I had the pleasure this year of working on a book that draws from over 30 years of coverage of Electronic Dance Music’s evolution. Collecting pages primarily from Keyboard, with additional content from Remix, we retrace the relationship of machines and music, technology and movement, in producing the sounds to which people dance.

It’s impossible to be encyclopedic in such an endeavor, but part of what I enjoyed about working on the project was getting to see through the eyes of the artists. You hear them talk in astounding detail about how they actual craft what they make. They curse their gear and long for more usable tools. They lament challenges in the scene that echo today. And they talk, musician to musician, about why they do what they do, what most personally they’re trying to express. (One advantage of being a magazine like Keyboard is that you’re not talking to a music journalist, but a fellow practitioner; you don’t have to shy away from technical details or explain to an outsider, and that comes across.)

I hope to run an excerpt here on CDM, so if there’s something you’d like to see, let us know.

I do very much want to get this out in the world and read – otherwise, I’d go get a real job — but I’m constrained by the slow trickle of print books into the channel. Stock in some places is still three weeks out; B&N as I write this says they’re in stock for immediate shipping.

The Evolution of Electronic Dance Music @ Amazon

Barnes & Noble [in stock?]

Hal Leonard book page

See the Table of Contents below, plus more pictures to give you a taste.

I also have to say, I’m hugely indebted to the folks at Hal Leonard (of which Backbeat is an imprint) for allowing me free reign on this project, and making it look terrific, and to Steve Fortner and especially Lori Kennedy at Keyboard for an archival effort that was nothing short of heroic. You may imagine we’re sitting on some massive electronic collection of articles from Keyboard’s decades of publishing. We’re not. We pulled a whole bunch of this from paper, which is how I wound up sitting in a coffee shop in Toronto in the hours (literally) up to the manuscript deadline removing errant carriage returns.

Table of Contents: I imagine your first question would likely be, why [x] and not [y]? Believe me, this was my own first question. In the end, as I said, the book is not so much a timeline of EDM, or an encyclopedia. It’s a series of snapshots, chosen from my perspective to be partially representative, but also to build a story between pieces, and to find some of the richest writing in the magazine. The magazine has its own biases, but that itself tells a story; between the pages, between the lines, there’s a tale of the music and technology that I think does emerge.

And for me, finding that connection point between human and machine was especially important, so you’ll see that thread, unsurprisingly, woven into the text. Do let me know what you think if you pick up a copy.


1. Kraftwerk
“Electronic Minstrels of the Global Village”
By Jim Aikin, March 1982

2. Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, The Units, Wall of Voodoo, Japan, Our Daughters Wedding
“New Synthesizer Rock”
By Robert Doerschuk, June 1982

3. The Ethnomusicology of Dance Music
“Denise Dalphond Goes Inside EDM Culture’s Roots”
By Peter Kirn, June 2011

4. Frankie Knuckles, Jesse Saunders, Farley “Jackmaster” Funk
“The Fathers of Chicago House”
By Greg Rule, August 1997

5. Juan Atkins
“Juan Atkins: Techno Starts Here”
By Robert Doerschuk, July 1995

6. Electronic Body Music
“Front 242: The Aggressive Edge of Rhythm and the Power of Recycled Culture”
By Robert L. Doerschuk, September 1989

“The Art of Extreme Noise”
By Francis Preve, September 2003

7. Rise of the Machines
“Roland CR-78, TR-808 and TR-909: Classic Beat Boxes”
By Mark Vail, May 1994

“Akai MPC60”
By Freff, November 1988

“Propellerhead: Propelling Changes”
By Mark Vail, April 1999

8. Charlie Clouser on Techno
“Techno How To”
By Charlie Clouser, September 1993

9. The Orb
“Inside the Ambient Techno Ultraworld”
By Robert Doerschuk, June 1995

10. Orbital, Meat Beat Manifesto, Underworld
By Greg Rule and Caspar Melville, October 1996

11. Aphex Twin
“Still Hacking After All These Years”
By Greg Rule, April 1997

12. Chemical Brothers
“Water into Acid: The Chemical Brothers Blow Up”
By Greg Rule, June 1997

13. Daft Punk
“Robopop: Part Man, Part Machine, All Daft Punk.”
By Chris Gill, May 2001

14. Richie Hawtin and John Acquaviva
“The Sounds of Science: Richie Hawtin Puts the Tech in Techno”
By Chris Gill, December 2001

