Retrotechtacular: Discovering Electronic Music


We take it for granted today that a lot of the music we hear includes synthesized instruments and sounds. But looking all the way back to 1983 for this Discovering Electronic Music video series provides a glimpse of the humble beginnings of the technology. The first five minutes of part one may annoy your aurally, but it’s worth it as that’s the point at which we get into sound generation using equipment like that seen above. All three parts in the series are embedded below; about twenty minutes of video in total.

Mixer boards and other control interfaces used today still have a large area of real estate devoted to knobs and adjustments. But they also include a ton of software processing options which weren’t available until computers became both affordable and ubiquitous. What’s shown in the video is a set of hardware interfaces that process signals from oscillators or alter recorded sound. We’ve spent a lot of time marveling about software defined radio and how it’s making RF hacking accessible to the masses. But who here hasn’t done at least a bit of tinkering in electronic music using any of the myriad of audio software? Would you have done that if you needed to build your own envelope and filter circuitry?

[Thanks David]

20 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: Discovering Electronic Music

    1. Herbie makes an excellent point in that bit at the end: no matter how tricked out your synthesizer may be, it’s still a tool, and up to you to use it to breathe life into your work. This is something the self-proclaimed musicians in the video series above seem to have lost somewhere along the endless path of technical noodling. The funk will prevail.

  1. To answer the question posed at the end of the article, “Heck, yes!” In elementary school, I wanted to be a scientist. I was well into that mindset until I heard “Switched On Bach” by Walter Carlos in the 10th grade. I became obsessed with electronic music from that point on, and began cobbling together parts to build my own gear. During the seventies, I built several analog synthesizers from parts bought from PAIA, circuits from Electronotes. When everything started to go digital, I started studying computers, and became immersed in them instead. However, I still feel incomplete unless I have a musical keyboard in the house. I still idolize Herbie Hancock Thanks for the flashback!

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.