(See the Electronic Music Encyclopedia for definitions of genres discussed.)
In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was riddim.
And in 1490, Leonardo Da Vinci invented the first drum machine. This was a Tiompan (Kettle Drum), which would play a preset rhythm when pulled behind a horse.
And in 1801, Joseph-Marie Jacquard invented the first sequencer. Traitor to the cause, he used it not for musical purposes, but for fabric manufacture. He created a loom which could be programmed using punch cards similar to the familiar Holerith cards, to weave intricate patterns automatically. This was known as the Jacquard Loom.
And in 1863, this sequencer was finally applied to the production of music, in the form of the Player Piano. Invented by a Frenchman named Forneaux, the Pianista employed a separate player unit which used pneumatic "fingers" to play the piano. Later implementations, such as the one developed by R.W. Pain in 1880, used a player built into the piano, employing a scroll of paper with holes similar to the punch cards used in Jacquard's loom. The holes would snag pins which would then activate the hammers inside the piano. The scrolls were mounted on hand-cranked, spring-loaded, or-later-electric spindles.
|"In 1897 the American Thaddeus Cahill has patented the Telharmonium or Dynamophone, which could be regarded for the first electronic music instrument. It weighed 200 tons, was 20 m long and for the first time presented for public in 1906. The resultant sound in first models came out of acoustic trumps, made of piano acoustic plates, later models were led through a telephone network or through a system of telephone devices, connected to special acoustic trumps - it was the only way to amplify the sound in the pre-amplifier era. The third and ultimate prototype of the Telharmonium was finished in 1911 and was working until 1916."-unknown source|
And in the 1920s, Luigi Russolo invented abstract music with his Noise Orchestra.
And in 1919, top Soviet scientist Lev Sergeivitch Termen (Leon Theremin) defected to the United States, where he developed the world's first electric (not electronic) synthesizer, known as the Theremin. This device consisted of a box with 2 antennae, containing a number of voltage controlled oscillators (VCOs). The 2 antennae emitted magnetic fields, the variation of which would alter, in one case the pitch, and in the other the volume, of the VCO's output. The instrument was played by waving one's hands in the vicinity of the antennae, thereby manipulating the magnetic fields thereon, and creating the eerie string-like sounds known from such pieces as the theme from Star Trek (original series). It was also renowned as the first instrument that could be played without being touched. Maurice Martenot, a contemporary of Leon Theremin, created another similar device, known, oddly enough, as the Ondesmartenot.
In the early 1950s, Hugh LeCaine, working at the University of Toronto, developed a number of synthesizers which forever changed the face of music. His music was almost 30 years ahead of it's time, and was never accepted in his own lifetime. His goal was actually to create synthesizers which could produce effective representations of existing instruments. While he was never very successful in this effort, he created many of the sounds later employed by renowned electronic musicians. Perhaps his greatest failing, however, was in naming his instruments. Case in point: the Sackbut, invented in 1945.
In 1967, Robert Moog created the Moog synthesizer, and altered the course of musical progression for the next 30 years.
Through the 1960s and 1970s, the Moog, and its descendants, were employed in a variety of experimental compositions, including the best known, the Hooked On Bach project, which used a Moog synthesizer to perform the works of Johann Sebastian Bach.
In the beginning there was punk. And then there was Kraftwerk. This pioneering 4-piece from Dusseldörff (?), Germany, used (don't quote me on this) a MiniMoog, a MicroMoog, a Vocoder, and a drum machine, on their best known release, 1977's Trans-Europe Express. Exploring the boundaries of both popular and experimental music of the time, the originality of this record more than makes up for the not-so-good vocals.
At the same time, DJ culture was emerging in the ghettos of New York City and other cities in the Eastern US. The DJ originally came from Jamaica, where the DJ was a mobile sound system playing the sounds of ska, rocksteady, and early reggae. The DJ sometimes had a selector, who would play records while the DJ would toast lyrics over top, promoting this and that. Later, DJs started recording dub plates, which would be one-off recordings of a DJ toasting a lyric, usually of a promotional nature, over top of a selector's mix. Thus dub was born. (To explain, the selector is what we call a DJ, and the DJ is what we call an MC. That should be pretty much clear as mud.) Transplanted to the US, DJs like Grandmaster Flash began combining dub and dub techniques with funk and soul such as the works of James Brown and funk master George Clinton, along with techniques such as beatboxing and scratching to create rap and electro. Afrika Bambaata is one of the pioneers of these genres.
