Pioneers is based on a radio series originally produced in 1986-87 by
writer and musician Ben Kettlewell, at NPR affiliate WOMR-FM in Provincetown,
Massachusetts, and funded by a grant from the Massachusetts Council on
the Arts and Humanities. The title of the radio series was Electronic
Pioneers - The Roots of a Musical Revolution. The programs were aired
over a two-year period on thirty-nine public radio stations across the
United States and Canada.
The following is a brief description of some of the key figures interviewed for the book. We begin with a bio of Professor Joseph Paradiso from MIT, who wrote the forward to Electronic Music Pioneers.
Forward by Dr.
Joseph A. Paradiso
As Technology Director for the Things That Think Consortium, a group of Media Lab researchers and industrial sponsors examining the extreme future of embedded computation and sensing, he identifies and pursues new areas of technical development for injection into devices and projects.
Paradiso received a B.S. in electrical engineering and physics summa cum laude from Tufts University in 1977, and in 1981 completed a Ph.D. in physics from MIT as a C.T. Compton Fellow in the Nobel Prize-winning group headed by Samuel C.C. Ting at the Laboratory for Nuclear Science. His dissertation research was based on an experiment measuring high-energy muon pair production at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, Switzerland. From 1981 to 1984 he conducted postdoctoral research at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, where he developed precision drift chambers and fast electronics for the inner tracker of the L3 experiment at CERN/LEP. From 1984-1994 he was a physicist at the Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where, as a member of the NASA Systems and Advanced Sensors and Signal Processing Directorates, his research encompassed control algorithms for orbital and re-entry spacecraft, sonar systems for advanced underwater applications, fractal-based image processing, and high-energy physics detectors. From 1992-1994, he directed the development of precision alignment sensors for the GEM muon detector at the Superconducting Supercollider, and was a visiting scientist at ETH-Zurich in 1991 and 1992 to design fast pattern-recognition algorithms for triggering an electromagnetic crystal calorimeter at the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC). He is currently involved with the ATLAS experiment.
In addition to his physics career, Paradiso has been designing electronic music synthesizers and composing electronic music since 1975, and long been active in the avant-garde music scene as a producer of electronic music programs for non-commercial radio. He has built (and still uses) one of the world's largest modular synthesizers, and has designed MIDI systems for internationally-known musicians such as Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays. Paradiso has published and internationally lectured in many areas, including high-energy physics, spacecraft control, sensor systems, and electronic music.
Part One: Analog
The following text highlights just a few of the dozens of inventors and inventions discussed in Part One of Electronic Music Pioneers.
Before the innovators
who reinvented music throughout the sixties and seventies could make their
mark, technological innovators had been working on the concept of creating
sound with electronics for more than a century. This portion of the book
gives a thorough overview of the earliest inventors and inventions that
led to the development of the first commercially available synthesizer
in 1964. It presents a chronicle of the significant musical and scientific
events that led to a revolution in many aspects of music during the twentieth
Experiments in electronically
produced music can be traced back to the 1870s. Elisha Gray, an American
electrician and engineer, was born in 1835 in the town of Barnesville,
Ohio. After graduating high school, he studied physical science at Oberlin
College, and later taught in the Physics department from 1873 to 1900.
The first electronic instrument was Elisha Gray's Musical Telegraph, which
evolved out of his experiments with telephone technology. In February
1876, Elisha Gray arrived at the U.S. Patent Office to file a caveat announcing
his intention to patent his invention for transmitting vocal sounds
telegraphically. Alexander Graham Bell arrived at the patent office
an hour or two before Elisha Gray, to actually patent his invention designed
to achieve the same end. After years of litigation, Bell was named the
inventor of the telephone, even though Grays apparatus as described
in his caveat was proved to work, while Bells apparatus would not
have worked as described in his patent.
By the 1920s, basic
electronic music technology, such as amplifiers, filter circuits and loudspeakers
had been invented. Basic circuits for sine wave, square, and sawtooth
wave generators had been invented to isolate and define sound. A sine
wave was defined as signals made up of pure tones, without overtones.
Square waves consisted of component tones in the natural harmonic series
of notes. The square shape of each fluctuation of the component tone indicates
that voltage or current immediately increases to its maximum or peak value
and polarity, and remains there throughout that fluctuation. Then the
voltage waveform instantly changes its polarity, or the current waveform
reverses its direction. Sawtooth waves were defined as fundamental tones
and related overtones produced when a voltage or current increases from
zero to its positive peak value at a linear rate, and rapidly changes
to its negative peak value. The waveform then decreases back to zero at
a linear rate.
began in 1950, when The Milan Studio was established by Luciano Berio
(b. 1925, Italy). In 1953, Robert Beyer, Werner Meyer-Eppler (b. 1913),
and Herbert Eimert began experimenting with electronically generated sounds.
The Cologne studio came into being through the collaboration of several
individuals contributing their different skills, technologies and backgrounds.
In 1952, Harry Olsen
and Hebert Belar, both electronic engineers employed at RCA's Princeton
Laboratories, invented the RCA synthesizer, also known as the Olson-Belar
Synthesizer. Belar and Olsen wanted to produce an instrument that generated
music based on a system of random probability. Their efforts were inspired
by the controversial 1948 publication, A Mathematical Theory of Music
by Joseph Schillinger, who proposed that new forms of commercial music
could be created by combining random variations of existing popular music.
In 1957, Max Mathews, of Bell Laboratories directed research into developing analysis and synthesis of sound using computers. Dr. Mathews is known as the Father of Computer Music. His team conducted behavioral and acoustic research. His collaborative research community developed the first software-based computer synthesis programs. His work in speech synthesis led him to realize that it should be easier for a computer to make music than the human voice.
In the 1960s, Paul Ketoff , Don Buchla, Tom Oberheim, Serge Terrapin, and Robert Moog constructed the first generation of practical synthesizers. During the 1970s the production of commercially available synthesizers accelerated to a larger scale.
From the mid 1960's, the first generation of commercially available synthesizers were based on analog technology using moving controls, like buttons, sliders or bars to control simple analog modules such as amplifiers, filters, and oscillators to generate sounds. During the 1970's the first digital synthesizers and samplers were developed. These instruments could be connected to each other, to computers, effects and processing units, recording consoles, etc. The Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) was developed in 1983 to send information about pitch, timbre, velocity, and so on. MIDI is now present in all personal computers. The most common sound source for modern synthesizers are samples, i.e. digital recordings of real sounds from acoustic and electric instruments, or from analog synthesizers. Different techniques are combined to produce various hybrids of tone generation.
A vital part of these
instruments is the sequencer, a component that records and plays back
a series of notes and events in a particular order. A book about the first
generation of synthesizers would not be complete without mention of sequencers.
Each of these artists and inventors cover the main aspects of what we hear when we listen to a performance or a recording featuring synthesizers, samplers, and associated technology. Together they give the reader a clear picture of the development and incorporation of these instruments and how they have found their way into every form of music.
Moog, founder of Moog Music, invented the first commercially available
modular Moog synthesizer in 1964. The modular idea came from the miniaturization
of electronics. Moog is the most legendary of the synthesizer producers
with synthesizers like the MiniMoog and others, which have been used by
many musicians across the world.
Franke: The first extensive creative surge of music incorporating
electronic instrument technology happened in Europe. To this day, some
of the most enduring names associated with synth based music are European
composers/performers. The Germans were without a doubt, the most prolific
and insightful in the way they approached this new medium in the early
1970s. One name that immediately comes to mind is Christopher Franke.
Born in Berlin, Germany on April 6, 1953, Christopher Franke studied classical
music and composition at the Berlin Conservatory. During this time in
his early career, he was most influenced by avant-garde composers such
as John Cage and Karl-Heinz Stockhausen. Christopher Franke was actively
involved in shaping a hybrid of rock and jazz as a drummer with the group
Agitation Free, one of the pioneering bands of progressive rock and fusion.
