Beyond the Underneath: Starting from an empty dance floor

You should never arrive at a party on time. But do try once.

When the first DJ was playing some deep house and chill beats, the dance floor was empty. Other DJs and the VJ were chatting, off to the side. Without the audience, the dance floor seemed really small. It was almost like an empty living room with a family deciding what to do next with the space. 

I like to stare at the empty dance floor sometimes. The glittering reflection from the disco ball swirls from the wall to the floor. The music at the start of the party is not intended to make you jump around, but it puts you in the right mood. I did try to dance on the empty dance floor once. I liked the unexpectedly liberating feel. 

As the night went on and more people appeared, the music was getting increasingly exciting and intense. Suddenly, I lost the initial feeling of “homeliness.” It was clamorous and crowded, an atmosphere that people desire and expect. That night I didn’t experience the classic moment of walking into the main room in the middle of the night when the music is already intense. Normally, I would only have a little time to adjust myself when the beat and zeal of the music, as well as the dynamics of the crowd, were persuading me to blend in. But this time, witnessing the flow of people and gradual waves of excitement from music was an experience I’d never had.

A DJ once told me that mixing techno or house during a set is easier than mixing pop or hip-hop songs due to the similarity in beats and repetition, as well as the anti-teleological nature and layering characteristics of house and techno tracks. The difficult part is how to perfectly master the grand rhythm of buildups and drops in order to keep the audience hooked to the evolving repetitions. If the whole night of music is graphed in terms of its excitement, then it should look like a flow of slowly ascending waves. The magic of those ascending waves is very subtle, and there are moments when you suddenly realize how much more exhilarating the music is now compared to that of an hour ago.

During each buildup, you actively start to count the bars and predict the time of the drop. It’s like a mind game between you and the DJ. Sometimes you feel like the buildup is already intense and overwhelming enough with the rolling snares and sound nebula, but the DJ pushes the buildup even more than you could imagine, making you yearn for the drop. Then again, sometimes the buildup and drop are so subtle and smooth that you don’t even realize they happened.

It was a new experience to witness the “start” of the night and go through a more complete version of the wave graph. Along with waves of break, tension and excitement, a holistic journey is created, all starting from an empty dance floor.




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