(Time for a) Dance Dance Revolution

October 4, 2013

"My mind is telling me no, but my body, my body is telling me yes!" -R.Kelly

It's a disco tragedy, the battle between body and mind. I'm on the dance floor, swaying to the music, letting the beat move me to and fro, when listening to the words of the song stops me in my tracks. Maybe it's misogynistic lyrics, or a sexist command to dance a certain way, or maybe it's just the sheer banality of another pop song about sexpectations: whatever it is, my mind urges me to take a principled stance and walk away.

And yet…the body won't give up that easily, and thus I become the definition of losing myself to the dance, tossing aside learned ideology to let loose and embrace the rhythm. Should I feel bad for this? I mean, isn't that what the dance floor is all about, letting the music take over?

According to Daniel J. Levitin's neurological exploration of sound This Is Your Brain on Music, this feeling of surrender has to do with the fact that our bodies become totally in sync with the rhythm of a song. He starts out noting how "the vibration of [piano] strings displaces air molecules, and causes them to vibrate at the same rate - with the same frequency as the string. These vibrating air molecules are what reach our eardrum, and they cause our eardrum to wiggle in and out at the same frequency." He goes on to quote a study, where "if i put electrodes in your auditory cortex and play a pure tone in your ears at 440 Hz, there are neurons in your auditory cortex that will fire at precisely that frequency, causing the electrode to emit electrical activity at 440 Hz" (Italics mine).

So it's not just that music sounds good to our ears. It's that our neurons are actually firing at the same rate as the beat of the song. Our biological senses callibrate and align with the music; you can even say we become one!

But what are the implications? What does it mean then, when we listen to music, knowing that their lyrics send us cultural messages, often advancing the status quo?

At this point, I can continue to make my point, that the ideologies promulgated in many popular songs are harmful in their objectification of women. But hey, I may not shave any of the hair on my body, but I do like to use Occam's Razor - that is, the principle that the simplest, most understandable reasoning should be selected to make an argument. Yes, there are still a fair number of popular dance hits that are offensive and demeaning to women. And yet, maybe it's just me, but I also find them aesthetically uninteresting and even (gasp!) predictable. Seriously, another artistic creation about females defined as objects of male desire? What is this the 1st millenium? The 2nd? BO-RING!

But as I alluded to above, a well-reasoned blog post can only do so much against a catchy tune, especially one that relieves the monotony of a traffic jam-packed car ride home or sends you soaring on the dance floor. That's why DJ Vulvasaur is here to back back back it up. Check out the universe premiere of her emerging from the womb and into your minds with a groovy set of strong, funky ladies from around the globe, Tuesday October 8th at 12:30 PM. Viva la Vulva! --Chrysanthe Oltmann, aka DJ Vulvasaur


DJ Vulvasaur will be DJing during Lunchtime Disco on Tuesday, October 8 at 12:30pm in the Hammer Museum lobby.

Established in 2011, KCHUNG is a creative hub of artists, musicians, philosophers, and tinkerers broadcasting live on 1630AM from a studio above a pho restaurant in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. The radio station currently airs 74 live, original shows each month, including reports on wildlife conservation, on-air meditation, gestures of an economic and performative nature, as well as music. While in residence at the Hammer through the end of the year, KCHUNG presents the station’s regular programing on-site as well as new programs developed for the museum. Visitors can look forward to projects such as audio tours composed by KCHUNG and remixes of past Hammer programs.