Electronic dance music began with humble beginnings and has transformed into one of the most influential music genres in history.
Every generation is defined by a music genre. For the Baby Boomer generation, it’s rock and roll. Generation X represents the punk rock and hip-hop genres. The younger portion of the Millennial generation has defined itself by a genre whose music festivals could be compared to the likes of Woodstock in 1969, except they’re not listening to The Grateful Dead or The Who. Instead, the Millennials are gathering in the name of peace, love, unity, and respect at electronic dance music festivals such as Tomorrowland, the Electronic Daisy Carnival, and Global Gathering.
In anticipation for the Thank You Festival coming up Thursday, June 26 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, featuring EDM artists DJ Tiesto, Above & Beyond, Krewella, and Alvin Risk, it might be a good idea to brush up on your EDM genre knowledge.
EDM can be found pumping through the speakers of most twenty-something-year-olds. Even Saturday Night Live has caught a whiff of the grasp the genre has on young people today. But the genre isn’t exactly new. In fact, it has been around for decades in one form or another. Do techno, house, and trance music ring a bell? While those genres are highly popular today, aspects of each music style overlap and are part of the DNA of EDM and have been around since as early as the 1970s. When the disco era came to an end, New Wave, house and techno music, the electronic music of the 1980s that filled flashy nightclubs, took its place and completely redefined how people listened to music.
One of the most influential DJ’s of the 1970s and the credited “first modern DJ” was Francis Grasso, who revolutionized disco and the electronic music scene. Fun fact: the headphones that you see DJs Tiesto and Avicii sport while on stage? That was started by Grasso. Headphones allowed Grasso to listen to one turntable while he played the second, which was a huge game changer in the DJ culture. Grasso perfected beat-matching (the syncing of two records) and was the first to mix his music onstage based on the reaction of the audience in an attempt to feed their musical high. In other words, he used his skillful ears to pump them up. It is this method that defines the electronic artists we listen to today, from Daft Punk whose hit “Get Lucky” you can’t get out of your head, to Deadmau5 and Above & Beyond.
People weren’t only rocking out to Pearl Jam and Nirvana in the 1990s. English native Aphex Twin, aka Richard David James, has made history as one of the most famous electronic musicians in history. In fact, Rolling Stone Magazine dubbed Aphex Twin’s album “The Richard D. James Album” (1996) as number 17 of the 30 Greatest EDM Albums Of All Time. The magazine refers to Aphex Twin as, “electronic music’s great restless innovator, a prolific mad scientist blurring the lines between dance music, ambient, and avant-garde composition, influencing a generation of ‘intelligent’ dance music artists.” So please, delete Justin Bieber from your smartphone and download some truly revolutionary music.
Listening to EDM through good quality headphones is acceptable, and playing the music through expensive speakers is ideal. Using the earbuds that came with your iPhone is just pitiful and does not do the intoxicating beats and bass drops justice. While speakers and headphones work just fine, their child’s play compared to listening to your favorite EDM musicians live at a music festival. A music festival is how you truly connect with the music and fellow EDM fans, who would practically give their souls for the mesmerizing, almost hypnotic music. EDM music festivals are as visually stimulating as they are audible. The three-day music fest Tomorrowland in Belgium attracts over 180,000 people from all over the world and seems to take a scene from “Alice In Wonderland” with trippy rainbow laser lights shooting over the crowds and giant mushrooms placed throughout the venue. Fans adorn neon clothing and flowers in their hair as they worshipfully lose themselves to the music at the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas.
It’s a culture of its own, but is reflective of the hippy-era of the 1960s, from the attire down to the not-so-subtle use of hallucinogens, which goes to show that history repeats itself. The 1960’s anthem of peace and love go hand in hand with EDM followers preaching PLUR (peace, love, unity, and respect). EDM’s now mainstream popularity has forced the genre to break through the underground niche that it started in decades ago.
The genre has become a prominent piece in the music puzzle and is a huge step in the timeline of the evolution of music. Instead of guitars and a drum set, EDM followers worship a turntable, synthesizers, and DJs who are given god-like statuses with glowing lights coming out from behind them. EDM defines a generation the way swing, rock and roll, and disco have define generations’ past and will carry on in decades to come.