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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.