual qualities.(44)

[33] All of the grid alternatives discussed thus far emphasize rhythmic organization over metrical structure. Nonetheless, they still preserve some sort of separation between rhythm and meter. Another possibility is to reject this division altogether. This is the approach Christopher Hasty takes in his recent book Meter as Rhythm. Instead of seeing metrical accents as a series of timepoints, Hasty characterizes meter in terms of events. He claims that meter arises when the duration of an event is replicated through a process called projection. See Example 6, a reproduction of his Example 7.2. In this diagram, capital letters A and B represent two events. At first, we do not know how long A will last. When B begins, however, the duration of A becomes definite; it now has the potential to be replicated by B. This projective potential is shown by the solid arrow Q; the dotted line Q' shows the projected duration.(45)

[34] Hasty also classifies events as beginnings, continuations, or anacruses. He then uses these concepts to discuss different types of meter, claiming that certain types involve more complex perceptions than others. Duple, or equal meter, is the simplest type because it involves the perception of a second event as a continuation of an initial event (see Example 7, part a, in which continuation is shown by the arrow Q). Triple meter involves a more prolonged sense of continuation, as shown in Example 7, part b; it is also more complex than duple because it denies a potential two-beat duration, as indicated by the crossed-out arrow Q inExample 8. Hasty describes this special type of denial as deferral.(46)

[35] In Hasty's system, meters consisting of irregularly spaced beats engender considerably more complicated perceptual processes. In duple and triple, all suggested projections are realized (although in the case of triple, the last projection is deferred); in an asymmetrical meter, however, some projections will never be realized. For example, in 5/4 meter with a 3+2 division, the three-beat projection suggested by the first part of the measure is denied when the second measure begins. See Example 9, in which the potential duration Q', indicated by the dotted line, is denied. A similar denial occurs in the second measure of a 2+3 pattern, as shown in Example 10 by the dotted line R'. Although Hasty claims that our perception of such patterns is complex, he notes that they should not be considered "unnatural or confused."(47) His approach is useful for EDM because it does not simply describe irregular patterns as syncopated, but rather provides a detailed description of the processes engendering their rhythmic complexity. In this way it can provide a convincing account of the richness that one perceives in the rhythmic surface of this music.(48)

[36] As the foregoing discussion has shown, the approaches of Rahn, Handel, and Hasty each provide a distinctive contribution to our understanding of the asymmetrical patterns that occur in electronic dance music. Rahn provides a structural account of the special characteristics of these rhythms, while Handel and Hasty focus more on issues of perception. Handel suggests an alternate mode of hearing that may play a role in the cognition of such patterns; Hasty, on the other hand, applies the same perceptual principle (projection) to all meters, while also showing the unique ways it plays out in irregularly spaced meters. While there are obvious differences between these approaches, they should not be considered mutually exclusive. For instance, although Rahn and Handel, unlike Hasty, preserve a separation between rhythm and meter, their respective emphases (structural properties and figural hearing) could still be situated within Hasty's method.(49)Likewise, Hasty's discussion of projection could be applied to asymmetrical patterns even if those patterns are not considered strictly metrical. In fact, I would ultimately conclude that such patterns are not generally metrical in electronic dance music (given that they usually occur in conjunction with regularly spaced patterns that can be heard as metrical more easily).(50) Nonetheless, I would argue that they should not be treated as transient foreground phenomena superimposed onto an underlying regular structure. Rather, as these three methods show us, these rhythms have a distinctive presence of their own and should be considered structurally significant in their own right.

[37] Our exploration has shown a variety of ways in which rhythm and meter are used to create musical interest in electronic dance music. Displacement dissonances subvert metrical stability; inherently ambiguous patterns encourage multiple interpretations; and asymmetrical patterns counteract the regularity of persistent even rhythms. The common link between all these phenomena is an emphasis on interpretive multiplicity. In other words, electronic dance music encourages us to hear it in a variety of ways. As we have seen, this multiplicity functions on many different levels. Individual patterns are often intrinsically ambiguous. Furthermore, they frequently remain so even when used in combination: when there is no definitive metrical layer, the distinction between metrical and antimetrical layers may not be apparent. Even when all the elements of a meter are in place, reinterpretations can turn the beat around, showing the listener that the metrical structure was not quite what it seemed to be. And finally, the persistent repetition of both asymmetrical and even patterns encourages multiple perspectives on rhythmic and metrical structure, thereby undermining any sense that there is a singular structure underlying the music.

