Electronic Dance Music, also known as EDM (we at Poached Mag are not exactly big fans of that acronym), has in recent years, taken over commercial music by storm. Big name producers such as David Guetta, Skrillex and Armin van Buuren have dominated airplay, and current crowd-friendly artistes like Rihanna and Lady Gaga have incorporated electronic elements into their pop-till-you-drop chart-toppers.
However, electronic dance music does not stop at whatever you’ve just bobbed your heads to on the radio – it is a whole new realm of music that requires lots of technical know-how before even attempting to name yourself as a ‘DJ’, let alone a musician or an artist.
Before one goes into all the nitty-gritty, which consists of instruments, software and production, a basic consensus must be met in terms of what constitutes EDM. What is Electronic Dance Music?
Electronic Dance Music is music produced through equipment and played in a dance-based environment. It creates a different kind of body to music, unlike rock and metal bands of the 60s and 70s, which allow room for mistakes and improvisation when played live.
The common denominator of dance music is primarily the turntables, in which the Disc Jockey (DJ) uses to combine tracks electronically into one smooth mix. Synthesizers and voice manipulation through softwares such as Logic Pro and Fruity Loops are widely used.
“Organic” instruments such as the acoustic guitar can also constitute as part of the equation, and contemporary musicians bring in eccentric elements – a violin, congo drums and et cetera – to add that special ‘feel’ to their music.
That’s a lot to swallow, isn’t it. The 1960s – The ‘Birth’ of Electronic Dance Music Some people say that the early usage of electronic instruments and electronic manipulation in music was in the 1960s, where the boom of funk and soul required the use of the bass guitar and a couple of synthesizers to get the groove going.
What many do not know is that electronic music is said to originate from the use of the Theremin, which allows the musician to create sounds by movement. The first commercial appearance of the Theremin can be seen in The Beach Boys’ ‘Good Vibrations’ in 1966. With such tinkering around with electronic instruments, Melbourne physician Val Stephen became one of the pioneers to have a full electronic music album released internationally. During this period, many producers turned to electronic manipulation to solve certain technical problems such as vocal range and sounds that could not be achieved with an ‘organic’ instrument.
The 1970s – The Interest Continues Disco is one of the biggest genres of this decade, possibly the first wave of electronic music. Eurodance (most people refer to it as Eurotrash) is said to have emerged during this timeframe, together with familiar and tasteful genres such as funk, soul, smooth jazz and jazz-fusion. Another notable genre of this decade would be experimental music. In disco, the emergence of Disco Divas such as Gloria Gaynor and Donna Summer pioneered the wave of groovy, bass-heavy electronic music.
The release of Saturday Night Fever with the once-suave John Travolta and music composed by the Bee Gees, also encouraged the boom of synthesized music. Many established rock musicians also incorporated the usage of synthesizers and modulation in their compositions to create a new genre called Progressive Rock, forming another surge called the New Wave, which then carried on to the 80s. The 1980s – The Experimental Era One such band who incorporated heavy synthesized sounds together with traditional rock music instruments was The Alan Parsons Project.
Previously a sound engineer for The Beatles and subsequently Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons decided to display the technicality of electronic music through concept albums. One lauded track was ‘Eye In The Sky’. Electro, House and Techno also gained popularity in this decade, with German wunderkinds Kraftwerk playing a huge role in defining the template for electronic music, and samples from their works are still used to this day. House music was born in Chicago, influenced by funk and soul elements. Techno on the other hand, was said to originate from Detroit, where the Belleville Three decided to create something more organic and technical.
In recent times, this genre has been popularized by the Germans. Synthpop took root during this era – with the synthesizer becoming the dominant musical instrument for a change. Bands such as the Pet Shop Boys, A-ha! , Depeche Mode and New Order made their mark in replacing the remnants of disco from the 70s. The 1990s – The Craze for Computers With the rampant improvement in technology and lowering of its costs, many people were actually able to produce and mix their own electronic music. Down-tempo and Lounge became predominant in the 1990s, a challenge to the rowdy teen-pop that was dominating the airwaves.
The European Electronic Music Boom (notably in the UK, Germany and France) led to the opening of many superclubs such as Ministry of Sound, and outdoor raves were frequently held. The techno craze developed in Germany, namely Frankfurt and until most recently, Berlin. DJ culture became widespread, with artistes such as Paul van Dyk, Pete Tong, Ferry Corsten and ATB becoming household names. Trance also has its roots in the 1990s, and became the rave in the Netherlands, with Armin van Buuren at the helm. Goa Trance also emerged during this decade, and by the end of the millennium, Ibiza became the destination for partygoers.
The 2000s – The Recent Years Till today, many of the electronic music genres are still popular, for example, trance, house and lounge. With technological advancements, many other sub-genres of music then evolved – Nu-disco bands like Miami Horror, The Phenomenal Handclap Band and Electropop bands are looking to becoming mainstays in this era. Another sub-genre that is slowly developing and being widely appreciated would be minimal techno, with Apparat and Nicolas Jaar on the front line of this sub-genre. Various fusions such as Trap (electronic hip-hop), with groups like Flosstradamus are also gaining popularity in clubs.
The controversial dubstep phenomenon has also instilled a whole new different way of software manipulation into electronic music producers of this decade. With the 2000s not over yet, one can say that this is only the beginning of Electronic Dance Music as there are many other fusions and genres that have not even been created, much less discovered. As Ferry Corsten puts it succinctly, “Trance is the classical music of the future. ” As for Electronic Dance Music, it sets the template for future musicians. – Image Credits: AP, doandroidsdance. com
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