Giorgio Moroder: a pioneer of Electronic Dance

April 30 2021, by Saskia Frayling

Electronic dance music, known as EDM, is an umbrella-term for the musical styles that emerged in the mid 1980s. It covers a wide range of styles, such as ambient music, house music, techno, and drum and bass. Usually, it is produced by DJs for nightclubs, raves, and festivals. 

In a way, EDM first came from the disco genre of the 1970s, in which there would be large crowds of people on the dance floor, dancing to music involving drum machines, and electronic instruments. An example of this early EDM music would be “I Feel Love”, by Donna Summer, written by Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder. In the 1980s, EDM moved onto a post-disco, synthpop, and electro style of EDM, such as “Take On Me” by A-ha. This involved an increased use of drum machines, synthesizers, and MIDI software. EDM, as it is known today, first began in the 1990s, with a more contemporary style of EDM, similar to techno, house, and drum and bass music. An example of EDM music of the 1990s is “Chime” by Orbital. During this time, EDM was becoming increasingly popular, with the growth of raves and nightclubs. In the 2000s, EDM grew in popularity in the US, and since then it has continued to be popular, more recently being categorized by remixes, and original sound mixes.

EDM uses a range of different instruments and technological techniques and effects. Synthesizers generate sounds electronically and so they can produce a huge range of sounds. They do this using oscillators which vibrate to create a note at a constant pitch. Drum machines are also commonly used in EDM, as they are able to provide a drum beat without a drummer, as they can play back drum recordings in patterns. This makes it easier for DJs to produce steady repetitive beats which are needed for a range of EDM music. Sequencers are able to input, edit, store, and play back music from a performance, and samplers take in any sound, process it and play it back. When a short sample is repeated, it is known as looping, a technique which is often used in EDM. Vocoders are a type synthesizer that produce sounds from speech input. Aside from this, effects are often added such as: remixing, delay, and reverb. Remixing is where there are changes or additions to an original recording, delay is when a sound is played back after a short period of time, and reverb is when a sound persists after being produced. Some well-known EDM artists include David Guetta, Martin Garrix, Avicii, Skrillex, Kaskade, and Giorgio Moroder.  

Giorgio Moroder was born on the 26th April 1940 in Val Gardena-Dolomiti, Italy. He was a composer, songwriter, and record producer who was interested in the possibilities of electronic music in pop and is now seen as a pioneer of euro disco and electronic dance music. Because of his work with synthesisers, he influenced several music genres, such as Italo Disco, new wave, house, and techno music. Originally, he played bass and guitar in pop ensembles touring Europe, and first became popular in Munich in 1969, when he released his single “Looky Looky” which was awarded a gold disc. After that he worked with a range of well-known singers such as: Elton John, Donna Summer, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Freddy Mercury, and David Bowie. He also produced many film scores, for films such as Midnight Express, Metropolis, and Flashdance. These film scores allowed him to use his futuristic sound in a different way as the disco era faded. More recently he has returned to dance music, notably working with Daft Punk on their 2013 album “Random Access Memories’. 

Aside from this, he released many popular songs including: “Love to Love you Baby” and “I Feel Love”(with Donna Summer), “The Number One Song in Heaven”, and “Together in Electric Dreams”. One of Giorgio Moroder’s best known songs is “From Here to Eternity”.  It features cosmic-like basslines, effects, and synthesizers, which help to create the space disco sound. During the first section of the song, you can hear the vocal line accompanied by backing singers and a range of instruments and technology, such as vocoders and synthesizers. However, the vocal line is not heard for the rest of the song, as there is an instrumental section, which features a wide range of electronic effects, and the backing singers can be heard. Within the main melody chords are interspersed, and there are repeated motifs and rhythmic ideas throughout the song. At the end, there is a coda-like section, which is an echo of the unaccompanied intro of the song. I think that “From Here to Eternity” is a relatively typical piece of Electronic Dance music for its time. It was released in 1977, towards the end of 1970s disco music, and the beginning of the 1980s electro style. I think this is reflected in the song, with its use of drum machines and synthesizers, creating an upbeat, space disco atmosphere.

Saskia Frayling, L6

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