Kraftwerk’s Elements


Kraftwerk’s music is more electronic than industrial because of their focus on synthesizers, and lack of focus on anti-music.  Bret Woods, in his article “Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an Underground Genre” defines four “core fundamentals of what makes industrial music a standalone genre,” two of which are “the use of synthesizers and anti-music” (41).  Kraftwerk is however more electronic than industrial because it does not feature many elements of anti-music.  For example, there aren’t many random and non-electronic or non-vocal sounds in the music of kraftwerk.  They do constantly have a stream of music coming from synthesizers to keep the beat of the song, making the music electronic.  The group Kraftwerk did display shock tactics as seen in the above image and in their public dress.  While they weren’t as abominable or shocking as some other bands and artists, their actions were noticed and purposeful.  They were decidedly independent from popular music and made sure to be seen that way.  One element of anti-music is completely absent from Kraftwerk music that I listened to– industrial sounds and purposeful silence.  There are some strange synthesizer sounds in kraftwerk music, but they don’t seem to go against the trend of popular music to the extend that those sounds do.


Woods, Bret. “Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an         Underground Genre.” 2007. Florida State University.


NIN: Defining Post-Industrial Youth in America

The focus of this discussion is on the band Nine Inch Nails, led by singer-songwriter Trent Reznor. Reznor had an ability to combine the elements of industrial music (experimentation with electronic sounds) with the structure of popular music to create a unique sound that was successful in the public sphere, while maintaining a dark, heavy aesthetic that was oftentimes horrifying and difficult to listen to. His artistry defined a period of economic instability in the United States during the late 1980s and 1990s, when middle-class American youth were aware of this turmoil and therefore angry at the world.

The foundations of Industrial music started in the 1970s with the band Throbbing Gristle, whose lead vocalist was a woman named Genesis P-Orridge. The members of TG lived in a time when the physical world around them was changing: human-run factories were closing, and anarchy was springing up against the political scene in England. P-Orridge and her bandmates, living in post-industrial Europe, had this philosophy: any object that makes noise is an instrument, any person who can create the sounds is a musician, and there are no rules about how to make music.  They had no formal musical training, no frame of reference for how to create sounds, they just did what came to them organically, from their environment. Their sound was weird, to say the least: it did not have any of the patterns or chord progressions that were used in music up to that point; it was more ambiance, noises that they layered together to convey their feelings.

Throbbing Gristle – Maggot Death (youtube):

The movie “Nine Inch Nails and the Industrial Uprising,” posted on YouTube in a seven-part series, goes into a lot of background and influencers of the industrial sound, of which there is no one specific style. Brent D. Woods, in his thesis Industrial Music for Industrial People: The History and Development of an Underground Genre, also discusses  bands and sounds that contributed to this genre, among them Depeche Mode, Cabaret Voltaire, Kraftwerk, and styles like electronic body music (EBM) and the avant-garde. He defines industrial music as having four key components: synthesizers, anti-music, extra-musical elements, and shock tactics (Woods 41). These components developed through experimentation and the use of electronics to turn sounds into music, which is industrial music at its core.

When industrial music reached North America, the artists combined its electronic sound with elements of rock and roll, metal, and thrash. Examples of these bands are Skinny Puppy, from Canada and Ministry, from Chicago, Illinois. They took synthesizers, which had already been around in music, but used for structured pop music, and created deep, scary sounds to add to their metal elements of guitars, bass, and drums.

Skinny Puppy – The Choke (youtube):

These early industrial acts influenced Trent Reznor directly, when he moved from Philadelphia, where he was receiving formal education and apprenticeship in music, to Ohio, along America’s so-called “rust belt.” The environment there during the 1980s was similar to that of England in the 1970s: industry changing, steel mills closing, people losing jobs. All of this, combined with miserable weather, contributed to a general feeling of pessimism and meaninglessness, especially among the youth, as described by NIN member Chris Vrenna and scholars in the documentary (part 2, 2:40-4:30).

What ended up happening is that artists began to create music that was more and more abrasive, never being satisfied with the sound that they were producing, and always seeking more thrill and shock value. This phenomenon was described by Luigi Russolo in his “Futurist Manifesto” (1983), as cited by Woods:

“The ear of the Eighteenth Century man would not have been able to withstand the inharmonious intensity of certain chords produced by our orchestra (with three times as many performers as that of the orchestra of his time). But our ear takes pleasure in it, since it is already educated to modern life, so prodigal in different noises. Nevertheless, our ear is not satisfied and calls for even greater acoustical emotions” (Industrial Music, 38).

