Electronic Dance Music History: A Scholar’s Perspective

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


In this blog, I offer a scholar’s perspective on the history of electronic dance music. I explore the origins and evolution of this genre of music, and consider its place in contemporary society.


Electronic Dance Music, or EDM as it is commonly known, is a genre of music that originated in the early 1990s. Often characterized by a fast tempo and synthesized sounds, EDM is popular for use in clubs and festivals around the world. While the genre has its roots in Europe, it has become increasingly popular in the United States in recent years.

EDM has its origins in the underground club scenes of major cities like London and Berlin. In these clubs, DJs would play a mix of different genres of music, including early forms of house and techno. These DJs would often experiment with new sounds and transitions, laying the foundation for the genre we know today.

As EDM began to evolve, it started to become more commercialized in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This was largely due to the rise of electronic music festivals like Creamfields and Gatecrasher, which helped to bring the genre to a wider audience. In addition, radio stations like BBC Radio 1’s dance music show began to play a more significant role in promoting EDM to the masses.

Today, EDM is one of the most popular genres of music in the world. It continues to evolve and grow, with new subgenres constantly emerging. While it may have started out as underground music for clubbers, it has now become a global phenomenon with fans all over the world.

What is Electronic Dance Music?

Electronic dance music, also known as EDM, is a broad range of percussive electronic music genres made largely for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. EDM is generally produced for playback by DJs who create seamless selections of tracks, called a mix, by segueing from one recording to another.

A Brief History of Electronic Dance Music

The origins of electronic dance music (EDM) can be traced back to the early 1970s, when pioneers like Kraftwerk and Giorgio Moroder began experimenting with electronic sounds. In the 1980s, the advent of affordable digital synthesizers and sequencers ushered in a new era of creativity, as artists like Depeche Mode and Frankie Knuckles began fusing electronic music with traditional pop and R&B genres. By the 1990s, EDM had evolved into a full-fledged subculture, as clubgoers in places like Ibiza and London embraced the new sound of “house music.” In the 21st century, EDM has become one of the most popular genres in the world, thanks to mainstream crossover hits from artists like Daft Punk and Calvin Harris.

The Various Genres of Electronic Dance Music

Since the early 2000s, electronic dance music (EDM) has become increasingly popular in the United States, appearing in everything from festivals to Top 40 radio. Though the mainstreaming of EDM has caused some to argue that it has lost its underground appeal, EDM actually encompasses a wide range of subgenres, each with its own history, sound, and fan base. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular genres of EDM, including house, techno, trance, dubstep, and drum and bass.

House is a genre of EDM that emerged in the 1980s in Chicago. House music is characterized by a four-on-the-floor drum beat, soulful vocals, and a tempo of 120-130 beats per minute. House music was originally created by DJs who wanted to extend the songs they were playing in nightclubs so that dancers would not have to take breaks. Early house tracks often sampled disco records; however, as house music evolved, it began to incorporate elements of other genres such as garage and acid house.

Techno is a genre of EDM that emerged in Detroit in the mid-1980s. Techno is characterized by a repetitive 4/4 beat, synthesizers, and futuristic themes. Unlike house music which emphasize soulful vocals and melody, techno focuses on the abstraction of sound. Early techno tracks were often experimental and experimentalism remains an important element of the genre today.

Trance is a genre of EDM that emerged in the early 1990s in Germany. Trance is characterized by hypnotic rhythms, ethereal vocals, and a tempo of 130-150 beats per minute. Trance music was originally created as an offshoot of acid house; however, early trance tracks also incorporated elements of new age music and classicalmusic. In the late 1990s and early 2000s trance experienced a surge in popularity due to its use in films such as The Matrixand Vanilla Sky

Dubstep is a genre of EDM that emerged in London in the late 1990s. Dubstep is characterized by heavy basslines and synths, complex percussion patterns ,and occasional vocal samples . Unlike other genres of EDM which are often mixe live ,dubstep tracks are usually produced iin studios using sequencers . In recent years dubstep has become increasingly popular iin thje United States due largely to itse incorporation into mainstream pop songs .

