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Ohm +: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music

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Ohm +: The Early Gurus of Electronic Music Special Edition 3CD + DVD

Leaps in technology: oscillators, generators, vacuum tubes, amplifiers, transistors, magnetic tape, integrated circuits, and the microchip� inspired new instruments: the telharmonium, theremin, ondes martenot, electronic sackbut, clavivox, electronium, moog synthesizer, and computers� and artists everywhere hungry for new modes of expression.

This collection is a humble but bold attempt to give form to the wonderful, multi-directional, inevitable birth of electronic music.

"Many of the ideas in this collection have now been so completely assimilated into popular listening that it may sometimes be hard to remember how surprising it all was on first outing. Some of it still sounds pretty exotic. These CDs are important as part of the story of how we got to where we are now�the cultural conversation so far�and as a still fruitful repertoire of future possibilities." �from the Foreword by Brian Eno

Three CDs�42 original music tracks from 1948�1980 112 Page Book�extensive artist interviews, commentaries, and archival photographs Special Edition DVD�over two hours of rare performances, interviews, animations, and experimental video.

Brian Eno's foreword to the compilation -

If you're under ninety, chances are that you've spent most of your life listening to electronic music.

The experience that used to be called music up until about the 1920s - listening to someone sing or play a musical instrument live and unamplified - actually forms an increasingly minor percentage of our listening experiences now. Instead, we listen to records, or we listen to the radio, or we go to see musicians who transmit electronic signals through electronic PA systems.

It might seem extreme to include all the products of the recording age under the umbrella term electronic music, but I think it's warranted. The process of recording music separated it from time and place and as such eventually led to all the amazing experiments presented on these records.

Whenever a new musical technology appears, new forms of music follow it. Debussy was apparently so thrilled by the three-pedal Steinway (the middle pedal allows you to sustain one chord while playing unsustained notes over it) that he wrote many new pieces specifically for it. In the same way, the many new possibilities of electronics have given rise to whole new forms of music.

John Cage said that any sound could be described by four characteristics: pitch, duration, timbre, and loudness. One way of thinking about electronic music is as a continuous expansion of all these characteristics. We can make sounds of almost infinite loudness, using pitches as low or as high as we want, that last for as long as there's electricity, and of infinite shades of timbre. If you were to compare it with painting, it would be as though, about seventy years ago, painters started to discover how to make completely new colours, colours that no one had ever seen before.

But the electronic revolution changed more than just our ability to control the physical parameters of sounds. By turning sound into a plastic material manipulable in space and time - it drew the process of composition closer to the processes of the plastic and visual arts. The impressionists in their painting, had aspired to "the condition of music," envying its ability to be both abstract and emotionally engaging. Meanwhile, much of the musical composition of our century has drawn closer to the condition of painting or sculpture, as composer have started to think about music as a tactile experience in time and space.

So many new areas of consideration now fall under the heading "composition." For classical composers, there were certain describable islands of sound: a clarinet, for example, is a number of sonic and playing possibilities, whereas a harp is another. If you write "violin" in a score, everybody knows what you mean. That isn't possible, however, it you write "electric guitar" or "synthesizer." A synthesizer isn't really, in that sense one instrument, it is a bag of possibilities from which you assemble your instrument. So the first thing an electronic composer does is build a set of instruments, a soundworld.

But that's only one issue. There are also quite new questions about where the music should take place. The concert hall is of course still a possibility, but only one among many. The home hi-fi, the gallery installation, the Walkman, the supermarket aisle, and the unexpected public space are all equally interesting. Are you making a private or public experience? And since the music can theoretically last as long as you want it to, are you making a ore-night performance or creating a sound-object to persist for decades? Are you making something that you expect people to hear once or hundreds of time? Are you making something that will stay the same or change endlessly? What will govern the way it changes? Does it react to anything outside itself, or is it driven by internal rules? What are those rules?

The composers represented on this compilation have addressed questions like these and many others. They've helped develop a vocabulary of perspectives for music that is quite new to this century and that has, perhaps surprisingly, become part of a very fruitful interchange with popular music. Indeed, one way of looking at contemporary pop is to see it as the offspring of an ongoing affair between African music and Western electronics (with European harmonisation as the influential godmother).

Many of the ideas in this collection have now been so completely assimilated into popular listening that it may sometimes be hard to remember how surprising it all was on first outing. Some of it still sounds pretty exotic. As music, some of it stands the test of time. As ideas, most of it does. These CDs are important as part of the story of how we got to where we are now - the cultural conversation so far - and as a still fruitful repertoire of future possibilities.