[38] In spite of these conclusions, a number of questions remain. First, how might the instabilities and ambiguities that I have discussed be played out on a larger scale? In what ways do EDM musicians create subtlety in a work as a whole? What sorts of processes occur during the course of complete tracks, albums, and DJ sets? Second, how widespread are the phenomena considered here, and how broadly applicable are the approaches put forth to the various genres of electronic dance music?(51) Third, since EDM is first and foremost dance music, what is the relationship of dance to these rhythmic and metrical phenomena?

[39] Each of these questions is a potentially vast topic unto itself, and further research is needed before definitive answers can be given. Instead of trying to answer these questions at this time, I will leave them for future studies of electronic dance music to address.(52) Nonetheless, I believe that these issues, in combination with the phenomena already discussed, suggest something of the range and complexity that electronic dance music offers to listeners and scholars, both within music theory and without.

An earlier version of this paper was read at the Eleventh Biennial Symposium of Research in Music Theory, Bloomington, Indiana, February 25, 2000. I would like to thank all those who have read and commented on the paper, including the two anonymous reviewers, Gretchen Horlacher, Harald Krebs, Eric McKee, Jeffrey Magee, Felicia Miyakawa, and Tanner Menard.


Juan Atkins. WaxTrax! MasterMix Volume 1. Chicago: WaxTrax! Records, 1998. CD.
808 State. Cubik. New York: Tommy Boy Records, 1990. CD single.
The Chemical Brothers. Dig Your Own Hole. New York: Astralwerks, 1996. CD.
Everything But the Girl. Temperamental. New York: Atlantic, 1998. CD.
Underworld. Beaucoup Fish. New York: V2 Records, 1998. CD.
________. Second Toughest in the Infants. Chicago: WaxTrax! Records, 1996. CD.

Mark J. Butler
Department of Music
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Market St., Suite 300
Philadelphia, PA 19104


