Monday, July 19, 2010

House Music: The Home that Nightlife Built

One of the main forms of music associated with modern nightlife is house music. While it did not originate in New York, the diversity and energy of the City created fertile ground for the genre and established New York as one of the epicenters of house music.

House music evolved from disco in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This new form of music had distinct elements of soul and funk blended into a tempo and composition structure designed for dancing. House differed from previous genres because much of the music was generated by machines as opposed to live instruments. While this was a source of aesthetic tension between traditional musicians and house DJs, it did give the house artists the ability to create music rapidly and independently from other artists.

House music developed in Chicago in the early 1980s. It didn’t begin to take off in New York until the opening of Paradise Garage. David Mancuso opened the venue because the gays and minorities he catered to were often harassed at mainstream clubs. One of the first DJs Mancuso hired was Larry Levan, who has been credited with not only developing house music in New York, but bringing together disparate groups like Blacks, Latinos and punk rockers, and introducing an environment designed strictly for dancing.

Paradise Garage gave many prominent house DJs their start including David Morales and Francois Kervorkian. Other house venues soon began showcasing major talent all around the city. Grammy winning producer Frankie Knuckles spun with Levan at Continental Baths, Warehouse, Sound Factory and went on to open his own venue, Power Plant. Junior Vasquez progressed from his initial residency at Bassline to found Sound Factory and have popular residencies at Tunnel, Palladium, Exit, Roxy, Twilo and Spirit. He still plays regular sets at at Cielo. Dozens of other artists developed house over the past two decades, including Todd Terry, Danny Tenaglia, DJ Lithium, Mateo & Mateos, Little Louie Vega, Kenny Dope Gonzales and Blue Six.

Although many devoted house fans maintain that house has faded from New York nightlife, there are still several venues supporting house and its artists every week. Venues like Club Love, Sullivan Room, Cielo, Pacha, Sin Sin, Marquee still bring people together on the dance floor. In addition, many mainstream artists have adopted the aesthetics of house and electronic music. Acts as diverse as Kanye West, Usher, Katy Perry and the Black Eyed Peas utilize the energy and technology that was once the province of house producers. While hip hop may have eclipsed house as the dominant music form in New York nightlife, the influence of the music still generates a strong following and crowds of dancers are waiting for you to join them tonight.

Have fun.

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