And there was also disco. And from disco, there emerged an all night dance party in the predominantly black gay clubs of Chicago and other cities in that neck of the woods. The DJs of these clubs combined their techniques with the scratching and selecting of the rap DJs, to produce the style of mixing we currently know. At first they began creating extended mixes of disco, funk, soul, R'n'B and other music which they recorded onto tape, or sometimes onto vinyl, and then played out in the clubs at night. Later, they began mixing live in this way. Several DJs emerged as pioneers of this live mixing technique, including Frankie Knuckles, Larry Levan, Farley "Jackmaster" Funk, and Ron Hardy, who solidified house as a distinct musical style.
And it was in one of the most famous of these clubs, by one of the most famous of these DJs, that House Music was born. The venue was Chicago's Warehouse, and the DJ was Frankie Knuckles. The year was 1983. He took as the roots of the music a form of funky, underground disco now referred to as Chicago Deep House, such as Two Tons of Fun-I Got The Feeling (remix), from 1979. (This differs significantly from what is normally referred to as Deep House. For more information on this style, see Gerard Rose's Legendary DJs of House website.) He combined this sound with synth-based instrumentals, and a regular, repetitive kick/hi-hat/clap or snare/hi-hat 4/4 beat which, in many cases, employed the then-new Roland TR-808 drum machine, with its signature drum sounds that have defined much of the music since. Because the music was born at a club known as the Warehouse, the music took on the name Warehouse, which was later shortened to House. To hear many early house classics, please visit The History of House Music.
In 1985, in another predominantly black gay club scene in Detroit, another DJ by the name of Juan Atkins (aka Cybotron), along with mates Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson, developed the sound known as Techno. They took elements of synth-pop and synth-rock artists such as Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode, along with electro rhythms and sampling techniques, and combined them with a repetitive beat similar to the new House music sound. This new style of music was at once happy and energetic, and at the same time dark. Much of the music was instrumental, rather than relying on vocals as House and disco did. This was the beginning of the practice of layering music, using records as instruments, or notes, as the analogy may be, to create new pieces of music on the fly.
Around the same time that House was emerging in Chicago, people in New York City began combining elements of house, along with the sounds of disco and funk, and later techno, to create a form of music known as Garage. Garage tended to be more downtempo than house, and evolved parallel to house from disco. Like House, Garage took its name from its place of origin, a New York club known as the Paradise Garage, where Larry Levan held a residence for a number of years.
At the same time, the techno and house sounds were catching on in the UK, and in various parts of Europe. In the UK, in particular, two styles were emerging with their own modifications to the original techno sound. Groups like 808 State began adding syncopated rhythms known as breakbeats, along with other sounds like guitars and the like, to create the distinctive UK techno sound.
More significantly, however, some artists began combining techno and house sounds with the sounds of a new modular analogue synthesizer from the same family as the familiar 808, known as the TB-303. This synth had a kind of raspy sound and a filter sweep function, both of which reminded listeners of an acid trip, and inspired them to use acid to experience it more. In addition, artists began employing samples from a variety of sources in their music. These stolen samples where called Acid, using the New York slang of the time, which referred to stolen goods as acid. And thus, from these three sources of nomenclature, Acid House was born. The first Acid House came about in Chicago and New York, with tracks such as Phuture-Acid Trax (the first Acid House track ever released), but didn't really catch on in the US until it became very popular in the UK in the late 80s. The beats often made extensive use of the conga and tom sounds of the 808, which contributed to the later development of Tribal House.
The name Acid House alone was enough to get the British populace in an uproar. Combined with racial tensions and homophobic sentiments in London at the time, and economic problems, and a growing drug culture, it was simply more than the Government could stand for. So Acid House enthusiasts had to find an alternative venue for their culture. They began gathering in fields, playing their music all night and dancing for long hours, often with the help of drugs such as acid and ecstasy. Happy faces on clothes, bags, and everything else were the fashion of the day. This combined with a falsetto "Acieeeeeeeed!" (D-Mob-We Call It Acid) to define the 1988 Summer Of Love, and the birth of the rave scene that we know today. When farmers' fields became too obvious a venue and started to get busted, they started breaking into warehouses and holding their parties there.
The 303 was soon introduced into techno in Detroit in a big way, where it continued to develop independent of the British techno sound.
