Share your performances with the hashtag #joshwinibergchange
A new instrumental techno track of mine, Forever Ago Forever Away, just dropped on SLCTNS latest compilation, My Melantronic Vol 2. I’m really happy with how this one turned out and so excited to share it with you! Available to buy on Beatport and to stream via the usual platforms. Check out the rest of the compilation too, there are some real beauties on there!
🎹 Calling all pianists – my new book of sheet music has landed! 📖 🎶
Change for Solo Piano contains all 10 tracks from the album, lovingly arranged by myself for solo piano. The book will go on sale via the publisher next month, but I have 10 limited edition copies here – which I’ve signed and numbered – available to buy immediately. Each limited edition book comes with a free download of the album via Bandcamp!
Interested? Click the book below to visit my Bandcamp merch store.
I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a licensing agreement with Editions Musica Ferrum to publish a book of sheet music. This book, which will be released later this year, features all 10 tracks from my last album, Change, which I have arranged for solo piano. I can’t wait to share them with you, and to hear your performances. I’ll release more details and samples soon. If you want a notification when it goes on sale, you can sign up to my newsletter.
In other news, I have a remix out now of Samuel Wallner’s “Downtown Dub“. It’s my first release on Plus Plus in quite some time, and it feels great to be back on remix duties. I also have a new piano-techno track due to be released later this year on SLCTNS (formerly Push Communications), called “Forever Ago, Forever Away”. You can listen to it early by using the audio player at the bottom of the page. If you like it, be sure to give me a follow on Spotify or other streaming services so you can add it to your collection when it comes out (links at the bottom of the page).
The History of Dance Music
In last week’s lesson we looked at the development of rock music during the thirty years between 1950s to 1970s, as well as a few recent examples from the last 20 years. This week, we are going to take a similar journey, charting the history of modern dance music, which has its roots in soul, Motown and disco.
1950s: Rhythm and Blues
In 40s and 50s, a style called rhythm and blues (R&B) was very popular. Like rock’n’roll, R&B had its roots in African American gospel (church) music and the blues. Many of these early R&B songs were based on traditional spirituals and gospel music, but with lyrics re-written in a secular (non-religious) style. Musically there were a lot of similarities between rhythm and blues, and rock’n’roll. However, while rock’n’roll became marketed towards white Americans of European descent, R&B very much kept its African American identity. R&B lyrics would often discuss issues that were particularly important to the black community at that time: the quest for freedom and equality, or economic hardship, as well as more universal themes such as love and loss. Let’s hear some rhythm and blues from one of its most well-known pioneers, Ray Charles.
And a slower take on the genre by the Nat King Cole, who was also a famous jazz pianist.
1960s: Soul Music, Motown, Funk
While R&B and rock’n’roll had similar roots, over time they became very distinct genres, each leading to very different styles of music. While rock’n’roll led to new genres such as prog-rock, punk, and metal, by the 60s R&B had evolved into a new style called soul. This genre tended to emphasise the singer, who would often weave complicated melodies over a more laid-back band. Soul tracks also commonly featured orchestral instruments such as strings and brass.
You may have noticed in the last lesson that many of the early rock bands tended to be men. Soul, on the other hand, gave us some of the great female singers of the 20th century such as Aretha Franklin, “the Queen of Soul”.
America being the huge country that it is, different styles of soul developed throughout the USA, which are often referred to by their place of origin. Here’s some Memphasis Soul, which often featured organs and guitars. Drums would often have a continuous ‘driving’ beat, while backing vocals may be “doo wop” (noises rather than words) in style. You can also hear a strong blues influence.
Across the pond, the UK also had its own style evolving, called Northern Soul. This had lots of energetic brass and upbeat rhythms that went on to influence ska music many years later. These songs were often by American singers, who didn’t have much success in the USA and didn’t realise they had a huge following in the UK until many years later!
Back in the USA, the most popular form of Soul by far was Motown. This style came from Detroit – the Motor town, which was home to the Ford car factories. Motown had a very polished and pop friendly style, featuring lots of orchestration that made it soundtrack friendly for Hollywood. This helped it to reach an even larger audience. Here are The Supremes, who were one of the most well known Motown groups from this time.
Another type of music was also developing out of soul at the same time: funk. This is a danceable style, based around strong bass lines, offbeat drum grooves, and discordant (clashing) harmonies derived from jazz.
And one from James Brown.
Throughout the 70s and 80s, the bassline driven groove of funk, along with the lush orchestration of soul led to a style that’s the basis of most dance music we hear today: disco. Its driving “four to the floor” rhythm (a steady bassdrum on every beat of the bar), and its “boots-and-cats-and” percussion remains the backbone of modern house and techno music.
Confused by “boots and cats”? Here’s why I mean:
Here’s some 70s disco from Earth Wind and Fire
Some disco artists kept a slightly more soulful, funky approach, such as First Choice.
Into the 80s now with a disco track by the Brothers Johnson. Can you already hear the influences on house music, in particular the strong beat and basslines?
This is all we have time to look at today – modern day dance music is a huge topic which we will cover in a future lesson. Next week we’ll finish off our study of rock music, looking at rock from the 90s up to today. The lesson after that we’ll return to modern dance music such as house, trap, and drum and bass. Let’s finish off with a more modern take on disco by Daft Punk, from 2013:
History of Electronic Music
Over the last two lessons, we’ve charted the history of rock and dance music, looking at their shared roots, and seeing how they gradually developed into new genres, from rock’n’roll and soul to metal and disco.
