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What Is Danger Music?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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The term danger music is often used to describe music that is believed to carry an element of danger for either the performer or the listener. As a specific form, it is usually a variety of experimental music or noise music. The concept first arose in the 20th century with the Fluxus movement. Common tools used include altering noise levels, singing provocative lyrics, and adding potentially harmful elements to live performances.

Sound volume is one common weapon in the arsenal of danger music performers. The music may play with different levels of intensity, eventually hitting volume levels that could frighten or even cause permanent hearing damage to listeners. Performers could also fuse music with loud sounds such as explosions. Theoretically, extremely loud sounds could also cause so-called brown notes, or noise levels so high that they induce loss of bowel control.

A sense of danger can also be achieved through lyrics. Performers may attempt to put hidden or even overt messages about things perceived as evil like evil spirits or serial killers. In some instances, lyrics may even encourage physical harm to the performer, the listener, or to other individuals — in one extreme example, lyrics could command the singer to tear out his eyes.

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Another element of danger music might include potentially harmful stunts where performers put themselves or crowd members into dangerous situations. For example, a performer might bring explosives onto the stage or drive a large vehicle through a crowd. Some bands perform with prepared instruments as well, and these devices would be rigged with amplifying devices or harmful additions like chainsaws or razors.

Few pieces of danger music have ever been publicly performed. When a performance is scheduled, concerns and protests often lead to the cancellation of the event. Even for permitted performances, crowd participants are sometimes instructed to sign legal waivers that release the band from any injury responsibilities. The Japanese noise band Hanatarash was one infamous example of this approach.

Danger music arguably represents the most boundary-pushing mode of experimental music. The latter term refers to music that does not fit into a traditional mode, but rather embraces new styles and approaches. Experimental music like danger music is also notable for its unpredictability. These factors make this type of musical part of an avant-garde philosophy in arts and media that pushes boundaries and challenges common assumptions.

The experimental inspiration for danger music was the Fluxus movement. Born from the turbulent 1960s, this movement focused on using various forms of media in music. Performers also approached performances with a theatrical flair. Loud screaming was one danger music component that arose from the Fluxus movement. Many of these elements thrived in the rock punk genres that emerged in the late 20th century.

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