Date of Award
Master of Music (MM)
At electronic dance music events in the United States, artists and attendees tend to appropriate religious and spiritual sounds, images, and dress, especially from India but also from elsewhere, to varying degrees. This project explicates the effects of adopting religious symbology, ethos, and atmosphere in the music and culture of EDM, specifically in bass music culture. It argues that although individual participants may adopt aspects of religious traditions in ways they perceive as authentic, the potential for misappropriation still exists. In other words, EDM culture creates opportunities for misappropriation that individual participants navigate in order to construct their own individual forms of spirituality in relation to the live music experience and EDM culture at large.
Utilizing a set of seven interviews with individuals who have close ties to the EDM community, this project explores the ways that attendees navigate conversations about cultural appropriation, specifically in the bass music community. A set of common attitudes, opinions, and beliefs forges a syncretic spirituality among these seven interviewees, which inform how these individuals navigate conversations about appropriation in the EDM community. In addition to these seven interviews, three case studies that focus on specific artists who spearhead specific subscenes frame this project: the psychedelic downtempo duo Desert Dwellers, the multiethnic trap artist TroyBoi, and the cult dubstep DJ Bassnectar. Synthesizing ideas by these seven interviews with previous EDM scholarship and specific cases within these communities, I conclude that as artists and attendees negotiate meanings with one another, they must ultimately choose to justify their appropriation, often by claiming a syncretic sense of spirituality, or to avoid association with it entirely.
Backfish-White, Daniel, "Bass Is My Religion: Syncretic Spirituality and Navigating the Potential for Misappropriation Among Participants in Electronic Dance Music Culture" (2021). Graduate Thesis Collection. 527.