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I Feel Love by Donna Summer.

Donna Summer is a name that is likely to remain popular in the world of music as a vital part of creating a new genre of music we enjoy today. The defining song that gives Summer the vanguard role in the history of music is I Feel Love that she worked on with producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. Donna Summer, known initially as LaDonna Adrian Gaines, was born to Andrew and Mary Gaines on December 21, 1948. The third child among six siblings, Donna, enjoyed a simple childhood with humble beginnings. A young prodigy, she began singing with the church choir as a coincidence when she had to fill in for someone unable to make it. On that faithful day at the age of ten, Donna showed her talent for singing for the first time. As a student in school, Donna was an adept singer and performer. She performed in several school musicals and garnered a reputation for her exceptional singing skills. Summer moved to New York in 1967 as a part of a blues-rock band. The band failed to be signed by any major record label and dissolved. Summer stayed in New York to continue navigating her budding career as a musician and performer.

Donna Summer’s major breakthrough came when she auditioned for the musical Hair and landed the role of Sheila. She was a massive success in the role and even moved to Germany to become a part of the Munich production of the musical. Donna became fluent in German, performing several songs in the language, and moved to Vienna after becoming a part of the Vienna Volksoper. Her career as a mainstream musician began with the release of the German version of Aquarius, a song from the musical Hair. Donna was working as a part-time model and backup singer in Munich when she met producers Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. The three of them met during a recording session at Musicland Studios. Little did they know, their future collaboration would become a vital turning point in the music that the world listens to. Donna signed up for Giorgio and Pete's record label called Oasis in 1974. Interestingly enough, Donna Summer was initially called Donna Sommer. A mislabel by record label Groovy Records led to her becoming more popularly known as Donna Summer instead. The name stuck, but what made her incredibly famous was the work she did with Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte on the track I Feel Love. This is a song that has a futuristic sound, even when you listen to it in 2020. An ambitious undertaking in 1977 that became an instant hit in the UK after its release, I Feel Love is still a significantly influential song. A dance track that was well ahead of its time, I Feel Love defined a new era for music as it used its modulations and pulses to create a sound nobody had heard before. It can easily be considered as a turning point for club culture. It is credited by many as being the trailblazer for the likes of Italo, house, techno, and Hi-NRG genres.

The collaboration between Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte, and Donna Summer is widely considered a prophetic piece of electronic trance-dance music whose reverberations took the track beyond the confines of Disco. The track strips down the lush orchestration of the disco sound and replaces it with something precise, electrifying, and ethereal. I Feel Love became the foundation of what we know as electronic dance music, or EDM, as it is today. The track falls under the genre of Electronic Disco, a major subgenre of Disco. In many ways, I Feel Love created the new subgenre by deviating from the traditional sound of Disco while retaining specific compositional elements which made it an unmistakably Disco track. The traditional Disco sound was primarily centered around live elements like horns, acoustic drums, guitars, and vocals. The late 1970s saw artists like Yellow Magic Orchestra and Giorgio Moroder incorporate samplers, drum machines, and sequencers into their compositions. The work that Giorgio Moroder did on I Feel Love proved to be the tipping point in the birth of a new sound. However, the trio had some help.

The use of a modular Moog synthesizer was instrumental in creating the sounds and instruments heard in the track. Except the vocals and the bass drum, all the sounds heard in the track were made using machines. Giorgio felt that the Moog could not create the crisp sound needed to create the bass sound. The vocals by Donna Summer were an essential element to the song. To work with the complex synthesizer, Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder brought on Robbie Wedel to the team to help them with the track. Wedel is a talented sound engineer who proved very helpful in creating the sound. He worked out how to synchronize the Moog to the 16-track Studer A80 tape recorder. Wedel initially recorded the reference pulse on track 16 for the tape, and then he locked it into the Moog. The result was a perfect synchronization in everything the producers played. Wedel’s contribution to the recording proved to be essential with his assistance in using the technically complex synthesizer.

The producers recorded this track on a 16-track tape recorder, and various parts played on a sequencer. Giorgio had to record the song in bursts of 20 or 30 seconds since the Moog Modular 3P would go out of tune quickly. The producers had to retune the Moog after every recording burst to maintain consistency in the sound they wanted. The audibly different hi-hat sound was a result of the white noise created by the Moog. The producers took the white noise from the Moog Modular and processed it with an envelope to get the hi-hat effect.

Moroder could not create a kick drum sound using the various equipment. The producers called in a session drummer, Keith Forsey, to play the kick drum. Interestingly, the kick drum is one of the only two sounds in the song that were not created with a machine. The other is Summer's vocals.

The whole track is in the key of C major, and a delay effect doubles each note of the bassline. There is an unmodified bassline that plays through the left channel of the track and there is a repetition of the bassline with a very slight delay on the right channel. That is the reason for a flickering aspect to the bassline with the strobe-like effect. Moroder also composed the bassline and backing track for the song before the melody itself. This was an unusual approach for a track in the disco era and is one of the several innovative aspects about how the song was produced. Moroder altered the key at regular intervals and layered Donna Summer's vocals to introduce variety to the track. The recording of Summer's vocals for the song took place in one successful take.

This incorporation of the synthesized instruments by Giorgio Moroder and Pete Belloites is very evident in I Feel Love, the use of crucial musical elements of traditional Disco, such as the fouron-the-floor kick, clap on the second and fourth beat, with an open hi-hat on the upbeat are key defining features of Electronic Disco. This deviation from what was traditional Disco later permeated into dance music giving birth to other electronic-based genres such as House, Pro Rock, Hip Hop after the release of I Feel Love.

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