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Genre History - Experimental/Electronica

In: Film and Music

Submitted By kellzo14
Words 2306
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Joshua Kelly 205496

Joshua Michael Kelly – 205496

AUD207 Music Production Analysis

“Genre History – Experimental/Electronic”

Word Count: 1,650 Submission Date: 30 August 2012
Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of ‘Bachelor of Creative Technology’ JMC Academy, 2012.


Joshua Kelly 205496

Once stated by a pioneer of the genre itself, “an experimental action is one the outcome of which is not foreseen” (Experimental Music, 2010). Arising in the mid-20th century, Experimental/Electronic Music refers to an electronically produced sound recorded on tape and arranged by the composer to form a musical composition. ‘The journey of this genre has been a long, boundary pushing and often negatively characterized one. Crossing multiple continents and facing cultural alienation, it has formed into a well-established but still sometimes undefined genre at the crux of technological advances’ (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). It is well placed in this day and time, and like all music nowadays, the inclusion of the internet has seen the genre become more and more popular across the globe. The term “Experimental/Electronic Music” is an umbrella term used in this report to label an idiosyncrasies list of subgenres made with the use of any combination of computers and electronic or acoustic instruments. ‘In no way is the use of this term an attempt to ignore the concrete differences between the way these subgenres are consumed and produced. Although both being cited under the same term of Experimental/Electronic Music, as example, “Trip-Hop” and “Ragga-Jungle” have a world of difference between them’ (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). The sonic characteristics between the two subgenres are obvious when contrasted against each other. In sample tracks 1 and 2 you can hear the distinct definitions between them. Track 1 is a Trip-Hop track named ‘Bombing Bastards’ released by the artist Terranova. You can hear it to be slower in tempo, atmospheric and with instrumentation. Track 2 is a Ragga-Jungle track named ‘Original Nuttah’ released by UK Apache & Shy FX. You can hear it’s in many ways a fusion of dancehall reggae and techno, the rhythm is hyper-fast and encompasses a low-end bass not dissimilar to dub. “The continuous and rapid introduction of new subgenre names into the electronic/dance music communities is equalled by no other type of music” (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). ‘An edited, but nonetheless bloated, list of names includes acid house, ambient dance, ambient drum-n-bass, big beat, break beat, dark ambient, drum-n-bass, dub, electro, garage, goatrance, goa-psychedelic trance, happy hardcore, intelligent dance music, intelligent jungle, intelligent techno, minimal techno, minimal trance, minimal psychedelic trance, nu-dark jungle, progressive house, progressive trance, progressive psychedelic trance, psychedelic trance, ragga, ragga-jungle, rave, trance, tribal, tribal beats, trip-hop, twilight, underground’ (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). Before we venture any further, first we must discuss a brief rundown on the history of the genre. ‘Recorded music such as 1950’s rock ‘n’ roll had a long history of being played at large social gatherings for the express purpose of dancing. But by the early 1970’s the kinds of popular music associated with rock had been redefined as music to be listened to rather than danced to. The transition of 1950s Rock ‘n’ roll to 1960s rock, saw it had been repositioned as a cerebral rather than physical music. With this, the scene of people dancing to records over seeing live bands faded as rock concerts became the focal point for youth culture

