Techno is a form of electronic music that emerged in Detroit, USA during the mid-to-late 1980s.
Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno is seen as the foundation upon which a number of sub-genres have been built.
The initial blueprint for techno developed during the mid-1980s in Belleville, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit by Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May (Known today as The Belleville Three), all of whom attended school together at Belleville High, with the addition of Eddie Fowlkes, Blake Baxter and James Pennington.
Prehistory of Techno
Certain electro-disco and European synthpop productions share with techno a dependence on machine-generated dance rhythms, but such comparisons are not without contention.
Efforts to regress further into the past, in search of earlier antecedents, entails a further regression, to the sequenced electronic music of Raymond Scott, whose “The Rhythm Modulator,” “The Bass-Line Generator,” and “IBM Probe” are considered early examples of techno-like music.
In a review of Scott’s Manhattan Research Inc. compilation album the English newspaper The Independent suggested that “Scott’s importance lies mainly in his realization of the rhythmic possibilities of electronic music, which laid the foundation for all electro-pop from disco to techno.
In 2008, a tape from the mid-to-late 1960s by the original composer of the Doctor Who theme Delia Derbyshire, was found to contain music that sounded remarkably like contemporary electronic dance music.
Raymond Scott – https://g.co/kgs/s1mQo7
The popularity of Euro disco and Italo disco—referred to as progressive in Detroit in the Detroit high school party scene from which techno emerged has prompted a number of commentators to try to redefine the origins of techno by incorporating musical precursors to the Detroit sound as part of a wider historical survey of the genre’s development.
The search for a Mythical First Techno Record leads to consider music from long before the 1988 naming of the genre.
Aside from the artists whose music was popular in the Detroit high school scene (“progressive” disco acts such as Giorgio Moroder,Alexander Robotnick, and Claudio Simonetti and synthpop artists such as Visage, New Order, Depeche Mode, The Human League, and Heaven 17, they point to examples such as “Sharevari” (1981) by A Number of Names, danceable selections from Kraftwerk (1977–83), the earliest compositions by Cybotron (1981), Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder’s “I Feel Love” (1977), “From Here to Eternity” (1977), and Manuel Göttsching’s “proto-techno masterpiece”E2-E4 (1981).
Moroder collaborated with mainstream artists to bring electronic music to a new audience, producing tracks for Donna Summer, David Bowie, and more. His use of synthesizers introduced the electronic sound to the musical mainstream.
Another example is a record entitled Love in C minor, released in 1976 by Parisian Euro disco producer Jean-Marc Cerrone; cited as the first so called “conceptual disco” production and the record from which house, techno, and other underground dance music styles flowed. Yet another example is Yellow Magic Orchestra‘s work which has been described as “proto-techno”.
YMO had also used the prefix “techno” in a number of titles including the song “Technopolis” (1979), the album Technodelic (1981), and a rare flexi disc EP, “The Spirit of Techno” (1983).
Technopolis – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zFADf3CW8zI
Love In C Minor – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRiIiPnJvNc
The Electrifying Mojo
One of the most enigmatic radio disc jockeys in history. Never appearing in public, Mojo’s playlist picks for his Detroit radio show helped put all the pieces into place for Techno’s creation. Mojo played everything, from Prince to the B-52s. Crucially, we was very important in the introduction of new Music to the Public and it was determinant in the popularity of Kraftwerk
90 s Europe
As the original sound evolved in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it also diverged to such an extent that a wide spectrum of stylistically distinct music was being referred to as techno. This ranged from relatively pop oriented acts such as Moby to the distinctly anti-commercial sentiments of Underground Resistance. Derrick May’s experimentation on works such as Beyond the Dance (1989) and The Beginning (1990) were credited with taking techno “in dozens of new directions at once and having the kind of expansive impact John Coltrane had on Jazz”.
The Birmingham-based label Network Records label was instrumental in introducing Detroit techno to British audiences.
By the early 1990s, the original techno sound had garnered a large underground following in the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The growth of techno’s popularity in Europe between 1988 and 1992 was largely due to the emergence of the rave scene and a thriving club culture
After the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November 1989, free underground techno parties mushroomed in East Berlin, and a rave scene comparable to that in the UK was established
In America, apart from regional scenes in Detroit, New York City, Chicago, and Orlando interest was limited. Producers from Detroit, frustrated by the lack of opportunity in their home country, looked to Europe for their future livelihood. This first wave of Detroit expatriates was soon joined by a number of up-and-coming artists, the so-called “second wave”, including Carl Craig, Octave One, Jay Denham, Kenny Larkin, and Stacey Pullen, with UR’s Jeff Mills, Mike Banks, and Robert Hood pushing their own unique sound. A number of New York producers were also making an impression at this time, notably Frankie Bones, Lenny Dee, and Joey Beltram. I
Developments in American-produced techno between 1990 and 1992 fueled the expansion and eventual divergence of techno in Europe, particularly in Germany.
In Berlin, following the closure of a free party venue called Ufo, the club Tresor opened in 1991. The venue was for a time the standard bearer for techno and played host to many of the leading Detroit producers, some of whom relocated to Berlin.
The Berlin Techno scene centered itself around three locations close to the foundations of the Berlin Wall: Planet (later renamed E-Werk by Paul van Dyk),Der Bunker, and the relatively long-lived Tresor.
It was in Tresor at this time that a trend in paramilitary clothing was established (amongst the techno fraternity) by a DJ called Tanith; possibly as an expression of a commitment to the underground aesthetic of the music, or perhaps influenced by UR’s paramilitary posturing.
In the same period, German DJs began intensifying the speed and abrasiveness of the sound, as an acid infused techno began transmuting into hardcore.
DJ Tanith commented at the time that “Berlin was always hardcore, hardcore hippie, hardcore punk, and now we have a very hardcore house sound.”
Changes were also taking place in Frankfurt during the same period but it did not share the egalitarian approach found in the Berlin party scene.
It was instead very much centred around discothèques and existing arrangements with various club owners. In 1988, after the Omen opened, the Frankfurt dance music scene was allegedly dominated by the club’s management and they made it difficult for other promoters to get a start. By the early 1990s Sven Väth had become perhaps the first DJ in Germany to be worshipped like a rock star.
He performed centre stage with his fans facing him, and as co-owner of Omen, he is believed to have been the first techno DJ to run his own club. One of the few real alternatives then was The Bruckenkopf in Mainz, underneath a Rhine bridge, a venue that offered a non-commercial alternative to Frankfurt’s discothèque-based clubs. Other notable underground parties were those run by Force Inc. Music Works and Ata & Heiko from Playhouse records (Ongaku Musik).
By 1992 DJ Dag & Torsten Fenslau were running a Sunday morning session at Dorian Gray, a plush discothèque near the Frankfurt airport. They initially played a mix of different styles including Belgian new beat, Deep House, Chicago House, and synthpop such as Kraftwerk and Yello and it was out of this blend of styles that the Frankfurt trance scene is believed to have emerged.
In 1993-94 rave became a mainstream music phenomenon in Germany, seeing with it a return to “melody, New Age elements, insistently kitsch harmonies and timbres”.
By 1993, as interest in techno in the UK club scene started to wane, Berlin was considered the unofficial techno capital of Europe.