Music Austria Interview on Club Culture: “We all have a lot of pressure in our everyday lives. The club helps us to deal with this”

mica-interview with BIANCA LUDEWIG

28 June 2021

BIANCA LUDEWIG has been researching club culture as a cultural anthropologist for years. She talks to Stefan Niederwieser about utopias, a communal love of music, stories that are missing and hard work at female:pressure to fight misconceptions.

Heart of Noise 2014 / Lumisokea (c) Bianca Ludewig


Is club culture best described as a counterculture, a subculture, a milieu, a scene?

Bianca Ludewig: Many still speak of countercultures and subcultures. From a scientific point of view, this is no longer tenable. Our present is very different from the 1960s, 70s or 80s. Many academics have therefore introduced the term “scene”. This term is difficult to use on its own. You need other terms or aspects such as genres for music scenes. But the term works because these lifestyle communities are characteristic of our present, which we easily get into and quickly get out of. We are often part of several scenes or lifestyle communities. They usually also provide economic opportunities and drive their own gentrification, while subcultures are less fluid and have rather tried to act critically towards mainstream society and to shape alternatives to it.

So “scene” after all?

Bianca Ludewig: Yes and no. The term scene is imprecise. In the case of music, I therefore speak of “audio-social communities”. This makes it clear that it is about music, that sound is in the foreground, and is the reason why these people come together. The idea of the audio-social was phrased by Steve Goodman or Kode9 in a text about “Speed Tribes”. As a label operator and music producer, however, he did not continue to investigate on the “audio-social”. John Cage has previously coined the term “Scenius”, a portmanteau of scene and genius. It describes the fact that no great idea in music history comes from one persona alone, but that there are always many people involved to make it happen. But not only people. Places and technologies are also very important for music communities. This is what the concept of “audio-social communities” tries to include. It brings us together with non-human actors in the love of music.

“I believe that the club has a justification as an utopian space.”

Is the club a myth as an utopian place?

Bianca Ludewig: I believe that the club has a justification as an utopian space. And that it some possibilities in rudimentary forms. It’s just that many of the actors in recent years have been too little politicised, too na├»ve and careless. If we take Freetek or its criminalisation in England into account, then these spaces have definitely been utopian places within a capitalistic economy; and have been criminalized because of this. There is already a catalogue of demands implicitly made by club culture over decades. But they were never written down or did not become part of an agenda. And accordingly, only the parts that were easy going with a capitalistic economy were implemented and all the others were not.

For example?

Bianca Ludewig: Ultimately, these are very often economic issues. In Berlin, the incomes of many people in the creative sector are very low. And it is very expensive to go to the club, the entrance fee, the drinks or other things to be able to stay awake or strong for a long time. This is not affortable to everyone and often they are not inclusive but exclusive. Clubbing became to many a consuming and networking event. There is often a lack of understanding of how important these spaces are, and many have been lost in the past years due to gentrification processes. But we need them! In late capitalism, it works too well that creatives help to bring value to these properties and their neighbourhoods but as soon as they have gained value they and many others have to leave these neighbourhoods. Yet these music spaces are insanely important – not just for partying. But for social activities and artistic developments in general. And also in an affective, immersive, emotional and physical way. We all have a lot of pressure in everyday life. The club helps us to deal with this. The current debates about and increasing incidents of domestic violence also show that this is important.

Hyperreality 2018 / Born in Flamez (c) Bianca Ludewig

The whole interview can be found here (in German):

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