Active Listening

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Active Listening

Active Listening: Music to move your body to

Songs to remind you that you exist.

Everyone has a body. Some bodies are big, some are small, and some have more rhythm than others. I spent the past weekend in the woods dancing at a small, intimate music festival, and I was reminded how important it is to remember that you inhabit a living, breathing, organism. Social media has an uncanny ability at presenting the you that exists in your mind as equal to the you that exists in the flesh. Those people are not the same, and only one of them can dance. You must shake every part of your body whether you are a good at it or not if only to remind yourself of this fact.

A good dance track reminds you of your body without even trying. The Austrian musicologist Paul Nettl described dance music as “Gebrauchsmusik,” or “utility music,” providing the body with directions for which to flow. Fraught political eras are always accompanied by resurgences in dance culture precisely for this reason. It is in times of stress and anxiety that our bodies most desire direction, we pace around the house when the bills pile up, for example. Whatever your reason, you need to dance, and you need to dance right now. Here are a pair of songs that’ll help get you moving.

Circle Children, Zulu (Change Mix)

New York in the ’90s exists in today’s imagination as a fantasyland, with freaks and ravers congregating in nightclubs going nuts. It’s a nostalgia for something far more complicated, to be sure, but speaks to the desire for the type of freedom that night life represents. In 1994, Circle Children, one of the many monikers of the DJ and producer Armand Van Helden, released one of those tracks that today jolts the imagination to the fantasy of New York’s yesteryear. “Zulu,” which he released several versions of, sounds like a packed out night club where anything could happen. Once the track drops, you feel something begin to stir within you, and it suddenly makes sense why, recently, activists in New York fought tooth and nail to repeal a law that outlawed dancing in venues without a special license.

Yaeji, Last Breath

Kathy Lee, the Brooklyn based DJ and producer who performs under the name Yaeji, is a master of slow-burning dance tracks. With a gentle whisper in her native Korean, Yaeji’s music illustrates the rhythmic nature of language itself, dashing between languages and tempos in a kaleidoscopic view of the world. The music also bangs. Her track “Last Breath,” released by the label God Mode, fills the room with gentle, warm drums that kindly request that you get out of your seat and dance. It’s hard not to oblige.