Michael Goetzman

Exploring Electronic Music Genres

I've been heads down making some incredible electronic music lately, I've always been a big fan of listening but now I wanted to get my hands dirty. Electronic music involves all sorts of aspects of instance recording and "editing on tapes and its reproduction uses loudspeakers" (Kriss, 2007).  Similarly, (Lumen, 2021) describes electronic music as that music that is recorded electronically using magnetized tapes or film and mostly during the twentieth century. Any person that individual that composes, produces, or performs such music is an electronic musician or producer. Let's dive into where this world started, where genres have involved and perhaps sample out some of the styles.

Late Ninetieth Century to early Twentieth Century

The history of electronic music dates back to as early as 1896, when Thaddeus Cahill patented an electronic sound generating system.  This system applied the principle of addictive tone incorporation or synthesis (Hughes, 1981). It worked by building up overtones and fundamentals by using massive dynamos.  A subsequent version of this instrument was developed, and it had a conventional piano-type keyboard, later was identified as the Dynamophone.  However, (Bosi, 2021) notes that the history of electronic music can be associated with the audio analytical work of Herman Ludwig Ferdinand von Helmholtz. Helmholtz built an electronically operated instrument to evaluate the combination of tones generally referred to as the Helmholtz Resonator. In 1913 Russolo, an exponent of synthesized music recommended that all music be destroyed to allow new instruments reflecting modern technology to be developed to perform music reflecting an industrialized society (Kriss, 2007).

Between 1870 and 1915, the electronic instruments built in that period applied various techniques to produce a sound tone wheel used in a rotating metal disk in a magnetic field referred to as the Telharmonium.  According to (Hughes, 1981) though the Telharmonium was advanced, it was ancient technology. In 1907 Lee de Forest invented the vacuum tube. The Vacuum tube offered compact means for producing continuous radio waves and for amplifying and detecting radio signals (Hughes, 1981).   Developments such as the vacuum tube led to the inventions of smaller and amplified musical instruments—for instance, the Ondes Martenot and the Theremin (Voyager, 2021).

In 1915, DeForest, together with other inventors, developed the Audion Piano After realizing the musical potential of the heterodyning effect. In the late 19th century, inventions such as the mechanical phonograph were applied in playing brief recordings in performances. The year 1925 saw the introduction of electronic recordings, and some of the notable names to use the technology in music production were Ernst Toch and Paul Hindemith.

According to Lumen (2021), electronic instruments were first used in the 1920s and 1930s. 1935 so the unveiling of the first practical audio tape recording that applied AC biasing technique as an improved technology (Voyager, 2021).

Post- World War years: 1940 to 1950

 By the 1940s, musicians had learned how to tape sound and alter its speed. This led to the creation of electroacoustic tape music.  By 1942 according to Voyager, test recordings were being tried on the stereo. The development of electroacoustic tape music was herald by the widespread use and spread of tape recorders. Halim El-Dabth was the first to compose music using technology. In the US commercial generated, Germans introduced tape recorders in 1948. In 1948 a type of electronic music called music concrete developed in France. It was anchored on editing as a whole recorded fragment of industrial and natural sounds.  Musique concrete as a technique involved the editing together various sounds. Pierre Schaeffer was the first assembler of such type of music.  Toshiro Mayuzumi introduced music concrete in Japan in 1952, and from then, the concept influenced many Japanese composers.

Music primarily produced from electronic generators was first created in 1953 in German (Lumen, 2021). However, the US and Japan were too involved in electronic music production in the early 1950s, though not solely from electronic generators.  Around the same period, computers were finding use in music composition. Stochastic music is one of the famous styles to come out of this era.  It was music created by the use of mathematical probability systems only possible through the use of computers. In 1951 the first algorithmic composition was illustrated in Australia.  The earliest contribution to electronic music from Japan included the Yamaha Magna.  Those from the US included the use of variable speed turnables and frequency recordings.