In 1991 a new techno sound emerged from Belgium. Joey Beltram had moved to Brussels from Brooklyn in 1989, and brought with him the Brooklyn techno sound he helped to pioneer. Belgian artists took the sound and warped it into their own unique style. It was harder and darker than any techno heard before. It employed samples from operatic chorus, along with synth sounds that emulated this operatic choral sound. One well known track by Apotheosis sampled O Fortuna, the introduction to Carl Orff's 1937 German opera (sung in Latin) Carmina Burana, for which they were later sued by Orff's estate. All publications featuring the song were later deleted (although Enigma used a sample from O Fortuna in three tracks on their latest album). Artists in this style included T.99, Cubic 22, Joey Beltram, Frank De Wulf, and several others. The track which popularized the style, while itself probably not Belgian, was LA Style's James Brown Is Dead.
At the same time in England, Breakbeat was emerging as a style in its own right. Perhaps the best known example is 4Hero's Mr. Kirk's Nightmare on Reinforced. It was slower than techno and acid house, and put more emphasis on the breakbeat, with almost no 4/4 beat to be found.
There were enhancements made to sampling techniques and technology, allowing such techniques as timestretching and digital sampling (rather than using tape loops). Combined with this was the emerging computer technology, the development of home computers like the Amiga and the Atari, along with music creation software such as FastTracker. The Amiga was one of the most important developments in the technology of electronic music since the development of the Moog, because it included 16-bit audio (which at the time was unheard-of in other computers) and what is still considered to be one of the most reliable midi sequencer systems available. It also moved music production out of expensive studios, and firmly into the hands of regular people. Now that anyone could obtain the equipment to create electronic music, a lot of talent was being realized that previously had no opportunity to emerge. Electronic music became the first truly independent, underground music industry.
In the late 80s and early 90s, a few individuals, most notably Maximilian Lenz, from Westfalenhalen, Westfalia, Germany, began adding a new twist to the sounds of Detroit techno which had reached Germany. Lenz, better known as WestBam (a homage to his place of birth, and his idol, electro legend Afrika Bambaata), added a harder edge to techno, using delays and echos in combination with a harsh new synth sound supplied by the Roland Juno Alpha, known as the Hoover, a reference to its similarity to the sounds emitted by vacuum cleaners of the same name. This new German techno sound combined with the influence of 1991's Belgian techno sound, to create a hard German techno of 1992. Some good examples of the result include Interactive-Dance Motherf*cker, U96-Das Boot, Westbam-Forward Ever Backward Never, and Ace the Space-9 Is A Classic. This sound then moved into the Netherlands where it got even harder, and in late 1992/early 1993, became known as Rotterdam.
Towards the end of 1991, the Belgian techno sound began incorporating an increasing amount of breakbeats. This was then adapted by the British to create what became known as Hardcore. The (now known as) drum'n'bass sounds of LTJ Bukem's groundbreaking 1990 release Demon's Theme (it was recorded in 1990, but was on promo only for over a year because there was nothing else even remotely like it at the time) combined with the breakbeat of the previous year, and the Belgian hard techno sounds to create an upbeat, happy, and energetic form of techno that became the definitive RAVE music.
This new hardcore in 1992 was characterized by buildups and soft breakdowns, chopped up breakbeats, and an uplifting happy sound with dark overtones. Good examples of the style are Acen-Trip To The Moon pt. 2, DJ Seduction-Hardcore Heaven, SUAD-Raving I'm Raving, Interface-Toytown, and Foul Play-Finest Illusion. From Interface-Toytown emerged a sub-genre of so-called Toytown or Bubblegum Rave, or Kiddie Rave, that included tracks such as Urban Hype-Trip To Trumpton, Smart E's-Sesames Treet, Rhoobarb and Custard, among others. Other artists began incorporating ragga samples and basslines into their music, to form a sort of raggacore that was a forerunner of the later style known as ragga jungle.
In 1993, the scene and the country turned dark, and the sound turned dark along with it. Darkside tracks like Hyper On Experience-Lords of the Null Lines and Thunder Grip (Moving Shadow), Q Project-Champion Sound, Luna C-I Know U (Kniteforce), and Origin Unknown-Valley of the Shadows (RAM) began to dominate the 'ardkore sound. One of these tracks, Ruffige Kru-Terminator, originally released on Reinforced but later re-released on Metalheadz, is considered to represent the emergence of a new style known as Jungle or Drum'n'Bass (although many people consider Lenny D. Ice-We Are IE, from 1989, to be the first jungle track ever).
