The evolution of ‘electronic cities’

6 May 2021

Music venueThe evolution of electronic dance music (EDM) scenes in cities across the globe has been explored in a new book, edited by University of Queensland urban planner, Dr Sebastien Darchen.

Dr Darchen, along with City University of Hong Kong’s Dr Damien Charrieras and QUT’s Dr John Willsteed, combined their passions for both music and urban planning, investigating the past, present and future of EDM scenes in 18 cities across Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Asia, North America and Australia.

“Electronic dance music – or EDM – has spread all over the world, and every city in the world now has an EDM culture of some kind,” Dr Darchen said.

“So it was high time I edited  Electronic Cities, a look at the historical development, and future challenges, of these scenes around the world.

“It was the perfect opportunity to talk to experts who could reveal the influence of geographical contexts, as well as cultural and political histories, in the development of these scenes.

“And I was looking particularly at these scenes post-2000, including the COVID-19 pandemic and its far-reaching effects.

“There were plenty of insights when it came to cultural and creative policies, planning interventions and regulations associated with nightlife management, and investigate current challenges in governing EDM scenes in contemporary cities.”

Electronic Cities

One such insight was EDM culture was often tied to the development of other scenes, like punk and post-punk movements.

“It turns out that, in cities like Dusseldorf in Germany, post-punk musicians would sometimes turn to electronic music – fostering an EDM culture in what’s now seen as one of the birthplaces of electronic music in Europe,” Dr Darchen said.

“Here in Australia, electronic music scenes were characterised by a do-it-yourself (DIY) culture which is also a characteristic of punk scenes.

“Some sub-genres of electronic genres are connected to Krautrock or Funk and even Euro Disco, so it’s clear that there’s a strong connection between electronic genres and non-electronic genres.”

When pressed for his top recommendation for EDM-friendly cities, Dr Darchen couldn’t go past his former home of Montreal, Canada.

“Montreal has been good in supporting the electronic music scene with cultural policies integrating this type of music, which is not often the case in other cities,” he said.

“Throughout the rest of the world, apart from big EDM festivals, these scenes are often underground, and are mostly not supported – or even not considered – by urban and public policies.

“But things are changing slowly, and as I’ve discovered through the process of putting this book together, there’s more recognition now of this type of music and the culture around it.”

Electronic Cities: Music, Policies and Space in the 21st Century is available via the Palgrave MacMillan website.

Media: Dr Sebastien Darchen, s.darchen@uq.edu.au, +61 3365 3910; Dominic Jarvis, dominic.jarvis@uq.edu.au, +61 413 334 924.

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