Mojodojo Media

 

 

Expansion: 1960s

 

These were fertile years for electronic music—not just for academia, but for independent artists as synthesizer technology became more accessible. By this time, a strong community of composers and musicians working with new sounds and instruments was established and growing. 1960 witnessed the composition of Luening's Gargoyles for violin and tape as well as the premiere of Stockhausen's Kontakte for electronic sounds, piano, and percussion. This piece existed in two versions—one for 4-channel tape, and the other for tape with human performers. "In Kontakte, Stockhausen abandoned traditional musical form based on linear development and dramatic climax. This new approach, which he termed 'moment form,' resembles the 'cinematic splice' techniques in early twentieth century film."

The first of these synthesizers to appear was the Buchla. Appearing in 1963, it was the product of an effort spearheaded by musique concrète composer Morton Subotnick.

The theremin had been in use since the 1920s but it attained a degree of popular recognition through its use in science-fiction film soundtrack music in the 1950s (e.g., Bernard Herrmann's classic score for The Day the Earth Stood Still).

In the UK in this period, the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (established in 1958) emerged one of the most productive and widely known electronic music studios in the world, thanks in large measure to their work on the BBC science-fiction series Doctor Who. One of the most influential British electronic artists in this period was Workshop staffer Delia Derbyshire, who is now famous for her 1963 electronic realisation of the iconic Doctor Who theme, composed by Ron Grainer.

In 1961 Josef Tal established the Centre for Electronic Music in Israel at TheHebrew University, and in 1962 Hugh Le Caine arrived in Jerusalem to install hisCreative Tape Recorder in the centre. In the 1990s Tal conducted, together with Dr Shlomo Markel, in cooperation with the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, and VolkswagenStiftung a research project (Talmark) aimed at the development of a novel musical notation system for electronic music.

Milton Babbitt composed his first electronic work using the synthesizer—hisComposition for Synthesizer (1961)—which he created using the RCA synthesizer at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center.

For Babbitt, the RCA synthesizer was a dream come true for three reasons. First, the ability to pinpoint and control every musical element precisely. Second, the time needed to realize his elaborate serial structures were brought within practical reach. Third, the question was no longer "What are the limits of the human performer?" but rather "What are the limits of human hearing?

The collaborations also occurred across oceans and continents. In 1961, Ussachevsky invited Varèse to the Columbia-Princeton Studio (CPEMC). Upon arrival, Varese embarked upon a revision of Déserts. He was assisted by Mario Davidovsky and Bülent Arel.

The intense activity occurring at CPEMC and elsewhere inspired the establishment of the San Francisco Tape Music Center in 1963 by Morton Subotnick, with additional members Pauline Oliveros, Ramon Sender, Anthony Martin, and Terry Riley. Riley's overdubbed recording A Rainbow in Curved Air (1967) employed various electronic keyboard instruments, all played by the composer-improviser.

Later, the Center moved to Mills College, directed by Pauline Oliveros, where it is today known as the Center for Contemporary Music.

Simultaneously in San Francisco, composer Stan Shaff and equipment designer Doug McEachern, presented the first “Audium” concert at San Francisco State College (1962), followed by a work at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art(1963), conceived of as in time, controlled movement of sound in space. Twelve speakers surrounded the audience, four speakers were mounted on a rotating, mobile-like construction above. In an SFMOMA performance the following year (1964), San Francisco Chronicle music critic Alfred Frankenstein commented, "the possibilities of the space-sound continuum have seldom been so extensively explored". In 1967, the first Audium, a “sound-space continuum” opened, holding weekly performances through 1970. In 1975, enabled by seed money from the National Endowment for the Arts, a new Audium opened, designed floor to ceiling for spatial sound composition and performance. “There are composers who manipulate sound space by locating multiple speakers at various locations in a performance space and then switching or panning the sound between the sources. In this approach, the composition of spatial manipulation is dependent on the location of the speakers and usually exploits the acoustical properties of the enclosure. Examples include Varese’s Poem Electronique (tape music performed in the Phillips Pavilion of the 1958 World Fair, Brussels) and Stanley Schaff’s Audium installation, currently active in San Francisco.” Through weekly programs (over 4,500 in 40 years), Shaff “sculpts” sound, performing now-digitized spatial works live through 176 speakers.

A well-known example of the use of Moog's full-sized Moog modular synthesizer is the Switched-On Bach album byWendy Carlos, which triggered a craze for synthesizer music.

Pietro Grossi was an Italian pioneer of computer composition and tape music, who first experimented with electronic techniques in the early sixties. Grossi was a cellist and composer, born in Venice in 1917. He founded the S 2F M (Studio de Fonologia Musicale di Firenze) in 1963 in order to experiment with electronic sound and composition.

 

Computer music

Live electronics