Many people define electronic music as music that has been created entirely by electronic means. However, most artists and fans regard electronica as the interplay of acoustic, analog and digital rythms, beats, and instruments. It is arguably the largest genre of music on the planet. From it’s start in the early 70’s, electronica has grown so large it cannot be confined to a single thought or idea. Electronica has many faces and means different thihngs to different people.
Electronica began in the early 70’s as disco. Many of it’s rythms and ideas came out of the popular 60's music Motown. Though disco did not use digital editing, recording or playing, it is still considered a form of electronica for it’s heavy basis on synths. Disco only lasted three years, and in 1973, disco went off the radar, to resurface in a new form seven years later.
In about 1980, a disco-like music was starting to become popular. Digital recording was being experimented with, and the beginnings of modern electronica were starting to take shape. Around 1986, the compact disc arrived, and it encouraged artists to record digital, so it was easier to put it out on the new format. With heavier digital recording came digital editing, and following that came MIDI. MIDI (pronouced middy) stands for Music Information Data INterchange. It is a system in which the tone, volume, rythm and tempo of a sound are interchanged, while the actually sound, the audio, the note, is played by a synthesizer. MIDI is an entirely digital technology. Most electronica today is created on some level using MIDI.
In the early 1990’s, a form of Electronica called rave began to emerge. Rave is a heavily bass oriented form of electronica which grew out of techno. Growing away from the standard techno beat, rave began to explore new tempos and time signatures. Synths and basslines that featured heavy effects such as distortion were highly prevalent. Rave DJ’s were the first to evolve the technique known as scratching, which was introduced in the late 80’s at the Disco MIx Championship, or DMC. Sadly, however, raves how now been given a bad name for the heavy drug use in some clubs. Most club owners and DJ’s will tell you that rave began as a sort of contest to see who could have the most fun, and that the people who go to raves on escstasy are cheating.
Today, electronica is visible in many forms. Pop music has fused electronica with hip-hop, creating a sort of strange potporri. Electronic music now has an extremely large underground following, stretching the entire globe. Computer software has progressed to the point where anyone with a basic knowledge of music can give it a go. Many people get their start on the internet, as a hobby, and find them selves with a record deal.
In music today, there is almost no electronica song, popular or not, that does not have a remix. A remix is usually a version of the song in which all but the vocals have been removed, the tempo changed, and new background music stuck in. Most remixes are b-sides, but a few have become singles. Many bands today have entire albums of remixes, either of a specific album or a collection of greatest hits, remixed. Usually a remixed song takes the song from one of type of electronica (listed below) into another. Down-tempo is a genre that has a lot of remixes of rave, drum'n'bass, and others. Now, with the advancement of computer technology, remixing has moved from exclusive commercial studios to the home computer. Sites like http://www.acidplanet.com offer remix contests which reap rewards like money, software, and CD releases. Many people today who win remix contests are signed on to record companies as professinal remixers.
Forms of Electronica:
Split up into many different styles, techno is what many people consider the heart and soul of electronica. It is almost always in 4/4 time, with virtually the same beat in every song. The challenge in creating good techno song is to focus on the bassline rhythm and the synth sound.
The earliest form of electronica, this is slower than most, and features no digital elements. electric bass, synthy strings, and abrasive keyboards with soul influenced vocals are the trademark of this type of music.
The hardcore, in-your-face type of hyper-techno. Distortion meets techno meets underground club. Rave goes to the extreme.
Drum’n’Bass: A more toned down version of rave. The way to recognise drum'n'bass is to listen to the drums. A fast, sort of controled chaos is what's used, and most drum'n'bass artists work with multiple beats in the same song.
A newer, stranger sound, usually featuring a technique called chopping, in which small bits of a sound are played in sequence to create a new sound. Intelligent techno is the next step in toning down rave.
What happens when you cross drum’n’bass with metal? Industrial. strange synths, pumping beats, and heavy guitars mark this form music. Industrial is very similar to rave, except with more rock'n'roll elements.
Usually just called Electronica, this is marked by actoustic instruments with heavy digital effects, electronic drums and soothing lyrics. Many of today's pop songs are done in this style.
Essentially techno with an extreme emphasis on buildup. The best trance songs are up to ten minutes long, with extreme attention to detail and sound. Usually this type of music starts off very toned down, then builds up to a pulse pounding dance track, then back tto the slow ambience, then back again.
A very ambient, slowed-down version of intelligent techno. Chopping use is heavy, but so are synth pads, strange time signatures, and the lot. The focus of down-tempo falls on the lyrics, which are usually calm, romantic ballads.