At first, it was nothing out of the ordinary. The music was loud, the lights were bright, the crowd was hot — standard concert fare. Confetti and pyrotechnics abounded, accentuating the music. Then I noticed that my hands were clapping, my arms were waving in rhythm, my head was nodding, and my mouth was forming eloquent words I did not understand, but I knew I could not stop. I did not look around me then, but I felt the presence of thousands of bodies beside me and around me, clapping and waving with me, locked in this perfect trance. And in that instant, I knew that I was witness to something special — to magic unfolding before my ears upon the stage of sound.
The openers — Robotaki and San Holo — were both exceptional performers. They played music, but they played the crowd most of all, letting the music ebb and flow between their nimble fingers as the crowd bobbed and swayed back and forth. They screamed when the music screamed; they clapped when the music clapped. As did I, singing, humming and dancing as I saw fit. I watched Robotaki, shrouded in foggy shades of purple, green and red, fingers dexterously sliding about the turntables, his head shaking joyfully. San Holo — music soaring, climbing, rushing — was no less impressive. He was frenetic, in that shade of emotion between hysteria and euphoria. He waved his arms at no one in particular, shook his head in awe, in disbelief, in ecstasy — then left the stage to raving cheers and screams.
And then Porter Robinson and Madeon took to the stage. They were incomparable, peerless in performance. All the distractions of life and work and worry left my head as the music became the distraction. We all listened to San Holo and Robotaki enthusiastically, but the music of Porter Robinson and Madeon cannot simply be heard. It must be felt as well, or else the fullness of emotion contained in the music is lost; it evaporates, evanescent, into the smoky haze above. This is no metaphor — the feeling starts in your feet, as the floor quakes, and then it eases into a place below your stomach. It ascends upwards through the veins and into your heart, into the back of your throat, where it gurgles and bubbles. There it waits, patiently awaiting its release. You bow your head, pensive, and the feeling percolates lazily through your ears and into your brain, exclaiming: “It’s a long way forward! So trust in me! I’ll give them shelter! Like you’ve done for me!”
What transpired on stage then was divine. The two artists, locked in a transcendental duet, drew the crowd effortlessly into a raucous kind of litany. Our arms drew upward, reaching for the sky, for liberation. “Tell me whose side you’re on!” the music proclaimed, excitedly waiting for a response. So it clapped; we clapped back. It sang; we sang back. Then it asked a question: “OK?” We replied, shouting “OK!” — and so we entered in earnest the sheltered world before us. The music changed, growing upbeat, gleeful at the multitudes it had just persuaded. It pulsed and boomed happily, or perhaps that was the sound of our bodies: the beating of our hearts; the nodding of our heads; the perpetual dance of a thousand bodies in perfect step. No matter — the music was sound; the music was us. Here was a world wrought of music. I closed my eyes, and it descended over me, enveloping me in a hazy sea of voices.
We stood and swayed in awed delirium, imbued with a cathartic confidence in this carefree place: we were the lionhearted, we were emboldened, religiously watching this scene of musical consecration. It was a ritual, our bodies moving in ceaseless exultation. The duet on stage — the pantheon of this fleeting, sheltered world — rejoiced in this feeling as well, singing and crying as we sang and cried as well. They jumped and danced in jubilation: they were not merely performers, they were the music. We did not tire or falter in our dance, because we were the music too, and the music depended on us.
Time and its passage grow strange in a world of profound, consummate feeling. To say that it slows is provincially simple. It recedes and advances, as the tides and waves of music wash over the body and the soul. It warms too, as the glow of camaraderie forms hesitantly but surely beneath a translucent haze. Time grows strange, but it grows friendly as well — it grows protective; it grows old. And now it’s the end of the world, the voice tells us, but we shouldn’t blame ourselves. The voice draws closer, leaving only this promise to whoever will listen: it will surround us, and give life to our own world. The promise — etched in white light upon black monoliths, in English and some runic code, vows its timelessness. It says goodbye — the voice grows faint and distorted. And then comes the dark, abrupt silence. Confused, we search for that promise, grasping and chanting in the darkness. Was the promise broken? Could it have ever been kept? The silence does not respond: it is unconscious. And then we realize — it is a promise well-kept.
Porter Robinson and Madeon played music, and it reached our ears, but it also surrounded us. It gave life to an imaginative world of sights and sounds and adventure, touching those unique threads of experience and laughter in our heads, gathering them gently with emotive music. We said goodbye to our world, and entered this world in between; the music said goodbye to its world, and entered this world as well. In the impossible space between music and reality, we danced, we laughed, we cried. But it was ephemeral. The experience of music leaves no record, except for that scant daguerreotype imprinted forever into the memory. It touches you, but you cannot touch it; you cannot reach out and grab that intangible thing. But that familiar feeling in your body stays always. It beats in your heart as you walk, it swirls beneath your nose as you breathe, music to the ears.
Contact Trenton Chang at tchang97 ‘at’ stanford.edu