Electro Music History
One of the most recent innovations to musical genre occurred in the 60's with the birth of the first electronic keyboard. Electric organs were the first to appear and become widely used (Voxes, Hammonds, Farsifas).
electrically amplified pianos soon followed (Wurlitzer, Fender Rhodes, Clavinet) and, of course, the Mellotron, which was a kind of a pioneer sampling device, most famously used by The Beatles (in the "Strawberry Fields Forever" intro), King Crimson, and The Moody Blues.
Although the electronically produced sound was very distinct in some of the songs, it still wasn't true Electronica - the inclusion of acoustic and/or electric guitars, bass guitar and live drumming, etc. were dominant in the song's sound, thus classifying it as Electro-Acoustic music.
One pioneer of early Electronic (and Electro-Acoustic) music was Jean-Michel Jarre.
In 1968, Jarre joined the GRM Music Research Group in Paris, and began experimenting with Electro-Classical music (also sometimes considered to be in the New Age category with similar artists like Enya). In 1971, he composed a ballet, which was played in Opera De Paris.
This marked the first time that Electro-Acoustic music was played publicly. After releasing another successful album, and composing a film score, Jarre made a record-breaking performance in Paris.
It was a spectacular show, attended by a crowd of 1,000,000 viewers, and he used this opportunity to show off with a brilliant combination of lasers, fireworks, projectors and huge sound systems -- elements which later became infused into Raves, Synthpop concerts and the House music subculture.
In 1964, Robert Moog presented one of the first analogue synths on the market - the Moog Synth. This innovation made the technology more affordable and widely available to the masses, who, in the late 70's and early 80's, swept the analogue synthesizer into the birth of a new sound in music - Electronica.
Electro Acoustic Music History
Microphones turn sound into electricity and loudspeakers turn electricity into sound. It's contemporary magic. Put a recording device between the microphone and speaker and we have the power to do something that, in ancient times, only the gods could do - capture and control sound.
And when all of this became a possibility, in the second half of the 20th Century, composers were quick to understand and realize its potential.
John Cage was one of the first composers to think about the possibilities of these new resources. In 1939 he scored Imaginary Landscape No.1 for muted piano, cymbal and two phonograph turntables playing records of sine tones.
The performers lowered and lifted the phonograph stylus on and off the records and changed the speed of the turntables to change the pitch of the sine tones. Cage's work with turntables pre-dated the DJs of today by over half a century!
In 1942 he composed the dance score Credo In US for Merce Cunningham which calls for phonographs or radios. In 1951 he used 12 radios in Imaginary Landscape No.4.
In 1948 a radio engineer called Pierre Schaeffer invented what he called Musique Concrete. Music made with the 'concrete' sounds of everyday life. Ordinary sounds, recorded, edited, manipulated, joined together and played back.
This was originally done on disc until magnetic tape fairly quickly came along. Schaeffer eventually founded the Groupe de Recherche Musicales, an organization that still exists today, and created the first purpose built electro acoustic music studio.
In the late 80s and throughout the 90s the development of the microchip made computers affordable and music in the digital world mushroomed.
Each year brought more than a doubling of possibilities so that today an ordinary laptop is capable of achieving musical results way beyond the dreams of the post-war composers.
Schaeffer took days slowly and carefully sticking bits of tape together, now editing takes seconds. Stockhausen had one or two oscillators, a laptop can produce the equivalent of hundreds.
Composers like Trevor Wishart write their own software to process and control sound. His piece Globalalia uses 8000 syllables carefully cut out of speech radio from around the world, a daunting task before the computer age.
It would be idle to speculate where electro acoustic music is going but Sonic Explorations gives us a wonderful opportunity to hear where it has come from and where it is today. The fabulous mix of the old and the new will give us a sense of its history, perspective and dynamic
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