In the year 1906, in the small town of Brant Rock, Massachusetts, esteemed inventor Reginald Fessenden altered the events of human history and began a new outlet for music utilizing a brand new technology: the radio.
Fessenden successfully broadcasted the song “Largo” by Handels and thus created music radio and the job of Disk Jockey or DJ for short. DJ’s role in music has two distinct periods. Prior to the late 1960’s, a DJ’s job was to MC and pick the next song.
However, due to various changing trends, especially growing technology, DJ’s role in music expanded from merely a record spinner to that of an artist.
Following the end of WWII, there was a revival of Jazz and Rock ’N’ Roll dance clubs in Europe called “discotheques.”
Although discotheques had a European root, it was in the 1960’s NYC where clubs really took off.
In 1960, an old garage was transformed into “Le Club” and opened with great reviews. The only thing missing was good music to dance to.
The first DJ to remedy this was an American named Francis Grasso. Grasso perfected the mixing of records so that songs went smoothly into the next one without any breaks, a method called “slip-cuing.”
Grasso used upbeat soul and funk music such as James Brown to get the crowd moving. Grasso is considered “the first DJ auteur/artist/idol” and became well known for his club parties and his celebrity behavior.
Around the year 1975 “Disco Fever” swept the United States, and with it came exponential progression for Electronic Music.
The first programmable rhythm box came out in 1975 and as technology advanced, so did the music.
In 1978, the CR-78 came out and revolutionized electronic music as an artist could record their own percussion for the first time on their own turntables.
However, many fans of the new “electronic” sound grew sick of the mainstream. A major divide split electronic music into two groups: Disco and Underground.
Underground Electronic is the birthplace of modern EDM. Instead of parties being held at expensive clubs, parties were spontaneously thrown in converted warehouses and garages.
It evolved in three stages that were separated mostly by geographic regions.
The first prominent electronic music came out of late ‘70s Germany and was coined “Hi-NRG.”
Hi-NRG was minimal music you could easily dance to; poppy, yet still underground, and most importantly, fast (120+BPM).
In 1977, now famous producer and DJ, Giorgio Moroder teamed up with soul singer Donna Summer and released the first electronic international hit “I Feel Love.” With the success of “I Feel Love,” EDM solidified itself as a music genre that was here to stay.
The American response to Hi-NRG evolved in Chicago in the early 1980s and was called House music.
House derived from three sources: funk, European dance music, and a “technology factor” that created a hypnotic, sexual, and groovy sound.
House music took off initially in the homosexual African-American community and from its beginning was deeply criticized for promoting promiscuous sexual behavior and drug use.
Electronic music further progressed with the birth of the “Rave,” which came in the late ‘80s in England with the beginning of “Acid Music.”
The term Acid was not derived from the drug, but from the roots of the music that was based on Psychedelic rock or Acid Rock from the 1960s.
The new Roland TBR-303 and TBR 909 bass synthesizers revolutionized DJ’s capabilities in distorting, stretching and twisting sounds that were accompanied by strobe lights and dry ice fog machines. In places like London, Barcelona, and Ibiza, DJ’s like Paul Oakenfold were turned into superstars overnight.
The summer of 1988 in London has since been coined “The Summer of Love” for the massive increase in illegal and spontaneous warehouse “Raves.”
Shows were characterized by young teens adorned in tropical summer clothing or pure white t-shirts hearing about secret shows at the last minute, partying to the music for as long as possible until the police came.
If the police did not come, then the music continued to play until well after the sun came up.
Raves became mass events and the rave culture became a fundamental part of youth culture in the early 1990s.
One fan described his experience with raves as:
“it’s about feeling communality, a shared social experience, a feeling of life… The rave is about the combination of drugs, light, and music. Of course there’s the escapist, hedonistic moment. But what’s crucial about the event is the communality thing. Peace, Love, Unity, something like that.”
With a growing popularity of electronic music in the youth culture, coupled with ever-increasing technological advancements, EDM was primed for a massive leap into the mainstream.
*This article was originally published at omeka.colorado.edu.