In this article I explore my interest in electronic music and how it has come to be one of my favourite musical genres. The basis of most of this music is the Moog Synthesiser, invented by Dr Robert Moog (pictured left).
You can hear these recordings on YouTube as well as reading how I discovered the universe of electronic sounds.
Doctor Who – BBC Radiophonic Workshop
The first piece of electronic music was the theme music for Doctor Who created by the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I heard this music every week as I watched Doctor Who on ABC Television. It was my favourite television program and sparked my interest in science as I watched the adventures of the “Doctor” as he travelled across space and time in the TARDIS. This clip shows the room full of equipment needed to make the music.
Messian Turangalila Symphony – Ondes Martenot
I used to listen to a children’s radio program called The Argonauts Club. There was a feature on unusual musical instruments and one instrument I remember well was the Ondes Martenot an early electronic instrument invented in 1928. This sound is very eery and quite beautiful.
The French composer Olivier Messiaen wrote a symphony called Turangalila (published in 1948) and used the Ondes Martenot as well as two pianos. The Ondes Marteno instrument looks like a small electric organ.
Beach Boys Good Vibrations – Theremin
Another electronic instrument I heard in the 1960s was the Theremin. Its sound has been used in many science fiction films (The Day the Earth Stood Still) but best known through the Beach Boys’ Good Vibrations. You can see Brian Wilson operating the Theremin at 0:26.
I became aware of the German group Tangerine Dream. Their music was very rhythmic but abstract and at first was an acquired taste. They used Moog sythesisers, sequencers, piano and Mellotron which uses tapes of prerecorded sounds such as flutes and strings. One of my favourite records is their 1975 release Ricochet recorded live in Rheims Cathedral. Here is the first part.
An early member of Tangerine Dream was Klaus Schuzle who is still active today. In 2010 he released a CD and DVD of his concerts in Japan. I am in awe of the huge amount of equipment he uses to make his music.
Autobahn – Kraftwerk
In 1975 the German group Kraftwerk released Autobahn. The song used rich electronic sounds, electronic percussion, and vocoder processed vocals.
Oxygene – Jean-Michel Jarre
In 1976 Frenchman Jean-Michel Jarre (son of film composer Maurice Jarre) released the album length instrumental Oxygene. This music was made famous in Peter Weir’s film Gallipoli. I like this album but prefer Equinoxe and the Concerts in China. Unfortunately his music has become too techno and dance oriented for my tastes.
Oxygene Part 2
Oxygene Part 4
Debussy interpreted by Isao Tomita
A big discovery in the early 1980s was the Japanese musician Isao Tomita. I bought a second hand record “Snowflakes Are Dancing” which is Tomita’s interpretations of the piano music of Claude Debussy. This music is sublime, and sparked my appreciation of Debussy. Listen to Arabesque No 1 – Claude Debussy.
Here is an interesting video of Tomita recording “When You wish upon a star” using the Moog Modular Synthesiser.
In this clip form from Japanese television, Tomita demonstrates the Vocoder.
In 1988 Tomita produced a concert in Sydney called Soundcloud. He was in a perspex pyramid suspended above Sydney Harbour. We were at a party in Cremorne and didn’t see a lot, but here is a video.
Chariots of Fire – Vangelis
The last composer I want to showcase is Evangelos Odysseas Papathanassiou better known as Vangelis – composer of many soundtracks including Chariots of Fire, Soil Festivities, Blade Runner and Alexander . Chariots of Fire is very well known but I have chosen this clip from Blade Runner:
To finish this article, here is the opening of his 1984 album, Soil Festivities: