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Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Electronic Music: Heard and now Seen

It's impossible to imagine music made now without the inclusion of electricity. But it may surprise you to know how far back electricity and music have intermingled, and how far back in time some artists find their peers and influence.

Obsolete.com's 120 years of musical instruments site is a good start. It shows the lineage of electronic musical instruments, with names such as the Telharmonium/Dynamophone, Choralcello, Staccatone, and most well-known and long-lived of the early electric instruments, The Theremin.

The creation of Russian scientist Leon Sergeivitch Termen, the Theremin sounded much like the glass harmonica of Richard Puckeridge and the musical saw, a woodworking tool eventually made specifically as a musical instrument in the 1920s by Mussehl & Westphal. While his invention played a role in American music from science-fiction movies to the Beachboys, Termen moved to NYC, invented, was kidnapped and returned to Russia, invented, was interned in a notorious Siberian labour camp, awarded the Stalin Prize (First Class), and died in 1993. His life and times were chronicled in the documentary, Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey.

Jazz musician Raymond Scott evolved into a preeminent electronic musician, building his own electronic recording studio and becoming the man to go to for commercial audio jingles in the '50s and '60s. Scott's "Manhattan Research Inc." CD chronicles his musical creations of that time.

In the '60s and '70s Robert Moog's synthesizers fueled the music of well-known prog-rock bands such as Yes, Emerson Lake And Palmer, and Genesis. But musician Bruce Haack and the band Silver Apples are often cited as significant influences on current bands and artists. Silver Apples' self-titled album made Billboard Magazine's Top 100 list for 10 weeks. One music critic wrote, "What's so amazing is that they make absolutely mind shattering music with all this junky equipment," and Haack's influence can be seen in the title of his documentary, Bruce Haack: The King of Techno

Pitchforkmedia's Moog Renaissance Alert article states, "An upcoming documentary by Hans Fjellestad, monolithically titled Moog, plans to shed some light on its creator, the hilariously named Bob Moog, as well as the tube-powered keyboard's status as an essential component in aiding electronic music to move outside the exclusive realm of freeway-worshipping Germans and into the realm of pillow-worshipping agoraphobes."

The Robert Moog documentary looks to be released in the summer.

posted by Mr. Kimberly at


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