Drum and bass is a genre of EDM that emerged in London in the early 1990s . Drum anbd bass is characterized by fast breakbeats ,sub-bass frequencies ,and occasional vocal samples . Drum anbd bass often features sampleds from othjer genres oof music such at hip hop ,jungle ,anbd Reggae . Early drum anbd bbass tracks were often produced on samplers ; however modern productions make use oof digital audio workstations .

The Academic Study of Electronic Dance Music

Electronic dance music, or EDM, has been the subject of intense scholarly scrutiny in recent years. This is because the popularity of EDM has exploded in recent years, and scholars want to understand the cultural and social phenomena associated with it. In this article, we’ll take a look at the academic study of EDM, and some of the key findings that have emerged from this field of research.

The Origins of Electronic Dance Music Studies

The academic study of electronic dance music is a relatively new phenomenon. Although there have been sporadic attempts to study the genre and its associated subcultures from a scholarly perspective since the 1980s, it was not until the turn of the 21st century that EDM began to be taken seriously as a field of inquiry by the academy. This is undoubtedly due in large part to the immense popularity of the genre in the late 1990s and early 2000s, which led to a renewed interest in its history, culture, and aesthetics.

Today, there is a growing body of scholarship on electronic dance music, with new books and articles being published on a regular basis. This body of work covers a wide range of topics, from the history of specific genres and subgenres to the production and consumption of EDM in various global contexts. In addition, there is an increasing number of courses being offered on EDM at universities around the world.

Given its relatively short history, electronic dance music studies is still very much in its infancy. However, it has already begun to make important contributions to our understanding of popular music more generally. As such, it is likely that this field will continue to grow in prominence in the years to come.

The Development of Electronic Dance Music Studies

Since the 1980s, electronic dance music (EDM) has been a central part of youth culture around the world. In recent years, EDM has experienced a surge in popularity, with festivals and clubs dedicated to the genre popping up in every corner of the globe. This increased visibility has led to a corresponding increase in academic interest in EDM, with scholars from a variety of disciplines taking up the study of this phenomenon.

In the early days of EDM studies, scholars were mostly concerned with tracing the history of the genre and identifying its major subgenres and exponent DJs. This work was important in establishing EDM as a legitimate field of study and helping to create a shared language for discussing the music. In recent years, however, scholars have begun to move beyond simply cataloguing EDM’s history and have started to investigate the social and cultural significance of the music.

This shift has been driven in part by changes in the music itself, as EDM has become increasingly entangled with issues of race, gender, and sexuality. As such, scholars have begun to explore topics such as whiteness and privilege in electronic dance music cultures, masculine hegemony in DJing and production, and queer and trans identities in dance music scenes. These studies have yielded valuable insights into both electronic dance music and wider social issues, cementing the genre’s place as a rich area of scholarly inquiry.

The Current State of Electronic Dance Music Studies

Since the 1990s, electronic dance music (EDM) has become increasingly popular all over the world. Along with this rise in popularity, there has been a corresponding increase in academic research on EDM. This research has been interdisciplinary in nature, involving scholars from fields such as musicology, sociology, anthropology, history, and cultural studies.

There are many different subgenres of EDM, each with its own distinct history and culture. For example, trance music originated in the early 1990s in Germany, while drum and bass emerged in the UK a few years later. House music, meanwhile, has its roots in Chicago in the 1980s. Given this diversity of origins, it is not surprising that there is no one unified theory of EDM culture orhistory.

Despite this lack of consensus, there are some common themes that scholars have identified in their research on EDM. One of these is the role of technology in shaping both the sound and the experience of EDM. Another is the importance of collective dancing and social interaction in electronic dance music events.

In recent years, there has been a growing number of scholarly books and journal articles on EDM culture and history. This body of work is important not only for understanding this increasingly popular global phenomenon, but also for shedding light on some of the broader social and cultural issues that it speaks to.


The history of electronic dance music is long and complex, dating back to the early days of electronic music. While the exact origins of EDM are disputed, it is clear that the genre has evolved significantly over the years. Today, EDM is one of the most popular genres of music in the world, enjoyed by millions of people around the globe. Whether you’re a fan of EDM or not, there’s no denying that it has had a profound impact on the music industry and pop culture as a whole.

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