"I soon learned that if I was asked to play something over again, it meant that they didn't understand it, not that they liked it."
"But this wasn't quite enough and so then I got the idea of having all thirteen of the lowest tones of the piano played together... In other words, I was inventing a new musical sound later to be called 'tone clusters'... Anyway, this was my professional debut as a composer." Henry Cowell's musical autobiography. Cowell was one of the most important figures in 20th-century American music, described by John Cage as "the open sesame for new music in America." In this hour-long program recorded four years before his death in 1965, compositions from every stage in Cowell's career are contextualized and discussed by the man himself.
Of course you know the rhythm box/drum machine has had a profound impact on modern music-making, but how much do you know about its history? Was the Rhythmicon the very first rhythm machine? Korg's DoncaMatic (great name, eh?) was one of the first commercial models. Up until 1979 they were all pre-programmed, but Roland ushered in the modern era with the user-programmable CR-78, and followed it up soon after with the legendary TR808. Go here for a fairly comprehensive overview of vintage drum machines (organized alphabetically, with photos and descriptions/background info). And here you can interact with a wide assortment of virtual [Flash] rhythm boxes of the 70's and 80's. (Knee-jerk Flash haters, go ahead and hate it, but this is one of the best uses of Flash I can imagine.)
American Mavericks: Fascinating radio piece about the ultra-modernist composers, narrated by Suzanne Vega. [more inside]