So you have bands taking typically pop-oriented instruments, synthesizers, and using them in their thrash metal, reflecting the angst that they felt toward the political and economic system.

Reznor was able to market the industrial sound by being relatable to a large audience, having a hook, telling a story. When NIN’s first single “Down In It” came out, people were a little confused because the production was polished, making it sound like pop, unlike the stereotypical, rampaging, chaotic industrial music of the time, but it was also experimental, as industrial should be. He brought production value to industrial music. Other pop bands, like depeche mode, were not afraid of a hook, could make industrial “noises” into structured “songs,” but Reznor kept that unsettling element of industrial as a key component of his music while making it just pop enough to be well-received.

NIN – Down In It (youtube):

Compare that with the following work by NIN, the EP Broken, and the song “Happiness in Slavery.” The video for this song was grotesque and gut-wrenching (literally). Reznor had some fascination with morbidity, and though it is extremely disturbing, he definitely had fans who supported his art, otherwise he would not have achieved the level of fame that he did. A very important aspect of his popularity is the fast beats at low frequencies and catchy bass-lines that have a heart-pumping quality about them, making people want to move and dance, even if that dancing was rather violent. This theme persisted throughout the band’s career.

Violence is another aspect of the industrial music scene that Rich Patrick of NIN describes in the film. The youth at the time had all this pent-up anger, and it came out as violence at live shows, which is a typically masculine behavior. Not only were fans in the audience moshing and slam-dancing, the performers themselves incorporated violence into their shows, and that was a very masculine depiction of them. The physical violence went hand-in-hand with the destructive noise.

Finally, I wanted to mention the song “Closer,” which is by far their most popular song, off the album The Downward Spiral. I remember hearing this song on LA radio station 106.7 KROQ in middle school, and having the uncensored version on my iPod. There is no way my parents would have let me listen to it if they heard the actual lyrics, yet it achieved such fame. This is the perfect example of how Reznor was able to penetrate the music industry with his perfectly-imperfect formulated sound, brutal as it may be. He borrowed from many styles of music that existed in different times and spaces and was successful in bringing industrial music to the masses during a time of economic disparity in the United States.

NIN – Closer (youtube):

Gender Identity in Queer and Heteronormal Spaces

2. Examine the gendered and sexualized constructions of the 1960s and 1970s dance floors utilizing Tim Lawrence’s Queering of the Dance Floor. How is mandatory heterosexuality subverted? Consider music, venue, DJs, etc. Within this framework, how do you see the evolution of “The Ball” as portrayed in Paris is Burning (1990)? Does the Ball reinforce heteronormative structures of gender identity (look to Butler in History of Drag Balls)? Or does it perform/accomplish something else?

In the first sections of Tim Lawrance’s Queering of the Dance Floor, he examines the dynamic sexuality of several “gay” dance clubs in New York. It is a common misconception to think that gay-owned discos were meant to be exclusively gay. Two of the most prominent clubs, the Loft and the Sanctuary, were very much open spaces for people from all walks of life. “Because the Loft was run as a private party, Mancuso could have run it as an exclusively male gay event, but he chose not to” (232). By creating a relatively safe environment without the usual societal pressures to conform, the people in these spaces felt free to dance with whomever they chose, or more commonly, by themselves. “Whereas dancers in the 1960s took to the floor within the regulated structure of the heterosexual couple, dancers in the 1970s began to take to the floor without a partner” (233). This was a subtle way that gay dance halls subverted oppressive heteronormativity. Another important aspect to consider was a New York State law that made male-male dancing illegal. On top of this, “discotheques were accordingly required to contain at least one woman for every three men” (232). However, clubs got around this by filling the female quota with both lesbians and straight women who just wanted a fun night of dancing away from straight men. (232) Lawrence argues that “gay” disco spaces “attempted to create a democratic, cross-cultural community that was open-ended in its formation,” which is generally undermined by focusing on the “gayness” of any given club. (233)

In this context, the documentary Paris is Burning feels comparatively exclusive. “Balls,” the apparent evolution of gay disco clubs, are almost entirely composed of gay or transexual men for the purpose of displaying their sexuality. However, Balls and discos are also very similar in nature because they positioned the people associated with them “as agents who could participate in a destabilizing or queer ritual that recast the experience of the body through a series of affective vectors” (233). In this way, both Balls and gay discos contradicted heteronormative structures of gender identity because they allowed participants to engage however they wanted. Of course, by the 1990’s, Balls had become far more extreme spaces of sexual expression than the discos of the 1960’s an 70’s.

gay disco.jpg



Punk Rock Misogyny and Gender Roles

The article states that “Punk could, and did, free women from the more restrictively gendered roles available to them in past subcultures” Can this be true even if there was still a lot of misogyny in the Punk subculture?