During the first year at his studio on Berlin's Pfalzburger Strasse, Christopher
met Edgar Froese and Conrad Schnitzler of Tangerine Dream. He soon joined
this seminal group to perform on their recording of Zeit in 1972. His
studio became the scene of many Tangerine Dream album and soundtrack recording
sessions. Between 1970 and 1988, Christopher Franke, with Tangerine Dream,
released 36 studio, live and soundtrack albums, seven of which became
gold records. They composed the music for more than 30 American feature
films including Firestarter, Legend and Risky Business.
Suzanne Ciani worked with Don Buchla to create a completely new approach to instrument design. Ciani is a composer and musician with an international profile, is one of the worlds' most prolific and sought after composers of original sounds and music for commercials. Ciani discusses Buchla's approach to instrument design and the various components of synthesis. She demonstrates how the unique features of Buchla's instruments are incorporated into her own music. The "Diva of the Diode", as her associates adoringly call her, Suzanne taught herself how to play piano, inspired by Bach and the composers of the Romantic era. She received her classical music training at Wellesley College, in Massachusetts. After graduating from Wellesley College in 1968, she earned her Masters in Music Composition from U.C. Berkeley. As a graduate student in Music Composition, Suzanne began working the pioneers of electronic music. She had her roots in both digital and analog synthesis from the beginning.
She studied at Stanford with Max Matthews, the father of computer music, and John Chowning, the father of digital frequency modulation. But what most changed her life was meeting one of the earliest designers of analog music instruments, Don Buchla, whose apprentice she became, working on the assembly line at his Oakland shipyard loft. She was to devote the next ten years of her life to exploring the possibilities of this unique instrument, the Buchla, and her mastery of it would launch her career. She says, "His designs for instruments were extraordinary. He brought the thought process of designing musical instruments right down to the origin of physical human nature and music. There is nobody like him." Suzanne has also done a great deal of television scoring, including the creation of a new library for the ABC Television Series "One Life to Live". Film scores include The Incredible Shrinking Woman, a film starring Lily Tomlin, and the Petrie sisters' movie, Mother Teresa, among others. Suzanne has garnered numerous distinctions, including five Grammy nominations and a Keyboard Magazine's New Age Keyboardist of the Year for her work as a recording artist. Her music, renowned for its romantic, healing and aesthetic qualities, has found a large audience all over the world, and her performances include numerous benefits for humanitarian causes.
Stearns is one of the originators of a new genre of music that emerged
in the 1970s. It has been described as space music, contemporary instrumental
music, ambient music, new age music, and electronic music. Michael uses
synthesizers and samplers in conjunction with instruments and sounds from
other cultures, newly developed instruments, the human voice, and the
sounds of nature.
Roach is an internationally renowned artist, who is constantly searching
for new sounds that connect with a timeless source of truth in this ever-changing
world. Roach has earned his position in the international pantheon of
major new music artists over the last two decades through his ceaseless
creative output, constant innovation, intense live concerts, open-minded
collaborations with numerous artists, and the psychological depth of his
An abbreviated form
of the interview with Steve Roach is available
Laurie Paisley was founder and President of the International Electronic Musicians Association. Paisley focuses on sequencers, both analog and digital, and tells how many famous musicians such as Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, Brian Eno, Phillip Glass, etc. used them to develop their own unique style of composition. She illustrates how sequencers evolved, from early analog models, to the digital versions of the late eighties, to software based computer controlled sequencing packages we see used by every studio today.
Part Two: Digital
We will review the introduction of computers and digital technology into music, from recording technology, including hard-disk recording, to streaming audio. This brings us up to the current generation of electronic music tools, such as sampling, hard disk recording, streaming audio, MP3 technology and music on the Internet.
This chapter goes on to explain how computer based music systems operate, and what they are capable of achieving. It also covers instruments (specially designed computers) like the high-end Fairlight CMI and Synclavier II, which were specifically designed for sound and music production. The Pat Metheny Group, Frank Zappa, and other cutting edge musicians have incorporated these into their work. The instruments were very expensive, ranging from 25,000 dollars to upwards of 200,000. They were especially suited to movie and film work.
Over the past twenty
years the computer has transformed the world and become an integral part
of our everyday lives. The consolidation of computer and synthesizer technologies
was the most important musical event of the 80s, and is still one
of the most explored and fastest changing aspects of current music technology.
