It’s hard to imagine what songs would sound like today if it weren’t for electronic music. Despite popular belief that the genre has only popped up in recent years, electronic music has a long and rich history, going all the way back to the 1800s. In this article, we’ll touch on the history of the genre as well as its place in music today.
What Is Considered Electronic Music?
If you’re new to the genre, you might be wondering what actually defines electronic music. There are so many different sounds and styles that sometimes it can be confusing. Essentially, electronic music is simply any music that is made with electronic processing.
There are so many different categories of electronic music. For instance, electronic rock, disco, and hip-hop fusion all fall under the electronic category, but all three of these sub-genres have completely different sounds. Now, there are too many sub-categories and sub-sub-categories to go through the entire list. But, let’s go over the basics.
The History of Electronic Music
You could write an entire book about electronic music and not even come close to shedding light on all of the different aspects of this type of music. In fact, many people have written books on the history of electronic music and its sub-genres. While we may not be able to write a book here, we’ll give you a thorough understanding of the evolution electronic music has made since its beginning.
Of course, electronic music could not exist without the human discovery and subsequent understanding of electricity. Thorough knowledge of electricity is generally attributed to the work of scientists and philosophers, including Benjamin Franklin, during the 17th and 18th centuries. Electronic instruments, however, did not emerge until the 20th century.
These electronic inventions were not sold to the general public but were used for performance. An example of these types of instruments is the telharmonium, an early electric organ. During the performances, musicians would essentially remix existing music for a live audience. Many musicians and critics thought this type of music would become the music of the future. They were right.
By the 1930s, electronic instruments were smaller and generally more practical for performance. Developments made in electronic recording led to the innovation of sound collages. Making electro music became a little more accessible.
Electro Music in the 70s
While there is a large portion of history missed between the 1930s and the 1970s, this is the decade that is usually referred to as the “beginning” of electronic music. If you’re just getting into electronic music, this is where to start. So let’s dive in.
With the 1970s came the foundation of the electronic genre as we know it today. The cult German band Kraftwerk emerged with Autobahn, which was an experimental album based on the concept of using electronic components. Other artists like Brian Eno and Jean-Michel Jarre spearheaded the electronic music genre throughout the 70s.
The electronic genre was still widely considered avant-garde or experimental music. The innovations of a few artists completely changed the trajectory of music in the coming decades. While it is possibly the most beloved time period of electronic music, it was also the most exclusive time in the history of the genre.
With only a few artists representing the genre at the time, the big players were mostly white males. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean artists of color and women weren’t participating. In the 1970s, the disco scene featured musicians of color and women prominently. The culture of disco, as well as its use of synthesizers and drum machines, opened electronic music up to the culture that surrounds it today.
The Electronic Genre Through The 80s
In the 1980s, electronic music emerged in popular culture and transformed pop music. Electronic pop was born. Some of the early bands that touted this sound were Tears For Fears, Soft Cell, and Depeche Mode. Though electro pop or, as it’s commonly referred to, synth pop, faded in popularity over the decade, it pushed the electronic music genre into the mainstream.
This push into the mainstream was accompanied by a historic revolution in the culture of the genre. That is, the beginnings of house and techno music. Chicago and Detroit are primarily regarded as the birthplaces of the house and techno genres respectively. With these new subgenres of electronic music, the club scene was born from the ashes of the dying disco scene.
Electronic Music In The 90s And Beyond
In the 1990s, we saw the maturity of the genre. It began to expand into a real genre with sub-categories of sub-categories emerging, like the evolution of acid house into jungle music into drum’n’bass. These genres gave birth to rave culture, which heavily influenced popular culture during this period.
The 90s gave birth to other sub-groups, including trance music, trip hop, eurodance, and IDM (intelligent dance music). Each of these sub-genres have their own different qualities and philosophies. It seemed as though people were taking electronic music more seriously.
In the 2000s, by far the most important innovation in the electronic genre was the development of dubstep. Some key artists of the dubstep sub-genre are: Skream, Benga, and Skrillex. Tracks with overwhelming bass lines and reverb drumming patterns became mainstream.
In the past decade, the biggest genre of electronic music is certainly EDM. Artists like Zedd, Avicii, and Martin Garrix have achieved popular acclaim for music that would have been impossible to produce a hundred years ago.
How The Electronic Music World Has Changed Over Time
As stated previously, a genre once dominated by white men is experiencing a creative renaissance as minorities have become more accepted in the music world. DJs of color and female DJs are popping up everywhere and twisting the genre in their own ways.
For instance, Lady Tazz is a DJ born in Canada but who has worked with music all around the world. From becoming the CEO of Bangladesh’s 96.4 Spice FM to working on her own music in Europe, Tazz has faced discrimination for being an Asian woman when attempting to mold her career. Despite stereotypes and hatred, Lady Tazz continues to persevere, as other women of color industry often have to.
Take a listen to Lady Tazz’s most recent release, “Dragon Lady.” Inspired by her alter ego, dragons symbolize freedom and empowerment for women. For more information about DJ Tazz, peruse her website or watch her DJ sets.