While punk is not the pinnacle of gender equality in a subculture it is undeniable that it gave women in the scene a lot more opportunity than they had received in the past. For this reason I believe it gave women more freedom. It gave them a chance to explore their passions and actually be accepted or even successful. Women were given a chance to make money on their own as individuals without a man or a female group. This was a liberating move in the right direction and got the ball rolling for big female artists like Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. Once a few solo female artists gained traction it was a chain reaction to stars like Madonna or Joan Jett and today female musical stars are as common as male. Though the punk scene was vastly male, it was pretty gender fluid. Men looked like women and vise versa. This blurred the gender lines and equalized the two genders even if it was only physical. The author really sums up the impact of the punk movement on gender roles.

“Even if the gender dynamic of the New York City punk scene did not deviate dramatically from that of mainstream America or traditional rock and roll, it allowed for more flexible interpretations of traditional portrays of both masculinity and femininity. Misogynistic displays of overt masculinity coexisted alongside transgender individuals in a musical subculture which allowed women unprecedented access and agency” (Kvaran, 71)

In essence, while it wasn’t equal it was an unprecedented amount of freedom that started a revolution.



Dark Humor and the Subversion of PC Culture

Primary Source: Figures 1-5 above: Taken from James N. Tidwell’s American Folklore archive at San Diego State University; transcripts of different styles of insult, morbid, and dark jokes used around the nation.

Secondary Source:

(Refer to pages 397-401) Journal: Taken from Professor Edna Andrews’ ” CULTURAL SENSITIVITY AND POLITICAL CORRECTNESS: THE LINGUISTIC PROBLEM OF NAMING” (1996)


American comedic culture, more than anything, is a free-flowing counterculture that subverts every single aspect of American society; from race relations to gender issues, comedic culture openly criticizes the subjects that people do not normally discuss or bring about. More specifically, situational relevant “black humor,” otherwise known as dark or hate jokes, have a specific niche in progressive social relations among American citizens throughout history. Rather than a debilitating tool used to humiliate various groups of people, black humor, “skewers convention, looks beyond and through racial and gender identity, and mocks sexuality and death…not [being] concerned with the moral quality of society and instead aims to deconstruct moral certitude” (Standfest). In other words, dark humor has been historically used as a cross-cultural medium, discussing otherwise unwelcome subjects regardless of background or historical period. According to professor Jerry Zolten of Pennsylvania State University, American dark humor is heavily laced with satire, which was mostly about race and ethnicity in the early 1800s, and became more popular in mainstream comedy and media in the mid to late 1950’s (Zimmerman). Around the latter time, literature and language professor James N. Tidwell archived many of these commonly tabooed jokes during his travels throughout the country, and stored them in the American Folklore collection in the Special Collections and University Archives. Figures 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 consist of examples of such archived jokes, ranging from morbid, cannibalistic, violent topics to that of cross-dressing children; such archives epitomize the very nature of this style of humor. Dark humor strays from the politically correct environment that American culture emanates, subverting common racial, ethnic, gender, and customary stereotypes in order to deconstruct the peculiarities of overt and covert discrimination and taboos present in society.

Regarding gender and sexuality stereotypes, dark humor often attacks the constructs of what makes men and women look like and act like their established social identities of the time. Tidwell’s travels throughout 1950’s America allowed him to experience different levels of typical American gender roles and nuclear family households: a stay-at-home mother who cooks and cleans, a daughter playing with dolls, a son with toy soldiers, the bread-winning father, etc. A direct antithesis to this lifestyle would include anything that is not heterosexual and patriarchal. One such example of patriarchal gender stereotyping is the gentleness of a mother, to which Tidwell presents the aggressive joke, “‘Mother, why does Daddy lie so still?’ / ‘Shut up and keep digging!’” (Tidwell), implying the fact that the mother may or may not have killed her husband.

