Electronic music is the most exciting and revolutionary thing that happened to music in the last 500 years. Plain and simple. Beyond genres and styles, its very own nature has meant —and still means— a radical reformulation of how we think of music, how we make music and, ultimately, what music is. But why?
In the “Why Electronic Music is so f**king great” series we’ll see… well, why electronic music is so f**king great through some of the music paradigm shifts it has meant during its first 100 years.
Electronic music is cold and soulless
And that’s OK (part 3)
All right, here’s a lesson for young listeners: “Electronic music” does not ONLY mean “dance music.” Thinking of electronic music as one unique aesthetics niche is as ridiculous as thinking of “guitar music” as a genre. But, the fact is that in the last two decades most new listeners of electronic music have discovered electronic music through dancing.
Within the wide range of styles in electronic music, the most successful varieties have been the ones for the dance floor — and this is not likely to change anytime soon. Actually, it makes perfect sense because the constants which formally define dance music since the blossoming of Disco in the 70’s have a natural ally in electronic technology´s repetitive beats, linear progressions and dramatic use of psychedelic effects like phasing and delay…
Since 1970, after the advent of the Disco era, clubs became the hub of nightlife; a modern temple for worshiping Eros and Dionysus flooded with strobe lights and neon, equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems. A highly technified space, a sort of pleasure spacecraft, didn’t match with the carnal celebration of the flesh on the dance floor. This contrast between technological frostiness and carnal lust is what made this track unique. A song that in 1977 laid the foundations for virtually EVERYTHING that happened later on to the still fruitful communion between electronic music and dancing: “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder.
With “I Feel Love,” dance music formally broke away with the soul music continuum — the one that was born from gospel and rythm’n’blues, evolved into funk and culminated in the Philly sound and Disco. As Peter Shapiro describes in his superb book “Turn The Beat Around. The Secret History of Disco” (Faber, 2005), “with its dentist-drill synths, perforator tom-toms, scalpel edits and oscillator bassline (created with a digital delay), Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ seemingly had more to do with a hospital operating theater than one of disc’s pleasure palaces.”
Nevertheless, the essential purpose of dancing, the very first primary drive of funk, the paroxysmal celebration of lust, all remain intact during the nearly six minutes the single version lasts, and particularly during the over eight minutes of the 12” version. That is the greatest achievement among Moroder’ work: developing and establishing a new sensuality in a one-of-a-kind track. The resources he used don’t differ much from those used by Kraftwerk or Tangerine Dream: motorik rhythm, basslines in and out of phase in the stereo, drones coming from the synth as a gassy, supernatural background, and an extremely hygienic sense of sound. But the collision between this robotic framework and the abstract, even mystical orgasm of an enlightened Summer —”It’s so good,” “Heaven Knows,” “I feel love” — reveals a new dimension of lust and pleasure, the main objectives of dancing as a social interaction media. A this, once again, during the most crucial eight minutes in the history of electronic dance music.
As DJ and producer Ewan Pearson explained in an article by Jon Savage in The Guardian on May 2012 (“How Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ Changed Pop“), “It’s easy to underestimate it now; it’s like Blade Runner — whenever you show that to someone younger, they’re not impressed because it looks so familiar. Well, yes — that’s because Blade Runner invented our idea of the future. It’s the same with ‘I Feel Love.’”