Jungle was distinguished from hardcore by a more rigid structure, consisting of an intro, a breakdown, a big drop, followed by the main body of the song, which usually ended in another breakdown, drop, and the second main part of the song, which continued to the end. Hardcore, on the other hand, frequently had a breakdown every 4 or 16 (4x4) bars, often without a drop at the end of it, and changed patterns, melodies, and the like, frequently throughout the song. The first jungle, from 1993, was often referred to as jungle tekno. The origin of the name jungle is somewhat varied. By some accounts, it is a reference to a region of Kingston Jamaica known as the Concrete Jungle. This area is one of the poorest slums of Kingston, and people from the area are known as Junglists. When Lee "Scratch" Perry talks about Junglists, he is referring to people from this area. An alternate explanation is that the term "jungle" was originally meant to be derogatory, to mean uncouth or raw, but that artists, DJs, and fans of the style turned that insult on its head, by wearing the label proudly and defiantly.
Jungle, also known by a more media-friendly term, Drum'n'Bass, went through a number of permutations over the years, with Ragga Jungle and Darkside Jungle dominating in 1994 and 1995, Jazzy Drum'n'Bass and Intelligent Drum'n'Bass dominating 1996. In late 1996, hiphop jungle emerged, and the form known as Jumpup was born. Jumpup was a funky, upbeat form of jungle, a response to all the chill drum'n'bass that had dominated most of the year. Also in 1996, Techstep first made an appearance. Techstep, a combination of intelligent drum'n'bass and Detroit Techno sounds, didn't really catch on the first time, but it led to the development of other styles later on. In 1997, Hardstep emerged, with hard drum sounds and dark synths. 1997 was the year of the two-step, when nearly every track contained a simplified breakbeat usually comprising just 4-6 beats in total. 1997 was also the year of the LP. Nearly all the best music of that year was on LPs, such as Ed Rush & Nico-Torque, on No U-Turn; Position Chrome, and Enforcers-Beginning of the End (although that mighta been 1998). Also in 1997, Congo Natty came into its own, and became a serious contender, as the defender of the Ragga Jungle sound in the new era.
Jungle also began emerging from other points of the globe. Up until that time, the vast majority of widely released jungle had been produced in the UK, with some minor contributions by Germany's Alec Empire, and DJ Soulslinger from the US. In 1997 a new sound emerged out of Toronto, Canada, that took the world by storm. Pioneering DJs Sniper and Mystical Influence, backed by DJs Slip and Stormshadow, Sigma 7, Robbie from Syrous, and their mates at Eastern Bloc Records in Toronto and in the UK, founded the Vinyl Syndicate record label. Their first release, Mystical Influence's Dub Plate Pressure, backed by his brother Sniper's mashup stormer The Game, was like nothing people had heard before, and caused a sensation in the UK drum'n'bass scene. When Man of Steel came out somewhat later, Mickey Finn happened to hear a promo of it, and liked it so much that he snapped it up with a major deal for his Urban Takeover label. Other Toronto labels soon followed, such as Jedi, Placebo (a division of Stickman), Nice+Smooth (run by veteran Toronto ravers Gerald Belanger and Chris Drost of Kinder Atom; and Infection, founded by DJ Darkness, another veteran of the Toronto jungle scene, along with my own DNE Productions label, although we deal in numerous other styles as well as jungle and hardcore.
1998 saw UK producers playing catch-up with this new Toronto sound. It also saw the emergence of what seems to have been a much greater urgency to produce product, in the face of a growing popularity of drum'n'bass. This in turn led to a very generic sound in drum'n'bass, as if every sound had to be released in order meet the required quota. The sound became softer, and darker, and what eventually emerged was the dark techstep sound that dominated much of 1999. The artists who dominated during this period were Ed Rush, Optical, Trace, Technical Itch, and a few others. Toward the end of 1999, a re-emergence of the jazzy sound occurred in the drum'n'bass scene. Artists like Aquasky and veteran producer Rob Haigh ( Renegade Snares producer Omni Trio), and EZ Rollers, began to re-emerge as major players in the scene. Also in 1999 and 2000, the ragga jungle sound has re-emerged with a vengeance. Abandoning Congo Natty's characteristic 2-step ragga-influenced jump-up in favour of the classic mashup amen stormers of 1994 and 1995, some new tracks have emerged from labels such as Knowledge & Wisdom, a side project of the Congo Natty camp, and Joker, with an updated form of the old sound. Artists to look for in the future in this genre include MadClatter, whose MP3.com release Don't Dis, featuring Tenor Fly, is a mad stormer in the tradition of Bizzy B, Top Cat, and other ragga jungle artists of yesteryear, with original vocals provided by da Fly. In the middle of 2001, drum'n'bass began incorporating many ideas from '92 and '93 hardcore, as a resurgence in interest in oldskool began sweeping the UK. Examples include John B-Up All Night, Alien Eye-Found A Cafe, and DJ Skywalker-Killer Whale.