According to Voyager (2021) the year 1953 saw the establishment of the world’s famous electronic music studio. The studio’s purpose was to synthesize music from electronically generated signals. 1954 herald what was viewed as the authentic electric plus acoustic productions. Such compositions were instrumentally augmented and were enjoined with electronically recorded sounds (Voyager, 2021). The RCA Mark II Synthesizer, developed in 1958, was the first programmable synthesizer. It had the capability of producing and synthesizing enormous sounds and immensely influenced the production of Babbitt’s electronic music. So many studios were established in the late 1950s for instance, studio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano.

In 1956 the first fully computerized composition named the illiac Suite was developed. It relied entirely on computer-algorithm.  A year later, Oramics were birthed. Oramics were a drawn sound technique that were the works of the famous musician Daphne Oram (Voyager, 2021). The writings of Herald Bode German instrument designers motivated the widespread use of integrated circuits and led to the development of electronic instruments that were reliable and easy to use (Bosi, 2021).

1960 to late 1970s

In the 1960s, the vacuum tube remained the main form of audio synthesis until discovering the integrated circuit. Besides, the year 1960 was the most fertile period for electronically produced music. At this time, synthesizing technology was more popular and easily accessible. Composition from violin and tapes became popular. Also, those from percussion and piano were a category that premiered in this era. In the late 1960s, rock and pop musicians started to use electronic instruments. By the end of that decade, they had discovered ways of circumventing language barriers.

The year 1962 saw the development of Audium music.  This was music conceived in time, according to (Voyager, 2021) using controlled sound-space movement. The same year the largest public illustration of computerized music was done on national radio, the NBC radio network program.

Late 1970s and 1980s

Between the 1970s to early 1980, the most used synthesizer was the monophonic Mini-Moog. It was applied to both electronic art music and popular music (Lumen, 2021). Electronic music started influencing popular music with the adoption of polyphonic synthesizers such as the prophet-5 and Yamaha GX-1 in 1970.  The early 1970s marked the introduction of large mainframe computer synthesizers. Electronic music, such as punk rock which was a type of base rocked, arose.

Dubbed the era of live electronic. Music that came out of this era included Mikrophonie I produced using hand-held microphones, potentiometers, and filters (Voyager, 2021).

According to (Bosi, 2021) from the 1980s to the 1990s, digital synthesizers were the main forms of electronics. These were electronic instruments that use digital processing to produce sounds. Besides, MIDI, a standardized interface for musical communication, was developed during this period.

During the 1970s, electronic music genres such as new wave, disco, and krautrock emerged (Voyager, 2021).  According to Voyager, in 1980, electronic music had become a force to reckon with in the world of popular music.  Programmable drums machines, synthesizers, and base synthesizers immensely relied on music production. Again Voyager (2021) claims that digital synthesizers became during this period.

The prevalence of electronically made music is attributed to the availability and affordable technology of electronically produced music. One notable development in the 20th century was the use of the Telharmonium to synthesize sounds of orchestral instruments.

Contemporary Developments: 1980s to 2000s

The late 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of dance music. From concerts to nightclubs, all played electronic dance music. Voyager (2021) notes that even today, electronic dance music is more popular than other forms of music. Electronic dance music today can be found on numerous websites, radio stations, and publications.  According to (Voyager, 2021 advancements in computer technology have made software music a vital aspect of electronic music. The last decade has been characterized by software-based virtual production environments, for instance, Ableton Live and Propellerhead’s Reason. Today electronic music artists can produce music by use of laptop computers.

Circuit bending is one of the recent developments in the world of electronic music. It involves the production of music by customizing circuits within electronic devices.  Noise music such as Dub Siren and Punk Console are products of circuit bending (Voyager, 2021).

Genres

Afro House

A genre of electronic music stemming from traditional forms of African and house music.  Some of its notable attributes are percussion, House and soulful rhythms and African vocals (Bennett, 2021). According to Bennett (2021),  afro-house is a term encompassing several sub-genres of African inspired dance music.

