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26 Apr 2016

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Electronic music history pre-dates the rock and roll era by decades. Most of us were not even on earth in the event it began its often obscure, under-appreciated and misunderstood development. Today, this 'other worldly' body of sound which began near to one hundred years ago, might no longer appear strange and unique as new generations have accepted high of it as being mainstream, yet it's a bumpy road and, to find mass audience acceptance, a slow one.


Many musicians - the modern advocates of electronic music - created passion for analogue synthesizers inside the late 1970's and early 1980's with signature songs like Gary Numan's breakthrough, 'Are Friends Electric?'. It had been with this era that these devices became smaller, more accessible, more user friendly and much more affordable for a lot of folks. In this article I will try and trace this history in easily digestible chapters and offer types of today's best modern proponents.


To my mind, this is the starting of a new epoch. To generate electronic music, it was not necessary to get access to a roomful of technology in the studio or live. Hitherto, this became solely the domain of artists the kind of Kraftwerk, whose arsenal of electronic instruments and custom built gadgetry ordinary people could only have thought of, even though we will see the logistics of the functioning. Having said this, at the time I was growing up from the 60's & 70's, I nevertheless had little familiarity with the complexity of training that had set a standard over the decades to find this time.


A history of electronic music owes much to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen was obviously a German Avante Garde composer as well as a pioneering figurehead in electronic music from the 1950's onwards, influencing a movement that could eventually possess a powerful impact upon names like Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Brain Eno, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, as well as the experimental work from the Beatles' and others within the 1960's. His face is viewed about the cover of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", the Beatles' 1967 master Opus. Let's start, however, by traveling somewhat further back in time.


The Turn with the Twentieth century


Time stood still with this stargazer when I originally found that the 1st documented, exclusively electronic, concerts were not within the 1970's or 1980's but also in the 1920's!


The very first purely electronic instrument, the Theremin, that is played without touch, was designed by Russian scientist and cellist, Lev Termen (1896-1993), circa 1919.


In 1924, the Theremin made its concert debut together with the Leningrad Philharmonic. Interest generated by the theremin drew audiences to concerts staged across Europe and Britain. In 1930, the prestigious Carnegie Hall in The big apple, enjoyed a performance of classical music using nothing but some ten theremins. Watching a number of skilled musicians playing this eerie sounding instrument by waving their hands around its antennae should have been so exhilarating, surreal and alien to get a pre-tech audience!


For anyone interested, browse the recordings of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore (1911-1998). Lithuanian born Rockmore (Reisenberg) worked with its inventor in New York for amazing the instrument during its early years and became its most acclaimed, brilliant and recognized performer and representative throughout her lifetime.


On reflection Clara, was the first celebrated 'star' of genuine electronic music. You might be unlikely to locate more eerie, yet beautiful performances of classical music about the Theremin. She's definitely a popular of mine!


Electronic Music in Sci-Fi, Cinema and tv


Unfortunately, and due mainly to difficulty in skill mastering, the Theremin's future being a clarinet was brief. Eventually, it found a market in 1950's Sci-Fi films. The 1951 cinema classic "The Day our planet Stood Still", having a soundtrack by influential American film music composer Bernard Hermann (noted for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", etc.), is rich having an 'extraterrestrial' score using two Theremins and other electronic products melded with acoustic instrumentation.


With all the vacuum-tube oscillator technology from the Theremin, French cellist and radio telegraphist, Maurice Martenot (1898-1980), began developing the Ondes Martenot (in French, referred to as the Martenot Wave) in 1928.


Using a standard and familiar keyboard that could be a little more easily mastered by way of a musician, Martenot's instrument succeeded the location where the Theremin failed in wanting to bo user-friendly. The truth is, it took over as the first successful electronic instrument to be utilized by composers and orchestras of its period before present-day.


It is featured on the party's theme to the original 1960's TV series "Star Trek", and is heard on contemporary recordings through the likes of Radiohead and Brian Ferry.


The expressive multi-timbral Ondes Martenot, although monophonic, is the closest instrument of the generation I've heard which approaches the sound of modern synthesis.


"Forbidden Planet", released in 1956, was the first major commercial studio film to feature an exclusively electronic soundtrack... apart from introducing Robbie the Robot along with the stunning Anne Francis! The ground-breaking score was manufactured by a married couple team Louis and Bebe Barron who, within the late 1940's, established the first privately owned recording studio in america recording electronic experimental artists including the iconic John Cage (whose own Avante Garde work challenged the definition of music itself!).


The Barrons are usually credited for having widening the effective use of electronic music in cinema. A soldering iron a single hand, Louis built circuitry that she manipulated to make a plethora of bizarre, 'unearthly' effects and motifs to the movie. Once performed, these sounds can't be replicated because circuit would purposely overload, smoke and burn out to generate the specified sound result.