In taking a dark turn, black humor has the cynical tendency to subvert normal behaviors to “address dire social circumstances, but with a specificity of intent that adhered to topicality in a way that [‘correct’] humor does not” (Standfest). At face value, this joke is highly immoral, but carries many social implications: Are mothers always good or can they ever be bad? Do BOTH men and women have violent tendencies? Can the man actually become a victim? With the difference in established power, it was actually atypical in the past to see a man being the helpless victim and the mother acting in a tough or dangerous way, especially when the lens is given through an innocent child’s eye. Moreover, when it came to the difference in male and female interaction, there has even been a submissive expectation regarding intellect.  The following video satirizes the female ability to engage in a “man’s” conversation:

Black humoristics purposefully exaggerate common social constructs and stereotypes for the sake of exposing the peculiar behaviours that result from such harsh societal judgement. The skits and jokes spur conversation, and introduce uncomfortable topics with light-hearted an shocking ease. Figure 1 includes the joke, “Mommy, can I wear a bra?” to which the mother refuses, yelling, “NO! Thomas!” (Tidwell) to her son after much persistence. Homosexuality and cross-dressing during the 1950’s to 1960’s remained a huge taboo in society, often being viewed as an anti-establishment ideal for American men and women; as a result, the government often shut down or did not, until recently, pass laws that would be in the favor of the LGBTQ community (Cohen and Richards). In other words, these topics of conversation were controversial. Comedy Central’s show Saturday Night Live frequently presented skits that included situations of homosexual advances and cross-dressing, to both provide laughable material as well as show the ridiculous extent to which American society taboos the gay community. “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” in season 24 of SNL is a prime example of exaggerating the stereotypes of the gay community that made people question how absurd it was to worry about couples who may or may not be gay, by introducing characters who cross-dressed, overplayed gender stereotypes, and mined for humor in “gay panic,” but were heros (Pierce). Of course, like Tidwell’s cross-dressing joke, the material was accepted with shocking surprise, eventually leading to the question: What is there to really worry about with the LGBTQ community? Dark, satirical humor in American society subverted the common misconceptions of how badly one should actually worry about such issues. 

The goal of a dark humorist is to be painfully honest, and observational humor provides just that. As time progressed closer to the 1960’s, around which the Vietnam War and Civil Rights movements came about, dark humor became a particular form of “American outrage” that exploded from the social unrest of the time. According to curator Ryan Standfest, “The postwar desire to aggressively shape a singular middle class ‘American Dream’ eventually rested in a brand of comic subversion in the mid to late 1950’s” as a “literary conceit with the occasional nod to stand-up comedy” (Standfest). This American Dream was to be more inclusive, leading to a common pattern in the growing popularity of stand-up comedy in the late 1960’s. Rosenfield from the American Comedy Institute claims that “it starts with certain groups or minorities–immigrants, blacks, women, old people, Jews, Muslims, gays, Arabs, Asians–being the target of stereotypical jokes” (Cohen and Richards). Racial and ethnic stereotypes have a precedence in stand-up and observational comedy, both of which utilize dark humor as a way to advance minority significance when it comes to having a “voice.” This form of dark humor actually deconstructs mainstream American political correctness by confronting the racial stereotypes that political and social groups try to avoid or “sugarcoat” in order to make American society look better than it really is. On the Greg Giraldo show, Giraldo himself admits that “A lot of racially charged shit happens here in New York City…Yet mainstream culture likes to pretend that race issues don’t exist…Unfiltered honest talking on race is rare, but comics are comfortable with race…comics are honest” (Cohen and Richards).

By exaggerating or even accepting stereotypes onstage in front of millions of people, stand-up comics present a more dimensional character to audiences who may know very little of the stereotyped group. Talking about these issues with humor effectively presents awareness while also humanizing a seeming representative of that racial or ethnic group, creating human connections to that person/those people and breaking down any original stereotypes, making them “harder to perpetuate” (Richards and Cohen). Comedian Dave Chappelle is one such comic who takes stereotypes toward the African American community and plays along the uncomfortable line of using racially charged language to prove a point:—s-show/mlg0y7

Another example of this would be the typical “smart Asian” joke, with strict parents who “live and breathe education and good grades.” Thanks to the advent of Vine and other video-based social medias, slapstick humor with original content by multitudes of minority groups presented similar situations among all racial/ethnic groups. Minority comics eventually destabilize the stereotype, taking away the power of prejudices to actually hurt and offend (Richards and Cohen). Hate jokes, no matter how shocking, create a direct counter-culture to the recognized establishment of mainstream media. They directly criticize and expose discriminatory actions as well as debunk prejudicial thoughts. And rather than being ignored, dark humor allows these criticisms to society to be heard and actually listened to.

