Trance music became extremely popular during the 1990’s and reference can be traced back to Great Britain’s band, The KLF, on their 1988 track ‘What Time is Love’. In fact, the record sleeve was annotated “pure trance”. Still, there is even earlier evidence of the music slowly morphing into what is now labeled trance. French electronic musician Jean Michel Jarre released ‘Oxygene’ in 1976 and ‘Equinoxe’ in 1978. Even Neil Young’s 1982 album ‘Trans’ sounds as if it could fit into the trance genre. Some other trance groups or musicians include German duos Jam & Spoon (1992’s ‘The Age of Love’) and Dance 2 Trance (1990 ‘We Came in Peace’).
As for how the genre earned its name, the reports are conflicting. One theory suggests the term trance music was derived from German experimental electronic musician Klaus Schulze’s 1981 album, ‘Trancefer’. Schulze tends to favour repetitive rhythms and arpeggiated sounds. Many people feel that trance truly began with Paul van Dyk’s 1993 remix of Humate’s ‘Love Stimulation’, even though the origins can be traced back further. Nevertheless, the genre reached its commercial peak from the mid 1990s through the early 2000s. Perhaps no one will dispute that it at least originated in Europe, largely Germany, where it took over the club circuit by force. By 1996, the UK audience was widely impressed. There is a large fan base for trance music living in European countries as well as the Indian state of Goa, which developed its own style of trance music. By the late 90’s into the year 2000, a huge number of trance tunes found their way on the UK’s top 40 hits chart. Despite the backlash in recent years towards trance music, indie rock and guitar pop has revived and help sustain the distinct sound.
The trance sound is characterized by a tempo ranging from 125 to 160 beats per minute (BPM) and repeated phrases that is sometimes mixed with other styles of electronic music such as classical, house, pop, techno and film music but with one central hook. Despite the tempo typically being created by a Roland TR-909 drum machine, trance music generally has a hypnotic effect on its listeners. Usually, there is an orchestration breakdown leading to a fading out and eventually leaving the melody and/or atmospherics to stand alone for a few seconds or a few minutes. Vocals, if used, tend to range from mezzo-soprano to pure soprano. Fans of trance often describe it as; euphoric, or an uplifting rush while others suggests the music induces one into a trance-like state. Like any other genre of dance music, trance tracks are usually built with mix-ins and mix-outs so that DJs can blend them together quickly.
Pioneers and Sub-genres
Electro and Progressive house are incorporated forms of trance music which emphasizes on bass lines and drum beats. Hard trance became particularly popular in the UK by 2000 and especially after several DJs and producers began to feel that trance was getting a little too commercial. Pioneers of hard trance include: Guyver, Lee Haslam, Armin van Buuren and Stimulant DJs. Armin van Buuren even hosts a weekly radio show entitled A State of Trance. It should be noted that there are a good number of sub-genres, as evident by the few listed below:
Acid Trance – melody with alteration of instruments filtering cutoff frequency
Uplifting Trance – lighter tone
Euro-trance – techno and Euro disco
Tech trance – mixture of techno and trance
Vocal trance – combines with pop music
Psybient – slower (BPM) trance music
Dream trance – melodic sounds stemming from a piano, saxophone, violin, etc., then mastered and sampled onto an electronic beat.
Trance Festivals and Club Scenes
There are hordes of festivals and dance parties all over the world that showcases trance, house, techno, breaks, dubstep and other types of electronic music. The following is a breakdown of some of these festivals and events listed by location.
- Decibel Festival – Seattle, WA – This is more than a music festival. It is an annual music and digital arts festival that features concerts, commissioned work, exhibitions and film screenings. Although the festivities are centered in the Capitol Hill neighbourhood and downtown Seattle, stage locations are set up throughout the city with acts ranging from underground dance to transmedia art.
- Electric Daisy Carnival – Las Vegas, NV – Originally held in Southern California from 1997 to 2010, the Electric Daisy Carnival has been moved to Las Vegas and has been expanded into a three day event.
- Electric Zoo Festival – New York City, NY – This annual electronic music event is held during the Labor Day weekend in the Big Apple’s Randall’s Island Park.
- Spring Awakening – Chicago, IL – Anyone who loves mainstream electronic music genres will more than likely enjoy this three-day festival.
- Ultra Music Festival – Miami, FL – During the month of March, Miami plays host to this outdoor electronic music fest.
- Each month, thousands of people from around the globe meet up on Head Rin Nok (Sunrise Beach) in Thailand for the Full Moon Party.
- Also, Goa, India hosts the Sunburn Festival, which is South Asia’s first electronic music festival and is still going strong.
- More than one million trance music lovers attend the world’s biggest electronic music festival, Street Parade, which is held in Zurich, Switzerland.
- Sweden celebrates differently by arranging the Monday Bar Cruise four times a year. People can board a cruise ship between Stockholm and the Baltic countries and party to trance, psy-trance, hard-style and hardcore.
- Berlin, Germany is home to the We Are One electronic dance music event. Fans can look forward to seeing trance stars like Paul van Dyk and other musicians.
- Helsinki, Finland’s Summer Sound is the largest trance music event in Scandinavia. What once started out as a one-day affair has now turned into a three day music extravaganza.
Not to be outdone by other continents and countries, several cities, including Sydney, in Australia hosts festivals featuring Goa trance, Euro-dance, happy hardcore and psychedelic trance. Obviously, trance music has earned a place in the hearts of many with annual festivals being held in its honour. Trance also has a heavy presence in mixed EDM Fesivals such as Stereosonic and Future Music Festival