It’s important to understand that techno music does not have a typical dance structure. The point is to create a track that stays on one level switching from one interesting collective of sounds to another, creating interweaving kind of music.
The way people perceive techno differs quite a bit. Some find it monotonous, some think it lacks melody, and some find it exactly what they need to keep tapping their feet. But can we call the music that has been making people all over the world dance for the past few decades dance music or was its original intention something else?
Just like the audience, the DJs and producers perceive it in different ways. It seems as if the old school Detroit techno founders lean towards the opinion that techno is not just dance music, or at least that it wasn’t designed to be dance music. It was an experiment to find and create a new, unusual, futurist sound.
“Techno wasn’t designed to be dance music, it was designed to be a futurist statement.” Jeff Mills
Jeff Mills, one of the “fathers of techno” finds we’re making a mistake placing anything that has a four-four kick, or anything that has the sound of an analogue machine under the category of techno, or that techno should be described as dance music for that matter. Even though the same machines are being used nowadays – the intention, the idea and the message behind techno at its beginnings in Detroit was based on futurism. The music was danceable, but it wasn’t designed to be dance music, it was designed to be a futurist statement.
“Detroit techno, in my view, was originally about futurism. Futuristic black music.” Alan Oldham
Alan Oldham is a forward thinking futurist and a former radio jockey whose work has long fused the worlds of art and music. Creating illustrations under his own name and spinning under the DJ T-1000 alias, Oldham’s status as a sci-fi visionary has made him one of the most unique and important figures in the Detroit techno movement. Most of the music given to him for his radio show was from Jeff Mills and Mike Banks, who had formed Underground Resistance. “I’m the Black Man from The Future,” says Oldham. “I get bored with too much nostalgia.”
In the time in which machines started replacing people a new, machine-like sound simply had to emerge. But was it with the purpose of dancing? Or was it a response to the industrialization? Was it a need to predict how the future would sound?
“Basically, we’re tired of hearing about being in love or falling out, tired of the R&B system, so a new progressive sound has emerged. We call it techno!” Juan Atkins
At the age of sixteen, Atkins heard electronic music for the first time, which proved to be a life-changing experience. He recalls the sound of synthesizers reminded him of UFOs landing. He recalls hearing something that sounds like the future. That completely took him over, so he started creating a progressive new sound together with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson. It was an experiment, it was curiosity, it was an innovation, it was science fiction, it was the transference of spirit from the body to the machine.
“This music isn’t for followers, it’s for innovators, it’s truly the music of the future, it has no boundaries, no structures, and it can go as fast as time goes.” Jeff Mills
The point of techno is getting the grip of the track’s motion. If you figure out the motion of the track, you can figure out the futurist statement and the innovation behind it. And once you manage to do that nothing else matters, everything changes and you lose yourself in the music. For the “fathers of techno” that was the initial idea behind techno music. If while doing that you manage to dance as well, well that’s just great.
Nowadays, in most cases that kind of music is being created for the purpose of dancing, which is why it’s losing its original value. However, many things step away from its original purpose, but gain other values in the process. That’s what evolution is all about. Losing original value doesn’t mean losing value whatsoever.
“Techno is dance music, solid enough to carry emotions through the dance floor, and abstract enough to be a template for ever.” Petar Dundov
If you ask people today what techno is, most will say that it’s dance music. And in fact, techno music does make us dance, whether its original purpose was something else or not. Breath-taking productions serving the function of making our bodies pulse spontaneously while also challenging our brains are being made each day as techno develops and the industry grows.
After all, they say the best music is the one that passes the test of time. There is still techno that continues to nurture its original idea, even though a part of what is being produced does not. Whether with its original intention or not, techno seems to be passing the test of time with flying colors.
by Nika Bogdanić