Ten years ago, the idea of contacting extraterrestrials was safely housed in the realm of science fiction. However presently, History Channel’s Ancient Aliens, and Elon Musk unveiling the world’s first interplanetary spaceship have made the scenario conceivable for future generations. If ever we were to make contact with interstellar life, how might we communicate? Would we learn their language, or would they learn ours? Researchers are now saying electronic music is a potential medium for constructing a universal language. At the moment, it’s being called electronic quantum music.
While the idea maybe new to the scientific community, ravers have been talking about it for decades. If you attended raves in the 90’s, ET’s were all the fashion. Alien head insignia were imprinted on t-shirts, stickers, pasties, and party flyers.
Websites like Rave-theawakening.com claimed parties were a sonic gateway to extraterrestrial dimensions. Ravers even screamed “Contact!” at bass drops. The “alien” signified more than the green guys in the sky, it iconified dance floor transcendence, a product of MDMA and ecstatic dancing to beat-focused music designed to take listeners into trances. At one-point, the techno-mythica of ET’s on the dance floor became so widespread no party seemed complete without someone getting a download from the green guys in the sky.
“Oh sure, we all believed that. We thought the aliens were trying to contact us. You just felt this presence, like something else was in the room with you;” —Hector X, 90’s DJ
Sure, everyone was high off their tits, but the music was just as powerful. When techno first emerged in Detroit in the mid-80’s, its pioneers associated the genre with memes of inner-space and exploration of the psyche. Juan Atkin’s Cybertron was backed by a label called “Deep Space.” Transllution released an LP called “The Opening of the Cerebral Gate.” VJ pioneer Todd Stock (also a programmer for NASA) recollects the early rave scene to have beheld an esoteric mythos believing a doorway to the collective unconscious had been opened by the parties. “Many of us believed we were experimenting with a new kind of group mind,” Stock reflects.
“Although variously expressed, the ultimate compulsion here is an expatriation into universality, a merger with the divine, with electronic synthesizers the hallmark instrumentation through which the ascension is sought and obtained.” -Graham St John
Today, feeling “something else in the room,” or “the vibe” continues to appear as common tropes of dance floors across the globe as EDM scholars like anthropologist Graham St. John have exposed in detail.
In the 90’s, many accredited the “alien” of rave’s mythica to drug induced hallucination. Today, new findings in neurology and the effects of sound frequency are encouraging scientists to reinvestigate the impact of dance music on the brain.
“Music provides a link between alternate selves and alternate places. Imagination becomes experience. One is moved from the mundane to the supra-normal: another realm, another time, with other kinds of knowing.” – Judith Becker, Ethnomusicologist
Such new data is finally shedding light on the smoke and mirrors behind rave culture and its extraterrestrial phantasmagoria. While the mystery has yet to be solved, it is taken more seriously. Some scientists are even claiming electronic dance music a potential medium for communicating with interstellar life.
A leading researcher on this topic is a professor in the Language Institute of Bangkok University, Willard Van De Bogart. In an in-depth interview with One EDM, Bogart divulged the science behind this bizarre potential of dance music. According to Bogart, sound synthesizers create sounds with such specificity they essentially mimic any frequency, including subtle frequencies scientists have recorded from the cosmos from other planets, stars, and unknown origins.
If these frequencies exist throughout the universe and we are able to replicate them, Bogart believes it plausible for us to one day construct an alphabet out of what is essentially a periodic chart of sounds from the dark abyss.
“Every molecule has a unique frequency signature, which all creation is based upon. In the sub atomic world, it has long been understood that frequencies dictate the arrangement of matter into organic compounds,” Bogart explains. The way a conductor conducts an orchestra, sound frequencies animate life. This vibrational phenomena is known as cymatics. Bogart continues, “We humans carry these frequencies within us and we use them to express ourselves using not only our own language with songs and speech but also in creating musical instruments to further our ability to communicate with tones.”
While we have 6,500 different spoken languages in the world today, they share commonalities in the tone of certain words. We instinctively associate particular expressions, emotions, and names with certain sounds. “Hello” is a popular example. The greeting is similar across a multitude of languages despite their individual development in isolation from one another. As Bogart theorizes, language may very well be based on universal tones that exist in nature, or in the underlying blueprint of our ecology. While this theory is popular in the study of linguistics, few have expanded it to include extraterrestrial languages, if the green guys do in fact exist.
Bogart believes a universal language is out there, one that can be expressed uniformly by first mapping the tones of language and replicating their specific frequencies. According to Bogart, the electronic sound synthesizer is our closest technology for accomplishing that.
“Electronic synthesizers have the ability to transform sound into many types of frequencies,” Bogart explains. “Recently Wolfgang Palm from Germany, father of the electronic synthesizer, released the Phoneme synthesizer which could produce any type of speech using the incremental parts of the sounds that make up our language. Having this ability as well as the many new micro-tonal synthesizers, we are now able to make a wide variety of sounds or even mimic sounds made from traditional instruments. Apple’s Garage Band is a good example with the Alchemy synthesizer, first developed by Camel Audio, now part of the catalogue instruments offered in Garage Band.”
In Graham St. John’s “The Vibe of Exiles,” he draws attention to trance producer SSO. He was infamously known on dance floors as the electronic artist who produced tracks according to the calculations of the Cosmic Octave, music attuned to the specific frequencies of the planets. SSO member Jens Zygar and Cousto released a trance album in 1995 entitled Inter Planetary Ambience (Live In London). The entire album featured a musical journey through each one of the planets in our solar system.
Even if you missed the alien craze of raves in the 90’s, you might recall a scene in Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” where scientists use an analog keyboard synthesizer as a way of communicating with the ETs who descend upon Devils Peak.
As Bogart recaps in his interview with One EDM, “The Close Encounters scene triggered a deep feeling in popular culture that it was possible to communicate with extraterrestrials through electronic sound. The movie made popular a series of tones that became the signature sound for alien contact.”
Bogart continues, “I believe that the mystery of the universe lies in understanding how to use sound for communication. Nicola Tesla thought so too. NASA’s Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecrafts even contained 12-inch gold plated copper discs with sound clips from around the world. NASA sent these into space with the intention that someday another race would hear how we use music in our cultures. Even now, when I make electronic music I think back on this and try to mix different frequencies on my synthesizer while thinking about what I would say to another race of beings and they might interpret the sounds. I like to refer to my own electronic music as an x-language reminiscent of the X-Files.”
Bogart’s first experience with electronic music was at Cal Arts where he was trained on the Buchla Box 200 synthesizer by none other than Morton Subotnick the composer known for creating the first label-commissioned all-electronic album.
After Cal Arts, Bogart bought a Synthi AKS, the first portable synthesizer, and began making music of his own. Then on a cold winters night, as Bogart retells, he was driving down a desolate highway and saw a long cigar shaped object hovering in the distance. “It was changing color and making eerie high-pitched noises that reminded me of the sounds I played with on synthesizers. That experience left an impression on me.”
Bogart’s strange encounter no doubt inspired his research into dance music’s interstellar potential. Yet, does Bogart’s research shed light on dance culture’s alien fetish? Were these kids were really onto something, or just on something?
When implored on early rave’s ET contact, Bogart immediately theorized the influence of early science fiction films on popular culture. “I think electronic music gained its association with aliens when the movie Forbidden Planet was released in 1956. The film’s soundtrack was the first to use electronic music—by Bebe and Louis Barron. After 61 years, it’s no surprise that the soundtrack for the recent film, Arrival, won an academy award for best sound with the eerie electronic music composition by Johann Johansson—further solidifying the association between electronic music and science fictional concepts. With the use of sequencers and beat box synthesizers it is very easy to integrate electronic sounds with a space orientation with the traditional beat that is the basis for the dance music.”
As Bogart further explained, electronic sounds are atonal, meaning they are absent of key. They do not follow any particular melody. Traditionally, music is structured upon a functional harmony. EDM is however structured upon melodic-rhythm. Therefore the sounds lack the designation of musical keys. Before the emergence of dance music, electronic sounds had only been heard in the soundscapes of science fiction films. They therefore became associated with “extraterrestrial sounds,” as Bogart contextualizes them historically, sounds that once were very alien to popular culture. Flash forward to the proliferation of electronic dance music in the late 80s and early 90s, these sounds were still so new and fresh, the genre was viewed as a different medium of music altogether, disconnected from any preexisting musical form like jazz or rock. Seemingly, it came from out of nowhere, and thanks to all those old sci-fi films utilizing synthesizers, it almost makes sense that EDM’s early psychedelic fandom would believe (or want to believe) the music came from outer-space.