Consequently, they were all recorded to tape and Bebe sifted through hours of reels edited what was deemed usable, then re-manipulated all of them delay and reverberation and creatively dubbed the finish product using multiple tape decks.


Furthermore laborious work method, Personally i think compelled to add whatever is, arguably, one of the most enduring and influential electronic Television signature ever: the theme towards the long running 1963 British Sci-Fi adventure series, "Dr. Who". It turned out the 1st time a Television series featured a solely electronic theme. The theme to "Dr. Who" was developed with the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop using tape loops and test oscillators to perform through effects, record the theifs to tape, then were re-manipulated and edited by another Electro pioneer, Delia Derbyshire, interpreting the composition of Ron Grainer.


As you can see, electronic music's prevalent usage in vintage Sci-Fi was the principle method to obtain the public's understanding of this music to be 'other worldly' and 'alien-bizarre sounding'. This remained true till at the very least 1968 with all the release of the hit album "Switched-On Bach" performed positioned on a Moog modular synthesizer by Walter Carlos (who, with some surgical nips and tucks, subsequently became Wendy Carlos).


The 1970's expanded electronic music's profile with the break through of bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, and especially the 1980's if it found more mainstream acceptance.


The Mid 1900's: Musique Concrete


In the development from the 1900's, electronic music wasn't solely limited to electronic circuitry being manipulated to generate sound. Within the 1940's, a relatively new German invention - the reel-to-reel tape recorder printed in the 1930's - took over as subject appealing to a quantity of Avante Garde European composers, most notably france radio broadcaster and composer Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) who designed a montage technique he called Musique Concrete.


Musique Concrete (meaning 'real world' existing sounds in contrast to artificial or acoustic ones manufactured by musical instruments) broadly involved the splicing together of recorded segments of tape containing 'found' sounds - natural, environmental, industrial and human - and manipulating them effects such as delay, reverb, distortion, quickening or reducing of tape-speed (varispeed), reversing, etc.


Stockhausen actually held concerts utilizing his Musique Concrete works as backing tapes (with this stage electronic in addition to 'real world' sounds were used about the recordings) together with which live instruments can be carried out by classical players giving an answer to the mood and motifs they were hearing!


Musique Concrete a wide impact not simply on Avante Garde and effects libraries, but additionally around the contemporary music of the 1960's and 1970's. Important activly works to check will be the Beatles' utilization of using this method in ground-breaking tracks like 'Tomorrow Never Knows', 'Revolution No. 9' and 'Being for that Advantage of Mr. Kite', and also Pink Floyd albums "Umma Gumma", "Dark Side in the Moon" and Frank Zappa's "Lumpy Gravy". All used tape cut-ups and home-made tape loops often fed live in the main mixdown.


Today this could be performed with simplicity using digital sampling, but yesterday's heroes labored hours, days and in many cases weeks to perhaps accomplish a four minute piece! For those of us that are contemporary musicians, understanding the good reputation for electronic music helps in appreciating the quantum leap technology has taken in the current period. But these early innovators, these pioneers - which there are lots of more down the line - and also the important figures they influenced that came before us, come up with revolutionary groundwork that has been our electronic musical heritage today and then for here i outlay cash homage!


1950's: The First Computer and Synth Be a musician


Moving forward many years to 1957 and enter in the first computer in to the electronic mix. Obviously, it wasn't exactly a transportable laptop device but consumed a whole room and easy to use wasn't a good concept. Nonetheless creative people kept pushing the boundaries. One of them was Max Mathews (1926 -) from Bell Telephone Laboratories, Nj-new jersey, who developed Music 1, the main music program for computers upon which all subsequent digital synthesis has its own roots based. Mathews, dubbed the 'Father of Computer Music', by using a digital IBM Mainframe, was the first ones to synthesize music over a computer.


Within the climax of Stanley Kubrik's 1968 movie '2001: Space Odyssey', use is created from a 1961 Mathews' electronic rendition from the late 1800's song 'Daisy Bell'. Here the musical accompaniment is performed by his programmed mainframe plus a computer-synthesized human 'singing' voice technique pioneered in the early 60's. Inside the movie, as HAL the computer regresses, 'he' reverts to this particular song, an homage to 'his' own origins.


1957 also witnessed the very first advanced synth, the RCA Mk II Sound Synthesizer (a noticable difference about the 1955 original). In addition, it featured an electric sequencer to program music performance playback. This massive RCA Synth was installed, whilst still being remains, on the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, The big apple, the place that the legendary Robert Moog assisted a while. Universities and Tech laboratories were the main home for synth and computer music experimentation because early era.


