Electronic music history pre-dates the good ole’ era by decades. Most of us just weren’t even in the world in the event it began its often obscure, under-appreciated and misunderstood development. Today, this ‘other worldly’ body of sound which began all-around a hundred years ago, may no longer appear strange and unique as new generations have accepted a lot of it mainstream, yet it’s a bumpy road and, in finding mass audience acceptance, a pokey one.
Many musicians – the modern proponents of electronic music – created a desire for analogue synthesizers from the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with signature songs like Gary Numan’s breakthrough, ‘Are Friends Electric?’. It was on this era that these devices became smaller, more accessible, more user friendly and more affordable for most people. In this post I’ll try to trace this history in easily digestible chapters and gives examples of today’s best modern proponents.
In my opinion, this is the beginning of a brand new epoch. To make electronic music, it had been will no longer important to get access to a roomful of technology inside a studio or live. Hitherto, this is solely the domain of artists the likes of Kraftwerk, whose arsenal of electronic instruments and custom built gadgetry ordinary people could simply have imagined, regardless of whether we’re able to view the logistics of the functioning. Having said that, at that time I had been we were young inside the 60’s & 70’s, I nevertheless had little understanding of the complexness of work that have set a typical over the decades to get to this aspect.
A history of electronic music owes much to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen was a German Avante Garde composer along with a pioneering figurehead in electronic music from your 1950’s onwards, influencing a movement that might eventually possess a powerful impact upon names such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Brain Eno, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, not forgetting the experimental work of the Beatles’ among others in the 1960’s. His face is viewed on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the Beatles’ 1967 master Opus. Let’s begin, however, by traveling just a little further back in history.
The Turn of the Last century
Time stood still just for this stargazer while i originally learned that the initial documented, exclusively electronic, concerts weren’t within the 1970’s or 1980’s but in the 1920’s!
The 1st purely electronic instrument, the Theremin, that is played without touch, was created by Russian scientist and cellist, Lev Termen (1896-1993), circa 1919.
In 1924, the Theremin made its concert debut using the Leningrad Philharmonic. Interest generated with 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 a number of ten theremins. Watching several skilled musicians playing this eerie sounding instrument by waving their hands around its antennae will need to have been so exhilarating, surreal and alien for the pre-tech audience!
For all those interested, read the recordings of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore (1911-1998). Lithuanian born Rockmore (Reisenberg) dealt with its inventor in The big apple to master the instrument during its early a number of became its most acclaimed, brilliant and recognized performer and representative throughout her life.
Looking back Clara, was the initial celebrated ‘star’ of genuine electronic music. You’re unlikely to find more eerie, yet beautiful performances of classical music around the Theremin. She’s definitely a favourite of mine!
Electronic Music in Sci-Fi, Cinema and Television
Unfortunately, and due mainly to difficulty in skill mastering, the Theremin’s future as being a drum was brief. Eventually, it found a niche in 1950’s Sci-Fi films. The 1951 cinema classic “The Day the planet earth Stood Still”, which has 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 electronics melded with acoustic instrumentation.
While using vacuum-tube oscillator technology of the Theremin, French cellist and radio telegraphist, Maurice Martenot (1898-1980), began developing the Ondes Martenot (in French, called the Martenot Wave) in 1928.
Using a standard and familiar keyboard which may be easily mastered by way of a musician, Martenot’s instrument succeeded the place that the Theremin failed in being user-friendly. Actually, it took over as first successful electronic instrument to be used by composers and orchestras of their period before present day.
It can be featured on the party’s theme for the original 1960’s TV series “Star Trek”, and is heard on contemporary recordings from the likes of Radiohead and Brian Ferry.
The expressive multi-timbral Ondes Martenot, although monophonic, could be the closest instrument of the company’s generation We have heard which approaches the noise of modern synthesis.
“Forbidden Planet”, released in 1956, was the first major commercial studio film to feature an exclusively electronic soundtrack… besides introducing Robbie the Robot and the stunning Anne Francis! The ground-breaking score was manufactured by wife and husband team Louis and Bebe Barron who, within the late 1940’s, established the initial privately operated recording studio in the united states recording electronic experimental artists like the iconic John Cage (whose own Avante Garde work challenged the definition of music itself!).
The Barrons are usually credited to have widening the usage of electronic music in cinema. A soldering iron a single hand, Louis built circuitry which he manipulated to produce a variety of bizarre, ‘unearthly’ effects and motifs to the movie. Once performed, these sounds can’t be replicated as the circuit would purposely overload, smoke and wear out to generate the actual required sound result.