Ambient

Ambient is a genre of electronic music that omits drums in its composition.  First developed by Brian Eno, this type of music lacks detectable meter, albeit sometimes may employ slow tempos. It has a vague sense of rhythm that comes with sonic movement.  According to (Bennett, 2021), ambient music emanated from lounge, electronica, and minimal music. Multi-layered textures and atmospheric compositions characterize it. Notably, this type of music gives little attention to structures and repetitive beats.

Bass House

A contemporary form of house music that integrates womps and screeches from brostep and base music. Besides, bass house music incorporates the danceable beat of house music (Rusell, 2021).  With a 130BPM, bass house music is a faster form of house music.  Further, Rusell notes that many bass house music emphasizes the low-end and deeper bass sounds. Concerning production elements, bass music applies heavy FX like risers and sweeps to create tension.  It uses high-energy house drum patterns laced with boosted high compressions.

Breakbeat

This genre is anchored around sampled drum breaks originating from soul and funk records.  Its music is pitched up to a danceable BPM, according to Rusell (2021). Similarly, Bennett (2021) claims that breakbeat music originated from funk, post-disco, electro-hip-hop, and Turntablism culture. Bennett also agrees that sampled drum breaks characterize this music type. The music is immensely remixed, randomized, and spliced.  An example of such music, according to Russell, is “Amen Brother” by The Winstons.

Chicago House

Electronic music emanates from electro (Hip hop), post disco, EBM, and synth-pop. This genre was the initial form of house music and originated from artists Chicago from the Latino and black gay clubs. It features repetitive beats generated from drum machines and four-four rhythm.

Disco

Developed in the 1970s, disco music greatly influenced the creation of techno music. Disco music features rhythm guitars, drum machines, synthesizers, and pianos. Bennett (2021) notes that disco music is characterized by highly orchestral four-on-the-floor beats, horns, and string sections. However, Bennnett (2021) points out that disco is technically not an electronic dance music genre because many of the instruments in ancient disco records were developed through recording live performances and musicians. Similarly, Rusell (2021) notes that in its creation, disco music use recorded electric guitars.

Downtempo

Downtempo is a genre of electronic music akin to IDM, Ambient and trip-hop. Applies lower  spectrum of BPM (100 and less). It greatly relies on experimentation. Generally, this genre is characterized by delicate vocal, soft pads and leads (Russell, 2021).  Bennett (2021) notes that this type of music originated from lounge, electronica and ambient music. It features beats played in relaxed or chilled out rooms. One of my favorites, I enjoy organic downtempo trance out at Burning Man.

Drum and Bass

Drum and Bass is a genre stemming from Dub, Breaks, Techno and industrial music. Notable attributes include the use of interweaved drum breaks, fast tempo, melodies and syncopated rhthms (Bennett, 2021). From Dub

A piece of music that began as a part of reggae but later acquired the status of a genre. This music borrows elements from electronic and reggae, as mentioned ealier. It uses many traditional instruments such as trumpets and drums in its generation. 

It relies on subtle synth elements and electronic FX (Russell, 2021). Dub delay was a concept developed from dub music. From this genre comes other such as jump up Liquid and Neurofunk.

Electronica

It emanated from the concepts of futurism and modernism. The discovery of electronic instruments brought forth electronic music. This type of music is meant for listening as it does not stress on dancing (Bennett, 2021).

Electroacoustic Music

It is a genre of electronic music that uses technology such as audio signal processing to bend timbres of acoustic sounds. Old forms of this type of music include Music concrete invented by Pierre Schaeffer that juxtaposes natural sounds recorded in disc and tape. Generation of sounds using sine waves was an old technique of producing electroacoustic music.

Funk

It is music that originates from R& Bs, Soul and Jazz.  Its attributes borrow from soul music but rely majorly on an upbeat tempo (Bennett, 2021). It focuses on chord progression, melody and a robust rhythmic groove from a baseline electric bassist. According to Bennett, Funk applies extended chords typically found in Bebop Jazz. Besides, most Funk records usually recorded from live concerts and bands.

Future Garage

It is a genre stemming from Trip-hop, ambient and UK garage.  Some of its characteristics include a two-step beat, futurist and atmospheric soundscapes. This genre also makes use of vocoders, pads and arpeggiated chords.  According to Russell (2021), this genre arose from a need for a more percussive and energetic type of house music. To Russell, garage is a good example of dance music making use of drums sounds that can move a dancefloor.

