Electronic Music

Electronic Music

Blame it on Dr Who, like many others I suspect, the first piece of "electronic music" I heards was the "Dr Who Theme" by Delia Derbyshire.  I was hooked and wanted to hear more of this new strange sounding music. I went to the library and learnt that electronic music had rich beginnings in the classical avante garde. I learnt of: Varese, Stockhausen, Xenakis and a raft of other composers who mostly dabbled with electronic music. Stockhausen being the exception in that he dove in never to return. "Popcorn" (originally created to demonstrate the Moog synthesiser) become a radio hit in the hands of "Hot Butter", Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon was my first LP and along came Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre.

So there was a rich musical vein to mine here.

This listening list, highlights commerical highlights, when pure Electronic Music broke through into the mainstream and some of the still musically interesting listening peices from the underlying rich history of electronics musics sonic development:

Edgar Varese1959Poeme ElectroniqueTape based and original played on purpose built pavillion with dedicated speakers. Has real musicallity and Varese, become favourite referral of Frank Zappa
Karlhenz Stockhausen1958-1960KontakteThe giant of electronic music who composed for his entire life and was teacher to many other composers & musicians. There are a number of versions of Kontakte which include just the electronic score and another with live musical interplay of piano and percussion.
Delia Derbyshire / Ron Grainer1963Dr Who ThemeDerbyshire created the "Dr Who Theme" from score by Ron Grainer (an Australian) at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. A stunning piece, that has template for much future electronic music: the pulse and long washes of tone and counterpoint melelody. Introduced many to electronic music including myself. Those listening closely, likely sent them off to the record shop and library to find out about this new sound source.
Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company19701970-1973Led by David Borden, who being based in Ithaca in up state NY, he worked with Robert Moog in ensuring musicallity of MOOG synethesier and pioneered live electronic music. His 1970-1973 CD is a re-release of their original self titled recording with extra tracks. See David Borden, below.
Hot Butter1972PopcornHot Butter, cover a song originally composed and recorded by Gershon Kingsley and released on "Music to Moog By". Electronics music hits the charts.
Pink Floyd1973The Dark Side of the MoonA lesson in the use of EMS VCS3 Synthesier to add colour to music.
Kraftwerk1974AutobahnElectronic musics, hits radio airways. Across the oceans, Kraftwerk, Philip Glass and David Borden all have variations of simillar approaches
Jean-Michel Jarre1976OxygeneExtended piece with clear thematic development and a mainstream hit. Electronic music is no longer esoterica.
David Borden1981Music For Amplified Keyboard InstrumentsDavid Borden from Mother Mallard, introduces The Continuing Story of Counterpoint an exploration of various compositional technique. As with Mother Mallard, very melodic and diametrically opposed to European avant garde expolorations.

References & Links:

  • The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock - Nick Logan / Bob Woffinden (Salamander 1977)
  • The Development and Practice of Electronic Music - Jon H. Appleton / Ronald C. Perera (Prentice Hall 1975)
  • A Guide to Electronic Music - Paul Griffiths (Thames and Hudson 1979)
  • Modern Music - The avant garde since 1945 - Paul Griffiths (J M Dent & Sons 1981)
  • A Concise History of Modern Music (From Debussy to Boulez) - Paul Griffiths (Thames and Hudson 178)
  • Twentieth-Century Music: An Introduction (2nd Edition) - Eric Salzman (Prentice Hall 1974)
  • Music in the Twentieth Century - William W. Austin (J. M. Dent & Sons 1966)
  • Experimental Music - Cage and beyond - Michael Nyman (Schirmer Books 1974)
  • The Evolution of Electronic Music - David Ernst  (Schirmer Books 1977)
  • The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll - Edited by Jim Miller (Rolling Stone Press 1976)