The psychology of raving – why trance is making a comeback

  • The Hacienda Rave Scene was one of Manchester's most celebrated musical exports
  • Raves were made illegal in 1994
  • Nightclubs took over the scene, but introduced controls, costs and bouncers
  • Raves are making a comeback as they have communities at their heart
  • Dr Beate Peter of Manchester Metropolitan University has researched the psychology of raving

Ravers at the Hacienda taing part in the dance scene in the ’80s might not have been aware of it but they were taking part in ther own kind of mindfulness, according to a lecturer.

Dr Beate Peter, who has researched the effects of trance music on the mind and body, says the scene switched  people on to Eastern philosophies and a “more holistic experience”.

And while raving has often been associated with the consumption of illegal drugs, the two are mutually exclusive. Young people are more likely to experiment with drugs as they do with alcohol and the rave scene emerged for different reasons, she says.


“Men felt free to participate in dance, without the fear of being laughed at and women didn’t feel the need to protect themselves from unwanted sexual advances,”  she said. 

Her argument is that raving emerged as a liberation from social expectations and that “every youth culture has its own drug that supports the state of mind”. 

Beate, who teaches German at MMU, said the drug MDMA was popular on the rave scene because it released serotonin which heightened the euphoria ravers felt listening to the music.

When I asked her if there was a formula to the perfect rave track, she laughed and said that raving has too many subgenres to have a compositional formula and is “more defined by the location and the people. A good DJ reads the room”.

Rave DJ

Beate said rave music has periods of heightened emotion followed by periods of calming down., This is known as the tension-and-release needed to be present for any type of music to work.

To understand why rave culture is making a comeback, Beate says the Hacienda scene was a response to Thatcherism and individualism, where the scene instead engaged the community and was often run as not-for-profit.

Under today’s Conservative government and the gig economy, where club nights are put on to make money and there is less funding for community centres and activities, the comeback is a similar response. The internet has allowed people to create and advertise the events at minimal cost and gear them towards communities and music-lovers rather than being an event designed solely to make money.