Techno and meditation: the unexpected connection
The most dedicated techno heads and fervid revellers might have frowned already, just looking at the title of the article and deciding that this is not for them. If you are still reading though, it might be because you have often found yourself attracted by the mesmerising elements of techno and equally fascinated by the bliss given by meditation practices.
The aim of this article is not to discuss the relationship between wellness and club culture, nor to talk about sober raving. Despite a trend that sees an increasing number of clubbers choosing alcohol-free cocktails, fancy pillows and ambient music over gritty basements and hard dancing fuelled with drugs, this is not what this piece is about. What we want here is exploring a possible connection between two worlds that really stand less apart than we think.
Humans have always sought ecstatic experiences, moments of self-loss, where going behind the ordinary ego and feel part of something bigger. These moments require dedication and focus, traits that seem to be common to both meditation practices and the art of making music.
This is, for example, what DJ and producer Lucy discusses in Deeper Vision, a very interesting feature by Electronic Beats from a few years ago.
Lucy explains how yoga and meditation taught him how to concentrate and be focused for a long time, something that he has brought to the “techno-sphere” of his life, as response to his “obsessive personality”.
“What you do when guiding a meditation session is very similar to what happens in a club”, says the artist, who also teaches regular classes in a Berlin yoga studio. Equally fascinated by synths and old gongs, Lucy is interested in how sounds are created, simply letting things be and observing them. This is exactly what happens when we meditate and acknowledge that our mind wanders.
Surgeon is another artist who found the discipline of yoga as complementary to his work as a musician. "On a psychological level, I think it has made me much calmer. And in terms of my gigs, it helps me to focus and concentrate for much longer periods of time than I ever could before. That has really helped me enjoy and improve, I think, my performance”, said the DJ interviewed by Resident Advisor.
If yoga and meditation are helping artists to focus and concentrate, what about the rest of us? Can a similar vision apply to the everyday life of people not involved in the creative process, but simply enjoying dancing to music?
In recent years, several festivals have increased the space dedicated to yoga and meditation, singing bowls’ baths and healing arts, proving that perhaps partying and meditating can be seen as complementary.
During this type of practices, the brainwaves are stimulated to enter a deep meditative state, where body and mind vibrations are often synchronised with sound frequencies. People may obtain clearer visions or feel stronger emotions, reaching an enhanced altered state that reduces disharmonies.
Ecstatic experiences brought by repetition of mantras, sounds or, alternatively, a long time spent in silence observing our mind-wandering can be compared to what happens when people dance to repetitive rhythms for hours.
Music plays an important role in regulating our emotions: melodies and sounds can calm us, bringing back past memories or allowing us to envisage new worlds and meanings. Dancing can reduce overthinking and self-consciousness, enabling people to access a self-alienation state, where getting lost in the music.
As the book, The Art of Losing control by Jules Evans reports, ”strenuous dancing may stimulate the autonomic nervous system until it switches from the sympathetic nervous system, which is used for fight-and-flight, into the parasympathetic nervous system, used for relaxation and healing. This gives us the calm, cathartic feeling we get after a really good dance”.
A cathartic experience was also one of the outcomes of In Dreams Awake, an event organised at the end of last month by London-based label Metempsychosis Records.
A music experience built around the concept of lucid dreaming, the event was made of four acts, each one exploring, in a different way, the relationship between conscious and unconscious.
Starting with the Awake State, Flaminia performed a live set made of ancestral sounds, created with bells and synths. Guided into a meditation practice, the participants were asked to sit on the floor and close their eyes, to seek a conscious experience of connection with their surroundings and the music.
The second act was performed by End Train, who took the crowd into a Dream State. In this case, people could sit, stand or lie down, keeping their eyes open. A live performance about the man and the machine, the way they interact and move together, an experience blending the human voice with external vibrations and, of course, the music.
The third act, performed by Tapefeed, was about lucid dreams. In a room smelling of incense, the participants were asked to dance freely. More piercing sounds were introduced in this live set, almost representing the struggle to penetrate that deep conscious-unconscious state that is lucid dreaming. A ritualistic set performed by Burden closed the experience, bringing everyone back to reality.
Interestingly enough, the path through consciousness, dream state and lucid dreaming required participants to start on the floor and had them dancing at the very last step: to be awake and conscious we need to be still and focused, dreaming really is a dance into the unconscious.
From artists to clubbers, what perhaps brings techno connoisseurs and meditators together is something quite simple and part of human nature: the search of freedom, the quest for a time and space where getting lost.
Written by / Stefania Trinchero
Pictures by /Olivier Miche - Raul Cacho Oses