Glitch

It is music stemming from Techno, Noise, IDM, and Chiptune. Heavily features glitches, repetitive and distorted rhythms. These rhythms are generated in the most usual and complex forms (Bennett, 2021). This type of music birthed another genre called Glitch-Hop that features hip hop rapping and song structure from computerized music. One of my favorites =)

Grime

Music originating from an array of sounds such as the garage, hip-hop. Half-time beats and four-four kicks characterize it. Uses BPM of more than 100. Dancehall music is also featured in this type of music.

Hardcore

As a genre, Hardcore features distorted kick drums and a fast tempo that make it's sound hard.  According to (Russell, 2021) hard Techno can be grouped as Hardcore due to its fast tempo.  Bennett (2021) agrees that Hardcore originated from Acid House, Techno, and EDM type of music. Besides, Bennett confirms that Hardcore is characterized by high-intensity kicks and synthesized Bass.  Like industrial dance music, Hardcore uses overdrive and experimentation, and saturation. Hardcore gave birth to a sub-category called Happy Hardcore that featured hard and fast beats. Powerful and harsh basslines (Bennet, 2021).  Albeit it can be discussed as a genre on its happy Hardcore features heavy synthesizers.

Hip-hop

Though viewed as a separate branch of music, hip-hop has its origins in the electronic production approaches (Rusell, 2021). With its core in processing and sampling, hip-hop is varied and wide. Sometimes fuses styles from trap to fusion. Moreover, Rusell notes that originally hip-hop sampled cut and rearranged breaks from soul and funk tracks. According to Bennett, 2021), hip-hop referenced black music styles and then incorporated modern drum machines.  Hip-hip is akin to the development of the DJ and turntablism culture.

HI NRG

It is a genre originating from Electronica and  Disco music and one that features staccato hi-hat rhythms and fast tempo. It also characterized by octave basslines, reverberated and pulsating vocals. According to Bennett (2021), this music was immensely influential on the disco scenes but later shifted from disco music and funkiness.

House

According to Bennett (2021), house music emanated from Chicago-house, Boogie, and disco music. Its style is a four-four kick drum beat offering snare and an off-beat hi-hat. However, Russell notes that hip-hop is an umbrella name for an array of house music.  This type of music stresses on basslines and rhythms. This is one of my favorites.

Industrial

It is music originating from Noise, Punk rock, and electronic. This genre represents an old type of electronic experimental music significantly impacted by art scenes and the avant –garde. Its notable features are distorted, harsh, and stark sounds (Bennett, 2021). Also characterized by provocative and transgressive themes. When I was younger I listened to a lot of industrial.

Intelligence Dance Music (IDM)

This music developed from Techno, Ambient and acid house music. It features experimental dance music styles.  IDM is mainly the work of artists that advocate for a less formulaic technique of generating electronic dance music (Bennett, 2021). Similarly, Rusell (2021) notes that IDM music emphasizes complex sound design and rhythms.  He also agrees that IDM incorporates other genres such as Ambient and breakbeat. One can distinguish this type of music due to its emphasis on experimentation

Jump-Up DnB

It is music with roots in Bass and Drum. It features robotic-heavy bass leads. It Incorporates talk and response techniques in its lyrics. It makes use of hard, overdriven, and compressed drum beats. Its tracks are significantly instrumental and are characterized by short vocals. Its melodies are brief and allow music to be chopped back and forth (Bennett, 2021).

Jungle

Music characterized by 175BPM breakbeats. Most of these breakbeats are from soul tracks and old funk.  They are heightened or pitched up and the sliced, stitched, and arranged into fresh patterns (Russell, 2021).  This type of music, according to Russell, is immensely influenced by reggae and Ragga music. Hence these two subcultures fom vital attributes of the genre.

