Trance in Music

June 11, 2018

No, this blog is not about trance music, the EDM genre, per se. Although it definitely is a music that induces a trance. But what does such a trance mean? How is it induced and why would it be desirable? To give a hint: it relies on repetition, in music and the mind. 


[ whirling dervishes ]


As the whirling dervishes have shown: endless repetition induces trance. Their constant bodily rotation is a symbolic imitation of planets circling the sun, which at the same time is a means to meditation. This practice is typically supported by repetitive (vocal) music that helps to keep focus and rhythm, this is hardly any different for any other trance-inducing music.


In a blend of music and motion one can reach a transcendent state of mind. Song-based musical performances fail in that respect because of the silence in between songs. A continuous flow of sound is needed in order to reach a state of trance, and most importantly: a constant pulse. Looking at contemporary forms of electronic dance music, we can see that these parameters are vital to the reception of the music. 


[ psy-trance is a good example of a trance-inducing repetitive music ]


Genres such as psy-trance and minimal techno are often said to be “lacking a drop”. That is, there is no climax to which the tension rises and then is relieved in an ecstatic manner. Instead, these musics build upon hour-long repetition that allows its audience to immerse themselves in the music and become one with the flow. 


The accusation directed at these styles that they are only able to be enjoyed on drugs are preposterous, as the music in itself is trance-inducing and can be mind-altering. With parallel rhythmic bodily motion and techniques such as “breathe-to-the-beat” one can reach a state of trance close to the religious ecstasy of the Sufi dancers above.

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