It's been great fun compiling this podcast, and it features a good few of the pieces we've programmed for the Pioneers of Electronic Music Festival. The Stockhausen, Varese and Messiaen works are all being performed at our XOYO event on 14th March along with a DJ set from The Orb's Alex Paterson. Also included is material from people we are celebrating at our events, such as Daphne Oram - who has a tribute evening on the 6th March - and Delia Derbyshire and Raymond Scott, who we're showing biographical documentaries about during the festival.
The podcast has excerpts from the film scores of The Day The Earth Stood Still and Forbidden Planet, both pioneering in their use of electronics and showing at the Rio Cinema on Sunday 10th March.The Plastikman minimal techno track Psyk, takes us forward to 1998, proving although the technology has no doubt advanced since the mid-20th century, the sonic qualities aren't so different.
More info on the tracks:
1. 00'00": Clockwork Orange Title Music / Wendy Carlos (1972)
Wendy Carlos (as Walter Carlos) brought synth sounds to the household with her Switched on Bach albums in the late 1960s, performed on Moog. In the Clockwork Orange soundtrack, this approach continues as epic reimaginings of familiar works from the classical canon are given an eerie electronic twist which adds to the dystopian world of the film.
2. 02'31": Oraison / Messaien (1937)
Composed for 6 ondes Martenot. Talking about 'pioneers' would be difficult if we were to overlook this instrument - invented in 1928, its theremin-like wavering sounds come from varying oscillations in vacuum tubes. Getting hold of one now is fairly difficult but we've managed to secure a performer and an ondes for a rendition of this piece at XOYO on 14th March.
3. 07'53": Wheels That Go / Raymond Scott (1967)
Raymond Scott led what in effect appears to be a double life. On the one hand, he was a radio and TV celebrity and big band leader, who soundtracked among other things the Looney Tunes cartoons; while by night he developed some of the first synthesizers and sequencers in his Manhattan Research Lab. 'Wheels That Go' bridges that gap, being an electronic score for none other than Jim Henson. Scott has been gradually rediscovered over the last 20 years or so, and only now can we really appreciate the ingenuity and scope of his work with lovingly restored and remastered selections such as this one. Catch the first London screening of RS documentary Deconstructing Dad on 12th March.
4. 08'51": Occasional Variations / Milton Babbitt (1968-71)
The issue of who made the first synthesiser (Raymond Scott, Daphne Oram, Milton Babbitt or even the simple one-note oscillators of the late 19th Century?) has been a hotly contested issue since we started talking about the Pioneers festival. But Babbitt's lab - which still lies dormant at Columbia University - houses the original RCA synth which he worked on through the 1960s, and it's definitely among the first. Occasional Variations was composed in the late '60s and clearly demonstrates the capacities of his instrument.
5. 13'17": Snow / Daphne Oram (1963)
With her Oramics machine Daphne Oram was truly a Pioneer of electronic composition (she set up her studio in 1959). The machine is currently on display in London's Science Museum. Snow soundtracks a short film, and is interesting in sounding like big beat and sample-based hip hop, which it pre-dated by 20-30 years. On 6th March we'll be celebrating Oram with a special night at The Macbeth dedicated to her work and its legacy.
6. 14'56": Syncopation / Tom Dissvelt and Kid Baltan (Dick Raaijmakers) (1958)
Another hotly contested debate is who 'invented' the forms of repetitive modulating rhythmic sequences of House, Electro and Techno. These two would be prime contenders for that crown. Recorded in 1958, the frantic offbeat basslines of Syncopation pre-empts what Djs and Producers were doing in clubs and on pirate radio of early '80s Detroit, Chicago and beyond.
7. 16'28": Forbidden Planet Main Titles Overture / Louis and Bebe Baron (1956)
The soundtrack the Forbidden Planet is credited as being the first entirely electronic film score. We're screening the entire film at the Rio Cinema on March 10th as part of a double bill.
8. 18'30": Valse Sentimentale / Tchaikovsky Performed on Theremin by Clara Rockmore (1987)
Clara Rockmore is an important pioneer in being a virtuoso of the - incredibly difficult - theremin, an eerie sounding electronic instrument familiar to many from sci-fi soundtracks but not so much as a solo instrument in its own right. Here she takes on Tchaikovsky, from her 1987 album The Art of The Theremin, which was produced by none other than fellow pioneer Robert Moog.
9. 20'30": Schlum Rooli Glyn Jones, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 10. 22'05": Major Bloodnok's Stomach Dick Mills, BBC Radiophonic Workshop, 11. 22'13”: Mattachin 1 Delia Derbyshire BBC Radiophonic Workshop
The BBC Radiophonic Workshop became incredibly prolific throughout the 1960s, providing in-house soundtracking to BBC television and drama. Most famously, the Doctor Who Theme, which was performed by Delia Derbyshire - subject of The Delian Mode, a documentary we are showing on March 17th. These three tracks are all examples of the kind of work that was happening in the Workshop at the time.
12. 22'15": IBM Probe / Raymond Scott (1963-64)
More from Mr. Scott's Manhattan Research era. On 14th March at XOYO Leon Michener will be performing his new transcriptions in one of the first fully 'live' performances of these works.
13. 25'05":The Day The Earth Stood Still Prelude / Bernard Hermann (1951)
This film was another important innovator - with the soundtrack including two theremins. Nowadays it sounds kitsch but still brilliantly futuristic, and it's definitely been imitated though never bettered. It's the other film we're showing in our Rio Cinema double bill on the 10th March.
14. 26'40": Diamorphoses / Xenakis (1957)
The Greek composer's first tape-based piece of 'Musique Concrete': using 'found' sounds, essentially an early form of sample-based music - in this case belonging to earthquakes, jet take-offs, skips’ shocks, musical instruments and more.
15. 28'45": Kontake / Stockhausen (1958-60)
A short excerpt of the much longer (c. 35") piece from Stockhausen which will be performed in its entirety at XOYO on the 14th.
16. 31'46": Poeme Electronique / Varese (1957-58)
Another important late-1950's work for electronic tape. Varese was keen to utilize the space in which this pre-recorded tape piece was heard, and at its premiere it was heard through 350 specially positioned speakers. Again to be performed on the 14th March.
17. 26'33": The Rhythm Modulator / Raymond Scott (1955-57)
More genius from Raymond Scott, illustrating in this one the similarities between his work and that of those coming from a club background some years later …
18. 38'27":Psyk / Plastikman (1998)
I wanted to end the podcast showing the similarities between minimal techno and electronica and the work of the pioneers in the mid 20th Century and earlier. Richie Hawtin aka Plastikman is often seen in dance circles as the pioneer of minimal techno.