Months ago I wrote the start of a series of articles about the history of electronic (dance) music, which was supposed to be a spin-off to the lecture I had done early december. At that time I had expected to write an episode every two weeks, but too many things got in the way. So a bit later than expected here finally is part two.
THE HISTORY OF ELECTRONIC DANCE MUSIC:
"Building blocks 1968 - 1980"
At the end of the sixties Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider-Esleben went to the Düsseldorf conservatory and followed classes by Stockhausen. Their interest in classical music was big, but they were much more impressed by the possibilities of electronic instruments and especially the studio. So while they were still studying they joined many starting German bands like Amon Düül and Organisation at first by playing flute and playing a kind of free-form music, based on a relative simple repeating rhythm and Eastern influences to break away from standard European chord progression. After two years the duo started their own band called Kraftwerk (which is German for 'Power station'). At the start of the seventies there were many bands in Germany which were part of a movement the outside world called 'Krautrock'. Krautrock was seen as an reaction of many young German musicians to the influence of American guitarrock imported by military personnel throughout the country it was also a way for many young musicians to react in their own way to the memory of the war and what role their parents or grandparents had played a part in that.
Only the second time Kraftwerk played live, they played on German television. Back then they consisted also of Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother who right after the show split and started their own band called NEU! While Neu went on to make highly repetitive rock, Kraftwerk created their own studio and experimented with sounds and simple melodies. On the first three records they still used normal instruments like a flute, guitar and a organ, but in 1974 they changed all that, they switched to all electronic instruments, they released "Autobahn". Autobahn was an almost endless track about one of Germany's prides the highways throughout the country, which were build by Hitler, but which were now also of essential use to the economic rebuilding of Germany and the rest of Europe. Although the complete version was at least thirty minutes long, it was to became a big hit throughout the world. Kraftwerk had found their style and every other two years they shocked the music world with another record made all electronicically and in the studio which they rebuild every time they make a new record. The sounds, songs, theme's and the whole concept of Kraftwerk was to be of big influence in electronic music and popmusic in general.
Kraftwerk weren't the only one who saw the studio as an instrument in itself, on the other side of the world there were many masters of the studio. In the West-Indies and Jamaica music has always played a big part in the community. At the end of the sixties, while everyone in the world was listening to psychedelic rockmusic, the people of Jamaica were dancing to rocksteady, ska and a slow variant called reggae. The music-culture that was spawned in Jamaica was of great importance of many of the things you still see in dance music nowadays. Jamaicans were the first to take the concept of the remix to extremes, to keep people dancing in the dancehalls producers made special 'versions' of popular songs by fading in and out instruments and make multitrack copies of certain tracks called 'dubs'. People who became masters in this process are still seen as gods of the studio, people like King Tubby, Lee Perry and Augustus Pablo. Jamaicans were also the first to start a 'rave', they called it the soundsystem, parties were organised illegally at certain sites or inside unused building by setting up big rigs of speakers and amplifiers. The deejay also played a big role in this culture and were the first to 'rap' or 'toast' as they call it in Jamaica. Every track playing was accompanied by the Deejay talking about it or usually nothing of importance, but to excite the crowd. Producers and studios helped Deejays to become more popular by releasing very limited copies of remixes called 'dubplates'. All these actions have become normal in todays dance-culture, but they were already pioneers these techniques halfway the seventies on the island of Jamaica.
In the seventies electronic instruments had become cheaper and got used in many studios around the world. Under the influence of Kraftwerk, Funk and r'n'b a form of dancemusic was invented, a fastpaced four to the floor beat made for partying and partying only, it was called Disco and made around the globe but most in America and Italy. Party-people of the world went crazy over it, while many less hedonistically interested listeners cringed and fought back playing and listening to punk rock.
All these building blocks were responsible for the popularisation and evolution of electronic music into the many streams we now know. How it progressed throughout the nineteeneighties I will tell you in the third episode. "The beat won't stop. 1980 - 1988"