Cours à distance
HISTORY OF DISCO
SYLVIA RAY RIVERA
DJ-ing, disc-only, disco
French: discoteque, library of music
Read the text below as a group.
Discuss the text.
Listen to the references.
Disco was the original punk music, here’s why:
Disco has a 4 to the floor beat, it’s happy dancing music. The cultural roots of disco are in the marginalised L.G.B.T community. The ‘Stone wall riots’, were a turning point for this subculture. In 1969, being gay was illegal, the US government was paranoid about communism, gays and transgendered people were targeted by the police. The government perceived this community as easy targets for being transformed into spies by the Russians.
The Stone Wall club was in Greenwich village. A place where artistic movements thrived, some of the beat poets lived there and some of them were openly gay at this time. The Stone wall Inn was an underground, mafia owned club (boite de nuit), it was dirty and expensive but was one of the only places open to the LGBT community. The mafia would pay off the police so there wouldn’t be any raids. Black people, latinos, trans, sex workers made up most of the clientele. This was at a period when the black power and anti-vietnam war movements were kicking off. The Stone wall Inn was, however, eventually raided in June 1969. The police caught them by surprise. This was perhaps because the mafia were no longer making enough money from the club and stopped paying off the police. The mafia were instead extorting wealthy clients by threatening to tell their families they were gay.
During the raid, the police would line everyone up. Then they’d take anyone wearing female clothes to the bathroom. A female officer would check their sex to see if there were any males in drag. The clients were most likely used to this kind of treatment. However this time everyone began to resist and refused to comply with the police. There weren’t many police officers to begin with. The crowd began to overrule them. They went into the street and started to joke around, accentuating their gayness. As the playing around continued, a crowd emerged and began to cheer them on. This was up until the point where a policeman became aggressive with an african american lesbian called Sylvia Ray Rivera. She called for the crowd to do something. And at this moment the crowd intervened, making the policemen retreat.
It was called a ‘riot’ by a lot of the media and police, but we consider it as an uprising. These rebellious moments were the roots of gay pride and club culture. The N.Y. mayor made gay clubs legal. The music they would have been listening to was a mixture of Philadelphia soul (strings), latino percussion and psychedelic funk. Music and anger were intertwined. THE MUSIC WAS LOUD, Sound systems were important to give an immersive party like atmosphere. 12” vinyls, a format typically reserved for albums, had become used for single tracks. One presumption of how & where this originated was at the Loft NY, when a DJ wanted to be able to have a cigarette break. His idea was to make extended versions of songs, so he’d have enough time to smoke. This would mean that the audio fidelity (quality) of the music improved a lot. All because the 12” single would have more space, therefore more information. Another repercussion was the beat breakdown which was a long moment of percussion which was added to extend the song. Naturally, people who were dancing loved the beat breakdowns which is why this became a signature motif of disco music.
II. LISTEN TO
Francis Grasso - possibly initiated the idea of having a DJ set, in order to create a mood
David Mancusso - DJ, club owner, the Loft, NY
Larry Levan - DJ
Studio 54 - record company specialising in disco (mainstream)
NTS playlist 2