House music is a style of electronic dance music that originated in Chicago, Illinois, United States in the early 1980s. It was initially popularized in mid-1980s discothèques catering to the African-American, Latino American, and gay communities; first in Chicago circa 1984, then in other cities such as New York City, New Jersey, Toronto, Montreal, London, Detroit, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Miami. It then reached Europe, and since the early to mid-1990s, it has been infused in mainstream pop and dance music worldwide.
House music is centered around a 'four on the floor' rhythmic structure and may feature a prominent synthesizer bassline, synthesized or sampled drums and percussion, electronic effects, vocal samples, often with reverb or delay effects.
The common element of house is a prominent kick drum on every beat (also known as a four-on-the-floor beat), usually generated by a drum machine or sampler. The kick drum sound is augmented by various kick fills and extended dropouts. The drum track is filled out with hi-hat cymbal-patterns that nearly always include a hi-hat on quaver off-beats between each kick, and a snare drum or clap sound on beats two and four of every bar. This pattern derives from so-called "four-on-the-floor" dance drumbeats of the 1960s and especially from the 1970s disco drummers. Producers commonly layer sampled drum sounds to achieve a more complex sound, and they tailor the mix for large club sound-systems, de-emphasizing lower mid-range frequencies (where the fundamental frequencies of the human voice and other instruments lie) in favor of bass and hi-hats.
Producers use many different sound-sources for bass sounds in house, from continuous, repeating electronically generated lines sequenced on a synthesizer, such as a Roland SH-101 or TB-303, to studio recordings or samples of live electric bassists, or simply filtered-down samples from whole stereo recordings of classic funk tracks or any other songs. House bass-lines tend to favor notes that fall within a single-octave range, whereas disco bass-lines often alternated between octave-separated notes and would span greater ranges. Some early house productions used parts of bass lines from earlier disco tracks. For example, producer Mark "Hot Rod" Trollan copied bass-line sections from the 1983 Italo disco song "Feels Good (Carrots & Beets)" (by Electra featuring Tara Butler) to form the basis of his 1986 production of "Your Love" by Jamie Principle. Frankie Knuckles used the same notes in his more famous 1987 version of "Your Love", which also featured Principle on vocals.
Electronically generated sounds and samples of recordings from genres such as jazz, blues, disco, funk, soul and synth pop are often added to the foundation of the drum beat and synth bass line. House songs may also include disco, soul, or gospel vocals and additional percussion such as tambourine. Many house mixes also include repeating, short, syncopated, staccato chord-loops that are usually composed of 5-7 chords in a 4-beat measure.
Disco, which blended soul, R&B, funk, was heavily adorned with celebratory messages about dancing, love, and sexuality, all underpinned with repetitive arrangements and a steady bass drum beat. Some disco songs incorporated sounds produced with synthesizers and drum machines, and some compositions were entirely electronic; examples include Giorgio Moroder's late 1970s productions such as Donna Summer's hit single "I Feel Love" from 1977, Yellow Magic Orchestra's synth-disco-pop productions from their self-titled album (1978) and Solid State Survivor (1979), several early 1980s disco-pop productions by the Hi-NRG group Lime, and Charanjit Singh's Synthesizing: Ten Ragas to a Disco Beat (1982) which anticipated the sounds of acid house music (though not a known influence on the genre).
Disco was an influence on House, which was also influenced by mixing and editing techniques earlier explored by disco DJs, producers, and audio engineers like Walter Gibbons, Tom Moulton, Jim Burgess, Larry Levan, Ron Hardy, M & M and others who produced longer, more repetitive and percussive arrangements of existing disco recordings. Early house producers like Frankie Knuckles created similar compositions from scratch, using samplers, synthesizers, sequencers, and drum machines.
The hypnotic electronic dance song "On and On", produced in 1984 by Chicago DJ Jesse Saunders and co-written by Vince Lawrence, had elements that became staples of the early house sound, such as the 303 bass synthesizer and minimal vocals. It is sometimes cited as the 'first house record', although other examples from the same time period, such as J.M. Silk's "Music is the Key" (1985) have also been cited.