Joshua Kelly 205496

gatherings. It wasn’t until the early 1970s, where these scenes began to re-emerge in major American cities playing a new type of music: disco’ (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). The 1970s disco is the most appropriate place to begin the history of electronic music. The introduction of synthesizers, some of which were created by infamous pioneers of the electronic instrumentation world such as “Harold Bode, Robert Moog (and) Donald Buchla” (120 Years of Electronic Music, 2005), saw artists begin to take music to new levels. With the inclusion of these instruments, and the benefits of “sequencers and synthesizers (becoming) more affordable and easier to obtain” (All Music, 2012), ‘we saw artists begin exploring the unique possibilities of electronically generated sound. Artists experimented and pushed the boundaries to produce previously unheard textures and combinations of sounds’ (All Music, 2012). To this day we have seen the boundaries on genres being relentlessly pushed. “The synthesizer is the instrument most associated with the genre” (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). The synthesizer is an ‘electronic musical instrument, which contains various modules for producing and shaping sound, such as oscillators, filters or voltage control amplifiers and is used to produce sounds impossible to obtain by traditional instruments’ (Wersja Polska, 2007-2008). The journey of the synthesizer began as far back as “1759 when the French Jesuit priest Jean Baptiste Delaborde of Paris created an electrical harpsichord called the ‘Clavecin Electrique’ which was strictly speaking an ‘electro-mechanical’ instrument” (120 Years of Electronic Music, 2005). ‘There have been four main eras undertaken in the process of refining electronic instruments. These take place between the periods of 1870-1915, where the earliest experiments took place; 1915-1960, which consisted of the Vacuum Tube era; 1960-1980, where we saw integrated circuits come into widespread use, which in turn influenced the creation of reliable and popular electronic instruments we see today; and then 1980-present, where we’ve seen the generation of digital synthesizers’ (120 Years of Electronic Music, 2005). The synthesizer is not alone on the forefront of Experimental/Electronic Music. ‘One of the most popular drum machines invented was in 1979 by Robert Linn and his company Linn Electronics, which was named the LM-1 Drum Computer. At this stage the concept of the drum machine wasn’t exactly new, however, this was the first programmable drum machine with realistic sampled drums and was an instant success among recording pros’ (TEC Foundation, 2008). Here is an example of a modern day drum machine: It’s an Akai MPC500, a popular brand among drum machines and sequencers. You can see in the video, the drum samples are all recorded and saved in the device, making setting up a drum pattern quick and easy. MIDI is another invention of technology that quickly “became a staple in studios” (TEC Foundation, 2008). ‘The first MIDI device was publicly demonstrated at Winter NAMM 1983, when a Prophet-600 was connected to a Roland JP-6’ (Kembrew McLeod, 2001). Sifting through the unbelievably vast amount of Experimental/Electronic Music released over the past four-odd decades, there are artist who standout as legends of the genre. One

Joshua Kelly 205496

such artist is Kraftwerk who’ve been dubbed as influencing “virtually every synthesizer band that followed in its wake” (Simon, 2001). They were one of the first groups to release music to the genre, which was “unique” and unheard of with the release of their first album “Tone Float” released with Organisation in 1970. ‘The LP features repetitive percussion and bass drum patterns, embellished with guitar, flute, violin and organ. With sections of the music clearly ‘60s influenced and have an almost eastern feeling with scratchy violin and bongos’ (NTL World, Unknown). In the sample track number 3, you will hear Kraftwerk’s track ‘The Robots’ which was a single released in 1978. You can hear a strong electronic element. The use of a Vocoder to make the vocals sound like a ‘robot’ makes the track quite experimental and far different to other tracks released around the same time. Another group who lead the path in Experimental/Electronic Music were Massive Attack. A much younger group to Kraftwerk, they formed out of Bristol, England in 1987. (Sing 365, 2006) They’re still together and writing new music today. “Their extraordinary vision continues unabated” (M). Massive Attack is renowned for “their influential and legendary Dug Out club and Jamaican-style sound system” (Bio, 2011). Massive Attack has become one of the “best trip-hop groups ever” (Sing 365, 2006), they balance flawlessly on a fine line between synthetic and traditional instrumentation. In the sample track 4, you can hear ‘Angel’, released in 1998 on their third album Mezzanine. You can hear the perfect combination of elements. The guitar, vocals and bass create an atmosphere that slowly builds and envelopes you. The combination of a drum machine, with the use of effects such as a slight redux and reverb creates a grainy and crisp artificial sound that works great to create that cross of elements. With the limitless capabilities on sound design using audio synthesis, it is only natural that some artists desire to push their work towards previously unexplored boundaries. It’s only human nature. A pioneer in the Experimental side of music was the late American composer John Cage (1912-1992) (John Cage Database, 2012). Initially Cage objected to the term ‘experimental’ when discussing the music he presented. Cage stated, “It seemed to me that composers knew what they were doing, and that the experiments that had been made had taken place prior to the finished works” (John Cage – Experimental Music, Unknown), he later on went to change his mind and no longer objected to the term, as he “realized that there is ordinarily an essential difference between making a piece of music and hearing one. A composer knows his work as a woodsman knows a path he has traced and retraced, while a listener is confronted by the same work as one is in the woods by a plant he has never seen before” (John Cage – Experimental Music, Unknown). Artists also have the ability to create dark, atmospheric and abstract music. Aphex Twin is James Richard, and Ireland born artist who came to the forefront of Experimental/Electronic Music through the exploration of “the experimental possibilities inherent in Acid and Ambience” (Star Pulse, 2012). As example on Aphex Twin’s track ‘Rubber Johnny’, which is a sampled video, you can clearly see and hear the abstract ideas and experimentation gone

