ASK THE DJ: House Definition

Dear DJ Ron,

I am a bit new to the dance world. What exactly is house music? I hear the word used so much and don’t really know what it means.

Signed,

Annette

Dear Annette,

Great questions – all kinds of terms are used to describe the music we love – dance, house, techno, electronica, etc. For the definition of house, I figured it would be best to go to Jesse Saunders – the “Originator” of house.


In his book House Music…The Real Story, Jesse Saunders defines house music as:

Some say House Music is a Feeling that can’t really be defined. It takes you there… Musically, House Music is a fusion of many different musical styles with its parents being Disco and R&B. The musical grandparents and aunts and uncles that define House music include Classic Rock, New Wave, Gospel, Electro, Jazz and believe it or not Electronica, which in those days came from Europe in the form of Kraftwerk (Germany) and Alexander Robotnic (Italy). It’s sound is an intense 4 on the floor, a percussive and repetitive open high hat, and a crisp syncopated snare. The basslines are heavy and melodic and pianos were a heavy influence in the early part of the movement. Strings (violins, violas and cellos) were also a heavy influence in the early days as witnessed in songs like “Fantasy” by Z-Factor and “Devotion” by Ten City. You might say that Classical music had a heavy influence in the arrangements as well. In the early days, House Music came to be defined as DJ music with a lot of DJs creating their own beats and adding samples. This is the stripped down raw version of House Music. The very 1st House record “On & On” by Jesse Saunders followed this principle, but the 2nd, “Fantasy,” was more of an orchestral arrangement.
House Music is the father of and defines many different musical styles. Everything started out as House, but somewhere along the journey got splintered into sub categories. The various names are more a marketing tool than anything to describe the offspring of House Music.

Definition reprinted with permission from House Music…The Real Story by Jesse Saunders.

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