The Moment the House Lights Dimmed for the Last Time: A Story of Electronic Music Pioneers, The New York City Club Scene, and the Rise of DJ Culture
By Alex Ross
Alfred A. Knopf
256 pp., $25.95
When David Bowie died in January, many mourned his passing by playing his music or sharing their favorite songs on social media. But Alex Ross, music critic for The New Yorker, did something different: he wrote a 4,000-word essay about how Bowie’s albums influenced his own life. The piece was a love letter to an artist who had changed music forever with his synthesis of pop and avant-garde influences.
With Bowie gone, it seems fitting that Ross has continued to explore this nexus of pop and experimentation in “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century,” a monumental book about classical music published in 2007. Now comes “Wagnerism,” a stunning study of Richard Wagner’s influence on artists from Friedrich Nietzsche and Marcel Proust to Thomas Mann and Virginia Woolf. Taken together, these three books constitute a trilogy about how high culture has infiltrated mass entertainment and vice versa.
The moment the house lights dimmed for the last time, my stomach fluttered. What were we in for? The crowd cheered as the band walked onstage. The music started and the lights illuminated the stage. I knew this was going to be a great night!
The concert began with an incredible opening act. The lead singer wailed on her electric guitar and sang at the top of her lungs. Her voice sounded great and she had a very strong stage presence. She was dressed in a black leather mini skirt and a tight red tank top that showed off her rock hard abs.
The second act was a little slower but still very enjoyable. They played an acoustic set that was very different from the first act but still fit well with the genre of music. I really enjoyed their performance because they played songs that I knew everyone could sing along to.
The third act was amazing! They came out dressed all in white with long flowing capes made of silk and feathers hanging down their backs. They danced around on stage while playing their instruments like they were possessed by demons from hell! Their performance was so intense that I felt like my whole body would explode if I didn’t get up and dance too!
The final act of course belonged to our favorite band: Radiohead
In November of 2012, I was a 24-year-old electronic musician based in Oakland, California. I had just released a new EP, Flora Fauna, and was touring the United States in support of it. Every evening for over two weeks, I performed onstage to dozens of people. Then my tour ended, and I drove back home.
It was the night before Thanksgiving, and my plan was to make a big meal for myself and my friends who were stuck around town for the holiday. But first I had to do one last thing: perform at an afterparty at a loft in San Francisco’s South of Market district.
I arrived at midnight with some friends, but we didn’t get to enjoy the party long; by 1 AM, the owners of the building — which we had rented out for the evening — arrived to tell us that they weren’t going to let us stay any longer than we already had. We were forced to go home early because we didn’t have anywhere else to go.
The next day, I found myself eating a bland Thanksgiving meal at my friend’s apartment in Oakland’s Rockridge neighborhood. As we sat around his dining room table amid mounds of mashed potatoes and green bean casserole, he told me about how
Two summers ago, I went to my first music festival. It was a three-day camping experience organized around a single theme: the future of electronic music and arts. I was invited as a guest of an artist, and was happy to join him in the desert for what promised to be a debaucherous weekend with the world’s most interesting musicians and the people who love them.
My friend and I spent the first 24 hours exploring the festival grounds, meeting artists, and getting our bearings. He had been to similar events and knew how to navigate them. I did not. As we walked from one space to another, he would regale me with stories about parties he’d attended at previous festivals—the kind of parties that are so good that they deserved their own legend status in his mind, even though they were all essentially the same party: drugs and alcohol were available in surplus; everyone danced in the nude; there were no rules about sexual consent; everyone was high on LSD or ecstasy or both; and at some point in the night, someone took their clothes off and started dancing on their head.
By day two, I had become accustomed to my surroundings. My friend led me through a series of tents where other artists were performing their music. I watched
When I saw my first electronic music concert in 1985, I was a young teenager and had just discovered the delights of computer programming. The concert consisted of two pieces, one by John Cage called “Imaginary Landscape
Michael W. Smith