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The New Sound of Music
November 19, 2012 3:35 AM   Subscribe

Airing in 1979, The New Sound of Music was a BBC documentary which depicted and demonstrated the history of recorded and manipulated music, from the earliest paper rolls to electronic synthesizers and the cutting and manipulation of tape.

If you're in a hurry, here's an excerpt which explains tape manipulation and gives a very famous example of its uses...
posted by Pope Guilty (13 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am old enough to have cut and spliced tape to make edits. Back when that was what you did. Watched my sound engineer buddy do it once in the studio to a 2-inch 24-track master tape, a record we were making. It was an art, for sure. Good times.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:17 AM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Part 2, part 3 and part 4 of the show.

And, also from 1979, Michael Rodd demonstrates another new technology, the mobile phone
posted by misteraitch at 4:56 AM on November 19, 2012


I often wonder, from a utilitarian point of view, was music more participatory and inclusive before technology obviated the need for a live musician for entertainment. Then I think that all the interesting new genres created throughout history are due to advances in technology. What I'm really curious about is if we are now at an end due to the birth of the synthesizer which allows almost every sound to be within reach? Is electronic music the last genre?
posted by any major dude at 5:35 AM on November 19, 2012


Looks really good - thanks!

was music more participatory and inclusive before technology obviated the need for a live musician for entertainme

Oh, I think that's absolutely true.

. Then I think that all the interesting new genres created throughout history are due to advances in technology.

Not all, though. Many were created just through the shifting of different populations with different musical ideas. Sometimes instrumentation too, but often enough, just different musical ideas, which merged to create blends which became new genres of music.
posted by Miko at 6:25 AM on November 19, 2012


Is electronic music the last genre?

I've often wondered this too (at least for pure recorded music) since computers allow anyone to have complete control of the waveform. It seems also like synthesizer technology is plateauing.

I don't think it's the last "genre" since that is a loosely defined term, but I can't see the upcoming breakthrough in tech that would produce the next Hendrix, Kraftwerk, or Paul's Boutique.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:33 AM on November 19, 2012


This looks great! Also remember splicing tape, but this was the early 2000's and it was for a performance where we tried to spin reel to reel tape like vinyl... With mixed success. Even just finding new reel to reel tape was tricky, along with wax pens for marking the other side of the tape for cue points.

As for music and tch, i wouldn't worry about it. people said the same thing in the 80s but people still learn instruments. Personally, one of the things I love most about electronic music is that it enables artists to have complete control over their work (from sound design to composition to mixing and often mastering as well). None of this music by a band + a team of highly paid pros to make it actually sound ok.
posted by Smegoid at 6:45 AM on November 19, 2012


Is electronic music the last genre?

What kind?
posted by Mezentian at 7:07 AM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


YIs electronic music the last genre?

What kind?


I see what you are saying, maybe I'm being a little old and stodgy, but I do yearn for the days when a new genre of music took the world by storm - punk, disco, new wave, hip hop. Electronic music, as far as I can recall, has not been a genre that has infiltrated the mainstream to the same degree and maybe that's just not possible anymore with the tribe-like way music is now shared. But what is most interesting to me is how historically musicians build upon what the last one did until a couple take the technology to a new level that others never achieved before. Is that possible in electronic music? With electronic music it seems to me that if you can dream it, you can make it. There is a beautiful freedom there but when everyone can run a 4 minute mile, hit 60 hrs or dance as if gravity does not exist, can we still discern what is special? Isn't the beauty of music that we are all trying to land on the sun before our wings melt?
posted by any major dude at 7:27 AM on November 19, 2012


I can't make a bit of sense out of what you're saying, amd.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:27 AM on November 19, 2012


Photoshop didn't put an end to pictures. Even with all them tools, you gotta have something to say.
posted by stonepharisee at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think "electronic music" is a genre in the sense that animation is a genre, which is to say that it really isn't. Certainly, there's music made with electronics that's more focused on being purely electronic than other music, but even when you use that as a standard, you're talking about an immense number of actual genres.

I always have to laugh when I hear the notion that electronics make all sounds possible, in that the vast majority of music produced with electronic instruments doesn't begin to touch the potential of what's actually possible. We've had FM synthesis for forty-some years, and people have barely scratched the surface. Most of what you hear out there is based on old, old, old school subtractive synthesis, whether it's in the form of modern analogue machines, virtual analogue, or sample players with modeled low-pass filters. We're finally at the point where additive synthesis could be a thing, but people would rather just twist the cutoff knob over a sawtooth wave with the resonance cranked. It's easier to stay with easier.

We have absolute control over the waveform inasmuch as we could draw out every cycle of every wave in a complex piece, but that's not how we make music. There's a reason why an instrument as dull-sounding and inherently limited as the electric guitar is so prevalent, in that what it lacks in possibility, it makes up for in tactility. We've got decades to go, and the future of synthesizers isn't really in the techniques of synthesis, which are mature and very complete (see csound)—it's all about control, and making the oscillator into an extension of the will and the idea.
posted by sonascope at 4:52 PM on November 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


I like to dick around with software synths from time to time (and if you're interested, I posted a year and change back about where to get a free DAW and free softsynths, so go nuts!), and bought a book awhile back that walks you through a lot of the basics (and lays out some of the theory, if you're into that) of how the synths work, what the various settings do, and perhaps most interestingly, how to build various sounds and instruments and such from scratch in a synth. Fascinating stuff, and it's given me an ever-increasing appreciation for what goes into music both analogue and otherwise.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:29 PM on November 19, 2012


"...it's all about control, and making the oscillator into an extension of the will and the idea."

Of course. Synthesis is still just a set of tools like any mechanical, acoustic instrument, and is useful only to the degree that it can be used and mastered to serve one's conceptions. I'm reminded of what Jan Hammer said back in the 70s about the pitch wheel on the MiniMoog (he hated the crude way 99% of players use it): "It's very sensitive; it's like a guitar string."
posted by Philofacts at 10:28 PM on November 19, 2012


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