The Null Device

Does house music cause violence

Much has been said about the alleged epidemic of random alcohol-fuelled violence outside Melbourne's night spots and its possible causes. Now, The Age's Fiona Scott-Norman suggests that it might be due to the boom in venues playing house music, once confined to Chapel Street, but now part of every venue aiming for the cashed-up-bogan dollar; in particular, to house music being poorly suited for facilitating social interaction:
And then there's house music. It's pretty much the ultimate "anti-romance" music. It's played loud, it's repetitive, it's not fun, it's unremarkable and unmemorable — even if you can make yourself heard over the top, it gives you nothing to talk about, and appears to be the first music ever created by humankind that bypasses the emotions. Again, fine if your aim is to dance like a maniac until 6am, or whenever you start coming down, but truly terrible if you're not on chemicals.
So the clubs are chock-full of young folk who can't talk to each other, can't touch each other, have zero opportunity for intimacy, and can only dance in their own little world and hope someone's looking at their booty. The only tools in their seriously denuded seduction kit are alcohol and shouting. So yet another night ends, they're disconnected and frustrated, back on the streets, and totally hammered. Gee, I wonder why there's so much violence.
Playing almost any other kind of music would reduce street violence. Doesn't matter if it's disco, funk, yacht rock, indie pop, Mongolian throat-singing, gypsy punk, neo-lounge or Latin, so long as it's not joyless, thumping background music.

There are 12 comments on "Does house music cause violence":

Posted by: gusset http://blog.gusset.co.uk Fri Jan 8 10:16:27 2010

"the first music ever created by humankind that bypasses the emotions" That seems a tad harsh. I'm sure there are other examples and I'm also sure there is good house music that doesn't do this. However, the generalisation may work here if the clubs are playing shit.

Posted by: Barry McKenzie Fri Jan 8 14:21:54 2010

Just the usual sort of rubbish we expect from the Age, just ignore it (like most people) and it will go away.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Fri Jan 8 14:22:34 2010

I think that the term "house music" is used here in a colloquial sense meaning "interchangeably naff electronic dance music for bars", rather than the precise sense.

Posted by: Greg http://spill-label.org Sat Jan 9 08:06:05 2010

My reading of the article is that it's the volume, rather than the genre, of the music that is the problem: "So the clubs are chock-full of young folk who can't talk to each other, can't touch each other, have zero opportunity for intimacy, and can only dance in their own little world and hope someone's looking at their booty. The only tools in their seriously denuded seduction kit are alcohol and shouting. So yet another night ends, they're disconnected and frustrated, back on the streets, and totally hammered." .. I think this is basically correct - it's impossible to socialize properly in the presence of loud background music, so people drink instead. I blogged my argument for this a while back (follow link).

Posted by: Greg Sat Jan 9 09:45:35 2010

Actually, reading this again, I was wrong - the author does specify genre as well as volume. *I* think the problem is just volume! :-)

Posted by: Sun Jan 10 07:43:04 2010

from memory I agree with yr bloggy thoughts (Greg) on Volume, but I think Fiona Whatsername is making the important distinctions (between the situation now, and when you & I and she I guess, were in the meatmarket -let's say 20-25 years ago) wrt genre & drugs. If a club played shifty music (pre CDs etc) it involved heaps more human/accountable decision-making, if not from a DJ then say someone at the bar with a record collection and a cassetterecorder. Generic housemusic really is for pillpoppers, and pills are not what they were. In the 70s/early80s we had "pills" but they were things a few stole from their medicine cabinet; the idea of buying chemicals to party with didn't go mainstream til well after the advent (late80s) of Ecstasy - and what is generally consumed, since then, has been a cocktail of drugs, including violence-linked ones like caffeine & speed. Taurine ("energy") drinks weren't around/legal/mainstream til the late90s too. All this (new) shit (& poppers/amyl/etc is frighteningly commonplace.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Sun Jan 10 14:34:04 2010

Also, the fact that plugging an iPod full of tunes to some speakers is easier than playing records, while changing the contents of said iPod is less easy than changing a CD, has undoubtedly had an adverse effect on music in bars (not to mention cafés; see also the post about the Tin Pot). Whereas a few years ago, knowledgeable staff cueing up their own choice of CDs was the easier choice, now it's a lot less hassle to have an immutable mix of lowest-common-denominator material and put it on shuffle.

Perhaps someone should devise a music player for venues; possibly a computer-based device, like a cheaper version of radio-station jukeboxes. Low-end netbooks and some Linux-based music player could be a start.

Posted by: unixdj Sun Jan 10 14:54:24 2010

Around here lots of restaurants and cafés have a computer playing lowest-common-denominator material on shuffle, which is not much better than iPod (even worse, considering that staff often brings their own iPods, but the computer playlist is controlled by a contractor who put it there).

As to the original article, if techno and house were causing violence, Berlin would be a bloodbath.

Posted by: acb http://dev.null.org/acb/ Mon Jan 11 00:51:15 2010

Any replacement for iPods would have to be designed to encourage personalisation and customisation. Staff would be able to bring in their own tunes on USB drives and play them (importing them into the library could be good, but could run foul of copyright laws). Songs, albums and playlists should be groupable or taggable, and it should be possible to say "play on shuffle everything tagged with x" (where 'x' could be "afternoon", "Dave's tunes", "garage rock" or whatever).

Posted by: Dave Mon Jan 11 15:47:19 2010

Maybe if 90% of the women who hang around in bars weren't lesbians, drug addicts and/or ugly goths guys would be more inclined to get touchy-feely with them and resist the urge to punch on in the street when they get chucked out. Or maybe Melbourne is just full of bogan fuckheads?

Posted by: ianw http://www.tblspn.net/ianw Mon Jan 18 02:46:50 2010

having never seen a bar with such a turnout of lesbians or goths I'm a bit stumped, but then I've never been out on King st and/or personally witnessed any violence in Melbourne. I know a few retail & pub staff however, and it seems to me the norm is now, in smallish businesses at least, for staff to operate the house iPod/s (or their own). My understanding is that shops that have such music pay a fee to APRA, but don't have to supply a list of what is played; presumable it is divvy'd up amongst artists/copyright-holders according to the lists submitted by radio & tv stations?

Posted by: Cordell Dumling Tue Jan 19 02:09:12 2010

Does she actually mean rap music but doesn't understand the difference between rap/hip-hop and electronic music generally?

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