1. Because of the profusion of terms describing the various subcategories of contemporary dance music, I prefer to use the umbrella term "electronic dance music" when speaking of the repertoire as a whole. Dance music fans in the general public--who are highly sensitive to issues of style and genre in this repertoire--also employ this term. Other catch-all terms, such as "techno" and "electronica," are problematic in various ways: to dance music fans, "techno" frequently connotes something more specific (a particular style of electronic dance music), and "electronica" is often viewed suspiciously as a marketing term devised by the music industry. For descriptions of the various genres and subgenres of electronic dance music, see "Talking Music: Sounds from the Dance," in The New York Times Onlinehttp://www.nytimes.com/library/music/031300dj-techno.html; links to sound files, interviews, and other features are included. Please note that "electronic dance music" will occasionally be abbreviated in this article as "EDM."
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2. These particular quotations are taken, respectively, from the following articles in the Detroit Free Pressdescribing the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival: David Lyman, "Detroit Dance Fever," 28 May 2001, C6; Brian McCollum, Tim Pratt, and Tamara Warren, "Techno and Torrents in Hart Plaza," 28 May 2001, C6; and Brian McCollum, "Unbeatable," 29 May 2001, D3.
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3. Similar ambiguities have been explored by the psychologist Stephen Handel, who has studied the cognition of polyrhythms such as two against three, two against five, and so on. In a series of experiments, Handel and co-researcher James Oshinsky played selected polyrhythms for listeners and asked them to tap along with what they perceived to be the beat; their results suggest that certain combinations encourage a variety of beat placements.  See Stephen Handel and James S. Oshinsky, "The Meter of Syncopated Auditory Polyrhythms,"Perception and Psychophysics 30.1 (1981), 1-9.
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4. Harald Krebs, Fantasy-Pieces: Metrical Dissonance in the Music of Robert Schumann (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 33. Krebs describes the type of polyrhythm discussed by Handel as a grouping dissonance.  This type consists of layers whose cardinalities differ (for instance, a 3-layer against a 5-layer), whereas a displacement dissonance always involves two or more layers of the same cardinality (ibid., 31).
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5. Maury Yeston, The Stratification of Musical Rhythm (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1976).
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6. Krebs, Fantasy-Pieces, 2, 30.
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7. Krebs does refer very briefly to such a situation, noting that "where there is no metrical framework, the layer initiated earlier usually functions as the referential layer" (ibid., 261, n. 20). While this principle seems plausible, it remains hypothetical within the context of Krebs's book, as none of his examples fall into this category. Even if we do accept it, it is difficult to apply in this case, as both layers begin almost simultaneously and at a low volume. Krebs has concurred with my assertion that selective attention can change which layer functions as referential in this example (personal communication, May 2000).
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8. Krebs believes that most displacement dissonances are heard as forward displacements; thus, he usually expresses them with positive numbers--for example, D4+3 rather than D4-1 (ibid., 35-36). In this example, since there is no definitive metrical layer, this distinction is not especially relevant.
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9. At the same time, the increase in metrical consonance is counterbalanced by the syncopation of the new pitch pattern. Interestingly, if any other note within this pattern were taken as the downbeat, it would be considerably less syncopated; one such rearrangement is shown in Example 1c. Such a move, however, would shift the percussion parts onto weak sixteenth-note beats. It would be quite unusual for the bass drum to be syncopated in this manner; when present, it tends to function as a source of metrical stability in EDM, most likely due to its status as the lowest and most resonant element in the texture. Research in music cognition supports this claim (for instance, Handel and Oshinsky found that when the frequency between metrically dissonant elements varies, listeners tend to choose the lower frequency as stable; see "Syncopated Auditory Polyrhythms," 4), as does observation of EDM in performance (when played at a typical performance volume, the bass drum will be felt throughout the entire body).
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10. Here I employ a distinction between conservative and radical listeners first suggested by Andrew Imbrie. (See Andrew Imbrie, "'Extra' Measures and Metrical Ambiguity in Beethoven," in Beethoven Studies, ed. Alan Tyson [New York: Norton, 1973], 45-66.) When presented with conflicting cues, conservative listeners tend to hold onto previously established metrical interpretations for as long as possible, whereas radicals move on to new interpretations more readily. In Example 2b, a conservative hearing is supported by the lack of a strong downbeat orientation in the drumbeat pattern and by the fact that the articulations of this pattern occur on weak beats of the previously established meter; a radical hearing is supported by the previously mentioned tendency of low drumbeats to function as metrically stable in EDM (in contrast to cymbals, which usually function as backbeats) and by the fact that the drum pattern begins one eighth note before the synth and cymbal patterns (if the drum were the backbeat, its pattern would more logically begin on the "and" of beat one).