1960's: The Dawning from the Ages of Moog


The logistics and complexity of composing as well as the ability to access what were, before this, musician unfriendly synthesizers, led to a requirement for more portable playable instruments. One of the primary to react, and definitely the most successful, was Robert Moog (1934-2005). His playable synth employed the familiar piano style keyboard.


Moog's bulky telephone-operators' cable plug-in form of modular synth has not been one to be transported and hang with any amount of ease or speed! However it received an enormous rise in attraction to the prosperity of Walter Carlos, as previously mentioned, in 1968. His LP (Long Player) best seller record "Switched-On Bach" was unprecedented because it was the 1st time an album appeared of fully synthesized music, rather than experimental sound pieces.


The album would be a complex classical music performance with various multi-tracks and overdubs necessary, as the synthesizer only agreed to be monophonic! Carlos also created the electronic score for "A Clockwork Orange", Stanley Kubrik's disturbing 1972 futuristic film.


We are able to, the Moog synth is prevalent over a variety of late 1960's contemporary albums. In 1967 the Monkees' "Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd" took over as first commercial pop album release to feature the modular Moog. The truth is, singer/drummer Mickey Dolenz purchased the very first units sold.


It wasn't before early 1970's, however, if the first Minimoog appeared that interest seriously developed amongst musicians. This portable little unit which has a fat sound a significant impact becoming portion of live music kit for a lot of touring musicians for many years. Other businesses like Sequential Circuits, Roland and Korg began producing their very own synths, having a baby into a music subculture.


I can not close the chapter for the 1960's, however, without reference to the Mellotron. This electronic-mechanical instrument can often be seen as the primitive precursor to the modern digital sampler.


Developed in early 1960's Britain and in line with the Chamberlin (a cumbersome US-designed instrument from the previous decade), the Mellotron keyboard triggered pre-recorded tapes, each key equivalent to the equivalent note and pitch in the pre-loaded acoustic instrument.


The Mellotron is known due to the experience the Beatles' 1966 song 'Strawberry Fields Forever'. A flute tape-bank can be used for the haunting introduction played by Paul McCartney.


The instrument's popularity burgeoned and was applied to many recordings from the era such as the immensely successful Moody Blues epic 'Nights in White Satin'. The 1970's saw it adopted a growing number of by progressive rock bands. Electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream featured it on their own early albums.


After a while and additional advances in microchip technology though, this charming instrument had been a relic of the company's period.


1970's: The Birth of Vintage Electronic Bands


Early fluid albums of Tangerine Dream like "Phaedra" from 1974 and Brian Eno's assist his self-coined 'ambient music' and so on David Bowie's "Heroes" album, further drew desire for the synthesizer from both musicians and audience.


Kraftwerk, whose 1974 seminal album "Autobahn" achieved international commercial success, took the medium even further adding precision, pulsating electronic beats and rhythms and sublime synth melodies. Their minimalism suggested a cool, industrial and computerized-urban world. They frequently utilized vocoders and speech synthesis devices for example the gorgeously robotic 'Speak and Spell' voice emulator, rogues like a children's learning aid!


While inspired from the experimental electronic works of Stockhausen, as artists, Kraftwerk were the first ones to successfully combine all of the portions of electronically generated music and noise and create an easily recognizable song format. Incorporating vocals in numerous of the songs, both in their native German tongue and English, helped earn them universal acclaim becoming probably the most influential contemporary music pioneers and performers of the past half-century.


Kraftwerk's 1978 gem 'Das Modell' hit the UK primary spot which has a reissued English language version, 'The Model', in February 1982, so that it is one of several earliest Electro chart toppers!


Ironically, though, it took a movement which in fact had no association with EM (Electronic Music) to facilitate its broader mainstream acceptance. The mid 1970's punk movement, primarily in the uk, brought with it an exceptional new attitude: the one that gave priority to self-expression rather than performance dexterity and formal training, as embodied by contemporary progressive rock musicians. The original aggression of metallic punk changed into a less abrasive form in the late 1970's: New Wave. This, mixed with the comparative affordability of many small, simple to use synthesizers, generated the commercial synth explosion with the early 1980's.


A fresh generation of young adults begun to explore the chance of these instruments and started to make soundscapes challenging the prevailing outlook during contemporary music. It didn't arrive without battle scars though. The songs industry establishment, particularly in its media, often derided this new type of expression and presentation and was anxious to consign it for the dustbin in history.