By the late 1960s famous pop musicians such as the Beatles and the Beach Boys used synthesizers in their recordings. In 1968 Wendy Carlos released the first synthesizer -only recording, Switched On Bach; the music of JS Bach performed on a Moog modular synthesizer. In the early 1970s, French composer Jean-Michel Jarre began working with electronic music, creating a sensation when he combined performances of opera with synthesizers. His first recording, Oxygene, instrumental electronic music inspired by both classical music and experimental music was released in 1976. By the end of the 1970s there appeared many artists, especially in England, who used synthesizer as their main instrument. For example Gary Numan, Ultravox, OMD and Human League. These artists were very much inspired by the German group, Kraftwerk, and trance/ambient pioneer, Klaus Schulze. The instruments and the music have diversified a great deal from that point on with such styles as ambient, acid, house, trip-hop, dub, techno, etc.
This section of the book features in-depth profiles and interviews that offer an insightful perspective from both sides of this exciting technology: the engineers who program and create these instruments, and the gifted musicians who utilize them in their compositions and recordings.
Dr. Max Matthews, of Bell Labs, and Dr. John Chowning, from Stanford University, are two of the leading pioneers of computer generated music. As Director of the Acoustic Research Center at Bell Labs, Dr. Max Matthews earned primary credit for the development of digital music technology. His contributions are contained in the highly technical book; 'The Technology of Computer Music' published by MIT Press in 1969.
At the moment, Bill has released six albums on the Innovative Communications label (Hamburg, Germany) and two CDs on the Jazzical-digital label. Bill was also featured with Rick Wakeman from the mega-group "Yes" on a double CD on the Arcade label. His latest release, Concerto for the New Earth, was issued in 2000. Rhodes discusses the most important development in non-acoustic music since the voltage controlled oscillator, back in the sixties. This marvel of ingenuity is called MIDI, which is short for musical instrument digital interface. MIDI protocol has been widely accepted and utilized by musicians and composers since its conception in 1982/1983. The MIDI protocol provides an efficient format for conveying musical performance data, and the Standard MIDI Files specification ensures that different applications can share time-stamped MIDI data. While this alone is largely sufficient for the working MIDI musician, the storage efficiency and on-the-fly editing capability of MIDI data also made MIDI an attractive vehicle for generation of sounds in multimedia applications, computer games, or high-end karaoke equipment.
Rhodes defines MIDI,
its development, and its functions on many levels of music production.
As we already know, the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI) protocol
provides the user with a uniform and proficient means of conveying musical
performance information as electronic data. MIDI information can be seen
as a set of instructions, which tell a synthesizer or other MIDI equipped
piece of gear how to perform a piece of music. The synthesizer
or sampler receiving the MIDI data generates the actual sounds.
Suzanne Ciani who was also interviewed in the first portion of the book, discusses the Synclavier II; She goes into great detail with many examples on how this instrument works, and why it was so popular in recording studios, and film production houses during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Nappe, a pioneering MIDI guitarist, and well-known studio musician/recording
artist, has worked with Larry Fast and many other New York area-recording
artists over the last twenty years.
Music on the Internet and Future Trends in Music Technology:
Joel Chadabe is a composer, author of Electric Sound, and founder of the Electronic Music Foundation. Mr. Chadabe is known for his pioneering work in interactive systems. Chadabe is currently Professor Emeritus at State University of New York at Albany, Director of the Electronic Music Studio at Bennington College, and founder and President of Electronic Music Foundation. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Yale University.
His book, Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music was the first comprehensive history of electronic music. As president of Intelligent Music, he was responsible for the publication of innovative software, including M and Max. His articles on electronic music have appeared in numerous journals and magazines and his music has been recorded on many labels, among them Lovely Music, CDCM, and Deep Listening.
Joel Chadabe has received awards, fellowships, and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Ford Foundation, Rockefeller Foundation, Fulbright Commission, SUNY Research Foundation, New York Foundation for the Arts, and other foundations. He has been President and Chairman of Composers' Forum, Inc., in New York City, and President of Intelligent Music, a research and development company.