Tag Archives: Electronic dance music

Improvisation and predetermination in EDM


The DJs and laptop performers of electronic dance music (EDM) use preexistent elements such as vinyl records and digital samples to create fluid, dynamic performances. These performances are also largely improvised, evolving in response to the demands of a particular situation through interaction with a dancing audience.

In performance, musicians make numerous spontaneous decisions about variables such as which sounds they will play, when they will play them, and how they will be combined with other sounds. Yet the elements that constitute these improvisations are also fixed in certain fundamental ways: Performances are fashioned from patterns or tracks recorded beforehand, and, in the case of DJ sets, these elements are also physical objects (vinyl records).

This according to Playing with something that runs: Technology, improvisation, and composition in DJ and laptop performance by Mark J. Butler (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

Above and below, “The Wizard” Jeff Mills, who provides a case study in the book.

BONUS: Mr. Mills performs in 2016.

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Filed under Performers, Popular music

Danse électro and Tecktonik

Danse électro originated in France at the beginning of the 2000s. Inspired by other European dance movements, danse électro went on to become a global phenomenon.

Tecktonik, registered as a trademark in France in 2002, played an important role in the spread of the movement. The Tecktonik trademark branded nightclubs, compilation albums, and various tie-in products, including clothes (above) and alcoholic and energy drinks.

While danse électro was one of several movements involving dancing to electronic music, it maintained its identity through brand placement, the involvement of pre-teenagers, and information technologies, particularly Web 2.0 applications.

This according to “Tecktonik and danses électro: Subculture, media processes, and Web 2.0” by Anne Petiau, an essay included in Made in France: Studies in popular music (New York: Routledge, 2018, pp. 203–15).

Below, Alive by Mondotek, a danse électro hit from 2007.

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Filed under Dance, Popular music

Detroit, Techno City

Detroit is known internationally as Techno City, named after the dance music genre pioneered by DJ/producers like Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson.

In the 1980s local DJs melded Detroit funk, European synth-pop, and avant-garde composition into a unique futuristic sound. Techno, however, went largely unappreciated in the American marketplace. Mirroring the career trajectory of American jazz musicians in the 1960s, the creators of techno made their living by touring Europe extensively, and became superstars on that continent.

This according to “A tale of two cities” by Mike Rubin (Spin XIV/10 [October 1998] pp. 104–109). Below, Atkins’s Techno city from 1984.

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Filed under Popular music

The roots of Goa trance

DJ Laurent

To understand how a menagerie of Western misfits, searchers, junkies, and fugitives ended up dancing to a mutant strain of proto-techno on a beach on the Arabian sea, you have to go back to the all-night psychedelic rock jams played over massive beachside sound systems during the 1970s.

By the late 1980s electronic music and DJs had taken over the Goa dance scene. With the dust and heat of the coastal setting, vinyl was not a viable option for deejaying. Instead, DJs used cassette tapes played on professional Walkmans, which allowed for pitch manipulation and precise edits (vocals were often cut out of songs and hypnotic trance-like sections extended).

The key player in the early Goa trance scene was DJ Laurent. Playing to a crowd tripping on LSD and charas, he was a master at weaving eclectic musical sources into an organic progression that could last from dusk until dawn; from ominous twilight grooves to blissed-out, sun-kissed climaxes.

This according to “Unveiling the secret: The roots of trance” by Dave Mothersole (Dancecult: Journal of electronic dance music culture IV/1 [2012]). Above and below, DJ Laurent in action.

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Dancecult: Journal of electronic dance music culture

The Centre for Cultural Studies Research at the University of East London launched Dancecult: Journal of electronic dance music culture (ISSN 1947-5403), a peer-reviewed, open-access e-journal, in 2009. The journal is a platform for interdisciplinary scholarship on the shifting terrain of electronic dance music cultures worldwide, including studies of emergent forms of electronic music production, performance, distribution, and reception.

The inaugural issue featured articles about rave, neotrance, psychedelia, DJ culture, and the concept of IDM (intelligent dance music). The journal is published biannually.


Filed under New periodicals, Popular music, Reception