Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities
2007—2008 Forum on Origins
Science, Technology, and Society
George Clinton, Kraftwerk, and a Sequencer to keep them company: The Origins of Techno and House
When asked to narrativize the origins of techno, genre pioneer Derrick May remarked, “It’s like George Clinton and Kraftwerk are stuck in an elevator with only a sequencer to keep them company.” What May is suggesting is that techno is the result of a technical mediation between American funk music (George Clinton’s P-Funk) and German synthesized pop (Kraftwerk) by a sequencer, a music technology used primarily to trigger musical events at a fixed rate. Using May’s quote as a point of departure, this study explores the technical, conceptual, and social practices that both genres, funk and early synthesized pop, employed to produce music and their historical synthesis as the foundations for the new genres of techno and house music in the 1980’s.