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Electronic Music in the 1960s – Who Was Making It?

When Was the First Electronic Music Made?

Most people would identify the sound of electronic music as beginning in the 1970s, with acts such as Kraftwerk and Jean-Michel Jarre pioneering a new sound and taking it into the mainstream. However, there were in fact musicians using primitive synthesisers, tone generators, and magnetic loops to create music going back as far as the 1950s.

Stockhausen could be said to be the man that started the whole idea of using electronic synthesis to generate sounds for listening purposes. While his records were purely experimental for the most part, and featured explorations of texture and property in sound, his ideas revolutionised a whole generation of thinking. 

Gershon Kingsley

Gershon Kingsley is a German musician who lives in the US, and who has been using synthesisers since the early 1960s to create a vision of what he saw as the pop music of the future. Most will recognise his well-known composition Pop Corn, as his 1969 recording was later covered and made a hit in 1972 by the band Hot Butter, led by Kingsley’s band member Stan Free. This is often claimed to be the first electronic dance hit to reach the charts. Gershon Kingsley’s other works included creating versions of popular music traditionally played by orchestras, such as Gershwin, but using synthesisers instead. 

What and WHO Were The First Samplers? – Jean-Jacques Perrey

Kingsley often worked with fellow musical experimenter Jean-Jacques Perrey, who took Musique Concrete from an experimental art form into music which the average listener would find pleasurable. His work included creating loops of tape with differing recorded sounds on them to create rhythms and melodies. This is the same principle as how a Mellotron used sounds from various instruments to be played on a keyboard, which along with Perrey’s methods could be said to be some early examples of sampling. Along with this, Perrey also experimented with an early synthesiser called the Ondioline, which could be manipulated by the user physically moving its body to change the nature of the sound it made.

Who Made Kubrick’s Electronic Film Music? – Wendy Carlos

Wendy Carlos (formerly Walter Carlos) is another pioneer of electronic music who began her career in the 1960s. Her contributions include overseeing development of the revolutionary Moog synthesiser, along with Robert Moog, and the production of several popular albums of electronic music. Her fist album, “Switched on Bach”, was released in 1968 to widespread popularity, and featured electronically synthesised versions of popular J.S. Bach pieces. This album brought Carlos a great deal of attention, and could be said to be the first hit electronic album ever released. Her work also brought her the offer to do the soundtrack to the Stanley Kubrick film, “A Clockwork Orange”, and later “The Shining”, which brought Carlos to worldwide audiences who might have been hearing electronic music for the first time. She also performed the score for the 1982 film, “Tron”, and became one of the first public figures to come out as transgender and announce their gender reassignment surgery in 1979.


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