1980's: The First Golden Era of Electronic Music to the Masses


Gary Numan became arguably the 1st commercial synth megastar using the 1979 "Tubeway Army" hit 'Are Friends Electric?'. The Sci-Fi element is not too much away once more. A few of the imagery is used by the Science Fiction classic, "Do Androids Desire Electric Sheep?". The 1982 hit film "Blade Runner" have also been in line with the same book.


Although 'Are Friends Electric?' featured conventional drum and bass backing, its dominant use of Polymoogs provides the song its very distinctive sound. Film was the first synth-based release to attain # 1 chart status in britain in the post-punk years and helped usher in a new genre. No more was electronic and/or synthesizer music consigned to the mainstream sidelines. Exciting!


Further developments in affordable electronic technology placed electronic squarely within reach of young creators and began to rework professional studios.


Developed in Australia in 1978, the Fairlight Sampler CMI took over as first commercially available polyphonic digital sampling instrument nonetheless its prohibitive cost saw it solely used with the likes of Trevor Horn, Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel. By mid-decade, however, smaller, cheaper instruments entered the market such as the ubiquitous Akai and Emulator Samplers often utilised by musicians live to copy their studio-recorded sounds. The Sampler revolutionized the production of music from this point on.


For most major markets, with all the qualified exception of america, earlier 1980's was commercially fascinated by electro-influenced artists. This was a exciting era for most folks, myself included. I realize I wasn't alone in closeting the distorted guitar and amps and immersing myself into a new universe of musical expression - a sound realm of the abstract and non traditional.


In your house, Australian synth based bands Real Life ('Send Me An Angel', "Heartland" album), Icehouse ('Hey Little Girl') and Pseudo Echo ('Funky Town') began to chart internationally, plus much more experimental electronic outfits like Severed Heads and SPK also developed cult followings overseas.


But by mid-decade the initial global electronic wave lost its momentum amidst resistance fomented by an unrelenting old school music media. A lot of the artists that began the decade as predominantly electro-based either disintegrated or heavily hybrid their sound with traditional rock instrumentation.


America, the largest world market in each and every sense, remained from the conservative music wings for high of the 1980's. Although synth-based records did hit the American charts, the initial being Human League's 1982 US chart topper 'Don't You desire Me Baby?', on the whole it was to become few more years ahead of the American mainstream embraced electronic music, at which it consolidated itself like a dominant genre for musicians and audiences alike, worldwide.


1988 was a little bit of a watershed year for electronic music in the usa. Often maligned in the press within their early years, it was Depeche Mode that unintentionally - and mostly unaware - spearheaded this new assault. From cult status in the us for most of the decade, their new high-play rotation on which was now termed Modern Rock radio led to mega stadium performances. An Electro act playing soldout arenas wasn't common fare in the USA during those times!


In 1990, fan pandemonium in Nyc to greet the members in a central record shop made TV news, in addition to their "Violator" album outselling Madonna and Prince from the same year caused them to be a US household name. Electronic music was not going away soon, undoubtedly!


1990's Onward: The Second Golden Era of Electronic Music to the Masses


Before our 'star music' secured its hold on the united states mainstream, and even though it absolutely was losing commercial ground elsewhere throughout a lot of the mid 1980's, Detroit and Chicago became unassuming laboratories for an explosion of Electronic Music which could see out most of the 1990's and onwards. Enter Techno and House.


Detroit inside the 1980's, a post-Fordism US industrial wasteland, produced the more often European influenced Techno. In the early to mid 80's, Detroiter Juan Atkins, an obsessive Kraftwerk fan, along with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson - using primitive, often borrowed equipment - formed the backbone products would become, together with House, the predominant music club-culture all over the world. Heavily referenced artists that informed early Techno development were European pioneers for example the aforementioned Kraftwerk, in addition to Yello and British Electro acts the kind of Depeche Mode, Human League, Heaven 17, New Order and Cabaret Voltaire.


Chicago, a four-hour drive away, simultaneously saw the creation of House. The name is mostly considered to be produced from "The Warehouse" where various DJ-Producers featured this audio amalgam. House has its own roots in 1970's disco and, unlike Techno, usually has some sort of vocal. I think Giorgio Moroder's operate in the mid 70's with Donna Summer, specially the song 'I Feel Love', is pivotal in appreciating the 70's disco influences upon burgeoning Chicago House.


Many variants and sub genres are suffering from since - crossing the Atlantic, reworked and back again - however in many ways the most popular success present in core forms revitalized the entire Electronic landscape as well as associated social culture. Techno and House helped to profoundly challenge mainstream and Alternative Rock because preferred listening option for a fresh generation: a generation who's adult with electronic music and accepts it confirmed. For the kids, it's music containing always been.


A history of electronic music continues to be written as technology advances and people's expectations of where music can go continues to push it forward, increasing its vocabulary and lexicon.

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