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11. Dave Headlam, "Blues Transformations in the Music of Cream," in Understanding Rock: Essays in Musical Analysis, ed. John Covach and Graeme M. Boone (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), 73-79. Headlam does not use the term "displacement dissonance"; this application of Krebs's terminology is my own.
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12. See John Covach, "Progressive Rock, 'Close to the Edge,' and the Boundaries of Style," in Understanding Rock, 11-14. It should be noted, however, that Covach's examples differ from those previously cited, in that (in Krebsian terms) they would be considered grouping rather than displacement dissonances. (As before, the application of Krebs's terminology is my own rather than the author's, though Covach does use the term "metric dissonance.") While displacement dissonances are quite common in electronic dance music, grouping dissonances are relatively rare.
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13. For instance, see Cynthia Folio, "An Analysis of Polyrhythm in Selected Improvised Jazz Solos," inConcert Music, Rock, and Jazz since 1945: Essays and Analytical Studies, ed. Elizabeth West Marvin and Richard Hermann (Rochester, N.Y.: University of Rochester Press, 1995), 103-34. Folio finds examples of both grouping and displacement dissonances (which she refers to as type A and type B dissonances, following an earlier usage of Krebs), as well as a third type (type C) involving out-of-phase tempos.
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14. Cf. Covach, "Progressive Rock," 14.
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15. For the most part, however, Folio's examples present a succession of distinct, short-lived dissonances, a feature that distinguishes them from Covach's examples (in which considerable time intervals separate appearances of related dissonances) and from EDM (in which a single dissonance often repeats continuously for a long period of time).
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16. There are a few notable exceptions to this trend: certain styles of house music feature vocals quite prominently; drum-n-bass/jungle DJs sometimes perform in conjunction with rappers (MCs); and "crossover" artists such as Moby are also more likely to utilize vocals. Nevertheless, the above statement holds true for the majority of electronic dance music; it is quite common to hear several hours worth of music at an EDM performance without encountering a single vocal. Furthermore, the exceptions to this phenomenon tend to push toward or be classified as other genres; for instance, certain performers are classified as crossover acts because their vocally driven songs are seen as moving toward the style and structure of radio-friendly pop.
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17. DJs also play an important role in certain other genres, such as rap and turntablism. Rap in particular shares many aspects of EDM's layered approach to musical construction, and layering has been emphasized in analytical approaches to rap as well. For instance, see Tricia Rose, Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1994); Robert Walser, "Rhythm, Rhyme, and Rhetoric in the Music of Public Enemy," Ethnomusicology 39.2 (1995), 193-217; and Adam Krims, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000). Nonetheless, the absence of vocals, in combination with the more central role of the DJ, creates significant textural differences between EDM and rap.
        It should also be noted that live performances (generally called "live p.a.'s") are becoming increasingly common in electronic dance music, especially in its more experimental genres. These performances are usually quite different from those seen in other types of popular music, though. The artists do not play any sort of standard instrument; instead, they manipulate studio technology and software in a real-time environment. (An extreme example occurred at the 2001 Detroit Electronic Music Festival, when artist Nobukazu Takemura and another musician performed solely on laptop computers.) Another difference is that many EDM artists create new works when performing rather than attempting to recreate their recorded works.
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18. This contrasts with the example given by Headlam, in which a meter is definitively established before the introduction of an antimetrical layer. Covach also argues for a clear distinction between metrical and antimetrical layers in the first presentation of the dissonance he discusses (Covach, "Progressive Rock," 11 and 13).
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19. Steve Reich, "Non-Western Music and the Western Composer," Analyse musicale 11 (1988), 49.
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20. Cf. Simha Arom, "Time Structure in Music of Central Africa: Periodicity, Meter, Rhythm, and Polyrhythmics," Leonardo 22 (1989), 91.
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21. Christopher Hasty, Meter as Rhythm (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 3.
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22. Cf. Gretchen Horlacher, "Multiple Meters and Metrical Processes in the Music of Steve Reich," Int├ęgral(forthcoming), 2, where this point is made with respect to minimalist (as opposed to more generally "minimal") music.
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23. In EDM, measures usually consist of either eight eighth-note or sixteen sixteenth-note pulses; measure lengths of eight, nine, twelve, or sixteen pulses are common in African music. In both repertoires, however, the number of attacks articulating an asymmetrical pattern is usually an odd number, such as 3, 5, or 7.  See Jay Rahn, "Asymmetrical Ostinatos in Sub-Saharan Music: Time, Pitch, and Cycles Reconsidered," In Theory Only 9.7 (1987), 27-28, for a listing of some of the patterns that commonly occur in African music.