“Technical Itch: John Acquaviva gets his FinalScratch”
By Stacia Monteith, December 2001

15. BT
“The Mind of BT”
By Stephen Fortner, December 2005

16. Amon Tobin
“The Big Score”
By Bill Murphy, April 2007

17. Flying Lotus
“Flying Lotus: Darkness & Light”
By Noah Levine, August 2008

“Flying Lotus: On Splicing Bebop and Hip-Hop DNA”
By Drew Hinshaw, July 2010

18. Autechre
“Autechre: Easy to Be Hard”
By Ken Micallef, April 2008

“5 Questions with Rob Brown of Autechre”
By Greg Rule, June 1996

19. Crystal Method
“Crystal Method: United by Synths, Divided by Night”
By Peter Kirn, November 2009

20. Robert Henke (Monolake)
“The Composer, Artist, and Ableton Live Imagineer Looks to the Future”
By Peter Kirn, June 2011

Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music
Ed. Peter Kirn

Across Time and Space, Tracing the Evolution of Western Dance Music: Data Visualization

And, incidentally, if you recommend a reading list to go with this, I’d love to read it! For the Northern Hemisphere, we’ll have some good material to help inspire us through the winter…

For very occasional updates on the book (like when it’s actually in stock in places like Amazon, and a possible party early in 2012), sign up for the book’s mailing list:

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  • Tom D

    This looks amazing Peter, I can't wait to pick it up. Good work! :)

    • Tom D

      I just got the last copy on amazon.co.uk (sorry anyone else!) although it now says it's "available for pre-release" so who knows if it'll arrive soon or not. Look forward to reading it anyway!

  • randallpacker

    Is there an electronic version of the book?

  • http://stereoklang.se/blog Stereoklang

    Bought it today, Xmas reading :-)
    And I made post of it on my blog as well: http://stereoklang.se/blog/bought-this-book-today

    Cheers Steelberry Clones

    • http://createdigitalmusic.com/author/peter/ peterkirn

      Wow, thanks! Great name, too.

  • Igi

    No Kindle version?

    • http://createdigitalmusic.com/author/peter/ peterkirn

      No idea myself, but I know Backbeat has done Kindle editions of some of the other titles in this series. If I find out, I'll let you know.

  • jim

    this looks great. looking forward to picking it up!

  • Groc

    Hi Peter and everyone,
    I just picked up a copy here. Good company and free shipping world wide :) http://www.bookdepository.com/Evolution-Electroni

  • a1g0rhythm

    My xmas list gets a new addition. Nice work Peter.

  • Warrior Bob

    Oh wow, this looks cool. I want to read this.

  • http://www.theabletoncookbook.com Anthony Arroyo

    Awesome, Peter! Definitely going to check this out. 

  • Carsten

    Received it a couple of weeks ago and it is an excellent read!

  • rMark

    My vote is for an electronic version – PDF, please, so I can enjoy the wonderful layout and typography!

  • http://www.authenticfilms.com Charles

    Looks like an interesting book, definitely curious to check it out.

    Can't help but notice that Keyboard magazine continues to pretend that New Order never existed…

    • http://createdigitalmusic.com/author/peter/ peterkirn

      Not sure what you mean; I'm fairly certain Keyboard has covered New Order on more than one occasion. 😉 I tried to stay fairly narrowly focused. New Order appears, if through the prism of some of these other acts. Maybe I'll get to do a book someday on that era more directly. Because this is a selection of readings, New Order is on a long, long list of people who were painful to leave out. But in exchange, we got to go into greater detail in our 250 pp / 80,000 or so characters, so that the snapshots we did pull were microcosms of some of the bigger stories.

  • Sasa Rasa

    Wow ! I still remember the article in your last picture from a Keyboard issue I bought back in 1994. Thanks to that issue I came to know about a new artist at the time by the name of Aphex Twin. And also Orbital, The Orb, Vapourspace and Ultramarine. Those were the times ! Sadly, these days, I don't find  the same kind of excitement reading Keyboard anymore, so much that I cancelled my subscription three years ago without hesitation.
    Good job Peter on bringing back these articles. Ordering my copy right away.

