Wednesday, 21 October 2009

The Great Bleep Forward

You know that woman wailing operatically on the theme tune to Star Trek? Well it is not a woman. It is the Ondes Martenot.

Yes, more homework: This time it's 6Music's 4-part history of Electronic Music The Great Bleep Forward (2004)

Episode 1 (30 mins, available until 25 Oct) explores the history of electronic music, from the early pioneers to the birth of punk and the bloated retreat of prog in 1977.

I wish it had paid a lot more attention to the early instrument makers, rather than dismissing them as a bunch of egomaniacs for naming the instruments after themselves (they had no other points of reference, what else could they have called them?)

Episode 2 (30 mins, available until 27 Oct) covers the emergence of bands with synths during and post-punk. Apparently OMD used to just stick their synths under their arms and get on the train to gigs (They obviously never had an Arp Omni - 19.5kg and built like a tank!). We hear from nearly all the late 70's/early 80's synth bands and their daily struggle with temperamental analogue technology. Oh, and the arrival of the DX-7.

Episode 3 (30 mins, available until 28 Oct) introduces sampling, from its roots in musique concrète, via the Mellotron (including the legendary cheesy-listening patches see below), through the Fairlight CMI, industrial sounds, record sampling, and drum machines (scourge of the drummer corps of the Musicians Union). And somehow completely omits any reference to the late 70's New York Hip Hop and Electro scene.

Episode 4 (30 mins, airs at midnight tonight 22-23 Oct, and will be available until 29 Oct) Here's what you can expect, a glimpse of what could be happening now from 2004:

In the final part of the series, Andrew Collins gives us a glimpse of the electronic future as it appeared to him in 2004. As electronic music reaches maturity, new artists are going back to the original synthesizers and mixing them with the most up to date technology to create new fusions. Computers rule the planet and music. You no longer need to be a musician to make music, you can be a programmer. Vintage instruments can be re-created on your laptop. Electronics have become sophisticated in the live environment with bands like radiohead sampling and replaying vocals during a live track. You can buy a software singer and guitarist for under £200 each. Have we finally created Kraftwerk's Man Machine?

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