The Conception of Popular Electronic Music: From Then to Now
Schuyler Gallagher on September 15, 2017
Electronic music have started in the late 19th century - thanks to newly invented synthesized tones and ways of using orchestral instrument.
In the beginning there was Karlheinz Stockhausen, Jean Michel Jarre, John Cage, and arguably one of the most (if not the most) influential and well known of them all – Kraftwerk. Elektronische musik – or electronic music – could very well be documented to have started in the late 19th century and early 20th century thanks to newly invented (albeit extremely archaic) synthesized tones and ways of using orchestral instruments. The conception of what we consider popular electronic music, however, may have really started decades later in Dusseldorf, Germany, with the music partnerships of Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider, who founded Kraftwerk.
Beginning in 1969, the pair met during a time where most popular music consisted of standard ballad songs, psychedelic rock, folk, bubblegum pop, and a new subgenre which was to be art rock – and thus the music partnership of Hutter and Schneider began recording experimental art rock together, putting out 3 albums in fact, before future members Karl Bartos and Wolfgang Flur joined. Of course, music lovers alike trace the roots of hip hop, techno, and house music back to these innovative, highly creative and intelligent German men.
In fact, there is something called ‘The Kraftwerk Influence’ – where a more contemporary artist has either sampled, or at the very least used a similar chord phrasing or note sequence in a very similar fashion to a Kraftwerk song. Instances include Jay-Z and Dr. Dre’s “Under Pressure”, as well as Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” sampling “Trans Europe Express”, and of its most famous examples – New Order’s “Blue Monday” taking an artificial choir sound from “Uranium”. Music producers from all walks of life have appreciated the new standard of minimal, lo-fi electronic beats, finding inspiration to take that main sound to new roads.
Other more recent artists in popular music like Coldplay, and the music partnership of Busta Rhymes and Pharrell, The Chemical Brothers and LCD Soundsystem have utilized Kraftwerk in their own music. It could be said that you could take the very image Kraftwerk conveys in a typical music lover’s mind – extremely robotic, sterile, clean cut, minimal, err.. Germanic, and what may come to mind in unison is the familiar plodding sound of “Autobahn”, maybe “Trans Europe Express”, or “We Are the Robots” (some of their better-known songs). Kraftwerk, whether you love them or not, are the fathers of not only a new form of electronic music – planting the seeds for future music producers to have a turn at something new and fresh, whether it’s house producers in Detroit making beats in the early 80’s, current rappers, industrial groups from the late 70’s, or other younger electronic artists to come.
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