Consequently, these were all recorded to tape and Bebe sifted through hours of reels edited the fact that was deemed usable, then re-manipulated all of them delay and reverberation and creatively dubbed the finish product using multiple tape decks.
Also laborious work method, Personally i think compelled to include truley what is, arguably, the most enduring and influential electronic Television signature ever: the theme towards the long running 1963 British Sci-Fi adventure series, “Dr. Who”. It had been the first time a Television series featured a solely electronic theme. The theme to “Dr. Who” is made at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop using tape loops and test oscillators to operate through effects, record those 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 main method to obtain the general public’s thought of this music to be ‘other worldly’ and ‘alien-bizarre sounding’. This remained true till a minimum of 1968 with all the discharge of the hit album “Switched-On Bach” performed seen on a Moog modular synthesizer by Walter Carlos (who, with just a few surgical nips and tucks, subsequently became Wendy Carlos).
The 1970’s expanded electronic music’s profile together with the break through of bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, and also the 1980’s if this found more mainstream acceptance.
The Mid 1900’s: Musique Concrete
Rolling around in its development through the 1900’s, electronic music wasn’t solely confined to electronic circuitry being manipulated to make sound. During the 1940’s, a relatively new German invention – the reel-to-reel tape recorder developed in the 1930’s – became the subject of great interest to some variety of Avante Garde European composers, especially the French radio broadcaster and composer Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) who created montage technique he called Musique Concrete.
Musique Concrete (meaning ‘real world’ existing sounds rather than artificial or acoustic ones manufactured by instruments) broadly involved the splicing together of recorded segments of tape containing ‘found’ sounds – natural, environmental, industrial and human – and manipulating them effects like delay, reverb, distortion, speeding up or slowing down 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 chosen around the recordings) along with which live instruments will be completed by classical players answering the mood and motifs these folks were hearing!
Musique Concrete were built with a wide impact not only on Avante Garde and effects libraries, but additionally around the contemporary music with the 1960’s and 1970’s. Important functions check include the Beatles’ use of using this method in ground-breaking tracks like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, ‘Revolution No. 9’ and ‘Being to the Benefit for Mr. Kite’, along with Pink Floyd albums “Umma Gumma”, “Dark Side of 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 is often performed with simplicity using digital sampling, but yesterday’s heroes labored hours, days as well as weeks to perhaps accomplish a four minute piece! For people who will be contemporary musicians, comprehending the history of electronic music can be useful for appreciating the quantum leap technology has used the latest period. These early innovators, these pioneers – of which there are many more down the line – as well as the important figures they influenced that came before us, created the revolutionary groundwork that has been our electronic musical heritage today and for here i outlay cash homage!
1950’s: The very first Computer and Synth Be a guitrist
Continue quite a while to 1957 and type in the first computer in the electronic mix. As you know, it was not exactly a portable laptop device but consumed an entire room and simple to use wasn’t even a concept. Nonetheless creative people kept pushing the boundaries. One of them was Max Mathews (1926 -) from Bell Telephone Laboratories, On the internet services, 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 personal computer Music’, employing a digital IBM Mainframe, was the first one to synthesize music with a computer.
Inside the climax of Stanley Kubrik’s 1968 movie ‘2001: A place Odyssey’, usage is created from a 1961 Mathews’ electronic rendition with the late 1800’s song ‘Daisy Bell’. Here the musical accompaniment is carried out by his programmed mainframe plus a computer-synthesized human ‘singing’ voice technique pioneered during the early 60’s. In the movie, as HAL your computer regresses, ‘he’ reverts for this song, an homage to ‘his’ own origins.
1957 also witnessed the initial advanced synth, the RCA Mk II Sound Synthesizer (an improvement about the 1955 original). Additionally, it featured an electronic digital sequencer to program music performance playback. This massive RCA Synth was installed, whilst still being remains, in the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, New York, where the legendary Robert Moog worked for some time. Universities and Tech laboratories were the principle home for synth and computer music experimentation in this early era.
