In this optimistic view of mechanisation for TEDx Brighton (2011), I reveal some surprising connections between two types of dance music which flourished two centuries apart. Both were created by people working to the relentless beat of factory machines.
This talk uses some of my original research for the Science Museum, London. It also discusses The Machinery, a collaborative project with performer and theatre historian Caroline Radcliffe. Since this talk, we’ve performed The Machinery many times, presented it in peer-reviewed papers and created video records of the piece with film maker Jon Harrison.
The Machinery reinterprets a dance that was devised and performed by women in the cotton mills of Lancashire. As they danced, the women copied the sounds and motions of the cotton mill machines around them. Over 160 years before Kraftwerk and the pioneers of Detroit Techno, these women were embracing the duhumanisation of the production line and creating a new, virtuosic artform where humans coalesce with machines. The earliest known account of this pioneering example of industrial dance and music is from 1804.
This TEDx talk was a response to the theme of the conference: Reasons to be Cheerful.