The term "house music" may have its origin from a Chicago nightclub called The Warehouse which existed from 1977 to 1983. The Warehouse was patronized primarily by gay black and Latino men, who came to dance to disco music played by the club's resident DJ, Frankie Knuckles, and then followed him to his new club, The Power Plant, in 1983. In the Channel 4 documentary Pump Up The Volume, Knuckles remarks that the first time he heard the term "house music" was upon seeing "we play house music" on a sign in the window of a bar on Chicago's South Side. One of the people in the car with him joked, "you know, that's the kind of music you play down at the Warehouse!", and then everybody laughed. South-Side Chicago DJ Leonard "Remix" Rroy, in self-published statements, claims he put such a sign in a tavern window because it was where he played music that one might find in one's home; in his case, it referred to his mother's soul & disco records, which he worked into his sets. Farley Jackmaster Funk was quoted as saying "In 1982, I was DJing at a club called The Playground and there was this kid named Leonard 'Remix' Roy who was a DJ at a rival club called The Rink. He came over to my club one night, and into the DJ booth and said to me, 'I've got the gimmick that's gonna take all the people out of your club and into mine - it's called House music.' Now, where he got that name from or what made him think of it I don't know, so the answer lies with him."
Chip E.'s 1985 recording "It's House" may also have helped to define this new form of electronic music. However, Chip E. himself lends credence to the Knuckles association, claiming the name came from methods of labelling records at the Importes Etc. record store, where he worked in the early 1980s: bins of music that DJ Knuckles played at the Warehouse nightclub were labelled in the store "As Heard At The Warehouse", which was shortened to simply "House". Patrons later asked for new music for the bins, which Chip E. implies was a demand the shop tried to meet by stocking newer local club hits.
Larry Heard, a.k.a. "Mr. Fingers", claims that the term "house" reflected the fact that many early DJs created music in their own homes, using synthesizers and drum machines, including the Roland TR-808, TR-909, and the TB 303 Bassline synthesizer-sequencer. These synthesizers were used to create a house subgenre called acid house.
Juan Atkins, an originator of Detroit techno music, claims the term "house" reflected the exclusive association of particular tracks with particular DJs; those tracks were their "house" records (much like a restaurant might have a "house" salad dressing).
In the early 1980s, Chicago club & radio DJs were playing various styles of dance music, including older disco records, newer Italo Disco, hip hop and electro funk tracks, as well as electronic pop music by Kraftwerk and Yellow Magic Orchestra, and recent danceable R&B productions in the genre now known as boogie. Some made and played their own edits of their favorite songs on reel-to-reel tape, and sometimes mixed in effects, drum machines, and other rhythmic electronic instrumentation.
Starting in 1984, some of these DJs, inspired by Jesse Saunders' success with "On and On", tried their hand at producing and releasing original compositions. These compositions used newly affordable electronic instruments to emulate not just Saunders' song, but the edited, enhanced styles of disco and other dance music they already favored. By 1985, although the exact origins of the term are debated, "house music" encompassed these locally produced recordings. Subgenres of house, including deep house and acid house, quickly emerged and gained traction.
Club play from pioneering DJs like Ron Hardy and Lil Louis, local dance music record shops such as Importes, etc, State Street Records, Loop Records and Gramaphone, and the popular Hot Mix 5 shows on radio station WBMX-FM helped popularize house music in Chicago and among visiting DJs & producers from Detroit. Trax Records and DJ International Records, local labels with wider distribution, helped popularize house music outside of Chicago. One 1986 house tune called "Move Your Body" by Marshall Jefferson made house music known outside of Chicago and was called "the house music anthem" by many, and was featured in the 2004 video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" on the ingame radio station "SF-UR". By 1986, UK labels were releasing house music, and starting in 1987, house tracks by Chicago and Detroit DJs and producers, such as Steve Hurley, Farley Jackmaster Funk, Larry Heard, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson were appearing on and even topping the UK charts.
House also had an influence of relaying political messages to people who were considered to be outcasts of society. It appealed to those who didn't fit into mainstream American society and was especially celebrated by many black males. Frankie Knuckles made a good comparison of house saying it was like "church for people who have fallen from grace" and Marshall Jefferson compared it to "old-time religion in the way that people just get happy and screamin'" (30). Deep house was similar to many of the messages of freedom for the black community. Both house CDs by Joe Smooth, "Promised Land" and Db "I Have a Dream" give similar messages of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech."Someday" by CeCe Rogers, would move house further into the gospel stream later titled "gospel house". House was also very sexual and had much mystic in it. It went so far as to have an "eroto-mystic delirium" (31). Jamie Principle's "Baby Wants to Ride" begins in a prayer but surprisingly is about a dominatrix who seduces a man to "ride" her through the rest of the song.
Detroit techno was developed in the mid 1980s, although Detroit techno is a distinct musical form in its own right, its pioneers were also instrumental in forwarding house music internationally. The two forms of music developed together from 1985 to 1990 and still are genres that often coincide.
