What We Started is an interesting documentary about the birth and history of electronic dance music (EDM), starting with house music in Chicago and techno music in Detroit.
Personally, I view EDM as being distinct from house & techno, and it’s generally not my favorite kind of electronic music. But that’s besides the point. EDM is now wildly popular. It has crossed over into the mainstream and bled into many other genres.
What’s fascinating about the story of electronic music is that it’s a reminder that new ideas and new movements tend to start out on the fringe. Electronic music came from hobbyists experimenting in their garages, basements, and in warehouses. It was people tinkering with something that they were passionate about.
And let’s face it, that’s the only way this genre of music could have gotten started because no record label would have signed an electronic DJ back in the 1980s. It was weird and underground, and in the early years, the US mainstream media was openly hostile toward it.
It reminds me of a blog post that Chris Dixon wrote back in 2013 called, “what the smartest people do on the weekend is what everyone else will do during the week in ten years.” New ideas start on the margin.
The other fascinating thing about this story is that the emergence of new ideas are often tied to a particular time and place. Think tech and Silicon Valley. In the case of techno, which is often described as being sharper, faster, and more precise than house music, it feels right that it originated in a city like Detroit.
Detroit was extremely musical, but it was also high-tech. It was machines and assembly lines and that clearly created fertile ground for a new genre of music that relied on, well, machines.