As affirmed in the time of corona, ‘transformation’ is a leitmotif of the dance music cultures of electronica. Experts on ritual have long known that the condition of liminality – being in-between or on the threshold – is pivotal to transformation, whether of individuals, societies or cultures. And researchers of dance culture movements recognise that the socio-sonic aesthetic known as the ‘vibe’ is an archetypically liminal state of affairs. In electronic dance music genres, scenes, and event cultures the world over, the vibe evolved as an optimal meta-liminal collision of pleasure and the sacred. At the same time, pandemicity and the era of ‘social distancing’ have restricted, tested, and pushed the boundaries of event design. In this new era of crisis, public health safety became a feature integral to the transformative exegesis. Using examples from world electronica, from psytrance to techno, this presentation offers a brief history of the vibe, with attention to its resilience in a world of risk.
is a cultural anthropologist specialising in transformational events, movements, and figures. A Marie Curie Senior Research Fellow at the University of Huddersfield and author of the forthcoming intellectual biography Terence McKenna: The Strange Attractor (2023), among his many books are Mystery School in Hyperspace: A Cultural History of DMT (2015), Global Tribe: Technology, Spirituality and Psytrance (2012), Technomad: Global Raving Countercultures (2009), and an anthology of essays currently edited on McKenna. Graham St John is the Executive Editor of Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture.