Spirit of Music

Standing behind a DJ board, dancing along with an engaged audience was one of the best moments of 2019. Sharing energy, joy, and an experience with a crowd is great. and nothing compares to the joy of creating an experience together: your music, their vitality, and a shared connection! Yet this experience didn't come about quite the way I hoped it would.

One of my big focuses for 2019 and 2020 was music and improving my skills as a DJ. It started as a project to put together a mix for each of the sabbats leading up to Beltane 2019, where I hoped to perform live.

And I worked hard, and improved lots. I'm really happy with my Yule mix.

As Beltane approached, I grew excited. I put in many hours preparing for the set. The same tools that help plan a ritual can also guide a musical set. I planned to take the audience on a journey, challenging them to accept the opportunity of Beltane, where love, lust and dance combine. And what a journey: the mix is one of my best. And yet as the day arrived, things … did not live up to my dreams. Somehow between checking sound equipment with the venue one day and setting up that equipment the day of the event, key cables disappeared. On top of that, the original set up had me directly in front of the main speakers—not a good position for a DJ. This was fixed, but it was past my start time by the time I was ready for a sound check. Despite good attendance at a dance party the year before, only a couple of people showed up. Between the lack of audience, the technical difficulty, and the literal bat shit to clean up, I was nervous and shaking. Things were a bit rocky, although I managed to clean up everything in post-production. It was a significant let-down though: one of those dances where no one actually steps away from the walls. And yet, I had gained so much from the experience of preparing. The music I listen to speaks to me in ways it never did before. I constantly notice the opportunities for transition, the structure, and how elements fit together. I am more aware of the decisions a DJ makes constructing a set: I begin to see the themes they explore and how they accomplish this exploration.

So even if Beltane had been the end of the musical year, it would have been growth and joy to explore. And that is almost where it ended.

But I was also going to DebConf in August. at some of the previous DebConfs we’ve had dance parties. I had this idea of running such a party to show off my DJ software. I am so glad I decided to do it.

It was so amazing. I had fun putting together a set for the Debian community. There are a number of games in Debian some of which have EDM-sounding music. And then it turns out there actually are some techno tracks about Linux. Let’s not forget “Computer Electronic” by Gaia and “CYBERPUNK” by Omnia. Sorry, I really tried to like “Blockchain” by Super8 & Tab, but I just couldn’t get into it. It had less of a specific theme than my pagan sets, but was more a community bonding experience. And that moment, when I hear the stomping of the feet and feel the energy of the crowd was an amazing thrill.

Preparing for the DebConf set wasn’t quite an afterthought: I spent hours curating my catalog and exploring what went well together. But I had much less of a story to tell than with the Beltane set. And yet it didn’t matter. The connection and the audience were everything.

Spending the time learning to DJ and improving my skills was amazingly empowering. I turned music from something passive into something I could participate in and share. I reminded myself that I am not too old; I can take up new pursuits and gain enough skill that others value what I have to bring. It’s another way that art can become a meaningful part of my life: a channel for connection and joy.