The term “electronic dance music” or “EDM,” carries many negative connotations: it’s loud, blaring music that has no melody and is oftentimes repetitive. Despite the negative images that are commonly associated with the electronic dance music scene, this music genre is far more diverse and has a different target audience than what many would think.
Electronic dance music has been popular in Europe since the 1970s, especially in the United Kingdom and Germany. In bothcountries, the following of EDM music is quite large, and London, Moscow, Berlin and Ibiza have particularly large nightlife EDM scenes.
There are a few sub-genres of EDM that are worth noting. One particularly melodious theme of electronic dance music is trance music. Trance music is a type of dance music that has a significantly higher amount of beats per minute (BPM) than other genres. One other distinguishing factor of trance is its highly synthesized and melodic nature, the latter of which provides a relaxing or euphoric feel to the listener.
Trance started off as a generic and unrefined style of music, along with house music. It used to be what many people today think about EDM in general: generic and low-effort music meant to appease the general masses. It was highly associated with the rave scene, which became notorious for psychedelic drug use. These negative connotations still stain the image of trance music to this day, even though many prominent DJs have stressed that drugs and trance music should not be associated with each other.
Trance is fairly popular in many European countries, but it is not considered mainstream because it caters to a large but decidedly selective audience. The Netherlands has been largely responsible for popularizing this music theme, with artists such as Tiesto and Armin Van Buuren bringing more attention to it. Trance music is differentiated from other forms of popular electronic music, such as House, by having a lengthy breakdown in tune and drawn out buildups. A breakdown is the stripping down of a multilayered track made up of multiple instruments and other synthesized programs. Often, drumbeats, other instruments and vocals are separated out during the breakdown, creating a calming and tranquil effect before the big buildup to the climax of the track. These lengthy periods of tranquility make trance music much more relaxing than other types of electronic music. The high BPM of trance music, which typically ranges from 120 beats per minute to 160 beats per minute, is what makes many trance tracks significantly longer than those of most other themes of music.
Nowadays, trance music has evolved quite a bit since its more mainstream reception in the past decades. The target audience has narrowed, and trance isn’t often played in the most popular and well-known dances and clubs. The genre has diversified as much as EDM has diversified, and most of what trance used to be could now be classified as house or other forms of EDM. One has to take effort to appreciate the individual instruments and the melody of a modern trance track. Indeed, it seems to have progressed into something far from generic rave music back in the 80’s and 90’s.
There are quite a few places in the U.S. where the electronic dance music scene is large. Most of these places are cosmopolitan cities such as New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago. Most of the music that plays in these large and popular conventions is what is seen by most outsiders as generic “boom-boom music.” However, most electronic dance music has never been mainstream in the U.S., and it seems as though it won’t be in the near future.
Many of the lesser known and appreciated themes have their own unique structures and styles. Moving these types of music into the mainstream tastes and onto mainstream audiences would take away their individualistic qualities. Specific themes such as trance moving into mainstream music would most likely deplete their unique structures and styles.
If trance music gains a very large following, more people will come into the industry. A wider range of artists making trance music would force trance out of of its very specific structure. Artists would inevitably appeal to a greater and more diverse audience by implementing their own interpretations to the genre. Once this happens, trance music will lose its narrow definition, style and niche as it becomes more diversified. Overall, it is better for music such as trance to stay “underground” in the U.S. in order to keep its authenticity and maintain its redeeming qualities.