1960’s: The Dawning of The Age of Moog
The logistics and complexity of composing and even getting access to what were, until then, musician unfriendly synthesizers, led to a demand for more portable playable instruments. The primary to react, and certainly 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 kind of modular synth was not one to be transported as well as set track of anywhere of ease or speed! However it received an enormous rise in popularity with the achievements of Walter Carlos, as earlier mentioned, in 1968. His LP (Long Player) best seller record “Switched-On Bach” was unprecedented since it was the very first time an album appeared of fully synthesized music, rather than experimental sound pieces.
The album was obviously a complex classical music performance with assorted multi-tracks and overdubs necessary, because the synthesizer was simply monophonic! Carlos also created the electronic score for “A Clockwork Orange”, Stanley Kubrik’s disturbing 1972 futuristic film.
From this level, the Moog synth is prevalent with a amount of late 1960’s contemporary albums. In 1967 the Monkees’ “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd” had become the first commercial pop album release to feature the modular Moog. The truth is, singer/drummer Mickey Dolenz purchased by far the very first units sold.
It had not been prior to the early 1970’s, however, once the first Minimoog appeared that interest seriously developed amongst musicians. This portable little unit having a fat sound a significant impact becoming a part of live music kit for a lot of touring musicians for years to come. Others including Sequential Circuits, Roland and Korg began producing their very own synths, giving birth into a music subculture.
I can’t close the chapter on the 1960’s, however, with no regard for the Mellotron. This electronic-mechanical instrument is often seen as the primitive precursor towards the modern digital sampler.
Created in early 1960’s Britain and in line with the Chamberlin (a cumbersome US-designed instrument through the previous decade), the Mellotron keyboard triggered pre-recorded tapes, each key equivalent to comparable note and pitch with the pre-loaded acoustic instrument.
The Mellotron is known due to the use on the Beatles’ 1966 song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A flute tape-bank is utilized around the haunting introduction played by Paul McCartney.
The instrument’s popularity burgeoned and was suited for many recordings in the era including the immensely successful Moody Blues epic ‘Nights in White Satin’. The 1970’s saw it adopted increasingly more by progressive rock bands. Electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream featured it on the early albums.
As time passes and additional advances in microchip technology though, this charming instrument was a relic of its period.
1970’s: The Birth of Vintage Electronic Bands
The first fluid albums of Tangerine Dream like “Phaedra” from 1974 and Brian Eno’s help his self-coined ‘ambient music’ and on David Bowie’s “Heroes” album, further drew interest in the synthesizer from both musicians and audience.
Kraftwerk, whose 1974 seminal album “Autobahn” achieved international commercial success, took the medium further adding precision, pulsating electronic beats and rhythms and sublime synth melodies. Their minimalism suggested a cold, industrial and computerized-urban world. They often utilized vocoders and speech synthesis devices including the gorgeously robotic ‘Speak and Spell’ voice emulator, rogues being a children’s learning aid!
While inspired by the experimental electronic works of Stockhausen, as artists, Kraftwerk were the first to successfully combine all of the components of electronically generated music and noise and convey an easily recognizable song format. Digging in vocals in several of their songs, in the their native German tongue and English, helped earn them universal acclaim becoming one of the most influential contemporary music pioneers and performers in history half-century.
Kraftwerk’s 1978 gem ‘Das Modell’ hit britain number 1 spot using a reissued English language version, ‘The Model’, in February 1982, which makes it one of the earliest Electro chart toppers!
Ironically, though, it took a movement which had no connection to EM (Electronic Music) to facilitate its broader mainstream acceptance. The mid 1970’s punk movement, primarily in Britain, brought from it an exceptional new attitude: the one which gave priority to self-expression as opposed to performance dexterity and formal training, as embodied by contemporary progressive rock musicians. Your initial aggression of metallic punk become a less abrasive form through the late 1970’s: New Wave. This, combined with the comparative affordability of numerous small, easy to use synthesizers, triggered the commercial synth explosion of the early 1980’s.
A whole new generation of the younger generation began to explore the opportunity of these instruments and commenced to produce soundscapes challenging the prevailing perspective of contemporary music. It didn’t arrive without battle scars though. The songs industry establishment, specifically in its media, often derided this new way of expression and presentation and was anxious to consign it for the dustbin in history.
1980’s: The initial Golden Era of Electronic Music for your Masses
Gary Numan became arguably the 1st commercial synth megastar using the 1979 “Tubeway Army” hit ‘Are Friends Electric?’. The Sci-Fi element is just not too much away yet again. Many of the imagery is sucked from the Science Fiction classic, “Do Androids Desire Electric Sheep?”. The 1982 hit film “Blade Runner” seemed to be depending on the same book.