Morbid and wrong jokes–albeit, can become the most offensive in certain situations if not timed right–play a vital role in the normalization of tragic events. As comedian and British writer of The Office Rickey Gervais states, “Not everyone will like what I say or find it funny…There are enough comedians who try to please everyone as it is” (Gervais). American society has a tendency to only allow, on media, what is optimistic and comfortable, often staying away from material that can either offend or hurt masses of people (Gervais). This political and social correctness, although comfortable, never addresses a trauma or tragedy at hand. Tidwell’s inclusion of the joke, “Other than that Mrs. Lincoln–how was the play?” is an example of pure American satire. After the death of the president, it is almost certain that news about losinga leader would not bode well with American citizens. However, making an ironic joke to laugh at a traumatic situation is a step toward acknowledging that it happened in order to heal rather than pretending it never happened and acting “stronger” as a nation because of it. While it can be very critical of an event and its details, jokes like such are meant to calm the tensions that arise that would otherwise cause mass hysteria or communal anxiety. On a largely recent account, the contribution of comedy that Comedy Central’s Saturday Night Live show shortly after the tragedy of 9/11 is a prime example of comedy’s power to unite over taboo humor.  In fact, SNL was one of the first television shows to air directly after the tragedy of 9/11 and help retain American sanity.—homeland-security/n11645?snl=1 (2002)

In the video above, Robert de Niro on SNL is a newscaster being pranked by college and highschool students on national television while reporting alleged terrorist members. This is a direct play on the widespread racial fear that ensued toward the Middle-Eastern community by other Americans. Other skits that SNL produced after the incident included “‘American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie’, Washington hubris ‘U.S. Vows To Defeat Whoever It Is We’re At War With’, citizen helplessness in ‘Not Knowing What Else To Do, Woman Bakes American-Flag Cake,’ and presenting reactive xenophobia in ‘Arab-American Third-Grader Returns From Recess Crying, Saying He Didn’t Kill Anyone’” (Sneed). Each and every skit provided specific insight into American behavior and made it laughable, so as to show the American public that it is aware of how people are reacting to the situation. Rather than giving into hysteria, SNL was trying to give the Americas public a reason to analyze itself; by pointing out these weird hypothetical or ironic situations that are almost ridiculous, people were able to feel as though they could relate to the shock or watch someone else act worse than they ever would. It is a laughable way to gain acceptance for the fact that it happened, and a way to acknowledge that it is not a large enough reason to break down the American morale. Dark humor purposefully subverted the atypical news message of “We will rise again” by providing America the comfort to actually recover.
Dark humor/comedic culture allows for American society to have an outlet to speak about the tabooed topics and issues that need discussion as well as an introspective medium in tough situations. By subverting American political correctness, truth is allowed to be spread and discussed, progressing society through racial, ethnic, gender, customary, and traumatic issues in a light-hearted setting. Comedy not only provides comfort, but insight. As for American culture, it enhances the opportunities for groups of all types to have a voice in a culture that DOES have problems by merely not adhering to the “orthodox” behaviors expected of them.

Works Cited

“American humor.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Feb. 2018,

“Understanding American Jokes.” Columbia West College, 17 Aug. 2015,

Cohen, Rogers and Richards, Ryan. “When the Truth Hurts, Tell a Joke: Why America Needs Its Comedians.” Humanity In Action,

Gervais, Ricky. “Ricky Gervais: The Difference Between American and British Humour.” Time, Time,

Khazan, Olga. “The Dark Psychology of Being a Good Comedian.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 27 Feb. 2014,

Love, Matthew. “50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time.” Rolling Stone, 14 Feb. 2017,

Sneed, Tierney. “”After 9/11, How we Learned to Laugh Again.” USA Today. 11 Sept. 2013,

Standfest, Ryan. “Black Humor and the American Comic.” RYAN STANDFEST, Rotland Press, 2010,

Zimmerman, Bill. “Professor explores American culture through comedy’s history.” Penn State University,


Visual Artifacts Cited

Andrews, Edna. “Cultural Sensitivity and Political Correctness: The Linguistic Problem of Naming .” Duke University Press, 1996, doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f.

Tidwell, James N. “Hate Jokes.” American Folklore Collection. (Primary Source)

Let It Rock?: The Decline of Easy Access Concerts for SDSU Students and the Rise of Commercialized Elitism [Lens: Class]



Figure 1: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.