Yet, this is only half the answer of the rave-alien mystery. It gets weirder. According to Van De Bogart, ancient history reveals a deeper explanation. While early ravers may have wanted to believe their music was the first of its kind, it’s actually rooted in shamanism, one of the oldest religion in human history.
“Going back to shamanic traditions, dance and repetitive music were popular methods for contacting spirits. Today, the History Channel is calling them Ancient Aliens. Many indigenous cultures explored the use of sound to communicate to the stars.” –Willard Van De Bogart
Bogart explains, “The Dogon tribe from Mali West Africa would tie a piece of string to the end of a carved piece of wood and then swing it around their head to make a sine wave like sound. It’s the oldest musical instrument in the world and used by most all indigenous tribes to communicate with their ancestors in the sky. Whenever I preform my own electronic music I will occasionally swing the Bull to honor this ancient tradition.”
“Another ancient instrument is the rattle made by the Cahuilla tribe in the Anza Boreggo Desert in Southern California. The rattle is made from a gourd that has palm seeds inside. When you shake the seeds in the rattle it almost has a white noise sound and is still used in ceremonial bird songs to communicate with the spirits of their ancestors. Likewise, the tribes of Northern Peru use the conch shell in ceremony which has a very deep piercing sound. Not only was it used in ancient Peru but it is still used in all Brahmin ceremonies in India and Tibet to honor the gods in the sky.”
Hearing Bogart divulge the connection between raves and shamanic tradition certainly makes one curious who all those early 90’s bass heads we’re shouting “contact!” at during drops. Maybe you just had to be there.
One thing is certain, music has always been our ticket to the furthest reaches of the imagination. Whether it is a world of spirits for the shaman, a sonic dimension of ETs for old-school ravers, a vibe engine for EDM festivals, or an interstellar orchestra for SETI, music continues to prove itself a mode of exploration for the psyche.
As we have witnessed the evolution of rave from rustic warehouse parties to now multi-million dollar festivals all across the globe, it’s no argument the music has made a powerful impact on the culture. Looking towards the future, one has to wonder if these concepts, the shamanic as well as the science/sonic fiction will continue to seed the techno-mythica surrounding electronic dance music.
“Music changes all the time,” Bogart responds, “Adam Harper addresses this in his 2010 book titled, Infinite Music: imagining the next millennium of human music-making. I believe there are new sounds yet to be created and heard. Like when George Harrison of the Beatles released the album “Electronic Sound,” in 1969. Or it could be the sonification of the stars, referred to as ‘stellar acoustics’ made popular by Fiorella Terenzi, or electronic symphonies like the one Karlheinz Stockhausen composed with his famous album “Hymnen,” or even an artist who introduces a sound meme into the social matrix that triggers a new awareness of orchestrating sounds for the future. The social media of today is alive with sound making from around the world and is constantly being mixed for raves and dance music,” Bogart says in closing comment. “As we forge into the future it is my belief we will be creating a popular “space music,” as I call it, that will represent not only our own species but composing overtures to alien cultures as well. I have seen this slowly happening with the introduction of the Krell music in Forbidden Planet, the sounds used in Close Encounters of the Third Kind and the recent sounds in the film Arrival. It may only be a niche right now, but I think electronic “quantum” music is well on its way to becoming a music of choice that best represents our species, and possibly others in the cosmos.”
Whatever new kind of music rests out there on the horizon of our future, EDM and all of its artists dedicated to finding new sounds and genres seemed poised at the cusp of such a revolution in sound. Whether it’s the next rock and roll, or an interstellar language, electronic music will play a pioneering role.
Willard Van De Bogart is a researcher on language structures in the Language Institute at Bangkok University in Thailand. His research focuses on phonemes, xenolinguistics, and electronic quantum music. He continues to conduct fieldwork among the Adnyamathanha Aborigines in Australia studying sounds used in their Dreamtime songs. Outside of academia, Van De Bogart is a founding member of The Ether Ship, a multimedia performance group created in the late 60s. With their outwardly spoken mission of communicating with the cosmos through music, Van De Bogart was characteristically known to play from a space capsule built on stage.
For more information on electronic quantum music, Van De Bogart’s research, and the mysticism of electronic dance music visit the following links: