Electronic Music History And Right Now's Best Modern Proponents!

Electronic Music History And Right Now's Best Modern Proponents!

Digital music history pre-dates the rock and roll era by decades. Most of us weren't even on this planet when it started its usually obscure, under-appreciated and misunderstood development. As we speak, this 'other worldly' body of sound which began near a century ago, might not seem strange and unique as new generations have accepted a lot of it as mainstream, however it's had a bumpy road and, in finding mass audience acceptance, a gradual one.

Many musicians - the modern proponents of digital music - developed a passion for analogue synthesizers in the late 1970's and early 1980's with signature songs like Gary Numan's breakthrough, 'Are Pals Electrical?'. It was in this period that these units became smaller, more accessible, more user friendly and more affordable for a lot of of us. In this article I will try to trace this history in easily digestible chapters and supply examples of today's best fashionable proponents.

To my thoughts, this was the beginning of a new epoch. To create digital music, it was not necessary to have entry to a roomful of technology in a studio or live. Hitherto, this was solely the domain of artists the likes of Kraftwerk, whose arsenal of electronic instruments and custom built gadgetry the rest of us might only have dreamed of, even when we might understand the logistics of their functioning. Having stated this, on the time I was rising up in the 60's & 70's, I nevertheless had little knowledge of the complexity of labor that had set a standard in previous decades to arrive at this point.

The history of digital music owes much to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen was a German Avante Garde composer and a pioneering figurehead in electronic music from the 1950's onwards, influencing a movement that would ultimately have a powerful impact upon names such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Mind Eno, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, to not mention the experimental work of the Beatles' and others within the 1960's. His face is seen on the quilt of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", the Beatles' 1967 master Opus. Let's begin, nevertheless, by touring a little bit additional back in time.

The Flip of the twentieth Century

Time stood still for this stargazer after I initially discovered that the first documented, completely electronic, live shows weren't in the 1970's or 1980's however within the 1920's!

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

In 1924, the Theremin made its live performance debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. Curiosity generated by the theremin drew audiences to concerts staged across Europe and Britain. In 1930, the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York, skilled a efficiency of classical music utilizing nothing but a collection of ten theremins. Watching a number of expert musicians playing this eerie sounding instrument by waving their fingers round its antennae must have been so exhilarating, surreal and alien for a pre-tech viewers!

For these interested, check out the recordings of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore (1911-1998). Lithuanian born Rockmore (Reisenberg) worked with its inventor in New York to excellent the instrument during its early years and have become its most acclaimed, good and recognized performer and representative all through her life.

Looking back Clara, was the first celebrated 'star' of real digital music. You're unlikely to find more eerie, but beautiful performances of classical music on the Theremin. She's undoubtedly a favourite of mine!

Electronic Exclusive Music in Sci-Fi, Cinema and Television

Unfortunately, and due primarily to issue in skill mastering, the Theremin's future as a musical instrument was short lived. Finally, it discovered a distinct segment in 1950's Sci-Fi films. The 1951 cinema classic "The Day the Earth Stood Nonetheless", with a soundtrack by influential American film music composer Bernard Hermann (identified for Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", etc.), is rich with an 'extraterrestrial' score using Theremins and different digital gadgets melded with acoustic instrumentation.

Using the vacuum-tube oscillator technology of the Theremin, French cellist and radio telegraphist, Maurice Martenot (1898-1980), started developing the Ondes Martenot (in French, often called the Martenot Wave) in 1928.

Employing a regular and familiar keyboard which could be more easily mastered by a musician, Martenot's instrument succeeded where the Theremin failed in being user-friendly. Actually, it grew to become the primary profitable electronic instrument for use by composers and orchestras of its interval until the current day.

It is featured on the theme to the unique 1960's TV collection "Star Trek", and could be heard on contemporary recordings by the likes of Radiohead and Brian Ferry.

The expressive multi-timbral Ondes Martenot, although monophonic, is the closest instrument of its generation I have heard which approaches the sound of recent synthesis.

"Forbidden Planet", released in 1956, was the primary main business studio film to function an exclusively digital soundtrack... aside from introducing Robbie the Robotic and the stunning Anne Francis! The ground-breaking rating was produced by husband and spouse team Louis and Bebe Barron who, within the late 1940's, established the first privately owned recording studio in the USA recording digital experimental artists comparable to the long-lasting John Cage (whose personal Avante Garde work challenged the definition of music itself!).

The Barrons are typically credited for having widening the applying of digital music in cinema. A soldering iron in a single hand, Louis built circuitry which he manipulated to create a plethora of bizarre, 'unearthly' effects and motifs for the movie. As soon as performed, these sounds couldn't be replicated because the circuit would purposely overload, smoke and burn out to produce the desired sound result.

Consequently, they were all recorded to tape and Bebe sifted by way of hours of reels edited what was deemed usable, then re-manipulated these with delay and reverberation and creatively dubbed the end product using a number of tape decks.

In addition to this laborious work methodology, I really feel compelled to include that which is, arguably, probably the most enduring and influential digital Tv signature ever: the theme to the long running 1963 British Sci-Fi adventure sequence, "Dr. Who". It was the first time a Television series featured a solely digital theme. The theme to "Dr. Who" was created at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop using tape loops and test oscillators to run through effects, document these to tape, then have been re-manipulated and edited by another Electro pioneer, Delia Derbyshire, interpreting the composition of Ron Grainer.

As you'll be able to see, electronic music's prevalent usage in classic Sci-Fi was the precept supply of most people's perception of this music as being 'different worldly' and 'alien-weird sounding'. This remained the case until at the least 1968 with the discharge of the hit album "Switched-On Bach" performed completely on a Moog modular synthesizer by Walter Carlos (who, with a few surgical nips and tucks, subsequently grew to become Wendy Carlos).
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