As we approach the 121st birthday of San Diego State University, tomorrow March 13th, 2018, it is essential to look back at the important aspects of American culture that has greatly influenced the campus culture.  One major theme that has been prominent throughout the last seventy years of the university, are the various concerts on campus for students, as well as the general public to enjoy.  Particularly, the 1960’s to 1980’s saw a tremendous amount of inexpensive, featuring big name and upcoming artists, on campus which increased students’ exposure to various counter culture and mainstream genres.  Unfortunately, this era of open concerts to students has come to an end and is overshadowed by the commercialization and elitism of mainstream concert producers and artists which exclude a vast majority of students from taking part in this important area of American culture.   I argue this major decline in inexpensive on campus concerts for students stems from the extreme commercialization and elitist culture within the music industry, as well as a lack of support from the University, which has a major negative deconstructive impact on the social and political development of SDSU students.

According to research conducted by Dr. Seth Mallios of the Anthropology department at SDSU and published in his book, Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State, he discovers a major downward trend in on campus live shows from 1970 (Mallios, 9).  In Figure 2 below, one can easily see the stark contrast from 1970 having 926 live shows on campus, to the current decade only having 114 is a major decline in easy access to musical events (Figure 2).


Figure 2: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.

The 1970’s witnesses an explosion in live popular music at SDSU, which hosted hundreds of acts in rock, jazz, blues, folk, reggae, and more.  Dr. Mallios asserts that SDSU, “Quickly became a premiere venue for many popular music genres and was the epicenter of Southern California’s soft-rock and country-rock movements, as well as hosting punk-rockers” (Mallios, 2).  Big name acts such as, The Ramones, Bob Marley, Tom Petty, Blondie, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop, and many more all performed on campus for inexpensive prices for students (Figure 3).


Figure 3: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.

Associated Students and various Greek organizations on campus insured that these concerts were inexpensive for students to promote the social atmosphere on campus.  However, these student-friendly concerts did more than just provide a fun social setting, but were also the centers of various counter culture protests/movements (Dowd, 11).  Many of these concerts during the 1960s and 1970s allowed students to congregate for various anti-war demonstrations, as well as meet other like-minded students to form student organizations, including the Aztec Free Speech Area (Mallios 5). Ticket prices in the 1970s for students for these major shows ranged from $2.00 to $5.00, which equates to $9.52 to $23.79 in 2018 dollars (CPI Government Inflation Calculator).  This allowed students back then a cheap way to experience new counter culture music, meet other students, and engage in an era of American Culture music that was extremely influential.  Many members of the community often fought the students-first mentality, especially for the more popular concerts, but during this decade Associated Students and the University held strong to this belief and continued to ensure students came first by pricing tickets fairly for students (Figure 5, 6, 7, 8).  In Figure 4, Mallios states the University ground rules for max tickets per members of the general public as well as ensuring the students had a plentiful amount of tickets to purchase (Figure 4).


Figure 4: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.


Figure 5: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.


Figure 6: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.


Figure 7: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.



Figure 8: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.

Music is a very powerful medium and is an essential part of American Culture, therefore it should be available to the student population and those trying to find their place in society (Dowd, 31).  At the level of the social group music facilitates communication which goes beyond words, enables meanings to be shared, and promotes the development and maintenance of individual, group, cultural and national identities (Brant, 24).  Clearly, these earlier decades were a time of important socialization and counter culture movements for students who were given the opportunity to engage with these concerts, however this is simply not true for today’s Aztecs.  Within the past decade, SDSU students have been subjugated to an overall decline in concerts, price gouging by ticket companies, and a growing class divide between elitist culture in regards to the music industry.  First off, SDSU has not done its part to book lower to middle tier musicians for cheap musical performances for students at smaller campus venues.  In the past these were escapes for students to unwind and engage in new subcultures of lesser know musical genres, however the University has ceased booking these acts as they are not major money makers (Mallios, 310).


Figure 9: Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015.

