Blog » Early Electronic Music

Last Updated on

Approx. reading time: 4 minutes

EARLY ELECTRONIC MUSIC

Ever since I started composing music with computer software I have been interested in Electronic Music. In particular IDM (Intelligent Dance Music) and not EDM (Electronic Dance Music), I have never been much of a “clubber” …

If you think that the early Electronic Music was made by Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre, then this article might be an “eye-opener”. Kraftwerk and Jean Michel Jarre (both making their music in the 70s) are often mentioned as the “pioneers” of the Electronic Music. But the true pioneers of Electronic Music started making their electronic productions in the 50s!

In this article I will write a little about early Electronic Music productions that I think are worth knowing.

It is important to mention that the Electronic Music from the 50s and 60s isn’t like the EDM nowadays. It was often more experimental, soundcapes and effects, not always very “melodic” and totally not “danceble”. So, if you are looking for the more “groovy” Electronic Music, then you can “skip” the 50’s and 60’s and go straight to the 70s.

This article ends with the 70s. All electronic music produced after is not what I consider “early”, in the 80s electronic music though not “mainstream” yet, had become popular and “House Music” from Chicago became the first of the new electronic dance music of the era.


THE 50s: THE TRUE PIONEERS OF ELECTRONIC MUSIC

In the 50s, Electronic Music was distortions of recordings. Sounds on a tape recorder would be manipulated by feedback, repeated spliced loops, overlapping tracks with multiple recorders, and using oscillators and reverb to sculpt the tempo, tone, or texture. This prevailed in continually advancing ways well through the 1960s.

HERBERT EIMERT
Herbert Eimert was a German music theorist, musicologist, journalist, music critic, editor, radio producer, and composer. A passionate proponent of ‘pure’ electronic music, Eimert was the first director of Cologne’s hugely important Studio for Electronic Music. This early 10″ collection of beguiling machine mutterings is sometimes feather-light, often chilling.

Klang im unbegrenzten Raum” (1952) by Herbert Eimer & Robert Beyer:

Fünf Stücke, for tape” (1955/1956) by Herbert Eimert:



OTTO LUENING
Otto Clarence Luening was a German-American composer and conductor, and an early pioneer of tape music and electronic music. Luening’s ‘Tape Music’, including A Poem in Cycles & Bells, Gargoyles for Violin & Synthesized Sound, and Sounds of New Music demonstrated the early potential of synthesizers and special editing techniques for electronic music.

Invention in Twelve Notes” (1952) by Otto Luening:



VLADIMIR USSACHEVSKY
Vladimir Alexeevich Ussachevsky was a composer, particularly known for his work in electronic music. His early, neo-Romantic works were composed for traditional instruments, but in 1951 he began composing electronic music.

Piece for tape recorder” (1956) by Vladimir Ussachevsky:



NATLAB: HENK BADINGS, TOM DISSEVELT & KID BALTAN
Henk Badings, Tom Dissevelt and Kid Baltan (Dick Raaijmakers) are three Dutch composers/producers. Many of their compositions can be heard on the NatLab record “Popular Electronics – Early Dutch electronic music from Philips Research Laboratories, 1956–1963“.

Song from the Second Moon” (1957) by Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan:

Syncopation” (1959, not 1958 as is mentioned in the Youtube title) by Tom Dissevelt & Kid Baltan:

Mechanical Motions” (1961) by Kid Baltan:


THE 60s

Stereo Electronic Music No. 1” (1960) by Bülent Arel:

Electronic Study No. 1” (1961) by Mario Davidovsky:

Dr. Who” (1963) by Delia Derbyshire:

Mixtur, für Orchester, Sinusgeneratoren und Ringmodulatoren” (1964) by Karlheinz Stockhausen:

Wave Train” (1966) by David Behrman:

The In Sound From Way Out!” (1966) – full album – by Perrey Kingsley:

Study For Voice And Tape” (1968) by Alice Shields:

The Nonesuch Guide To Electronic Music” (1968) – full album – by Paul Beaver & Bernard L. Krause:

Moog – The Electric Eclectics Of Dick Hyman” (1969) by Dick Hyman:


THE 70s

KRAFTWERK
Their first performances and their first album “Kraftwerk 1” (1971) is more “Krautrock” (rock with electronic elements that originated in Germany in the late 60s) then Electronic Music, but with “Kraftwerk 2” (1972) they moved fully into the Electronic Music “realm”. Below a few Krafwerk releases I like:

For more information about Kraftwerk, visit the Kraftwerk website.


JEAN MICHEL JARRE
Jean Michel Jarre is a French composer, performer, and music producer. He is a pioneer in the electronic, ambient, and new-age genres. He released his first album “Deserted Palace” in 1972, and released 16 albums after, the latest one in 2007. In 2015 a new albums is expected to be released.

Below the Youtubes of the first 2 released albums. You can also find a playlist with all releases on youtube.



YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA
The Yellow Magic Orchestra (or YMO) is a Japanese electronic music band formed by Haruomi Hosono (bass, keyboards, vocals), Yukihiro Takahashi (drums, lead vocals) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (keyboards, vocals). For their early studio albums and live performances, the band was often accompanied by music programmer Hideki Matsutake.

Their music sounds a bit “funny” from time to time to me, but is nonetheless interesting to check out. Their first album “Yellow Magic Orchestra” dates from 1978.



VARIOUS 70s ELECTRONIC TRACKS

Genesis (Electronic Meditation)” (1970) by Tangerine Dream:

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide” (1971) by Nik Raicevic:

Snowflakes are Dancing” (Debussy) 1974 by Isao Tomita

Synergy” (1975) by Larry Fast:

I Feel Love” (1977) by Giorgio Moroder and Donna Summer:


Creative Commons License