Before the Modern Electronic Music

21 04 2008

You’re going to enjoy this blog of mine today because it’s bombarded with Youtube videos – 9 videos to be exact. Today, I’m going to talk about something that I always have thought to be amazing, and that is music through electronics. The following images show the two instruments which have survived throughout the history of music along with the Electric Guitar.

Though I detested synthesizers for a large part of my life, I am still amazed by how people were able to find music from electronics, the following two instruments are just some of them. The Moog Synthesizer (pronounced /moug/) and the Theremin (Sounds like a drug to me).

Moog Synthesizer & Theremin

When you listen to video game-like music or maybe bizarre versions of classical pieces in the 1970s which doesn’t have a single note coming acoustically from any instrument from an orchestra – like the one you’re going to encounter on one of the Youtube videos below – you might have stumbled into a music done through Moog Synthesizer. It was developed in the 1960s by Robert Moog. The very first Moog Synthesizer was produced in 1964 and there have been large followers of the instrument which may have been the cause of its continuing existence today despite the steady rise, encroachment and popularity of modern synthesizers which can play any kind of instrument. The Moog unfortunately was not a pioneer analog synthesizer though; but it is much better to have than the old ones invented in the 1920s.

I was able to discover the Moog because of a popular musical piece called “Popcorn” by Gershon Kingsley.

Here’s a documentary video of how it works as well as an interview with the inventor himself Robert Moog. Further info here.

Here are some videos of people playing the Moog Synthesizers.

The next instrument is called “Theremin”. It’s not a drug, but I guess you might consider it one if you couldn’t figure out how to use it and see that there are actually some people who are addicted to it [jokes].

The Theremin is the very first instrument that doesn’t involve touching the instrument itself too much compared to a piano, a guitar or a saxophone. It was developed in the 1920s; it was invented in 1919 by Russian inventor Lev Theremin (now we know where the name came from).

You can find more info here. The antennae produces the pitch while the loop at the side produces the volume of the sound. You basically use it with your two hands. The closer your hand is at the antennae, the higher the pitch you can produce. The farther your hand is at the side loop, the louder the sound you would produce. Some people would do techniques like shaking a bit of their hand closer to the antennae to make a lively sound than a cold note which almost sounds like pointing the microphone directly at the speakers creating a really annoying sound.

Here are a couple of videos on the Theremin. The first is a Documentary from BBC (I started checking out Portishead after watching the doc). The second video shows Samuel Hoffman performing with the Theremin. The video after that shows a band performing Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” using a finger drum machine, 2 theremins (high-pitched & low-pitched), a moog synthesizer, an ordinary electric synthesizer, an electric bass guitar and my favourite: the carpet. The last video shows Lydia Kavina playing “Claire de Lune”.

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