Detroit techno developed as the legendary disc jockey The Electrifying Mojo conducted his own radio program at this time, influencing the fusion of eclectic sounds into the signature Detroit techno sound. This sound, heavily influenced by European electronica (Kraftwerk, Art of Noise), Japanese technopop (Yellow Magic Orchestra), early B-boy Hip-Hop (Man Parrish, Soul Sonic Force) and Italo Disco (Doctor's Cat, Ris, Klein M.B.O.), was further pioneered by Juan Atkins, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson, the "godfathers" of Detroit Techno.
Juan Atkins released "NO UFOs" on Metroplex Records, which was very well received in Chicago and is considered a classic. He followed with the 1986 release of the track "Technicolor".
Derrick May a.k.a. "MAYDAY" and Thomas Barnett released "Nude Photo" in 1987 on May's label "Transmat Records", which helped kickstart the Detroit techno music scene and was put in heavy rotation on Chicago's Hot Mix 5 Radio dj mix show and in many Chicago clubs. A year later releasing what was to become one of techno and House music's classic anthems, the seminal track "Strings of Life", "Transmat Records" went on to have many more successful releases such as 1988's "Wiggin". As well, Derrick May had successful releases on Kool Kat Records and many remixes for a host of underground and mainstream recording artist.
Kevin Saunderson's company KMS Records contributed many releases that were as much House Music as they were Techno, these tracks were well received in Chicago and played on Chicago radio and in clubs. Blake Baxter's 1986 recording, "When we Used to Play / Work your Body", 1987's "Bounce Your Body to the Box" and "Force Field", "The Sound / How to Play our Music" and "the Groove that Won't Stop" and a remix of "Grooving Without a Doubt". In 1988, as house music became more popular among general audiences, Kevin Saunderson's group Inner City with Paris Gray released the 1988 hits "Big Fun" and "Good Life", which eventually were picked up by Virgin Records. Each EP / 12 inch single sported remixes by Mike "Hitman" Wilson and Steve "Silk" Hurley of Chicago and Derrick "Mayday" May and Juan Atkins of Detroit. In 1989, KMS had another hit release of "Rock to the Beat" which was a theme in Chicago dance clubs.
With House music already massive on the 80s dance scene it was only a matter of time before it would penetrate the UK pop charts. The record generally credited as the first house hit in the UK was Farley "Jackmaster" Funk's "Love Can't Turn Around" which reached #10 in the UK singles chart in September 1986.
In January 1987, US artist Steve 'Silk' Hurley's "Jack Your Body" reached number one in the UK, showing it was possible for house music to cross over. The same month also saw Raze enter the top 20 with "Jack the Groove", and several further house hits reached the top ten that year. Stock Aitken Waterman's productions for Mel and Kim, including the number one hit "Respectable", added elements of house to their previous europop sound, and session group Mirage scored top ten hits with "Jack Mix II" and "Jack Mix IV", medleys of previous electro and europop hits rearranged in a house style. Key labels in the rise of house music in the UK included Jack Trax, which specialised in licensing US club hits for the British market (and released an influential series of compilation albums), Rhythm King, which was set up as a hip hop label but also issued house records, and Jive Records' Club Records imprint.
House was boosted in the UK by the tour in March 1987 of Knuckles, Jefferson, Fingers Inc. (Heard) and Adonis as the DJ International Tour. Following the number one success of MARRS' "Pump Up The Volume" in October, the years 1987 to 1989 also saw UK acts like The Beatmasters, Krush, Coldcut, Yazz, Bomb The Bass, S-Express, and Italy's Black Box opening the doors to a house music onslaught on the UK charts. Early British house music quickly set itself apart from the original Chicago house sound; many of the early hits were based on sample montage, rap was often used for vocals (far more than in the US), and humor was frequently an important element.
In Britain the growth of house can be divided around the "Summer of Love" in 1988/9. House had a presence in Britain almost as early as it appeared in Chicago. House grew in northern England, the Midlands and the South East. Founded in 1982 by Factory Records, The Haçienda in Manchester became an extension of the "Northern Soul" genre and was one of the early, key English dance music clubs.
Until 1986 the club was financially troubled; the crowds only started to grow when the resident DJs (Pickering, Park and Da Silva) started to play house. Many underground venues and DJ nights also took place across the UK, Kool Kat in Nottingham, where Graeme Park DJ'd before the Hacienda. The Power House along with The Hummingbird in Birmingham with local DJs The Constructive Trio.
