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Philosophy of Trance (Music) 4/18/06

I suppose I can’t blame people for calling it “techno.” Itself being a dominant music form, the name was adopted by the media to describe it and all the vast genres of electronic music that melded into our society starting decades ago, becoming most popular in the 1980s. People need labels to make things simple; techno is one of them.

The problem arises when upon hearing the word, “techno,” people immediately conjure up notions of sporadic, nonsensical music. Seemingly non-ending melodies and a lack of a distinct beat to start and end a dance sequence.

With great restraint on my part, I sat down, calmed my brain, and tried to organize my thoughts on the subject of dance music, and why so many people don’t understand it. I came to two basic conclusions. One, that people are simply ignorant of the various styles of electronic music that exist, and the fact that they are not all the same. And two, that people have a tendency to see music as an external phenomenon happening to them, rather than internalizing it. If you’ve seen any person at a party or club, standing awkwardly in the middle of the dance floor, and then painfully trying to move their arms, legs, and body in a disjoint, puppet-like fashion, then you know what I am talking about. They just don’t feel the beat, because they don’t know how to draw the music within, and then express it outwardly.

Let me first distinguish between the most widely known genres of electronic music up to date: trance, techno, and house.

When you think of techno music, you think of loud, thumping, adrenaline- and methamphetamine-pumped beats. It is what you might hear at a rave party. It can be very harsh-sounding, crudely electronic and insane. This is a very stereotypical, extreme picture to give techno, but I will use it to facilitate immediate distinction between the genres. When you think of techno, think of the Blade Rave song (remember that movie’s rave scene?) But even this is a horribly false description of techno. The more correct terms to use for the loud, obnoxious-sounding noise is “hardcore,” “speedbass,” “gabber,” and, in fact, “rave.” My favorite groups are Happy Hardcore and Lords of Acid. If people think all electronic dance music is of this sort, no wonder so many choose to hate it!

If you really want to know what techno is, continue with this paragraph. REAL techno started in Detriot in the 1980s. It really does sound like a product of the 80s: drenched in synthesizers and keyboards, with a pleasant bass beat. It gained more personality in the 90s, but has remained stagnant since then. In the later 90s and into 2000s it morphed into crazier genres listed in the above paragraph, or it dropped a couple notches, in fact fell off of the measuring stick, and is now drenched in groovy, chill beats, going by name of “downtempo.”

In the 1990s, what most people think of “techno” (actually came from House music,) morphed and hit the music charts. Remember Aqua, “Barbie Girl?” Or Eric Prydz, “Call on Me;” Gigi D’Agostino, “I’ll Fly With You,” etc. It’s happy-sounding, with a lively beat and usually a repeated vocal melody. This is Euro -- yes, yet another genre to throw in and confuse you. When you take away the excessive happiness and sugar-coated love melodies and add a more mature beat, you get House.

Detriot had techno; Chicago had House. In the 1980s, it was born in a Warehouse nightclub in Chicago. Original house is a soulful beat, with an electronic bassline and other added elements. But soulful doesn’t necessarily mean slow; many classic House songs are played at parties for a cheesy kick, like House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” or Snap!’s “The Power.” (I got the power!)

In the 90s and after, House evolved into Euro, and Funk, and other fun stuff. It’s got a distinct beat and it’s easy for people to get into. DJs mix it all the time in clubs and bars. A lot of Top 40 songs get turned into house mixes.

Time to review: we have talked about Techno and House, their origins, and what stemmed from them. The next major genre is Trance.

Wikipedia gives a very descript definition of what Trance music entails: “a tempo of between 130 and 160 bpm, featuring repeating melodic synthesizer phrases, and a musical form that builds up and down throughout a track, often crescendoing or featuring a breakdown.” That is, an anthem, a building of tension, and release. Listening to trance is a most satisfying experience. Synthesizers feature a pattern, over and over, almost putting you into a trance-like state, hence the name. Melodies are overlaid atop one another, morphing and creating a harmonic, integrated sound, driven forward by that beat…

Now, to explain why Trance is truly a part of my soul, and why if you take the time to listen to it, feel it, and move with it, you just might fall in love with it, too.

The difference between Trance and Techno and House is that Trance is more subtle than the latter two. You are not (always) blasted with a single bassline to shake your ass to. Trance makes you work a little more . . . listen to the melodies, sweeps and keyboard. They are all layered, and fade in and out of one another, driving along a constant melody, a message. Listen to how intricate they all blend together. Listen to it as a whole, or pick a single element. Attune you mind to it, and feel the energy! The tension, the yearning, the joy or sadness, that is present in every part of the music! There is such great emotion within the music. What is so unique about Trance is its ability to awaken these emotions within you, as well, and draw out your inner energy and passions. And then, the energy is so built up that you just can’t contain yourself anymore; the body moves. Not just to the music’s beat, but to your own inner song.

And then, everything just flows. That’s what Trance is all about. Feeling the music, drawing out the emotion, and being filled with an energy so pure, because it comes from within. It is more than just a music genre. It is an experience.

My hope for this article is to be informative and to lead to a greater understanding of Trance music. Check out the links below – they were used for background information, and entertainment. Ishkur’s Guide to Electronic Music is a MUST!!!




By the way, some of my favorite Trance artists include DJ Tiesto, Paul Oakenfold, Armin van Buuren, Paul van Dyk, and DJ Scorpio.

Here are some links for finding Trance music.



Thank you for reading.


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