Mimicking the machines: the first Industrial music

Photo: Julie Travis

Photo: Julie Travis

By chance I saw a few minutes of a tv programme on dance and found out that some types of English clog dancing was invented by the women working the mechanised looms to relieve the tedium of the job. Many steps mimicked the sounds and movement of the machines. I’ve watched programmes on clog dancing before – and seen it executed wonderfully, most notably by Rachel and Becky Unthank – but had not heard how the steps came about. The original Industrial Music then, I thought – pre-dating by around a century (if my social history is right) the term coined by Peter Christopherson, then of Throbbing Gristle, to describe the sounds/noise of TG. I’ve read many interviews with him and other members of the group but have found no reference to clog dance steps so perhaps he was not aware of it but it certainly seems to reflect his own ideas about how to use sound and noise. When I was researching whether anyone in the 1970s/80s Industrial ‘scene’ had talked about mill workers in Northern England I found no reference to it, either, although contemporary sound artist Sarah Angliss had made the connection several years ago, and had written about it in 2009, even mentioning Kraftwerk and Coil. Of course, between these two eras came industrial music from the Midlands from the likes of Black Sabbath, which was labelled Heavy Metal, since the music reflected the heavy industry of the area and the lives that it dominated, but the later Industrial Music, like the clog dance steps before it, sought to mimic industrial noise more closely.

My forays onto social media are having mixed results. On the plus side, I’ve managed to connect with more writers and have made contact with a few people I’d lost touch with. On the negative side, too many people, I think, consider that clicking the ‘Like’ button on someone’s posts is a decent replacement for emailing friends. It isn’t. It may take time for me to respond to emails sometimes – or write a letter – but that’s because to do so requires the effort that my friends are worth. A few rushed words on social media is not communication. The other main problem is that Facebook feels like being in a room where so many people are shouting that my voice is either not heard or is just ignored. Not having a Smartphone means that taking photos, loading them onto the computer and then posting them anywhere again requires a lot of effort, so my posts on FB have to be considered. So I’m spending less and less time there. Some personal and professional issues of late are also making me consider whether to delete my account completely, along with this website, and retreat into the complete reclusiveness that was necessary when I first left London. A person can only be ripped off, fucked over and taken for granted so many times before they give up and walk away from it all.

On the writing front – I’ve just completed the first draft of Dark Fire. At present it’s just over 6,000 words, which is quite short for me, but is likely to grow a bit when re-drafted. I’m very pleased with it, but I may put it to one side for the time being to press on with another new story.

 

All images and text ©Julie Travis

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2 thoughts on “Mimicking the machines: the first Industrial music

  1. Cool! I never knew that about the early cloggers – fascinating history. Social media? I have a complicated relationship with it – appreciate getting in touch with long-lost people, but hate wading thru posts about interests I don’t share – wish there was a way to screen only for news I consider important! (hahaha I’m sure a lot of people feel that way!) Totally agree that Liking is a rather lazy way to stay in touch; also value email or other types of more intimate, detailed correspondence and communication.

    Thought of you recently when I proofread a bio of HP Lovecraft – a very complicated, pretty disturbed and disturbing person – but a really interesting book. Newer and more diverse writers of weird fiction were mentioned, don’t know if you know them: Nnedi Okorafor, Octavia Butler, Sofia Samatar. I don’t know them, and mean to check them out!

    • To my shame I know little about Lovecraft as a person, apart from the common references to him being a racist. Despite that, I would imagine proofreading a book about him would indeed be an interesting job. I often wonder if horror/sf/fantasy writers believe in the monsters they write about. I can’t be the only one. Someone has mentioned Octavia Butler to me before, and I should have a look at her work. Thanks, too, for the other names – they’re now on my list to look up. Diversity in this genre is needed.

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