Music and the Movement of Ecstatic Dance

Over ten years ago I went to my first ecstatic dance in Seattle Wa. The experience changed the trajectory of my life and my music.  So wait… lets back up… what is Ecstatic Dance?

Ecstatic Dance is a freeform of authentic movement. The idea is there is a general formula you can follow to take dancers through a diverse journey, a wave if you will, that brings them from softness to an ecstatic revelatory place and back to stillness.

WHAT IS ECSTATIC DANCE?

Here is the general layout of an ecstatic dance. First of all, it’s drug-free, all ages, and generally a pretty short experience. 2-3 hours total. Think of it as a dance class more than a club.  The event usually starts with a warm-up. People come and stretch, roll on the floor, and get ready to shake it.  After the warm-up, there is an opening circle. Each ecstatic dance is different and I have seen a range from a circle with a 5minute welcoming, to a shared ritual/movement practice.  After the opening, the DJ, it’s usually one DJ for the whole evening, starts there set.

 

The music moves as a wave. From a softer buildup to a peak. At many ecstatic dances, it follows a “wave” where the energy builds to a peak, dips down, builds to another peak, and then lands into a softer place to end. For the past few years, I have been helping with Muse Dance in Portland OR, and the above image is what I made to help communicate that movement to DJ’s at our dance.

THE EXPERIENCE

So what is this all about? Well… this might sound hella woo-woo. One of the best descriptions I have found was from Ecstaticdance.com

Through dance, we believe everyone can discover, explore, unleash, and enhance their individual potential to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. By engaging our senses and listening to our bodies, we connect to others and shape a consciousness that extends beyond our own. – Ecstaticdance.com

When I dance and fully let myself go I find myself in space that lets me process my emotions. Not from a thinking place, but truly feel my emotions in my body. I have had life-changing revelations and moments of discovery.  As a facilitator and musician, I have seen thousands of people experience this same space in Ecstatic Dance. That is why it’s a growing movement. There are hundreds of dances worldwide. Portland alone has 5 dances a week! Some of them have 100-200 people regularly.  You can find a full list of Ecstatic Dances worldwide at Ecstaticdance.org.

THE MUSIC

A unique aspect of Ecstatic Dance is the eclectic music. during one dance you will hear sultry singer-songwriter, Latin funk, throbbing glitch music, and ambient strings.  Since the experience is all about dynamics and diversity, it gives you such a wide pallet as a DJ.  As a musician, this is one of my all time favorite places to perform. I find the dancers are deeply listening and can appreciate a wider range of possibilities.

It’s also been hard sometimes to find just the right kind of music. For instance, I want a soft loving vocal track for the end of my set, but to many times the lyrics are about a co-dependent relationship. To really respect the dance, I want to make sure the message is always one of growth.  You also have to think of music outside of genre but in terms of how it will affect the dancers and where it fits in the story arch.

It’s because of this that I was really excited when Peter Weinstein, aka Baron von Spirit, approached me about a new project.  Together we dreamed up a record label that would help connect the musical world with the dancers of ecstatic dance.  We saw how we could help curate music that holds a space at Ecstatic Dances, as well as introduce new music to the growing number of ecstatic dancers.  Thus, Ecstatic Dance Records was born.

ECSTATIC DANCE RECORDS LAUNCH

Today, well… as I am writing this, we launched the Record Label by releasing four EP’s. We worked with musicians from around the world. Including this amazing lineup: KaminandaDysphemicSubaqueousKR3TURETemple Step ProjectIlluminertiaEvan Fraser MusicSugarBeatsSilk DropEO • Eric OberthalerHigh Step SocietyDJ Taz RashidYogi PrateadoLiving Roots, and Tikki Masala.

Since ecstatic dance is based on a musical journey we wanted to showcase the music based on its placement in the phases of the Ecstatic Dance Journey. Peter has come up with and refined the six phases of the ecstatic dance journey over a decade of performance. The phases go as followed:

Arrival * Buildup * Peak * Cruise * Landing * Integration

The first four EP’s are Arrival, Buildup, Peak, and Cruise. Our concept was to help showcase the different states of the dancers and how music can be used to move people through the journey.



For the last year Peter and I have had weekly calls to discuss the philosophy, build strategic partnerships in the community, and gather an amazing list of musicians. I am elated to finally launch this project. Since Ecstatic Dance has been such a cornerstone of my life, this feels like a natural and beautiful new endeavor.

If your interested in what this project, please join us on our Ecstatic Dance Records facebook page and check out the music.  If you want to get involved in any way, feel free to message us. Now that this has launched, we have all sorts of visions we are working on. Just the beginning of an amazing journey.

Generative Music with Abelton Live and Randomization

Sometimes we get stuck. We just hit a wall and need something to break us out. In those cases, I love to use randomization and generative music techniques. I like to think of it as using the machine as a collaborator.

I took a section of my Fast Songwriting course on Generative Music and posted it for free below. I wanted to share some of the ideas I use to speed up my production and come up with ideas.

Here is the introduction video:

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What is Generative Music?

Generative music describes music that is ever-different and changing, and that is created by a system. In other words, it is using a machine with set parameters to generate new music instead of writing it from scratch.  With Ableton Live I generally look at using randomization with MIDI and devices to generate new musical ideas.

How do you use Generative Music?

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8 Must Read Books for Music Producer

booklist

Don’t get me wrong, articles and videos are great, but that is only one way of learning. Over the years I have picked up a lot from different books on music production. A well written book can let you take the information in at your speed and can unpack some big concepts.  I believe these books will greatly help your music, creativity, and life.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman

I started with this book because it is a hell fun read. I was just so captivated by this story and the characters.  It also gives you a very interesting look at the life of a mixing engineer. The book is basically a diary of Mixerman, an engineer. I am not sure if it is 100% true to actual events, but it is definitely a fun read and has some great insights in the industry.

The Daily Adventures of Mixerman on Amazon

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

This book has some foundational wisdom for anyone that wants to have a good life. I have found that having these habits as a musician has greatly lowered my stress, made me more effective, and a better person. This is a highly suggested book.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People on Amazon (more…)

How to Rock at Your Music Business

There is our love of creativity and music, and then there is business. For years I have struggled with a deep desire to not want to worry about the business side of things. This year I have overcome that and a lot has shifted for the better.  In this video I share how I have overcome some big hurdles around being a successful artist, and how I have more potential as an artist by equally working on the business side of things.

Saying No to Collaberation – How to show respect

In the last 3 months I have had a lot of people approach me about collaboration. I have been processing what that might mean, how to respectfully tell them no, and understanding the subtleties of the interaction.

I was inspired to put together this video around my process. I hope to inspire a respectful and vibrant creative community, even by saying no.

If you have a story of saying no, or being slighted in a collaboration please feel free to share the story in the comments bellow.  Love to hear the ideas and thoughts from the community on this.

Dedication to Inspiration – Podcast

I really enjoy discussing art, music, life, creativity, and personal experience. There is so much to talk about and be inspired by. I feel honored that I was able to share these thoughts on the Muse Podcast. Here is an excerpt from their site for the broadcast:

“We honor the value of giving full presence and 100% authenticity in creative work at all times.   Continuing to move through the hurdles and challenges as we stay focused and in alignment with the frequency of inspiration.  Maintaining a solution orientated way of thinking.”

You can stream the who broadcast below.  My part of the broadcast starts at about 9 minutes in, after the astrology opening.

Check Out Motivation Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Muse Broadcast on BlogTalkRadio