Let’s Talk About (New Wave) Music: Trance Music’s Grandparent


I was listening to music on youtube the other day; trying to find some new artists. I usually have some success finding new stuff (bands I have discovered have included Katatonia and Skarlett Riot, even though the bulk of what I listen to originally played between 1960 and 1989.  Anyway, I found a type of music called trance music. I don’t think this is the stuff they would play on the radio. Of course, I wouldn’t know. I only listen to an oldies station, WHLM FM in Bloomsburg, PA. – but only during my night shifts at the hospital.  I have not gone “clubbing” in The Flats in Cleveland, OH in several decades. I’m sure trance has been around at least as long as that.  Listening to this hypnotic stuff, I began to think of the history of how it evolved from what I believe is its origins in the early 1980s.

Back in the day, we used to go to record stores. Large vinyl platters had grooves cut into them, The platters were placed into paper sleeves, then slid into a cardboard cover. The “record album” was the standard from the 1950s. By the 1980s, the functionality had not changed all that much (although the 1960s brought us STEREO recordings, and not MONO. Trust me, this was a major advancement). However, the artwork on the albums would become iconic, in some cases.  The liner would sometimes have pictures of the band members. One might even find some bands printing their song lyrics. This was also a significant advancement. In the case of Bruce Springsteen or some heavy metal bands, it meant that what we could understand what they were grunting or screaming. Getting back to the point with record stores, they used to have sections for various types of music. It started out very basic: Pop, Rock, Metal, Classical, Jazz, R&B (Rhythm and blues), Alternative, Punk, New Wave, and Soundtracks. Record stores transitioned to selling CDs in the next 10 – 15 years. The number of genres of music got more diverse, although it was never able to keep up. Here is where I see trance music’s ancestry.

New Wave bands were those that heavily used synthesizers. New Wave bands included (early) Duran Duran,  Berlin, Flock Of Seagulls, and Kajagoogoo. Synthesizers started at tone generators that could manipulate sound wave shape. They quickly evolved into pre-programmed sampled sounds that could be shaped to fit the genre. The experimentation allowed the new wave genre to branch off into new directions. Herbie Hancock, KraftwerkDuran Duran , Thomas Dolby, Peter Gabriel, and many others helped push the boundaries to create new genres. However, I think that Walter (who later became Wendy) Moog, creator of the Moog synthesizer, is the grandfather of techno/trance music. Here is a Johann Sebastian Bach tune, played on a synthesizer. I could not find the original “Switched On Bach” album he did (I own it on CD), but it is close. Trance seems to have a classical music-like melody, with many counter-melodies to complement it. Well, at least, I see it that way.

It’s interesting to listen to today’s music, but also hear the influences and history that it evolved from. I like a wide range of music, with the possible exception of opera.

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