House music evolved out of disco music in the 1970’s (PQ). This is a fact that most House music lovers hate to admit; Disco music became the antithesis of what House music stands for. In fact, perhaps the beginning of House music started on a baseball field in Chicago, Komishi Park, where the patrons were told that they could bring all of their unwanted disco records and burn them in a massive bonfire (Cheeseman). The difference between disco and House music is that is “deeper, rawer, and designed to make people dance” (Cheeseman). House music was a reaction to a social need for individual expression, and to get away from the commercialism of disco music. This essay tracks the changes of House music from its early roots in disco, to the dub that has become popular today. There have been influential artists, Frankie Knuckles, to Marshmello of Skrillex. Throughout this progression there have been changes in the types of beats which are produced. Technology has improved a DJ’s ability to mix and create seamless beats which have in turn inspired a revolution of dance and social experiences.Night clubs have been the birth spot for House music, starting in Chicago in the early 70’s (PQ). The social experience of House music promoted its early success. The reason for this is that in 1977, there was a nightclub which opened in Chicago called Chicago’s Warehouse, and a club in New York called New York’s Paradise Garage which broke the barriers of racial segregation and sexual preference: “Up until then, and after, the norm was for Black, Hispanic, White, straight and gay to segregate themselves, but with the Warehouse, opened in 1977 and presided over by Frankie Knuckles and the Garage where Larry Levan spun, the emphasis was on the music” (Cheeseman). House music in the United States was inspired by the European movement towards racial desegregation and embracing freedom of sexual preference as displayed by Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, and the disco sounds of Giorgio Moroder (Cheeseman). These underground clubs were a place where minorities and gays could party in peace: “Predominantly Gay, African American, and Latino communities popularized underground clubs and accelerated dance music culture. These clubs acted as safe havens for homosexual partygoers to dance in peace and enjoy a euphoric experience away from public scrutiny” (PQ). The way that Frankie Knuckles and Larry Levan were superstars is that they honored a community of people who needed their music in order to be comfortable.
The evolution of house music has gone from beat matching to electro- to eclectic. In order to discuss the evolution of House music it is necessary to discuss the Chicago DJ who started House music, Frankie Knuckles. Additionally, it is necessary to discuss his New York counterpart, Larry Levan. These two DJ’s were best friends as kids, and then went their separate ways opening clubs in different cities (Matos). Knuckles observed that the New York Night clubs tended towards a more laid back, mid-tempo beat, whereas the clubs in Chicago wanted a fast paced accelerated beat (Cheeseman). Both DJ’s gave precedence to the music, in and of itself. Perhaps this was the fundamental difference that set House music aside from other types of music. Disco endorsed other musicians and had become completely commercialized, whereas House music strayed from any sort of commercialism, priding itself on being “underground.” The music styles involved beatmatching records and editing the tracks with DJ narratives, all while overcoming the limitations of DJ equipment of the day (PQ). Technology plays a big role in the evolution of house music. However, when it comes to modern music, technology has changed the style of the music from beat matching to creation from programs. Interestingly, one of the ways that technology has allowed House music to become a “global phenomenon” (Schawbel) is that it is immediately available on the internet. One of the main reasons that House music has evolved into every country in the world is that it is available on social media, which creates a global market where DJs can promote themselves without any cost (Schawbel). Technology has made music production efficient, and cost-effective (Schawbel). Most interestingly, the older DJs who grew up on vinyl and turntables are now able to take their old mixed tracks and apply digital technology (Schawbel). An example of this early technology would be when a Detroit DJ, Derrick May, sold Knuckles a drum machine to add to his mixes (Matos). The advent of the drum machine kept an even 4/4 tempo which house music does not stray from (PQ).
One of the social associations that many people have with house music is that the people who listen to it must be on drugs. This was true for a period in the nineties when raves became popular after the influential DJs Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling went to Ibiza and experienced their open air nightclub called Amnesia (Matos). The drug of choice was ecstasy, and they spurned a generation of people who gathered in enormous warehouses or open fields to take the drug and dance all night to house (Matos). The use of ecstasy began to define House music; however, the founder of House was not interested in the drug culture that was developing around it (Matos). Knuckles wanted House music for House music’s sake, and not for the purpose of doing drugs. However, when many people think of House music, the drug culture is not far away. The music of House has outlasted the rave scene and it has progressed to new dynamics, such as headphone music for serious students.
The main artists in today’s house music are innovators with technology and with music. DJs, such as Aviici, Laidback Luke, Tiesto, and Steve Aoki are the current rage. In modern house music, there is electronic house music which has DJs such as Flume, who in May of 2016 released Skin which was nominated for the Best Dance/Electronic album in the 2017 Grammys (Stevo). House music has progressed with technology, from using old-fashioned vinyl and mixers, to having computer programs which take care of the manual mixing. These DJs are varied in their styles, with some being eclectic, such as Porter Robinson, to those who are more dance hall oriented like Afrojack (Stevo). Because of the internet, DJs, such as Aviici, are played with more than 250 million hits (Stevo). This is a huge progression from being contained to the underground.
In conclusion, House music has progressed from being a response to the disgust shared about disco music, to a socially integrative experience. House music spawned a generation of ravers who partook in the club drug, ecstasy. Not all House music was about drugs, because the founder of House, Frankie Knuckles did not want anything to detract from the purpose of House as the music itself. Larry Levan, and Derrick May were influential House DJs who started the movement in other cities besides Chicago. Technology went from drum machines and mixers, to downloadable computer programs. Furthermore, technology provides a way for DJs to self-promote worldwide. Therefore, House music has created its own culture in which social and technological advancements have been made, and although House music has prided itself on being underground, it has become a global phenomenon.
- Cheeseman, Phil. “The History of House.” DJ Magazine, 28 Dec. 2003, music.hyperreal.org/library/history_of_house.html. Accessed 02 June 2017.
- Matos, Michaelangelo. “Frankie Knuckles, ‘Godfather of House Music,’ Dead at 59.” Rolling Stone, 01 April 2014, www.rollingstone.com/music/news/frankie-knuckles-godfather-of-house-music-dead-at-59-20140401. Accessed 02 June 2017.
- PQ, Rory. “Dance Music Evolution: History of House Music.” DubSpot, 10 Aug. 2016, blog.dubspot.com/history-of-house-music/. Accessed 02 June 2017.
- Schawbel, Dan. House Music Has Become a Global Phenomenon. Forbes, 09 Mar. 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danschawbel/2012/03/09/house-music-has-become-a-global-phenomenon/#1584ec8811a4. Accessed 02 June 2017.
- Stevo. “10 Most Popular House Music Artists Right Now.” EDM Sauce, 07 Feb. 2017, http://www.edmsauce.com/2017/02/07/popular-house-music-artists/. Accessed 02 June 2017.