Techno, ahem, Electronic music

Ray Peck (rpeck@PureAtria.COM)
Sun, 5 Jan 1997 09:54:41 -0800 (PST)

Steve Witham writes:
>>From: Ray Peck <rpeck@PureAtria.COM>
>>"Max M" writes:
>>>What happened in mid to late seventies was that a few bands, mainly
>>>europeans, started to experiment with completely electronic music.
>>Um, the first Kraftwerk album was 1970 or 71, as was the first Cluster
>>album (why Cluster is always forgotten in these dicussions, I'll never
>Gee, if we're going to be picky, what about Isao Tomita, Klaus Schultze (sp?),
>Morton Subotnic, Walter Carlos, Jan Hammer, Vangellis, Larry Fast...

Subotnic preceeded, yes. Carlos was around the same time, but doing
baroque music on Moogs, not creating a new music. The others came
after (Cluster started in 1969). Silver Apples slightly preceeded
Cluster in 1968, but they were more of a rock band with oscillators
than creaters of electronica.

>This is very different from the way I've seen it. The early electronic
>guys (up to the early '70's) were doing weird stuff, avant garde, exploring
>what they thought were the frontiers of sound and musical structure. Sure,
>at the same time there were people incorporating electronics into more
>traditional and popular music, but electronics still had a raw, new sound,
>a sound of pure possibility. In some ways it seemed more organic than
>"natural" sound.

I hate to keep repeating myself, but I find this to be especially true
of Cluster. There's something very "human" about their sounds that's
quite different from especially later Kraftwerk.

>Somehow it all seemed to fall apart around 1978--just when sampled keyboards
>and FM synthesis came out, making the old analog methods obsolete. Musicians
>didn't want to explore ur-sound or frontier sound, they wanted to push
>buttons to make sounds they already knew about, whether "acoustic" (bank A)
>or "electronic" (bank B--for instance my keyboard has a sound called

I agree wholeheartedly. The thing that's especially true of digital
snths is that they lack imperfections. As we all know, the brain is
stimulated by differences: it filters out the steady-state stimulous.
Analogue synths are quirky, they drift, and they wobble. If you play
a note over and over, it's slightly different each time. The same is
not true of (most) digital synthesizers, which is why I don't like
them in general. That's not to say that you can't program in much
more interesting variations, but it's rare that people do so.

Another effect of the digital synth revolution is the tossing away of
real-time control. Analogue synths have lots of knobs to tweak the
sounds while you're playing. Digital synths almost never do (cf. the
"revolutionary" new Kawai keyboard that adds the knobs back). They
also added lots of presets (presets were very limited before). And
synthesis methods such as FM were less amenable to real-time
tweaking. All this conspired to make keyboard players click in the
preset, and leave the sound static as they played.


>That probably sounds like a contradiction to my praise of Kraftwerk's
>irony. But my point was that Kraftwerk are both "in" it and putting it
>"on." Besides, they were in there early doing some of the real exploration
>stuff--like that comb filter sweep and wooden flute piece on the back
>side of "Autobahn"--stuff that would throw your mind into a different

And they were doing it before they had synths. Have you heard the
Organization record? Pretty neat.