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24. In turning to this body of scholarship, I am not attempting to suggest a relationship of influence between West African percussion music and electronic dance music. Rather, I consider this literature because it addresses a musical characteristic shared by the two repertories. While I personally believe that EDM probably has been influenced by African music, either directly (e.g., through musicians' experiences with African music) or indirectly (e.g., through African-American musical traditions), to consider this possibility in detail would take us well beyond the scope of this paper.
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25. Robert Kaufman, "African Rhythm: A Reassessment," Ethnomusicology 24 (1980), 394. Other scholars who argue for the existence of irregularly spaced beats in African music include Ruth Stone and Rose Brandel. See Ruth M. Stone, "In Search of Time in African Music," Music Theory Spectrum 7 (1985), 139-48; and Rose Brandel, The Music of Central Africa (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1961).
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26. For instance, see Richard Waterman, "African Influence on the Music of the Americas," in Acculturation in the Americas (Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Americanists), ed. Sol Tax (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1952), 207-18; J. H. Kwabena Nketia, The Music of Africa, (New York: W. W. Norton, 1974); and David Locke, "Principles of Offbeat Timing and Cross-Rhythm in Southern Eve Dance Drumming," Ethnomusicology 26.2 (1982), 217-46.
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27. Fred Lerdahl and Ray Jackendoff, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983), 69. Lerdahl and Jackendoff do posit these rules as idiom-specific, however, and acknowledge (97) that "certain other metrical idioms have more complex rules in place of MWFR4, permitting structured alternation of different-length metrical units." (MWFR4, or Metrical Well-Formedness Rule 4, is the second of the rules given above.) Nonetheless, they address these idioms only briefly, and this exception is rarely mentioned in applications of their work.
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28. See David Temperley, "Meter and Grouping in African Music: A View from Music Theory,"Ethnomusicology 44.1 (2000), 65-96, and "Syncopation in Rock: A Perceptual Perspective," Popular Music18.1 (1999), 19-40. Although there are similarities between the GTTM approach and some of the views of meter expressed by ethnomusicologists, I would disagree with Temperley's assertion that "there is almost unanimous agreement" among ethnomusicologists that African music has meter as defined by Lerdahl and Jackendoff (Temperley, "Meter and Grouping in African Music," 68; see also 76). In fact, scholars present very diverse opinions on meter and rhythm in this music; even those who seem to share the same general view often differ markedly on various points. Furthermore, due to an unfortunate lack of intellectual exchange between music theory and ethnomusicology--a situation that has only begun to change quite recently--it is difficult to make claims that relate ethnomusicological views of meter to specific music-theoretical ones with any certainty.
        In his 1999 paper, Temperley argues that syncopations in rock can be understood as displacements from specific positions in a metrical grid. While this is helpful in showing how Lerdahl and Jackendoff's model might be extended to highly syncopated repertoires, it will not be discussed at length here, as it is not especially applicable to situations like the one presented above for several reasons: first, it is based on textual accentuation, which is rarely a factor in EDM; second, in all of the examples considered by Temperley, the accompanying instruments clearly convey an evenly spaced metrical structure; and third, none of Temperley's examples contain regularly recurring asymmetrical patterns like the ones shown in Example 4e.
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29. Kaufmann, "African Rhythm," 394; Stone, "In Search of Time," 140.
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30. Temperley notes a similar problem with respect to Lerdahl and Jackendoff's theory. In their approach, patterns that dissonate with the meter are simply described as syncopated; the ways in which syncopation functions remain relatively untheorized. Temperley, "Syncopation in Rock," 25-26.
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31. Ibid.
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32. Rahn, "Asymmetrical Ostinatos," 25.
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33. Arthur M. Jones, Studies in African Music, (London: Oxford University Press, 1959), 20-21.
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34. This general observation may be less applicable to subgenres that feature vocals or instrumental solos. In such cases, the voice or solo instrument may function as a rhythmic and textural "figure" against an accompanimental metrical "ground," and Temperley's rock-based model of syncopation may be more applicable.
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35. Headlam, "Blues Transformations," 87. Headlam ultimately concludes that either approach may be relevant for different songs and even within the same song.
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36. Rahn, "Asymmetrical Ostinatos," 25-26.
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37. See Rahn, "Asymmetrical Ostinatos," and "Turning the Analysis Around: African-Derived Rhythms and Europe-Derived Music Theory," Black Music Research Journal 16.1 (1996), 71-89. Another important article adopting a similar approach is Jeff Pressing, "Cognitive Isomorphisms between Pitch and Rhythm in World Musics: West Africa, the Balkans and Western Tonality," Studies in Music 17 (1983), 38-61.
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38. John Clough and Jack Douthett, "Maximally Even Sets," Journal of Music Theory 35.1 (1991), 93-173.