  • ggw

    Congratutaions on the book!

  • Armando C

    awesome man! congrats! 

  • http://www.fernandogros.com Fernando

    Congrats – looks like a great read.  I've added it to my book order and hope to review on the blog in the new year!

  • http://www.musicalgeometry.com Jason

    Looks great. Can't wait t grab a copy.

  • Random Chance

    Looks like a good book content-wise, but the publisher should have taken out and shot the layout guy. What's with the OCR font? Makes it look like the book comes from the 70s or early 80s. He should have done the contents justice. 

  • Derek D.

    Ordered my copy from B&N yesterday, looking forward to reading it, though there are several books ahead in line. Maybe my New Years Resolution will be to read more.

  • Kim

    I don't own a kindle nor ipad. I will buy one when there is a pdf to purchase. Looks like a great project wish I could get my hands on a pdf for pc as that's what I use.

  • wretchro

    +1 for kindle version

  • Tanith

    waiting for a kindle version too

  • http://www.onesmallclue.com Shannon

    +1 for reading list recommendations.

  • http://www.onyx-ashanti.com Onyxashanti

    I know how much effort you put into this book.  Congratulations! 

  • paradiddle

    Congrats on the release of the book. Can’t wait to read it!

  • http://ycros.org/ Ycros

    Really needs an ebook version, I’m trying to avoid buying paper books now, they take up space and I really like reading on my Kindle.

  • Jason Wann

    Please make an iPad version of this book. Thanks!

  • spacepatrol

    +1 on having this on iBooks. instant purchase.

  • KarlPopper

    Words sound better on paper.

    Great to see more publications on the subject. I look forward to checking it out.

  • http://createdigitalmusic.com/author/peter/ peterkirn

    This is all good feedback on electronic formats, and something I can take to heart for anything CDM might produce. Just keep in mind, I'm the editor, not the publisher. 😉 

  • renderful

    I'll add to the possible electronic formats "petition" that is this thread.

  • Sasa Rasa

    Got this email from Amazon:
    “We have good news!  We’re able to get this part of your order to you faster than we originally promised:  Peter Kirn “Keyboard Presents the Evolution of Electronic Dance Music”   Previous estimated arrival date: December 29, 2011 – January 11, 2012   New estimated arrival date: December 23, 2011″

  • synthfiend

    Awesome, I'll be buying myself a copy for Christmas for sure!

  • http://sideswitch.bandcamp.com/ cell

    Certainly a book for kids of 90s 😉 I'm grabbing a copy, but as everyone said – iBook (or similar) would be a plus.

  • Michael Coelho

    I'd like to see a Kindle version too. That said, I'll get the print version.

  • electro808kat

    Hmmm no honorable mentions of Gary Numan or Ultravox…

    • http://createdigitalmusic.com/author/peter/ peterkirn

      Gary Numan gets a chapter in the companion book in this same series, edited by Ernie Rideout, Synth Gods.

      And like I say, loads of very important people are left out – the goal was to present some snapshots, some selections of people.

  • Nick Ashton-Hart

    How on earth did this book manage to miss Heaven 17 and the Human League – who along with Kraftwerk were probably the most important artists in the creation of electronic music as a popular form of music?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Again, because as I said in the intro and the description there, it began with selecting what I felt were the best articles from Keyboard’s archives. It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s a selection of readings. It misses a whole lot of people.

  • Nick Ashton-Hart

    How on earth did this book manage to miss Heaven 17 and the Human League – who along with Kraftwerk were probably the most important artists in the creation of electronic music as a popular form of music?

    • http://pkirn.com/ Peter Kirn

      Again, because as I said in the intro and the description there, it began with selecting what I felt were the best articles from Keyboard’s archives. It’s not an encyclopedia, it’s a selection of readings. It misses a whole lot of people.

  • Christopher McMahon

    blueprint for electronic/dj dance music production check-out http://www.iconic-prism-installation.com/

  • Christopher McMahon

    blueprint for electronic/dj dance music production check-out http://www.iconic-prism-installation.com/