Trance – to meditate or dance?

What we now call classical music was, in its time of composition, also popular music. The primary decisions may have been by a benefactor and the immediate entourage, but certain pieces of music, and certain composers and musicians, were the beneficiaries of being popular.

So, whether chamber music or opera, solo instrument or choir, different styles appealed to different times and different countries.

And much the same is true of what we call folk music, whether that’s bagpipes, blues, country & western or Irish lullabies.

Within all styles of music, there are always extensive repetitions and refinements. No matter whether long pieces like Concierto de Aranjuez or Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir, or Chuck Berry & Bo Diddley jamming for 20 minutes, or a whole album by Bob Dylan or Ed Sheehan, the key to popularity is often a large element of repetition.

frankie-remixes-500pxAnd so disco rhythms and Bee Gees harmonies and progressive rock’s whole side of an album would revolve around emphasising a style with, at times, incidental creative embellishments. And some of those would become exemplars of the style/genre. Nile Rodgers, Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Prince – and many others anyone could name – would be instantly recognisable. Just as Chopin may sound instantly distinct from Beethoven, so Frankie Goes to Hollywood sounded unique, even in the 3 or 6 or 9 remixes of their songs.

In simplistic terms, trance evolved out of the dance genre, especially the Ibiza ‘sound’ that filled huge clubs with thousands of fans eager to experience the highly curated sets from the dj/producer/ensemble.

More technically, trance is characterized by a tempo lying between 125 and 150 beats per minute with repeating melodic phrases, but with a musical form that distinctly builds tension and elements throughout a track. There are usually one or two peaks (also known as drops) where instruments or melody will fade out, only to return stronger after the drop. Although trance is a genre of its own, it liberally incorporates influences from other musical styles such as techno, house, pop, chill-out, classical, tech house, ambient, and film scores.

above-and-beyong-podcast-600pxPodcasts proved to be perfect vehicles for trance djs and producers, enabling worldwide distribution of 30-minute and 60-minute and 2-hour episodes – and on a regular basis. Each week, fortnight or month, fans of a trance podcast would be delivered the new episode, capturing and refining a style that includes fresh tunes built on a melodic and repetitive approach. And no matter whether via the podcast, or at a live show, the music is at times like a mantra or meditation, yet experienced and enjoyed, simultaneously, by thousands.

Above & Beyond’s Group Therapy and Shane 54’s International Departures are two highly recommended examples of excellent trance podcasts.

And let us know your favourites.


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