Kuduru

It is Electronic music genre originating from traditional Angolan music, soca, House, and Techo.  It features danceable, energetic, uptempo, and electronic techno beats. It is immensely characterized by traditional  Zouk and Soca music. Its reliance on House and Techno music makes it a genre of electronic music (Bennette, 2021).

Lo-FI

It is a genre emanating from the Electronic, Noise, and the applied recording process.  Lo-Fi music is generated by using flaws and imperfections in the recording process. It is Characterized by phonographic imperfections and low-fidelity sounds (Bennett, 2021). I'm actively creating lofi music.

Moombahton

This music emanates from reggaeton, Dutch House, afrobeat, and Latin music.  Its attributes include EDM beats reduced to a reggaeton tempo and spiced with a Latin and Caribbean flavors. Also, this music uses percussion and African rhythms.  Moreover, two-step pulses and spread-out baselines are common in this type of music (Bennett, 2021).

Pop

Though a type of music produced electronically, Russell (2021) notes that pop music does not stand as a genre. However, it features solid chord progression and catchy hooks.  It copies elements from electronic music and rock. However, according to Bennett (2021), pop is a genre of electronic music that originated from  Rock and roll and traditional pop. Any music style that pursues the established pop style, according to Bennett (2021), is referred to as Pop. In its structure, pop music uses repeated hooks and choruses and medium-to short-length songs.

Progressive House

According to Russell (2021), this type of music initially featured music with longer structures accompanied by subtracted and added layers. Also, Russell notes that this music refers to the percussive, chilled, and melodic side of house music. Bennett (2021) claims this music emanated from Balearic, Italo house, and Trance. Also, Bennett notes that the term progressive house and evolved and is now called the four-four house music. It features modulation techniques and automation.

Rave

This is an electronic type of music related to the late 1980s  genres of House, Techno, New Beat, and Breakbeat music.  Rave music as a genre features high-energy synths and electronic beats. Also, rave music incorporates sirens and rave horns. Concerning lyrics, it references a party life. For instance, it can center on drugs and crime (Bennett, 2021).

Reductionism

A type of music that is purely experimental and focuses on the use of silence and quiet dynamics. This type of music originated in the 1990s and encapsulated numerous scenes, such as the Berlin scene.

Reggaeton

Type of electronic music genre emanating from soca, Spanish language, and hip hop.  It features Jamaican riddims and skeleton dembow riddim that are generated through drum machines (Bennett, 2021). Its lyrics are often rapped. They take the form of hip hop with a Spanish taste and are usually repetitive.

Rhythm and Blues (R& B)

It originated from spirituals, blues, jazz, swing, and gospel. This type of music traditionally featured pianos and guitars. It carries the African-American culture and experience (Bennett, 2021).  Modern R& B combines elements of funk, disco Pop, and Hip hop. Synthesizers and electronic drum machines increasingly find use in the production of contemporary R& B.

Soul

This genre emanated from Gospel,  Blues, and Rhythm.  Bennett (2021) argues that it is an expansive genre that features pop-friendly and soulful lyrics.  It also incorporates orchestral beats and sounds. Moreover, it includes talk and response type of lyrics and vocalists.

Speedcore

This is genre of electronic music stemming from Breakcore, Hardcore, and Gabba. It features aggressive themes, four-four beats, and a high tempo (Bennett, 2021). Sometimes this music uses BPMs of over 1000, forcing experts and musicians to refer to it as the quickest form of music.

Synthpop

This is a genre of electronic music that significantly makes use of drum machines and synths. Vocals characterize it, and a modern type of synthpop exists as a microcosm of individuals that try to copy such kinds of music (Russell, 2021). According to Bennett (2021), this type of music originated from  Pop, Art Pop, and New Wave. It is characterized by the use of sequencers, drum machines, and treble-dominant synthesizers. Bennett notes that this music usually featured grooves woven together from repetitive riffs.

Techno

Techno is a type of music Emanating from synth-pop, House, Italo disco, and New Beat.  It features repetitive four-four beats generated deliberately for use in the context of a progressively layered DJ set in a club (Bennett, 2021). It originated from Detroit at the same Chicago was producing house music. This music can be breakbeat, deep and continuous. It focuses on Bass and percussion (Russell, 2021). Moreover, it uses kicks and hats and a 909 drume machine.