The 2000’s have been dominated by headline acts at Viejas Arena, which can seat over 12,000 people, without giving special pricing for SDSU students.  I believe this negatively affects students who are left without a crucial piece of American Culture and are forced out of these now “exclusive” events which were once open to all.  Individuals and companies now engage in ticket scalping (when single buyers buy up dozens of tickets and immediately sell them off at rates too expensive for most), again perpetuating this class division (Leavitt, 129).  This commercialization of concerts has led to businesses coming in to make extreme profits off the music industry leading to elitist culture.  For example, almost all shows on campus now have VIP access tickets which allow those with money to enjoy special perks, and even basic access tickets are inflated in price due to the emphasis on profit.  In the earlier decades, money was still exchanged and artists were paid, but now these events are less about counter culture and music, but rather how much companies can make off the individuals.  Any show at Viejas Arena will showcase many vendors selling overpriced merchandise, refreshments, and VIP experiences.  It has turned into a major business venture for these concert companies, the University, and the artists, which unfortunately has excluded SDSU students.  Currently, SDSU students only have one subsidized concert on campus, Greenfest, which sells $15 tickets to SDSU students for a fairly popular artist.  However, these concerts are few and far between and still center on commercialization rather than enjoyment of true American Culture.  Based off the analysis from Dr. Mallios it is clear the the kind of acts at SDSU have changed, going from various counter culture movements to commercialized mainstream acts, as well as a decline in the amount of acts (Mallios 7).  This increases revenue for the University, but greatly limits exposure to new types of music and excludes these performances from students who cannot afford the inflated prices.

Overall, SDSU was once a thriving hub for artists of varying levels of fame, a variety of genres, and always put students first in regards to ticket sales and concert experiences (Mallios 11).  This has drastically changed for the worse, as the commercialized nature of music has limited the majority of on campus concerts to mainstream massive concerts, with no protections for students.  Price gouging and elitist culture has limited the important aspects of music in American Culture for current SDSU students and stunted their chance to be individuals within the music culture. Therefore, if students are to once again receive a constructive aspect of American Culture, the University needs to take a stand against the recent phenomenon of commercialization in music, in order to allow SDSU students importance social experiences within the concert scene.

Works Cited:

Brant, Marley. Join together: Forty years of the rock music festival. Hal Leonard Corporation, 2008.

“CPI Inflation Calculator.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Dowd, Timothy J., Kathleen Liddle, and Jenna Nelson. “Music Festivals as scenes: examples from serious music, women’s music, and skatepunk.” Music scenes: Local, translocal and virtual (2004): 149-67.

Leavitt, Alex, Tara Knight, and Alex Yoshiba. “Producing Hatsune Miku: Concerts, Commercialization, and the Politics of Peer Production.” Media Convergence in Japan (2016): 200-29.

Mallios, Seth, and Jaime Lennox. Let it Rock!: Live from San Diego State. Seth Malios, 2015. [Primary Source]

Raves: Gender and Sexuality

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The raves of the 90’s up to the present have been presented as temporary wonderlands, subverting mainstream culture and offering hordes of people a safe space to explore their gender and sexuality, contributing to the modern understanding of these facets of identity.  Raves are Electronic dance music(EDM) centered music festivals, usually taking place in large buildings or open spaces.  The history of EDM is also worth noting for its association with homosexuality in the beginnings.

Some of the first EDM music originated in Chicago in the 1980’s and quickly began growing in popularity, “especially among the gay community in Chicago” (King).  The underground and occasionally illegal rave culture that was just blossoming offered homosexuals in Chicago a safe place to embrace their sexuality and meet others who supported them.  In the beginning it started when DJs combined Disco music with electronic sounds with a repeating beat.  Within a decade rave festivals began to pop up around the world, beginning in Europe, but eventually making their way to the US.  The Electric Daisy Carnival (images 7 and 10) was one of the first large scale raves in the US.  These festivals began to multiply, expanding that safe space to reach many more people.

As rave culture grew and began to take its current shape, it developed a central theme of “peace, love, unity, and respect,” offering support and tolerance to every group.  This motto can be seen on the backside of the Nocturnal Wonderland image, where it says “Peace, Love, Unity, Bring on the noise!” (image 2).  One main document outlining this central dogma is the anonymously written “Raver’s Manifesto,” which describes a rave as a “magical bubble that can, for one evening, protect us from the horrors, atrocities, and pollution of the outside world” (Anonymous).  Individuals choose to become involved in a sub culture because of the support or sense of belonging that they offer.  Ravers choose this sub culture to escape from the pains of reality and be comfortable in their own identity.  As it relates to gender and sexuality, individuals can immerse themselves in a crowd of people who accept them for who they are.  This allows ravers to think more about who they are and how they want to be seen in society.  It helps them grow as people, noting that “somewhere around 35Hz [they] could feel the hand of God at [their] backs, pushing [them] forward, pushing [them] to push [themselves] to strengthen [their] minds, [their] bodies, and [their] spirits” in an effort of self-improvement” (Anonymous). The participants are striving to create a more progressive community by bettering themselves and others.

