Derrick May and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Dzijan Emin conducting at Chene Park this summer

Derrick May (born April 6, 1963), also known as Mayday and Rhythim is Rhythim, is an electronic musician from Belleville, Michigan, United States. He was an only child[1] born in Detroit and began to explore electronic music early in his life. Along with his Belleville, Michigan high school friends Juan Atkins and Kevin Saunderson, commonly known as the Belleville Three, May is credited with developing the futuristic variation on house music that would be dubbed “techno” by Atkins.[2]

May’s career started in 1987 with the release of a record called “Nude Photo” (co-written by Thomas Barnett), which helped kickstart the Detroit techno music scene. A year later he was following it with what was to become one of techno‘s classic anthems, the seminal track “Strings of Life,” which was named by Frankie Knuckles.[5] It “hit Britain in an especially big way during the country’s 1987-1988 house explosion.”[6] It became May’s best known track, which, according to Frankie Knuckles, “just exploded. It was like something you can’t imagine, the kind of power and energy people got off that record when it was first heard. Mike Dunn says he has no idea how people can accept a record that doesn’t have a bassline.”[5] The song was featured in video game Midnight Club: Street Racing[7][8]

In the documentary about the Detroit techno scene, High Tech Soul, May notes that he saw people in Italy wearing Underground Resistance shirts and was surprised at the group’s success outside of Detroit. He says, “People were going crazy over Underground Resistance, and it was like they weren’t even there.”[9]

Recently, May produced the music for the film of the popular fighting video game Tekken.[10]

For two years, in 2003 and 2004, he was given control of Detroit’s popular annual electronic music festival, originally conceived by Carl Craig and Derrick May, now operated by Paxahau. He named his event Movement, replacing the Detroit Electronic Music Festival along the city’s riverfront.

Derrick May also still maintains a steady performance schedule, playing internationally many weekends. A pioneer of techno, he produces what he calls Hi-Tek Soul or “George Clinton meeting Kraftwerk in an elevator.”[5] He has also cited Yellow Magic Orchestra, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ultravox as influences.[11]

May contributed to BBC Radio 6 Music‘s 6 Mix in May 2013.


Music artist Emin Djijan indicated that the production will explore all possibilities, drawing on the full power of the symphonic orchestra, with the percussive elements of Mayʼs original music accentuated in the performance.


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