Tech House

It is a genre of electronic music characterized by sounds that are influenced by the jazzy and soulful end of house music.  It features a short hi-hat, strong raw techno-styled kicks, and snare drum patterns.  It emanated from Techno and House music. Similarly, Russell (2021) claims that this genre incorporates the rhythm and tempo of house music and the industrial influences of Techno. A notable record that is famous for propagating this type of music is the defected records.

Trance

This is an uplifting, anthem and energetic genre.  It incorporates club energy, melodies and evocative chords.  It also applies a faster BPM. Some people may consider it a blend of House and Techno (Rusell, 2021). Similarly (Bennett, 2021) notes that Trance music originated from Techno and house music. Bennett, too claims this music features musical formats and melodic phrases that create tension over time.  According to Bennett, trance music is primarily instrumental club edits for use by DJs.  This music herald another genre called the Goa trance that is characterized by drone-like baselines akin to techno minimalism—fused with spiritual , tribal, and shamanic soundscapes.

Trap

According to Bennett (2021), trap music originated from gangsta rap, southern hip-hop, Memphis rap, and crunk. The music applies synthesized drums and features booming 808 kick drums, hi-hat patterns, and musical content that reflect gangsta rap. Besides, it does not emphasize on musicality and uses sparse instrumentation.  Moreover, the music gives a strong emphasis on snares. Bennett argues that trap music can sometimes encompass talk and response musical structures.

Trip-hop

A genre of electronic music akin to downtempo, though viewed as being closer to hip-hop. It is characterised by synth modulations, psychedelic elements, and reverbs. According to Bennett (2021), it is characterized by slowed down breakbeat and bass-heavy parameters. It combines saxophones, Rhodes pianos, and trumpets.

 It originated from ambient, hip hop, and jazz music. It can be increasingly experimental. It is used as a catch-all for music that lends from electronic and hip hop (Bennett, 2021).

Vaporwave

It is a genre that stemmed from Synth, Lounge, Pop, and electronica music. Significantly impacted by internet culture old computer game music (Bennett, 2021). Typically this is a visual aesthetic musical genre, according to Bennett. Russell (2021) claims Vapowwave developed purely from the internet. To him, this type of music was a meme genre meant to poke fun at a consumer-oriented society. It is akin to synth-wave sounds and chillwave.

Video Game Music

This is music that goes along with video games.  Old video game music was focused on simple sounds of ancient programmable sound producers or generators—it is music composed to emulate musicology forms.  The popularity of this music came in the video game era and has remained so to today. I even bought some cool snyths with video game music styles.

Conclusion

Obviously, there are all kinds of electronic music, I really enjoy some genres more than others. Electronic music was (and is) recorded electronically using magnetized tapes or film. In modern times however software is primarily used to create beats into a final product. I will continue to explore these various worlds and attempt to make some beats that please me. =)

~Michael Goetzman

References

Bennett, B. (2021). List of Electronic Dance Music Genres. https://www.londonsoundacademy.com/blog/list-of-electronic-dance-music-genres

Bosi (2021). One Hundred and Twenty Years of Electronic Music. https://www.mathieubosi.com/zikprojects/120YearsOfElectronicMusic.pdf

Hughes, R. (1981). A Brief History of Electronic Music . http://www.paulhazel.com/blog/history_electronic_music.pdf

Kriss, P. (2007).Audio Based Genre Classification of Electronic Music. https://jyx.jyu.fi/bitstream/handle/123456789/13592/URN_NBN_fi_jyu-2007601.pdf?sequenc

Lumen (2021). Electronic Music. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/atd-epcc-musicappreciation/chapter/electronic-music/

Russell, A. (2021). Electronic Music Genres: An A-Z Guide for Music Producers. https://www.edmprod.com/genres/

Voyager, B. (2021). History of Electronic Music. https://www.brainvoyagermusic.com/history-of-electronic-music/#Computermusic

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