Sunday, November 04, 2007

Intro to Club Music - Part 2

The Basics
So let's take another look at part of Adam's comment: "It all sounds the same to me, pots and pans clanging..."

Adam has identified one of the essential elements of modern dance music. By and large, its much more bass or rhythm driven instead of melody driven. The beat, the groove, the funk -- dance music's essential quality is that its meant to inspire you to dance.

That's not to say that melody isn't important but it usually takes a backseat in dance music. There are some styles (usually tribal) where melody is all but absent and unless its done VERY well, IMO, that can get real old real fast.

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The other part of Adam's comment - "It all sounds the same to me..." Repetition. Yes, there's a lot more repetition in dance music. Part of that goes back to its purpose -- you need a recognizable, somewhat repetitive rhythm in order to be able to dance. Beyond the basic logistics of it, I feel like the repetition helps you get out of your head. Dance music is meant to be felt, to be experienced. The rhythm and repetition give you that somewhat hypnotic effect that help you move beyond your head and into your body and heart, which is where the magic is. Good dance music is intended to surround you, to move through you.

Another part of that is also the general format of house music -- unlike other styles where you finish one song, stop and then start another, house music is designed to flow from one song to another without stopping, much like interlocking pieces of a puzzle. In order to do that, each song has the same 4/4 meter that allows a DJ to mix them together.

Finally, Adam mentions club music featuring "some unintelligible Diva voice." House music has a range of styles, some with vocals, some without. You can trace the origin of the Diva phenomenon back to house's disco roots - think Donna Summer or Thelma Houston... part of that comes from disco's gospel, blues and soul roots. Part of it is also a quirk of one of house music's core audiences: gay men. The diva has played a big part in the culture of gay men, whether its iconic screen actresses to opera to torch song idols. Its no surprise that the diva figures prominently in house music. I think you'll find less of the diva style when you listen to house music aimed at a straight audience.

That covers the things Adam mentioned in his original comment. In the next entry I'll start talking about what drew me to dance music, what I look for in good dance tracks and what makes a good set.

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