“O tempora o mores – Oh what times! Oh what manners!”, the Roman philosopher Cicero cried out desperately around two thousand and a few years ago. He was a bit annoyed with his generation’s trends and attitudes. I am really wondering how frustrated he would be, if he found out that there has not been much progress made throughout the millennia and that this never-ending unease is probably one of humanity’s biggest traits.
I am sharing a car with a colleague of mine. Experienced, nerdy, passionate, he is a very respected DJ in his mid-thirties, who still goes out to dance to his favourite DJ’s set completely sober all night long. “I played in Italy last weekend”, he says, “when I thought: ‘It’s time to drop one of those classics’. So I played THAT King Britt remix of Josh One and to my utter surprise the reaction was: NOTHING! I realized that not a single soul in the room had ever heard this track. And 2001 is not even that long ago. Well, relatively speaking. Damn, am I getting old?”
Stream: Josh One – Contemplation (King Britt Funke Mix)
Or is the crowd simply getting younger? You can’t blame the twenty-year-olds for not knowing about hits that are just not valid anymore in the new generation’s context. Even if they are really precious and timeless to you personally. The time is now and brings with it a whole different formula, new sound textures and even new methods of delivering music. Of course there are exceptions, a dozen or two universal hits that are still being widely recognized, because they have been continuously carried throughout the years by their original creators or by DJ heavyweights, who managed to adjust to swiftly transforming crowds and to stay in the business. Take “The Bells”, “Jaguar” or “Rej” for instance.
“You can’t blame the twenty-year-olds for not knowing about hits that are just not valid anymore in the new generation’s context.”
These tracks create a very warm feeling of coherence with something great, of a culture to a long history and strong roots. They create a sense of belonging to a community of shared interests. It seems to happens on some subconscious level where one always relates much better to something that he or she has already heard or seen before. There is even the old trick of playing a new song a few times during the night – each time the response will be more and more intense.
Some people get really annoyed when listeners share Youtube clips of tracks they heard a DJ play, but I totally see this as a good thing. It means that something is happening, people are curious and searching in order to grow as a listener and to educate themselves. And it is not even about being educated, but about being curious and passionate about something. Curious people often dance till the end of your set.
It’s a great feeling when you drop something really special and it gets recognised and appreciated immediately. Even if the eyes of the dancers are closed and their reaction is very subtle, it appears to be such a genuine way to connect. It is almost a feeling of trust. A feeling of trust based on the closeness to one of these outstanding tunes that connects the dancers to the rest of the lesser known sonic narrative. If everything clicks into place like that and the sonic journey really takes off, it’s true magic!
The more I feel trusted, the more I believe in the curiosity of my crowd and can go really far experimenting and testing previously unexplored territories. It is quite inspiring to explore something new every day. Sharing musical tips and sometimes receiving them from my fans. I am easily influenced and I am capable of influencing others. And when that happens on my Facebook page for example, it gives me a really good feeling because it is so important for me to feel connected with people musically. To feel that some of them understand, what I am talking about and where it is coming from. It’s also great to find yourself clueless sometimes. It’s impossible and quite needless to know everything about music. And that’s good, because it holds infinite capacity for contemplation.
On the other hand, playing out a very wide range of music for years to all kinds of possible crowds, I have learned that there are always ways to establish a connection to any or almost any crowd. No matter how big the generational gap really is. And this connection is not based solely on the musical knowledge. Most of the time not at all. But because music is a truly universal language, the best parties sometimes happen with really young and “fresh” audiences. And surprisingly enough, it feels even more special to see how much young people react to a totally unknown or forgotten 20 year old song and completely lose themselves in it. That’s how powerful and timeless great music is! After all, with an open heart you don’t need much knowledge to embrace it. And this truth will probably always be valid, no matter what generation you belong to, now or a century later.