EDM music strives to be futuristic and progressive in its appearance and content, which is why this rave scene has only happened with EDM.  EDM and rave culture is very utopian in nature, constantly striving for a society that does not judge based on sexuality or gender, or any other part of an individual’s identity.  Raves are small attempts at forming this perfect world, if only for a night or a weekend.  Most participants actively attempt to include individuals of every gender and sexuality, to move past social constructs into a more welcoming community.  The back of the Nocturnal Wonderland flyer perfectly describes this, stating that “With your continued support and love we can bridge the barriers that separate us and build a sustainable culture for all to enjoy” (image 2).  Raves actively bring people together, while mainstream society tends to drive people apart.  It is for this reason that so many cling to raves as an outlet from a society that does not accept them.  The focus of this exclusion by society might be for many different reasons, but one focus is gender and sexuality.  In the temporary, non-judgmental community that is created, there are no obvious labels for gender and sexuality.  In the low-light and high intensity environment, these distinctions are blurred and it’s much more difficult to label participants.

Rave culture distinctly subverts mainstream culture’s definitions of gender and sexuality.  One main idea behind raves is to escape from society, taking every opportunity to move away from society into a more progressive community.  Even the depictions of raves as seen through the flyers are very dissimilar to modern life.  The front side of the Nocturnal Wonderland flyer illustrates this with its cartoon character and otherworldly imaging (image 1).  The back side of the Electric Daisy Carnival flyer provides the motto of “One People. One Planet. One Vibe,” referencing the central theme of acceptance and unity (image 7).  At raves, participants attempt to turn their back to society, but without hatred.  They seek to accept all individuals, even those who won’t accept them.  They want to be a central part of “a massive, global, tribal village that transcends man-made law, physical geography, and time itself” without harming or judging those who aren’t a part of it (Anonymous).  This goal has many resemblances to the hippy counter culture of the 1960’s.

The hippy counter culture of the 1960’s also sought to improve society by accepting every individual.  The article “How Ravers Became the New Flower Children” by Becca Rothfeld describes rave culture as the “second coming of flower-power,” referencing the afore mentioned 1960’s subculture (Rothfeld).  One comparison can be made with the events populated by members of the two subcultures.  Woodstock, one of the largest collections of people who identified as hippies, was held in New York and was a significant step, and arguably the greatest success of the hippy counter culture. The Electric Daisy Carnival holds similar importance for rave culture.  It was first held in Los Angeles in the early 1990’s, with a much smaller audience than it typically attracts today.  The Electric Daisy Carnival was the first major, consistent rave in the US.  Like Woodstock it was the prime display of the subculture for a while and was the main event that allowed people to learn about the values and motifs of the sub culture, at least in the US.  Fortunately for rave culture, the Electric Daisy Carnival and insomniac events in general (the company backing many large raves like EDC) fared better than Woodstock, which was not consistent in following years.

There is a significance to the somewhat hidden symbolism on rave flyers.  A prime example of this is in the Nocturnal Wonderland flyer from SDSU Special Collections, the first and second images in this post.  The flyer contains a large amount of fairytale and celestial objects like stars, butterflies, mushrooms, and flowers.  These objects combine to form a motif of acceptance, making the rave seem like a wonderland, appealing to more people.  The backside of the fyler even describes “Nocturnal Wonderland” as a “Global Unity Project,” illustrating the theme of acceptance (image 2).  The mushrooms can be a reference to the drug culture that is typical of raves, bringing participants to experience a wider range of emotions.  The flowers may be a reference to the peace in “PLUR” or even a reference to the hippy culture that shares so much with rave culture.  The Cheshire cat on the flyer, from “Alice in Wonderland,” may also represent a return to more primal urges of participants.  Escaping from the constraints of modern society, ironically through the ambience of electronic music, allows them to explore more of their primal, human emotions to grow more as a person.

Rave culture, since the early 1980’s, has offered a safe community for participants to explore and embrace their own gender and sexuality, among many other parts of their identity, without fear of reproach.  This subculture has been important in shaping modern conceptions of gender and sexuality.  Raves have been able to combine music and community to form temporary escapes from the modern world, which attract participants from every walk of life.



Rothfeld, Becca. “How Ravers Became the New Flower Children.” The New Republic, 26       July 2014,               new-flower-children.

King, Gus. “EDM/Rave Culture”. Grinnelle College. N.D.                            

Anonymous. “Raver’s Manifesto”

“Rave Flyers.” Between the Covers Rare Books, inc. Rave culture, mid 1990s- early 2000’s.    SDSU Special Collections