The year is 2014, and to be honest I thought Big Room “Festival” House would bite the dust by the end of last year. From its beginnings around 2011, the genre has gone on to consume the festival scene to the point where it’s practically all you hear on any main stage. So many producers and listeners (myself included) have grown sick of this, since we hear less and less originality with each release. But for those who have lost all hope, I’m here to explain why big room hasn’t fallen out of favor yet, and why it’s all going to change very soon. This article doesn’t speak from a cultural standpoint like most articles out there. Instead, I demonstrate how musical history tends to repeat itself, regardless of what’s going on in the world around it.
The creative process has three core tenets: Copy, transform, and combine. As strange as it is to say, all forms of art can be defined as a long, elaborate line of idea theft. The real creativity comes from the influences used, and how they combine into something “new”. Someone can make a song that’s unique and unheard of, but a genre truly begins when others start to copy it. When Sandro Silva & Quintino’s “Epic” was released, most people didn’t call it “big room” because that used to refer to most modern progressive house around the time of SHM’s ascension around 2010. Once people started to copy Silva & Quintino (I mean Maarten Vorwerk ), the genre began establishing its roots in the scene, and the definition changed to mean, “big fat horse kick, giant plucks, everyone on drugs jumping up and down.” Though I can talk about the appropriation of rave culture that resulted from this, I’ll leave those cultural implications for another article.
Going off of the creative process, music follows this cyclical pattern within their overarching genre. Every notable genre in Western Music has gone from simplicity to a sudden escalation, adding more energy to create a new genre. The dainty classical style of Mozart gave way to the big, in your face sound of Beethoven, Liszt, and Wagner. The humble African American origins of Blues brought way to the foundation of Rock and Roll. The Funk and Soul of the 70s combined with percussive breaks gave way to Rap music. They all go in the same direction. The energy makes the music more accessible, and thus more popular.
Eventually, the genre starts to branch out into subgenres, with their own nuances and stylistic choices. Over the decades, we’ve seen Progressive, Electro, Tech, Funk, Deep, and so much more. However, there are those that will continue to pump more and more energy into the music, drowning out those genres with less intensity. Eventually, it reaches the point of near absurdity.
The national anthems and epic symphonies of the Romantic era eventually progressed to music like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, a ballet so insanely sporadic that half the audience rioted at its premiere. The Rock and Roll of the 50s and 60s turned into full-blown glam rock and heavy metal, where their shredding guitar solos were the real defining moment. Rap escalated into the Atlanta influenced A$AP style Trap, where the tempo is slowed down and the 808s are bigger and heavier. We’re even starting to see the start of an Industrial movement, led by the distorted percussion and raw yelling of Death Grips.
For House music, it began with Funk and Disco. The underground DJs of Chicago, New York, and the UK would use samplers and drum machines to make their own beats and music. And, just like other genres, it started to escalate and branch out. But now, we are seeing the culmination of this energy in the form of Big Room Festival House. It’s much like the hair metal of dance, where instead of everyone waiting for the big solo, they’re waiting for the drop. The point of sheer absurdity has been reached, and artists have tried to take music to an 11 that was already at a 10. Compare Beethoven’s 9th Symphony to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring . Now compare Epic to Krakatoa. See what I mean?
So where does a genre go once its energy has been maxed out?
Artists hit the reset button and try to counteract the monstrous genre that was created, instead looking elsewhere for their inspiration. In Classical Music, this came in the form of film scores, as well as minimalist music. In Rock, this came in the form of Punk and Indie music. For dance music, it’s coming in the form of an evolved type of House, which many have broadly labeled with the umbrella term “Deep”. Artists like Disclosure have taken the jazzier elements and vintage sounds from earlier Dance Music and have injected it into today’s music scene, and we are starting to see a return to the groovier foundation that House was based upon.
The process is going to take time, and the cultural influences will play a part in how long it will take, but the rapidly growing underground indicates that Dance Music will be experiencing a very drastic change, leading to new sounds and styles for us to enjoy.