One of the early anthemic tunes, "Promised Land" by Joe Smooth (another song featured in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on the SF-UR in-game radio station), was covered and charted within a week by the Style Council. Europeans embraced house, and began booking legendary American house DJs to play at the big clubs, such as Ministry of Sound, whose resident, DJ Harvey brought in Larry Levan.
The house scene in cities such as Birmingham, Sheffield, Manchester and London were also provided with many underground Pirate Radio stations and DJs alike which helped bolster an already contagious, but otherwise ignored by the mainstream, music genre. The earliest and influential UK house and techno record labels such as Warp Records and Network Records (otherwise known as Kool Kat records) helped introduce American and later Italian dance music to Britain as well as promoting select UK dance music acts.
But house was also developing on Ibiza, although no house artists or labels were coming from this tiny island at the time. By the mid-1980s a distinct Balearic mix of house was discernible. Several clubs like Amnesia with DJ Alfredo were playing a mix of rock, pop, disco and house. These clubs, fueled by their distinctive sound and Ecstasy, began to have an influence on the British scene. By late 1987, DJs like Paul Oakenfold and Danny Rampling were bringing the Ibiza sound to UK clubs like the Hacienda in Manchester, and in London clubs such as Shoom in Southwark, Heaven, Future and Spectrum.
In the U.S., the music was being developed to create a more sophisticated sound, moving beyond just drum loops and short samples. New York–based performers such as Mateo & Matos and Blaze had slickly produced disco house crossover tracks. In Chicago, Marshall Jefferson had formed the house group Ten City Byron Burke, Byron Stingily & Herb Lawson(from "intensity"). In Detroit a proto-techno music sound began to emerge with the recordings of Juan Atkins, Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson.
Atkins, a former member of Cybotron, released Model 500 "No UFOs" in 1985, which became a regional hit, followed by dozens of tracks on Transmat, Metroplex and Fragile. One of the most unusual was "Strings of Life" by Derrick May, a darker, more intellectual strain of house. "Techno-Scratch" was released by the Knights Of The Turntable in 1984 which had a similar techno sound to Cybotron. The manager of the Factory nightclub, Tony Wilson, also promoted acid house culture on his weekly TV show. The Midlands also embraced the late 1980s house scene with illegal parties and more legal dance clubs such as The Hummingbird.
Back in America the scene had still not progressed beyond a small number of clubs in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and New Jersey. Paradise Garage in New York City was still a top club, although they now had Todd Terry, his cover of Class Action's Larry Levan mixed "Weekend" demonstrated the continuum from the underground disco to a new house sound with hip-hop influences evident in the quicker sampling and the more rugged bass-line. While hip-hop had made it onto radio play-lists, the only other choices were Rock, Country & Western or R&B.
Other influences from New York came from the hip-hop, reggae, and Latin community, and many of the New York City super producers/DJs began surfacing for the first time (Erick Morillo, Roger Sanchez, Junior Vasquez, Danny Tenaglia, Jonathan Peters, David Morales) with unique sounds that would evolve into other genres (tribal house, progressive house, funky house). Producers such as Masters At Work and Kerri Chandler also started pioneering a richer Garage sound that was picked up on by 'outsiders' from the worlds of jazz, hip-hop and downbeat as much as it was by house aficionados.
In the late 1980s Nu Groove Records prolonged, if not launched the careers of Rheji Burrell & Rhano Burrell, collectively known as Burrell (after a brief stay on Virgin America via Timmy Regisford and Frank Mendez), along with basically every relevant DJ and Producer in the NY underground scene. The Burrell's are responsible for the "New York Underground" sound and are the undisputed champions of this style of house. Their 30+ releases on this label alone seems to support that fact. In today's market Nu Groove Record releases like the Burrells' enjoy a cult-like following and mint vinyl can fetch $100 U.S. or more in the open market.
Influential gospel/R&B-influenced Aly-us released "Time Passes On" in 1993 (Strictly Rhythm), then later, "Follow Me" which received radio airplay as well as being played in clubs. Another U.S. hit which received radio play was the single "Time for the Perculator" by Cajmere, which became the prototype of ghetto house sub-genre. Cajmere started the Cajual and Relief labels (amongst others). By the early 1990s artists such as Cajmere himself (under that name as well as Green Velvet and as producer for Dajae), DJ Sneak, Glenn Underground and others did many recordings. The 1990s saw new Chicago house artists emerge such as DJ Funk, who operates a Chicago house record label called Dance Mania, which primarily distributes ghetto house. Ghetto house, along with acid house, were house music styles that were started in Chicago.