Back to 1992. When hardcore turned dark going into 1993, some people fought against this turn by taking things even happier. At the same time, this offshoot of hardcore got faster. As it did so, breakbeats were supplanted by a 4/4 beat more akin to techno, but often employing the harder TR-909 kick drum in place of the TR-808. By 1994, this style had refined to become what we know today as Happy Hardcore. A basic structure was defined, with a kick-stab-clap drum and synth pattern which is instantly recognizable. Vocals were taken from old pop and disco songs of the 70s and 80s, as well as hardcore tracks from 1992. Synth sounds from German and Belgian techno and Rotterdam, known as hoovers, were incorporated into the sound. Dominating artists in the genre include oldskool veterans DJ Brisk, DJ Ham, DJ Seduction, Sy & Unknown, Vibes & Wishdokta (aka Sunshine Productions), Slipmatt, and Paul Elstak, who has made his name in several different scenes, including gabber and Dutch Techno, as well as making the renowned happy hardcore track Rainbows In The Sky.
Taking another step back, this time to 1991. House, too, had begun to diversify. The toms, congas, snares, and so on of acid house began to be combined with djembe, dijeridu, whistles, and other instrumentation characteristic of aboriginal cultures of Africa and Australasia to form the beat-oriented Tribal House. Another direction house took was to combine elements of ambient, pioneered by artists such as Richard D James (Aphex Twin) and Autechre, along with sounds of Detroit Techno and the emerging German techno sounds, to create what became known as Progressive House. This Progressive House continued to evolve, and by 1992, had spawned a new genre known as Trance.
Faster and more energetic and upbeat than techno, trance was so named, aptly enough, because it had a tendency to induce a trance in its listeners, especially with the added influence of substances which were often used in its presence. From the beginning, trance was viewed as a very spiritual form of rave music, strongly associated with psychedelics, shamanism, and spiritual enlightenment. Entering 1994, the predominant form of trance was known as Epic Trance, characterized by a sophisticated beat pattern, with massive delayed synth sounds, very little vocal content, mystical samples, and ambient breakdowns, in tracks such as Jam & Spoon-Follow Me. This Epic Trance was adapted in Germany, combined with a stronger influence of WestBam's German Techno sound, to produce a style known simply as German Trance. Some of the best known artists in this style are Commander Tom and Nostrum. Commander Tom's Are Am Eye is a good example of the style. Some of Mauro Picotto's music could also be considered German trance.
Another style which emerged around the same time was known as Goa. Named for a region in India popular as a holiday resort destination for well-off young Brits anxious to explore their psychedelic imaginations, this style embodied a form of somewhat extreme Psy(chedelic) Trance laced with 303s, acid, and Eastern Mysticism. Eventually Psytrance emerged as a separate style in its own right, with a less experimental sound. The addition of the 303 led to the development of acid trance and hard acid trance. Merging with commercial dance music, Progressive trance became THE commercial club dance music in the UK, in the process softening its sound for consumption by the masses, incorporating more vocals, and promoting some of its proponents, such as Paul Oakenfold, to mythic proportions.
The Swedes got a hold of Techno and put their own spin on it, developing a following for artists and DJs such as Cari Lekebusch and Adam Beyer. The French added their own developments to progressive house, creating a characteristic French Progressive House sound. Portuguese Happy Hardcore, while obscure, has a strong, though small, following. Combining techno sounds with house rhythms produced Tech-house, which as a style is still rather new and going strong. As house got harder and faster over the years, a style known as Hardhouse has emerged, which currently is very big in the UK, represented by labels such as Tidy Trax and Platypus.