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  • DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music ed. by Bernardo Attias, Anna Gavanas, and Hillegonda Rietveld
  • Eva J. Egolf (bio)
dj Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music. Edited by Bernardo Attias, Anna Gavanas, and Hillegonda Rietveld. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013. 344 pp.

Recently, electronic dance music (edm) has gained popularity in the United States, with increased radio airtime and prominent circuit djs such as Tiesto commanding an average of $250,000 per appearance for a two-hour set.20 Despite its nascent commercial success in the United States, edm’s founding subgenres, [End Page 204] techno and house, date from the early and mid-1980s and have their roots in the midwestern cities of Detroit and Chicago, respectively. These originating subgenres spawned innovation and transformation of new subgenres. edm, a term not used at the time of the Detroit techno and Chicago house scenes, has come to encapsulate various and multifarious traditions of dance music: house, techno, jungle, drum ’n’ bass, and dubstep, to name a few. As multiple local scenes and traditions have emerged, edm has become a banner term for these varied scenes and traditions.

It is against this background that Attias, Gavanas, and Rietveld have edited DJ Culture in the Mix: Power, Technology, and Social Change in Electronic Dance Music. This book reflects the disparate nature of edm’s current status, as multiple scenes, settings, subgenres, and locales are reflected in the chapters. If the chapters seem to hang together awkwardly, it is only because the banner of edm has grown to include so many different subgenres, locales, and settings. The various locales covered include Johanna Paulsson’s chapter regarding the synthscen subgenre in Sweden and Germany; Anna Gavanas and Rosa Reitsamer’s research among female djs in Berlin, London, Stockholm, and Vienna; Jonathan Yu’s investigation of the djs’ use of new technology in Melbourne; Ed Montano’s ethnographic research in the Sydney club scene; Chris Christodoulou’s examination of the drum ’n’ bass subgenre in London; Tim Lawrence’s history of the Saint club in New York; and Ivan Paolo de Paris Fontanari’s examination of a peripheral edm scene in São Paulo, Brazil. The diversity of musics represented in the volume is extremely wide, allowing multiple voices to be included in the discourse and offering fresh perspectives on edm research.

Before edm became a topic taken up by music scholars, the literature surrounding the subject included book-length texts addressing single subgenres or large and encompassing texts penned by music journalists.21 Eventually, academic writing increased, with a few ethnographic monographs of local scenes and the genesis of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture.22 What is enjoyable about the Attias, Gavanas, and Rietveld collection is that it not only draws on perspectives from academics associated with musicology but also includes specialists in social anthropology, cultural studies, communication studies, and media practice. Not only are the local scenes discussed diverse, but the academic perspectives and disciplines represented include multiple views. This is interesting at a macrolevel. It reflects the idea that the literature surrounding [End Page 205] edm is growing: it includes academia’s diverse and growing interest in the subject, reflecting a depth of discussion from multiple perspectives.

While there is a great diversity of places and local scenes in this book, there appear to be several central themes in edm scholarship with which authors are concerned lately, both in this text and in related literature. In this collection, several chapters center around these themes: the emergence of the superstar/circuit dj (Montano), the interplay between evolving technology and its impact on the art form of djing (Bernardo Attias, Mirko Hall, and Naida Zukic, Yu, and to a lesser extent Kai Fikentscher) and the absence of female djs (Gavanas and Reitsamer, Paulsson). The relationship between djing and technology is explored in light of emerging debates surrounding recent technological developments in this text. However, other edm writings have discussed the influence and usage of technology, reinforcing the interplay between djing and technology as a long-standing and important...


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