Historicity of music | Drop the beat: electronic dance music covers a wide spectrum | Music
Since the dawn of man and his beat of a primitive percussion instrument — arguably the first semblance of music – he also probably nodded or tapped his monkey foot in the artistic expression of dance.
But music and dance don’t always go well together. Consider that classical music lovers usually enjoy the symphony sitting in a chair.
Overall, it’s safe to say that music as an art form has a connection and correlation to dance. Music can motivate humans to surrender to their movements, as in “dancing like nobody’s watching”.
This week, Music Historicity’s ongoing examination of various musical genres features a discussion of EDM, or Electronic Dance Music.
Dance may not be a necessary part of music, but music is definitely a necessary part of the art form of dance.
The 1984 historical comedy-drama “Amadeus” contains a memorable scene where the Emperor attends an opera rehearsal and sees actors dancing without musical accompaniment. The strange sight causes the sovereign to rescind his own previous decree against allowing ballet in opera houses.
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Music and dance are inextricably linked in many examples of songs such as The Twist, The Loco-Motion, The Humpty Dance, The Monster Mash, Le Freak, The Hustle and The Safety Dance.
The advent of the Moog synthesizer in the late 1960s gave a boost to electronic popular music.
It was Wendy Carlos – then known as Walter Carlos – who in 1968 released “Switched On Bach”, a collection of 12 public domain tracks by the classical composer, performed on a synthesizer keyboard.
The album peaked at No. 10 on Billboard, won three Grammy Awards, and reached platinum sales in 1986.
The use of synthesizers supported the development of a musical style that seemed well suited to dance–Disco. An early example can be heard in Donna Summers’ “I Feel Love” and other similar dance hits.
The electronic side of synthesizer music is well known in the German band “Kraftwerk”, whose self-titled debut album from 1970 set an early standard for EDM. In 1975, an abridged 3:28 version of the original 22-minute title track from their fourth album, “Autobahn”, reached No. 25 on the US Billboard charts.
Check out Kraftwerk’s 1981 “Computer World” album, one of my favorites.
Hailing from South Florida, Mark Potzler is a talented music professional with years of experience as a club DJ.
“I have a problem with the ‘EDM’ tag,” Potzler told me recently. “Even though it’s a catch-all phrase for electronic dance music, all electronic music isn’t all about dance. Kraftwerk, for example, isn’t necessarily music dance, but the band is definitely electronic.”
His argument is that electronic music and dance are mutually exclusive concepts.
The early 1980s saw the emergence of different sub-genres of electronic music such as Synth-pop, House, Techno and Freestyle.
“When I was growing up, the popular style was called ‘Techno,’ that’s what everything electronic was called,” Potzler said. “But now techno is a genre in its own right and EDM is more specific. The point is, people need to realize that the term ‘EDM’ has evolved and now means much more than it used to.”
By the 1990s, more and more EDM subgenres had become prominent, including Progressive House, Breakbeat, and Trance, which in turn have their own subgenres such as Progressive Trance, Tech Trance, and Uplifting Trance.
Various subgenres can be specified by the beats per minute, or bpm, of the drum or percussion track. For example, Trance music is usually 120-150 bpm. It is also characterized by building tension and electronic elements throughout the song, culminating with an exit or “drop”.
Some well known Trance artists include Paul van Dyk, KLF, Art of Trance and Age of Love.
In the 2000s, emerging EDM styles included Trap music, Dubstep and Electro House. Examples of artists are Lil’ John, Oris Jay and Daft Punk respectively.
“To me, Daft Punk is the perfect modern-day production,” Potzler said. “For the older generation that appreciates Steely Dan and his production quality, Daft Punk is the same way with songs that are quiet and smooth as well as some that are big and loud. The dynamics of their songs are just amazing – they’re clean, rich and full.”
Today, EDM festivals are held all over the world, with the largest in North America being the Electric Daisy Carnival. The three-day event, held in Las Vegas in May, features dozens of DJs and attracts over 100,000 people daily.
If you want to buy a pass for all three days of EDC this year, it will only cost you $430.
As a DJ, Potzler realizes that playing recorded music in a club can be a performance similar to that of a live band.
“It depends on my mood,” he said. “As a DJ, you can influence everyone’s mood by playing certain songs at a certain time. As long as I feel like everyone on the dance floor likes a track and can relate to it, they’ll dance to it. “
Potzler said his mood playing music in a club can range from hip-hop to reggae to rock music.
“I love light, fun, festive music, regardless of genre,” he said. “I don’t go deep into poetry. It’s okay, but I don’t want to have to think too deeply about the lyrics because you’ll lose me.”
When driving his car, on the way to work, Potzler plays “what some would consider workout music. Something fast and exciting. Sofi Tukker’s ‘Sun Came Up’ is not not so much a story song as a simple expression of a love of life.
“For the ride home at the end of the night, I might be really tired and need music to keep me awake. Or I might be so excited that I need to Chill music to bring me down,” he said.
An example of Chill music would be “You Wish”, by Nightmares on Wax. Sirius XM has an entire music channel dedicated to Chill.
“My favorite part of EDM is that the producers and creators were able to turn an otherwise boring song into something fun and danceable,” Potzler summed up.
For your humble narrator, my EDM favorites include the aforementioned “Computer World” album from Kraftwerk, Major Lazer, Thievery Corporation and Devo’s first five releases – arguably not EDM, but heavy on the synthesizer.