In both lessons, we stopped our journey at the end of 70s. There is a reason for this – in the 80s, electronic dance music took off, which had a huge influence on other genres. Over the following decades rock, soul, and disco took on more and more electronic elements resulting in entirely new genres of music, including the modern ‘pop’ sound. So before we move on to modern pop music, let’s listen to the electronic music from which it grew.
Electronic music really came into its own in the 80s, when developments in technology meant that electronic instruments and equipment became more portable, more affordable, and more reliable.
an early synthesiser from 1901. It’s a bit big to carry!
However, electronic music had been around for many years before then. For as long as recording equipment and noise generating machines have existed, musicians have been experimenting with using them in their compositions. Here’s a song from the 90s with an instrument called a ‘vocoder’ applied to the voice, which makes it sound like a robot.
Although it’s a sound we associate with modern music, this sort of technology goes way back!
In the 1940s, thanks to the invention of recording technology, a style called musique concrète emerged. This was created by recording and layering different sounds on top of each other, like a collage made from sound.
a picture like this, made from different materials such as books or photos, is called a collage.
This type of music pioneered a technique called sampling – taking pre-existing recordings and using them to make part of a new piece of music. Although this is example is from the 80s (many decades after musique concrete originated), it’s a good example of this style. Notice the layers of sound. This style is sometimes described as a soundscape rather than music (because it creates a landscape with sound). While listening, try to pick out all the different sounds and instruments you can hear.
Sampling was a fundamental part of the hip-hop, rap, and jungle movements which came many years later. Let’s have a look at how sampling in more detail.
Sampling – Hip Hop, Rap, Jungle, and Drum & Bass
In this next video I’m going to give you a demonstration of how sampling works, using one of the most influential five seconds of music ever: the Amen Break.
Now let’s hear some examples of the Amen Break in action. In this next video from the 90s, the sample is used in a hip-hop track by NWA.
Here’s another example from the 90s, with this typical example of the break used in a jungle track by Peshay.
This next video is a more recent example by Rudimental. In this track, the rhythm of the break is being performed live by a drummer.
It isn’t just drum loops that are sampled. You may know this song already.
But it could sound familiar for another reason, this track by Kanye West.
Here’s a more modern track being sampled, Machine Gun by Portishead. Listen to the beginning of the original then see if you can hear the sample in the next song by The Weekend.
Synths and Drum Machines – House, Techno, and Trance
Let’s pick up where we left off last lesson, looking at how disco led to house and techno.
Through the 70s, disco was generally performed by live musicians – singers, guitarists, bass guitar, piano, drummers, and other percussion. Throughout the 80s, disco gradually became more and more electronic, with synthesisers (keyboards) and drum machines taking more important roles.
Thanks to the invention of the drum machine, house music was born. Here’s one of the earliest Chicago house tracks from 1984.
While Chicago house had quite a dark flavour, by the 90s, a more soulful form of house had emerged – deep house.
Listening to modern artists like Disclosure it’s easy to still hear those roots.
While house was finding a softer voice, a harder style had also been developing in the Motor City – Detroit. Home to Motown, Detroit is famous for the Ford car factories in the state, where many of its residents worked. Inspired by these industrial, robotic factories, house music there kept the edgier sound of Chicago house and pushed it to harder, darker and more aggressive extremes. The result is a genre now know as techno. Here’s one of the earliest Detroit techno tracks by Juan Atkins.
And now an example of a modern techno track from two years ago. This track is much heavier than the Detroit style, with a much more thumping ‘kick’, but also features some deep house style vocals and synths.
In the 90s, another form of electronic dance music took off, called trance. Trance music is very similar to techno – heavy, fast, and mostly made with synths and drum machines. However, it’s much more melodic than techno, and with lots of hypnotic synths and catchy melodies, and often features singers and a song-structure as the main focus.
Over the next 10 years or so, trance had a huge impact on popular music, leading to a style called EDM (which is short for electronic dance music, but refers to this particular style, which is very poppy). Here’s a typical EDM song by Avicii from 2011. It’s a lot slower than trance and less intense but still features the singers, big breakdowns, and huge melodic synths.
UK Garage, Contemporary R&B, Dubstep and Trap
These genres also have their roots in the 90s, developing out of house, soul and rap. UK garage was a soulful form of house that often featured vocals similar to the 60s soul singers. A similar style, UK grime, had similar beats but tended to feature rappers rather than singers. Both styles had a garage beat – drums that sounded housey but were more chopped up and ‘bouncy’ than the usual “4 to the floor” found in house music. Here’s some UK Garage by MJ Cole.
And some UK grime from So Solid Crew.
In the US, singers like Beyoncé were also returning to soulful roots, but with hip-hop beats, in a style called contemporary R&B.
Over the 2000s, UK grime artists began exploring a much heavier sound, resulting in a completely new style called dubstep. In dubstep, the bouncy garage beat is much more exaggerated, and the bass often changes in texture and volume in time to the music.
Poppy EDM artists began to use this sound in their own tracks, resulting in a more commercial style of dubstep such as that written by Skrillex.
While EDM artists were making dubstep more commercial sounding, rap artists went the other way, continuing the original underground garage vibe with trap and drill, which brings us up to date with modern grime music!
We covered a lot today! There is still a lot of electronic music we didn’t get to cover, but hopefully you found some songs you like in there!
Modern pop music takes elements from many of the styles we’ve looked at so far – disco, hip-hop, soul, house, and rock music, as well as others. Now we’ve learned about these styles, we’re ready to begin looking at modern pop music. See you next week!