Techno Music History


The history of techno is very difficult to define, as it varies depending whether you follow the history back to Germany, the United States or the United Kingdom. However, most state that techno's lineage can be traced back to Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra and George Clinton. Techno came to prominence as fully fledged dance music with the advent of the Roland TB303 rhythm generator and the subsequent emergence of the 'Acid House' or 'rave' scene.
The speed of the music, which is indicated in beats per minute (BPM) was continuously increasing, and in early 1990, the house beat was combined with the electro sound and techno house was born.

Techno is pure electronic music, originally designed for dances, that combines the sound of classic German electronica with an american Urban feel. The music emphasizes the machine sound of electronic drum machines, especially the Roland TR-808, and often is based around repetitive riffs played on bass line sequencers like the Roland TB-303.

In the early eighties a trio of pioneers in Detroit began merging the sounds of synthpop and Italo-disco with funk. Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson were high school friends who went to dance parties where the music ranged from Kraftwerk to Parliament. They listened to an influential radio DJ, The Electrifying Mojo, who played European imports alongside Prince and the B-52's. In 1981 Atkins and Richard Davies, aka 3070, started releasing records as Cybotron. Techno was born.

The original techno sound drew heavily from its funk and soul music roots to create characteristically intense grooves and percussive basslines. Early pioneers of the genre melded the beat-centric styles of their Motown predecessors with the music technology of the time. In merging the sensibilities of soul music, funk, house music, and electro, with a European synth-pop aesthetic, the early producers pushed dance music into previously unexplored territory.

The resulting style came to exert an influence on widely differing genres of electronic music yet it also managed to maintain its identity as a genre in its own right; one which is commonly referred to as "Detroit techno". The sound was refined even further, and given added sophistication, with the addition of jazz tinged colors.

Techno music came out of Detroit in the 1980's, and carried the influences of popular electronic music of the 1970's to the dance floors. The music features regular, pounding beats coupled with distorted synthesized sequences.

The best known early techno producers are Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, sometimes known as the Belleville Three. They made music for clubs that was a urban take on the music of German musicians like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream were making. While Techno made it to the clubs in Chicago and New York, it was a largely underground style throughout the eighties.

In the US, techno was strictly an underground phenomenon, but in UK, it broke into the mainstream in the late '80s. In the early '90s, techno began to fragment into a number of subgenres, including hardcore, ambient, and jungle. In hardcore techno, the beats-per-minute on each record were sped up to undanceable levels. It was designed to alienate a broad audience.

In the late eighties and early nineties, something odd happened. Techno and house, which had failed to gain mainstream success in the United States, became a huge phenomenon in Europe especially in Great Britain. In fact, the term techno was popularized by Virgin Records' seminal UK compilation Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit.