What the hell is techno music?

Aaron here. We’ve been researching genres lately. It may be obvious, but it helps to be able to “pigeonhole” your music as much as possible so you can find the people who will really be into you. With us it’s not easy! Everything we come across sounds nothing like us, even though if we look at the elements, it looks like we match. But the whole is more than the sum of its parts in music.

So we thought we’d go through some genres and post a little about them, as a way to help us find our niche, and to share the info we gain, and to make new friends in the process…

So – Third Option has long been called “techno/classical/poetry fusion”. So let’s look at “techno”.

The Wikipedia definition of techno begins like this:

Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States during the mid-to-late 1980s. The first recorded use of the word techno in reference to a specific genre of music was in 1988. Many styles of techno now exist, but Detroit techno is seen as the foundation upon which a number of subgenres have been built.

In Detroit techno resulted from the melding of African American music including Chicago house, funk, electro, and electric jazz with electronic music by artists such as Kraftwerk, Giorgio Moroder, and Yellow Magic Orchestra.[6] Added to this is the influence of futuristic and fictional themes[7] relevant to life in American late capitalist society, with Alvin Toffler’s book The Third Wave being a notable point of reference.

Sounds about right. But what does it really sound like? Well Wikipedia’s got an example of very early Juan Atkins techno:

That sounds right to me, but it actually sounds like some of the old hip-hop/breakdance music I used to jam to as a kid…like this one:

Whodini’s “The Freaks Come Out At Night”, which is classified as “hip-hop/electro”.

Omg that’s nothing like Third Option! Hmm…perhaps the instruments used don’t define the genre? Because indeed, we use very similar techniques…

Ok well techno didn’t just come from Detroit – it also came from Germany, and everybody who talks about techno talks about Kraftwerk. Here’s some early Kraftwerk:

I used to LOVE this jam! It was on the SAME mix tape as The Freaks Come Out At Night. 🙂 Wikipedia calls this song “electronic”.

But that still doesn’t sound like Third Option…but you know what, it doesn’t sound like modern techno either. Here’s somebody’s mix set of what sounds more like modern techno to me:

Hmm. That’s closer. But still…let’s see – Wisegeek says techno “emphasizes rhythm and utilizes advancements in music technology and production”…they say more of course, but if that was all you had to go on, this would define EVERY SINGLE GENRE OF MUSIC.

AYE YAI YAI! Let’s cut to the chase here. Music genre, like many things, is something that is very easy to see and hear. We can say “that sounds like that” and “that is not like that” very easily. And if we’re trained we can describe things. For example, we can say that techno music is pretty much always in the 120 BPM to 140 BPM tempo range, whereas hip-hop is almost always between 80-100. We can say that pretty much every kick drum in techno is some version of a TR-808 sample. We can say that techno usually consists of the use of synthesizer patches like sawtooth and square waves. We can say that it usually consists (nowadays) of “transcendant, rising melody” and almost never consists of a whole lot of vocals outside of sample snippets. But exceptions to these rules exist everywhere, and really, you can’t successfully describe what it is. You just know. It either is or it isn’t.

Is “techno” a catchall term? According to a lot of folks, no, it isn’t. I think of it as a catchall..but perhaps it’s not. Certainly the few examples here fit together pretty well. It either is or it isn’t…

So…is we or isn’t we? If you want to help us figure it out, travel over to thirdoptionmusic.com, grab the free download there, and email us at thirdoption @ nquit . com – and suggest a genre! 🙂

We’ll continue this genre journey later…

— Aaron

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