- November 1, 1999


Content Notes:

1. Clara Rockmore - The World's Greatest Theremin Vituosa (Excerpt) 5:05
2. John Cage - Paying Attention (Excerpt) 6:19
3. Jean-Claude Risset - Mutations 6:35
4. Steve Reich - Three Tales: Dolly (Excerpt) 10:38
5. Morton Subotnick - Sidewinder (Excerpt) 6:39
6. Holger Czukay - Floatspace 3:14
7. Bebe Barron - Interview With Bebe Barron (Excerpt) 7:56
8. Paul Lansky - The Dust Bunny 17:08
9. Leon Theremin - Paul Lansky's Lesson With Leon Theremin 3:32
10. Iannis Xenakis - Bohor 3:59
11. Milton Babbit - Interview With Milton Babbit (Excerpt) 8:36
12. Laurie Spiegel - Improvisation On A 'Concerto Generator' 2:40
13. David Behrman - Music With Melody-Driven Electronics (Excerpt) 4:53
14. John Chowning - Stria 12:25
15. Robert Ashley - What She Thinks (It's History) (Excerpt) 3:59
16. Max Mathews - Phosphones 2:29
17. Pauline Oliveros - Bye Bye Butterfly 8:21
18. Alvin Lucier - Music For Solo Performer 11:45
19. Mother Mallard - Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Company (Excerpt) 5:13
20. Robert Moog - Moog: A Documentary (Excerpt) 5:54

CD 1

1. Valse Sentimentale - Clara Rockmore
2. Oraison - Ens D'Ondes De Montreal
3. Etude Aux Chemins De Fer - Pierre Schaeffer
4. Williams Mix - John Cage
5. Klangstudie II - Herbert Eimert/Robert Beyer
6. Low Speed - Otto Luening
7. Dripsody - Hugh Le Caine
8. Forbidden Planet: Main Title - Louis Barron/Bebe Barron
9. Elektronische Tanzste: Concertando Rubato - Oskar Sala
10. Poem Electronique - Edgard Varese
11. Sine Music (A Swarm Of Butterflies Encountered Over The Ocean) - Richard Maxfield
12. Apocalypse-Part 2 - Tod Dockstader
13. Kontakte - James Tenney/William Winant
14. Wireless Fant - Vladimir Ussachevsky
15. Philomel - Milton Babbitt
16. Spacecraft - MEV

CD 2

1. Cindy Electronium - Raymond Scott
2. Pendulum Music - Sonic Youth
3. Bye Bye Butterfly - Pauline Oliveros
4. Projection Esemplastic For White Noise - Joji Yuasa
5. Silver Apples Of The Moon, Part 1 - Morton Subotnick
6. Rainforest Version 1 - David Tudor
7. Poppy Nogood - Terry Riley
8. Boat-Woman-Song - Holger Czukay
9. Music Promenade - Luc Ferrari
10. Vibrations Composees: Rosace 3 - Francois Bayle
11. Mutations - Jean-Claude Risset
12. Hibiki-Hana-Ma - Iannis Xenakis
13. Map Of 49's Dream The Two Systems Of Eleven Sets Of Galactic Intervals: Drift Study '31/69 c.... - La Monte Young

CD 3

1. He Destroyed Her Image - Charles Dodge
2. Six Fants On A Poem By Thomas Campion: Her Song - Paul Lansky
3. Appalachian Grove - Laurie Spiegel
4. En Phase/Hors Phase - Bernard Parmegiani
5. On The Other Ocean - David Behrman
6. Stria - John Chowning
7. Living Sound, Patent Pending Music For Sound-Joined Rooms Series - Maryanne Amacher
8. Automatic Writing - Robert Ashley
9. Canti Illuminati - Alvin Curran
10. Music On A Long Thin Wire - Alvin Lucier
11. Melange - Klaus Schulze
12. Before And After Charm (La Notte) - Jon Hassell
13. Unfamiliar Wind (Leeks Hills) - Brian Eno
Type: Documentary, Live / Concert
Year: 2006
Total Time: 150 mins + CD
Styles: Classical, Electroacoustic, Experimental, Jazz, Musique Concrète, Soundtrack
Formats: DVD
Clara Rockmore
John Cage
Jean-Claude Risset
Steve Reich
Morton Subotnick
Holger Czukay
Bebe Barron
Paul Lansky
Leon Theremin
Milton Babbitt
Laurie Spiegel
David Behrman
John Chowning
Robert Ashley
Max Mathews
Pauline Oliveros
Alvin Lucier
Mother Mallard
Robert Moog
Producer: Thomas Ziegler, Jason Gross, and Russell Charno
Studio: Ellipsis Arts
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