Interesting vintage documentary on how analog technologies changed the sound of music


Originally published at:


Wow. I will have to watch this in full later. Nice find.

One thing I would say from watching part of that first clip, if you listen to the very early Tangerine Dream LPs, you can hear the moment when (I think it was the Phaedra LP) they discovered the arpeggiator on their synth, and what followed was album after album of the same kind of automated minimalism that’s become the somewhat cliched hallmark of 70’s electronic music. It’s another example of how the technology directed the style of the music, like how sampling was to hip-hop, or guitar pedals were to rock. (Which is not a put-down, I just find it interesting.)


Michael Rodd from the classic era of Tomorrow’s World when everything in the future would contain ‘a silicon chip’. He presented along with Raymond Baxter and Judith Hahn and it had that theme music:


I highly recommend this book, too:

It’s a bit philosophical, but a good read.


I highly recommend Wendy Carlos to anyone interested in early synthesizer experimentation.


I adore her “Sonic Seasonings” LP, a modern ambient 4LP set that is a semi-homage to Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”

[edited to add: I would also recommend Tod Dockstader and Toru Takemitsu, two musique contrete composters composers who worked in the pre-synth tape-collage style. Both have pieces composed of nothing but sounds of dripping water mutated and combined into hypnotic textures.]


As a former hip hop dj, I was taken with how the bit with him hand-running the tape over the sound head was very analogous to hip hop dj techniques. And I love how those techniques were developed independently but toward some of the same ends. But those techniques were all made for live performance. After several years of hip hop being a dj’s medium, when hip hop records began being produced in the studio, then the benefit of drum machines and samplers having already been developed allowed that gear to really take over, relegating the dj to an afterthought in the production of hip hop media and therefore not important to the consumers of that media. Conversely, the techniques tied to the studio equipment did not have gear that was “on the fly” fast or user-friendly enough until much more recently. Vinyl djs as performers were able to rule the club for a couple of decades after they had been replaced in the studio.


I’m sorry in advance; but I just have to…

Carry on; I’ll see myself out.

ETA, about the actual clip:

I totally did not see a lead in to a Doctor Who reference coming; cool shit.


Some kid, a wanna-be MC, was talking to me at a party years ago, talking about making beats, and I told him he should get a live DJ and cut up old breaks because there were still a lot of good breaks that had never been used (why didn’t anyone use “Lord Of The Thighs” after “Walk This Way” became a huge hit for Run DMC?) and it would be a cool throwback and more “real”-- he just looked at me with this blank stare.

Sampling technology and Ultimate Breaks and Beats arrived at the same time, and it directed where the music went, but similarly Pro-Tools arrived around the same time as the explosion of different dance genres, from drum-and-bass to glitch music; I suppose you could create hyper-Amen-Break-cut-ups using just an MPC and standard multi-track, but it’s not intuitive like with Pro-tools. Musique concrete itself was a natural reaction to the availability of recorded sound. I often try to think of where music is going to go, and it’s hard to imagine what the technology could become next, live performances using Ableton seems like a popular avenue, but I remember hearing Elliot Sharp say decades ago that he was looking forward to composing via some kind of brain-MIDI interface. Who knows.




One word: Mellotron.

(And if you still enjoy hunting down great sampling material, check out any of the first four King Crimson albums; Robert Fripp was the Bombadil of Mellotron.

…and it toured!)


Poorly by Fripp’s own admission (some of the early KC live recordings deliberately leave out Mellotron-heavy songs because it would be so out of tune.) But I think @noahdjango means the warbly scratch-effect you get from the tape slowing/speeding over the tape heads-- nobody used the Mellotron that way.

An additional thought about technology and music: all music is controlled by the tools used to create it. This is pretty obvious. Asian classical music sounds like it does at least partially because of the instruments they used-- there’s no real analog in the west for the guzheng for example. And in Europe the classical tradition is based completely on the invention of notation, perhaps the first example of “recorded” music (in the middle ages European classical music was non-existent while Chinese and Japanese classicism was already fully formed-- once precise notation arrived western classical music quickly evolved and expanded like a fractal, while in Asia their form of notation was more like descriptive shorthand, so writing a complex fugue would have been like doing calculus with Roman numerals.)

And there are far too many ways to describe how radio and recordings changed the sound and style of music in the 20th century.

(Sorry, this is something I was discussing recently, forgive my little rant.)


Look Around You
Synthesizer Patel

From Look Around You- Season 2, Episode 1, Music


Pro Tools intuitive? Hardly. Especially the early versions. Logic was more “intuitive” if you already had experience behind a mixing desk but less so Pro Tools. Both were and are a definite learned skill. FWIW I have known and worked with people who could use an MPC on the fly similar to playing a traditional instrument but that too is a learned skill.

Heh, yeah, and here we are decades later still stuck multiplexing sixteen channels of laggy MIDI signaling.


Here’s another synth video for the pile - how do they work?


Nice stuff, but whoa, that 70’s jacket. Can we bring back 70’s music, without the 70’s fashion?


Laurie Anderson’s tape violin:


Heresy. All music that cannot be reduced to a toot, a whistle, a plunk or a boom is the product of witchcraft.


Right. I guess I’m using “Pro-tools” more as a generic term for any computer-based multi-tracking, anything where you can see the wave-form and cut/copy/paste. That kind of computer-based version of tape-splicing made it easy (or easier) to do the kinds of musique concrete techniques they show in the video. Obviously any of this stuff needs to be learned, but it’s where the tool influences your creativity that I’m interested in.

And why does so much EDM rely on 4/4 beats? When is someone going to bring back the waltz or the mazurka with electronics? :wink: