Dance Music

Origin, history and background information

In general

(Electronic) dance music is a broad set of percussive music genres that largely inherit from 1970s disco music and, to some extent, the experimental pop music of Kraftwerk. Such music was originally borne of and popularized via regional nightclub scenes in the 1980s. By the early 1990s, the presence of electronic dance music in contemporary culture was noted widely and its role in society began to be explored in published historical, cultural and social science academic studies. It is constructed by means of electronic instruments such as synthesizers, drum machines and sequencers, and generally emphasizes the unique sounds of those instruments, even when mimicking traditional acoustic instrumentation. It sometimes encompasses music not primarily meant for dancing, but derived from the dance-oriented styles.

Dance music experienced a boom after the proliferation of personal computers in the 1980s, many music genres that made use of electronic instruments developed into contemporary styles mainly thanks to the MIDI protocol, which enabled computers, synthesizers, sound cards, samplers and drum machines to control one another and achieve the full synchronization of sounds. Dance music is typically composed using computers and synthesizers, and rarely has any physical instruments played live for the track, instead this is replaced by sampled percussive beats or phrases, the latter often being cut up beyond their original rhythms, or digital/electronic sounds. Dance music typically ranges from 120bpm up to 200bpm.

Genres

Dance music is categorized by music journalists and fans alike as an ever-evolving plethora of named genres, styles and sub-styles. Some genres, such as techno, house, trance, electro, breakbeat, drum and bass, Italo disco, and Eurobeat (closely related to Italo disco) are primarily intended to promote dancing. Others, such as IDM, glitch and trip-hop, are more experimental and tend to be associated more with listening than dancing.

Steve Hillage and Miquette Giraudy set out a categorization of electronic dance music genres based on beats per minute (bpm):

  • 60–90 bpm — hip hop and dub
  • 90–120 bpm — faster hip hop and big beats/trip hop
  • 120–135 bpm — house
  • 135–155 bpm — techno
  • 155–180 bpm — drum and bass / jungle
  • 180 + bpm — hardcore gabber and beyond

Notable artists and DJs

With the explosive growth of computers music technology and consequent reduction in the cost of equipment in the late 1990s, the number of artists and DJs working within electronic music is overwhelming. With the advent of hard disk recording systems, it is possible for any home computer user to become a musician, and hence the rise in the number of "bedroom bands", often consisting of a single person. Nevertheless notable artists can still be identified. Influential musicians in industrial, synth pop and later electronic dance styles include Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle (both now defunct), the Human League and Kraftwerk. In house, techno and drum and bass pioneers such as Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Frankie Bones are still active as of 2007. Commercially successful artists working under the "electronica" rubric such as Faithless, The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Moby continue to release albums and perform regularly (sometimes in stadium-sized arenas, such has the popularity of electronic dance music grown). Some DJs such as Paul Oakenfold, Paul van Dyk and Tijs Verwest (aka Tiësto) have reached true superstar status and can command five-figure salaries for a single performance. They perform for hours on end. Some DJs have world wide radio, and internet, broadcasted shows that air weekly, such as A State of Trance, a show mixed by Armin van Buuren.