Although ‘Are Friends Electric?’ featured conventional drum and bass backing, its dominant usage of Polymoogs provides the song its very distinctive sound. The recording was the first synth-based release to achieve # 1 chart status in england during the post-punk years and helped usher within a new genre. No more was electronic and/or synthesizer music is thrown into the mainstream sidelines. Exciting!
Further developments in affordable electronic technology placed electronic squarely in the hands of young creators and started to change professional studios.
Created in Australia in 1978, the Fairlight Sampler CMI became the first commercially available polyphonic digital sampling instrument nevertheless its prohibitive cost first viewed it solely in use by the likes of Trevor Horn, Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel. By mid-decade, however, smaller, cheaper instruments entered industry including the ubiquitous Akai and Emulator Samplers often employed by musicians live copy their studio-recorded sounds. The Sampler revolutionized making music from this point on.
For most major markets, with all the qualified exception of america, the early 1980’s was commercially fascinated by electro-influenced artists. This was a exciting era for most people, myself included. I realize I wasn’t alone in closeting the distorted guitar and amps and immersing myself in to a new universe of musical expression – a solid world of the abstract and non traditional.
In the home, Australian synth based bands True to life (‘Send Me An Angel’, “Heartland” album), Icehouse (‘Hey Little Girl’) and Pseudo Echo (‘Funky Town’) started to chart internationally, plus much more experimental electronic outfits like Severed Heads and SPK also developed cult followings overseas.
But by mid-decade the very first global electronic wave lost its momentum amidst resistance fomented by an unrelenting old fashioned music media. A lot of the artists that began the last decade as predominantly electro-based either disintegrated or heavily hybrid their sound with traditional rock instrumentation.
The united states, the largest world market in every sense, remained from the conservative music wings for much of the 1980’s. Although synth-based records did hit the American charts, the first being Human League’s 1982 US chart topper ‘Don’t You need Me Baby?’, overall it absolutely was to become a few more years before the American mainstream embraced electronic music, at which point it consolidated itself being a dominant genre for musicians and audiences alike, worldwide.
1988 was a bit of a watershed year for electronic music in america. Often maligned in the press within their early years, it turned out Depeche Mode that unintentionally – and mostly unaware – spearheaded this new assault. From cult status in the usa for high of the last decade, their new high-play rotation on the was now termed Modern Rock radio triggered mega stadium performances. An Electro act playing sold-out arenas wasn’t common fare in america in those days!
In 1990, fan pandemonium in Nyc to greet the members at the central record shop made TV news, and their “Violator” album outselling Madonna and Prince from the same year made them a US household name. Electronic music was maturing all the time, undoubtedly!
1990’s Onward: The next Golden Era of Electronic Music to the Masses
Before our ‘star music’ secured its wait america mainstream, and even though it had been losing commercial ground elsewhere throughout most of the mid 1980’s, Detroit and Chicago became unassuming laboratories to have an explosion of Electronic Music which would see out a lot of the 1990’s and onwards. Enter Techno and House.
Detroit from the 1980’s, a post-Fordism US industrial wasteland, produced the harder European influenced Techno. In early to mid 80’s, Detroiter Juan Atkins, an obsessive Kraftwerk fan, in addition to 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 like the aforementioned Kraftwerk, and also Yello and British Electro acts famous brands Depeche Mode, Human League, Heaven 17, New Order and Cabaret Voltaire.
Chicago, a four-hour drive away, simultaneously saw the development of House. The name is usually regarded as produced by “The Warehouse” where various DJ-Producers featured this audio amalgam. House has its own roots in 1970’s disco and, unlike Techno, normally has some sort of vocal. I believe Giorgio Moroder’s are employed in the mid 70’s with Donna Summer, especially the song ‘I Feel Love’, is pivotal in appreciating the 70’s disco influences upon burgeoning Chicago House.
A myriad of variants and sub genres are suffering from since – crossing the Atlantic, reworked and rear – but also in many ways the favorite success present in core forms revitalized the complete Electronic landscape and its particular associated social culture. Techno and House helped to profoundly challenge mainstream and Alternative Rock as the preferred listening selection for a fresh generation: an era that has adult with electronic music and accepts it as a given. For them, it is music containing forever been.
The history of electronic music remains written as technology advances and people’s expectations of where music will go continues to push it forward, increasing its vocabulary and lexicon.