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39. In this paragraph I use Rahn's term "diatonic rhythms" in place of "asymmetrical patterns"; describing the rhythm provided as an example (2+1+2+1+2) as "asymmetrical" is problematic, since its durations form a palindrome. In both "Compression" and "Pearls Girl," however, this pattern is treated as a variant of 3+3+2, which clearly divides the measure asymmetrically. In fact, all of the diatonic rhythms I have observed in EDM are either literally asymmetrical or are grouped asymmetrically. Rahn himself includes 2+1+2+1+2 in a list of "asymmetrical ostinatos" in his 1987 paper (see pp. 27-28), though he replaces this term with "diatonic rhythms" in his 1996 article. Since my paper as a whole is not about the "diatonic" aspects of these rhythms, I will continue to use the term "asymmetrical patterns" throughout the article.
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40. Rahn, "Turning the Analysis Around," 79-80.
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41. Stephen Handel, "The Interplay between Metric and Figural Rhythmic Organization," Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 24.5 (1998), 1546-61.
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42. Ibid., 1546-47.
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43. Handel first demonstrated this point in "The Differentiation of Rhythmic Structure," Perception and Psychophysics 52 (1992), 492-507.
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44. Although Handel presents a wide variety of weakly metric rhythms, he does not focus specifically on the figural properties of asymmetrical patterns. This is certainly a promising topic for future research, however. He does in fact single out the rhythm found in "Cubik", 3+3+3+3+4 (or X..X..X..X..X...), for special comment, noting that it differs from the other rhythms in his study in that it is comprised entirely of single-tone figures (its figural organization is 1-1-1-1-1-; Handel, "Metric and Figural Rhythms," 1559). This attribute suggests an interesting relationship to the maximal evenness discussed by Rahn.
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45. Hasty, Meter as Rhythm, 84-86.
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46. Ibid., 131, 133-34.
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47. Ibid., 146.
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48. Another work that should be mentioned in this regard is Gretchen Horlacher's article "Bartok's 'Change of Time': Coming Unfixed," Music Theory Online 7.1 (2001). Horlacher claims that the processive approach suggested by Hasty is "especially relevant for music that is vitally 'irregular,' for it values such irregularities as capable of shaping the essential nature of time within the context of a given piece" (paragraph 4.1).
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49. While figural hearing might seem incompatible with Hasty's emphasis on the projection of specificdurations, I would argue that it could still be posited as an additional mode complementary to projective hearing. Furthermore, Handel's characterization of meter as "emergent" ("Metric and Figural Rhythms," 1560) also resonates with Hasty's approach. Hasty does in fact discuss research by Handel (see Meter as Rhythm, 124-25 and 173), though the passages cited do not address figural organization in particular.
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50. In other words, situations in which they occupy every layer of the texture without opposition for the course of an entire track (as in "Compression") are somewhat exceptional. It is not uncommon, however, for them to dominate entire sections of a track (as in Walt J's track "Reborn," as remixed by Juan Atkins on WaxTrax! MasterMix Volume 1); even more common are situations in which they compete for prominence with symmetrical patterns, as in "Cubik."
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51. Though (as I will argue in the concluding paragraph) further research is necessary to answer these questions fully, I would like to comment briefly on the issues raised in this sentence. As discussed above (paragraphs 10-15), the phenomena addressed in this paper are not limited to EDM, though their manifestations within it are part of a distinctive constellation of features. Regarding the various genres of EDM itself, I believe that the research presented here can be applied to a broad cross-spectrum of the music, though as I have noted elsewhere, certain features may be more applicable to some genres than others. In selecting the musical examples presented here, I have chosen works from relatively well-known artists with the intent of making the paper more accessible. The artists represented incorporate a variety of genres into their work. The Chemical Brothers are most commonly classified as "big beat," a term referring to dance music that incorporates some of the song structures and sonic elements of rock and hip-hop (though I believe this aspect of their work has been overemphasized). Everything But the Girl have a long history that has only recently (ca. 1995) begun to include EDM elements; since then, however, they have collaborated with many prominent dance musicians and have successfully incorporated a variety of EDM styles into their work. Underworld (who recently disbanded) are difficult to place within a particular genre, as their individualistic sound shows the influence of techno, deep house, breakbeat, and dub; however, their music has often been characterized broadly as techno (for instance, see Dom Phillips, "Underworld," in The Rough Guide to Techno[London: The Rough Guides, 2000]). In spite of the commercial success of these artists and the fact that some of their work includes elements of other popular music genres, I have avoided work that might be considered "crossover" (such as The Chemical Brothers' collaborations with Oasis and other pop musicians), and I believe that the music included here represents trends central to EDM.
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52. Many of these questions will in fact be addressed in my doctoral dissertation, "A Study of Rhythm and Meter in Electronic Dance Music, with a Consideration of the Enactment of These Features in Dance" (Indiana University, in progress).
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