In Britain, further experiments in the genre boosted its appeal. House and rave clubs like Lakota, Cream emerged across Britain, hosting house and dance scene events. The 'chilling out' concept developed in Britain with ambient house albums such as The KLF's Chill Out and Analogue Bubblebath by AFX.
At the same time, a new indie dance scene emerged. In New York, bands such as Deee-Lite furthered house's international influence. Two distinctive tracks from this era were the Orb's "Little Fluffy Clouds" (with a distinctive vocal sample from Rickie Lee Jones) and the Happy Mondays' "Wrote for Luck" ("WFL") which was transformed into a dance hit by Vince Clarke.
In England, one of the few licensed venues The Eclipse attracted people from up and down the country as it was open until the early hours.
The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 was a government attempt to ban large rave dance events featuring music with "repetitive beats". There were a number of abortive "Kill the Bill" demonstrations. The Spiral Tribe at Castle Morten was probably the nail in the coffin for illegal raves, and forced through the bill, which became law, in November 1994.
The music continued to grow and change, as typified by Leftfield with "Release the Pressure", which introduced dub and reggae into the house sound, although Leftfield had prior releases, such as "Not forgotten" released in 1990 on Sheffield's Outer Rhythm records.
A new generation of clubs like, Liverpool's Cream and the Ministry of Sound were opened to provide a venue for more commercial sounds. Major record companies began to open "superclubs" promoting their own acts. These superclubs entered into sponsorship deals initially with fast food, soft drinks, and clothing companies. Flyers in clubs in Ibiza often sported many corporate logos. A new sub-genre, Chicago Hard House, was developed by DJs such as Bad Boy Bill, DJ Lynnwood, DJ Irene, Richard "Humpty" Vission and DJ Enrie, mixing elements of Chicago House, Funky House and Hard House together.
Additionally, Producers such as George Centeno, Darren Ramirez, and Martin O. Cairo would develop the Los Angeles Hard House sound. Similar to gabber or hardcore techno from the Netherlands, this sound was often associated with the "rebel" culture of the time. These 3 producers are often considered "a head of their time" since many of the sounds they engineered during the late 20th century became more prominent during the 21st century.
Towards the end of the 1990s and into the 2000s, producers like Daft Punk, Cassius, St. Germain and DJ Falcon began producing a new sound out of Paris's house scene. Together, they laid the groundwork for what would be known as the French House movement. By combining the harder-edged-yet-soulful philosophy of Chicago House with the melodies of obscure Funk, state-of-the-art production techniques (some of which were so far ahead of their time, they would not enter widespread mainstream usage for another decade) and the sound of analog synthesizers, they began to create the standards that would shape practically all House music that was created after it.
Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley proclaimed August 10, 2005 to be "House Unity Day" in Chicago, in celebration of the "21st anniversary of house music" (actually the 21st anniversary of the founding of Trax Records). The proclamation recognized Chicago as "the original home of house music" and that the music's original creators "were inspired by the love of their city, with the dream that someday their music would spread a message of peace and unity throughout the world". DJs such as Frankie Knuckles, Marshall Jefferson, Paul Johnson and Mickey Oliver celebrated the proclamation at the Summer Dance Series, an event organized by Chicago's Department of Cultural Affairs.
It was during this decade that vocal house became firmly established, both in the underground and as part of the pop market, and labels such as Defected Records, Roule and Om were at the forefront of championing the emerging sound. In the mid-2000s, fusion genres such as electro house, fidget house and tech house emerged. This fusion is apparent in the crossover of musical styles by artists such as Dennis Ferrer and Booka Shade, with the former's production style having evolved from the New York soulful house scene and the latter's roots in techno. DJs today can be heard blending all sub-genres of house as many of the best musical elements are shared across these sub-genres.
As of the late 2000's, house influenced music retains widespread popularity in clubs throughout the world. House Music has also seen a comeback into the mainstream with producers like deadmau5, Justice, Daft Punk, Fedde Le Grand, and Benny Benassi bringing lighter, more diluted, eurodance-infused house tracks back to the US Top 40 charts. With this steady, yet subtle, mainstream success throughout the years, House has gained momentum and concepts developed by House producers have infected the mainstream pop and hip-hop worlds. With the introduction of Vocoders and Auto-Tune, as well as the popularization of digital audio workstations and new production techniques like sidechaining and heavy compression, House is becoming more and more a part of American musical culture.
Australian electro-house music became popular in the mid-2000s, acts like The Aston Shuffle, Tommy Trash, Bag Raiders, The Presets, PNAU and Empire of the Sun became well-known domestically and recently internationally.