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Electronic Music 101 Episode 5: House

After a long break, we are again back with our Electronic Music 101 series, ‘House’ House, emerged in the 1980s and now one of the mainstream electronic music genre today,

Electronic Music 101 Episode 5: House
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  • PublishedMarch 5, 2021

After a long break, we are again back with our Electronic Music 101 series, ‘House’

House, emerged in the 1980s and now one of the mainstream electronic music genre today, has been greatly influenced by Frankie Knuckles on the flourishing and shaping of the genre, defining it as ‘Disco’s Revenge’. To  better understand this broad definition and therefore to understand the house genre, we must first go to the 1970s, into the disco or discotheque period.

In the late of 1960s and early 70s, the effect of disco, which was stepping toward with strongly, gained considerable popularity in America. Especially in the late 70’s, the disco, which became an important subject in the commercial circle and increased its popularity, started to be taken into consideration due to its popularity, and many claims were faced with racist and homophobic issues. The disco, which is mostly made up of the African-American Gay and Hispanic community, could not resist to these accusations over time and had to retreat underground. The biggest impact Disco had was “Disco Demolition Night” on July 12, 1979. Steve Dahl, a rock music DJ, was one of those whom was not happy with the rise of the disco action. The fact that the radio that used to broadcast rock music for following the mainstream, turned to house music broadcast and losing the job Dahl had for this reason may be part of his hatred. Dahl, who was an important figure of the team that organized the Disco Demolition Night, was constantly promoting on the radio where he was working for this event, encouraging people to come to the match and bring disco records with them. The show, which was held during the half-time match between Chicago White Sox and Detroit Tigers baseball clubs in Chicago, USA, reached its climax with the burning of hundreds of disco records in the middle of the field. The match was put off because of the spectators’ rush to the field and the uprising.


As the Disco went underground again, it began to turn into something more freely and vigorously. After this regeneration, an heir named ‘house’ emerged. We can consider this regeneration in the light of the Russian discourse theorist and semiologist Bakhtin‘s concept of carnivalesque. According to this, Bakhtin said: “Carnival culture can become infertile or even degenerate, although it appears in many forms depending on time and culture and sometimes does not appear, but it does not disappear completely.”

Disco and house exhibit an inclusive attitude to everyone due to its P.L.U.R (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) thought and dance floor concept that make up its culture. Although P.L.U.R is not mentioned much in today’s electronic music scene, it is now embedded in the house culture. The fans who enter this world put these four legs in basis on which the electronic music culture rises. Dance floor, on the other hand, offers everyone the opportunity to stand alone and as their own. You don’t have to dance with someone, you don’t have to dance with your opposite sex, you don’t have to dress in the way that belongs to the dominant nightlife culture of the time. The only thing that should not be forgotten is “to be yourself“. On the dance floor, the doctor and the student are individuals who just want to dance, apart from all the statuses they have outside. On the dance floor, the doctor and the student are the individuals who just want to dance, apart from all the statuses they have outside. Dance floor is a liberated area without the hierarchical ranks, norms and prohibitions of daily life. Finally, in the electronic music scene, we can think of the communication established with the body and dance, apart from the communication with the usual words, as the present day reflection of the definition of “a new mode of human-to-human communication” explained by Bakhtin in the concept of carnival. Another important advantage of the dance floor concept is the feeling of being together as an individual. Anthropologists explain this with the term ‘communitas’. The dance floor, P.L.U.R, which is the basis of House music, explains the terms communitas and the essence of the genre very well in Chuck Roberts‘s 1987 recording of the vocals for his friend Tony Lewis. The acapella “My House” was used frequently in house music for the next 30 years under different names such as “Jack Had A Groove“.

There were two primaries of nightlife in 1980s America. One of them is the ‘techno’ that showed itself in Detroit, which we mentioned in our previous article, and the other is the house that started to expand in Chicago. Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy, one of the leading DJs of the genre, created different motifs in the works by remixing the tracks by using the drum machine and synthesizer. They presented these new tracks to the audience at clubs such as The Warehouse and The Music Box in Chicago and changed their tracks for the next performance according to the reactions. The Warehouse club has become so prominent to the genre that the genre’s name is said to come from here.

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 (The Warehouse back in 80s)

The house, we encountered first in Chicago, started to become popular all over the world and began to create new sub-genres since the 1980s. When using drum-based rhythms, tribal house, when a cheerful (upbeat) and focused structure is created, funky house, when using experimental and simplified melodies, minimal house, and those remaining in the gray area between techno and house are called tech house. Besides these, several subgenres, including eurohouse, acid house, deep house, UK house, melodic progressive house, ghetto house were formed. With the subgenres that formed, the house was not only districted in America and Europe, but spread all over the world. Satoshi Tomiie was one of the first to adopt the genre in Japan. In South Africa, house merged with hiphop and a new hybrid genre called kwaito emerged.

Another important figure of the genre, besides Frankie Knuckles, is Paul Johnson. His song “Welcome to the Warehouse” appears as one of the important production of the new Chicago house or ghetto house in the 90s. The artist gained a worldwide reputation with his piecemaster “Get Get Down“.  The record label “Dance Mania” founded by Jesse Saunders has made great contributions to the popularization of House and especially the ghetto house genre. The company released approximately 300 albums and singles between 1985 and 1999, the time it remained open. The record company, which closed in 1999, became activated again in 2013.

Technically, house music infrastructure; consisting of eight measures, repetitive 4/4 rhythm pattern matched to the off-beat hihat, snare drum, clap and bass drum. Tracks typically hover around 110-130 BPM. Another characteristic of the genre is “four on the floor”. It consists of voicing the kick drum to each beat of a 4-beat measure. Early house pieces were high-paced and used a lot of drum machines such as the Roland TR-808 and TR-909. Besides, there was a work in which the strong and robotic voice of the bass synthesizer like the Roland TB-303 was almost always noticed, and strong gospel and soul vocals were heard. Unlike Techno’s industrial sound world, the house creates a much more organic universe. In addition to electronic instruments such as synthesizers and drum machines; violin, cello, bongo, etc. such as acoustic instrument samplers are also used. Britannica explained the house as; “… house fused the symphonic sweep and soul diva vocals of 1970s disco with the cold futurism of synthesizer-driven Eurodisco.”


Finally, I would like to emphasize once again that listening is more important than reading in order to understand music. So, below, we created the playlist which examines house genre for only this topic in our Spotify.

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Welcome to Techno Airlines! I'm Dragoman, your captain of beats and curator of all things fancy, original and creative in the world of techno music. Join me as we explore mind-bending DJs, electrifying festivals, and groundbreaking sounds that will take you on a sonic adventure like no other. Fasten your seatbelts and get ready to dance, dream, and discover the extraordinary.

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