I was introduced to house music in the summer before my senior of college. The event was a Sunday daytime party on the water in San Francisco. Prior to that day, I thought electronic music was harsh, lacking heart. I grew up singing folk, classical, and show tunes with my family and in choirs. I listened (and still listen) to a lot of international music, singer/songwriters, R&B, and indie rock. So the techno I’d heard on the radio was foreign and I didn’t get it.

Since that first party, I’ve attended many, many house parties and am a part of the thriving house music community in Denver. At first, I thought that I was attracted to dancing to electronic music in the underground scene because it was a new opportunity to experience my sensual, wild, shadow self in a safe environment. But it didn’t take long to realize that the “underground” isn’t just a place to indulge one part of ourselves. It is a place to know and express who you really are. It is spiritual. It is church for many people. The DJ is calling out the gospel and the dancers are responding. A number of the tracks played reveal this, including “Not Everyone Understands House Music. It’s a Spiritual Thing”.

What is Spiritual?

Many people outside of this community don’t understand how it is a deep experience. This is partly because they don’t know the difference between mature house and the huge raves populated by teenagers doing copious amounts of drugs with fuzzy boots and sucking on ring pops. It’s also because our society has very clear ideas of what is and what is not spiritual. For the most part, spiritual must be: innocent, pure, calm, quiet. Western church services include a speech that people listen to while seated. The body is rarely engaged. Which is for the best since it can be so sinful, right?

I recently met Rev. Matthew Fox, and enjoy his video about what he calls “Cosmic Mass”, using electronic music for worship:

I believe that Spirit is found in darkness and in light. Just like profound music takes us up and down emotionally, so does a profound life. I hear Spirit in the silence and in the whomping bass. If I had not discovered this house community, I would be less developed as a person and as a leader. I would not be as comfortable with my body and my sensuality. I would have a lot more judgements and fear of people who seem different than me. And I wouldn’t have nearly as much fucking fun as I do.

Finding Balance

The electronic music scene has it’s challenges the same as any community. One clear one is that it can be difficult to find balance. Sure, you could party for three days straight with great people, enjoying sunrises and sunsets alike with a personalized soundtrack playing the background. Some people can do that and it works just fine. Others of us take a few days to recover from that lack of sleep and end up regretting it. We also need balance with our substance use, so that we are taking care of our bodies and future. The more that there is shared awareness of the dance floor as sacred space, the more we will take care of the atmosphere and the people dancing on it. People who come for the first time feel the difference when the space is decorated, cared for, made with love. They respect themselves and the party more.

I plan on writing more about this part of my life. But I’m really interested in hearing from others: How is house music spiritual for you? What do you have that you wouldn’t have without it? What challenges do you think the electronic underground faces?
house music is spiritual


4 Responses to House Music: It’s a Spiritual Thing

  1. Erin says:

    My first introduction to techno was through a German exchange student my junior year in high school. He favored hardcore techno and I was not a fan. It would be several years before I had the opportunity to experience electronic music in a sacred space.
    In the interim, I developed my practice of worship through dance with live music of many genres…bluegrass, reggae, jam bands, rock, and blues to name just a few. Living in Montana, my exposure to “electronic music” was limited to bad DJs at even worse “nightclubs.” Then I moved to the Bay Area and everything changed.
    I had taken an internship in Livermore and another intern, who hailed from Austin, quickly found his way into the underground house scene of SF. He persuaded me to join him, and because there was little going on in Livermore on a Sunday afternoon, I acquiesced. My first experience was a Sunset party back in ’98 and my mind was officially blown. Here was a group of intelligent and articulate professionals who came together in a movement of cathartic release on the dance floor. The DJs didn’t just play songs that were on the dance charts, but instead took the crowd on a magical, spiritual journey of melody and beats. I had never experienced the vibrant and organic evolution of a live electronic set, wherein the DJ and crowd develop a symbiotic relationship, feeding and building on each other, reaching crescendo, dropping down and then building it all back up again. I was in love.
    Over the years, like all great love affairs, my engagement with the electronic music scene has waxed and waned. I am happy to say that I have recently found a new crew with whom I can worship. I am also grateful that maturity has given me the perspective to find balance in my choices made on the dance floor. Sure, I still enjoy the opportunity to boogie ’til dawn on occasion. But often I choose to go out for a just few hours in order to let go of the mundane and dance with the divine. My life is richer for the experience and I look forward to the insight that each new beat brings me.
    The community also brought you into my life, Helena. I love that my practice embraces solitary revelation and communal love all in one. I am divinely blessed for my time with music and friends shaking my booty and for the DJs who shape the aural space. And thank-you for providing me the opportunity to reflect on my spiritual connection to electronic music. See you on the dance flow.

  2. Glad to have you on board with the rest of the Gangsters.
    btw, i lifted the image above!!

  3. mia says:

    i totally totally agree with you it is a very spritual thing. it’s actually very nice to hear someone of that opinion. i find it very difficult to find good house music so i was wondering if you could recommend some artists who are capable of producing more than mainstream bass. that would be greatly appreciated 🙂


  4. Frederico Miranda says:

    I totally agree with your thoughts. There is this song called True House (house of love) it says that true house music consists of four main ingridients: a cup of spirituality, a teaspoon full of love, a dash of togetherness and a pinch of soul penetrating beats. It goes on saying that house music has the power to heal, sooth and comfort. It is an instrument of Gof and music from above…I believe those who enjoy true house music know and feel almost the same when it comes to the vibrations of the soul. I don´t think words can actually explain what we all feel when we listen to it…it is purely metaphysical!

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