Joshua Kelly 205496

into the track. The use of samples including the vocals and the use of the lights and electricity hum are used to create an atmosphere intended to make the listener feel uncomfortable. At 2 minutes 35 seconds into the track the electronic element takes over, creating a fast paced, space like sound still mixed with the samples from the start. A delightful experience when combined with lights out, alone and at midnight. It would seem that with the level that technology is currently at, and with the accessibility people have to it these days, any form of Electronic Music is in a position to take charge in the musical battlefield. Any kid with a computer at home now has the ability to easily access multitudes of DAW’s and start creating and manipulating music, and with the accessibility of the internet, there are literally millions of new tracks being released globally every month. The genre of Experimental/Electronic Music, is the leading contributor to genre bending and subgenre creation, don’t be expecting the genre to be going anywhere soon.


Joshua Kelly 205496

All Music [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 19 August 2012]. TEC Foundation [online]. (2008). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Wersja Polska (2007-2008). ECP Studio Cosmic Sound Factory [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. 120 Years of Electronic Music [online]. (2005). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Kembrew McLeod (2001). Genres, Subgenres, Sub-Subgenres and More: Musical and Social Differentiation Within Electronic/Dance Music Communities. JOURNAL OF POPULAR MUSIC STUDIES. 1, pp.18. Simon (2001). Rolling Stones Artists [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. NTL World [online]. (Year Unknown). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Bio [online]. (2011). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Sing 365 [online]. (2006). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Experimental Music [online]. (2010). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. John Cage - Experimental Music [online]. (Year Unknown). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. John Cage Database [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Star Pulse [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012].


Joshua Kelly 205496

Paul Doornbusch (2008-2012). A Chronology / History of Electronic and Computer Music and Related Events 1906 - 2012 [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 18 August 2012]. All Music [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 19 August 2012]. Thom Holmes (2008). Electronic and Experimental Music. 2nd. ed. New York: Routledge. Trevor Pinch and Frank Trocco (2002). Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer. 1st. ed. USA: President and Fellows of Harvard College. MidiWorld [online]. (2009). Available from: . [Accessed 19 August 2012]. TEC Foundation [online]. (2008). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Wersja Polska (2007-2008). ECP Studio Cosmic Sound Factory [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. 120 Years of Electronic Music [online]. (2005). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. 120 Years of Electronic Music [online]. (2005). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Kembrew McLeod (2001). Genres, Subgenres, Sub-Subgenres and More: Musical and Social Differentiation Within Electronic/Dance Music Communities. JOURNAL OF POPULAR MUSIC STUDIES. 1, pp.18. Simon (2001). Rolling Stones Artists [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. NTL World [online]. (Year Unknown). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Bio [online]. (2011). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Sing 365 [online]. (2006). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Experimental Music [online]. (2010). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Future Producers [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012].


Joshua Kelly 205496
Zenapolae [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. John Cage - Experimental Music [online]. (Year Unknown). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. John Cage Database [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Star Pulse [online]. (2012). Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012]. Hiphoptools (2007). Akai MPC500 Drum Machine Video. [online]. Available from: . [Accessed 20 August 2012].


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Experimental Eskimos

...The Experimental Eskimos It was in the 1950s that Canada started to look at the arctic regions and think about what they could get from that huge, icy and inhospitable region. Therefore, the government thought about the possibly cheapest way to achieve some control over this province: take three children, selected through an IQ test, and give them an education in order to create a Canadian-friendly political élite with the final objective of increasing the surface managed by the government. This is only the opening of the documentary “The experimental Eskimos”, born after the discovery of government documents that revealed how the experiment worked. One of the most curious aspects about these events is how such a radical and quick transition from a rural society to a metropolitan context can affect a man’s life. In the 1960s, Eskimos’ life was still pretty traditional. Though living in a part of Canada, they barely spoke English and the highest expectations for a grown up man were proper of a rural society: being a good hunter and own a kayak. Eskimos life was felt as incomplete, so the boys’ parents did not fight with the government project, probably thinking that it was a good opportunity for their children. Zebedee Nungak, Eric Tagoona and Peter Ittinuar, the three children, were then taken to Ottawa. The initial impact is how it can be expected from someone who lived in an underdeveloped society and observes a big city for the first time: the little Eskimos were......

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