Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Electronic Music Foundation

This week I am writing mainly for those people who are striving to make it in the electronic music arena. They are advised to visit the Electronic Music Foundation, about which details are given below.

Electronic Music Foundation is a New York-based non-profit arts organization that produces festivals, concerts and other events in New York City and elsewhere. It also provides services for artists, and maintains a worldwide network through which they circulate information, distribute materials, and collaborate with colleagues on international projects. They also provide services and benefits for composers, performers, and sound- or media artists who join EMF as subscribers.

Their mission is to explore the creative and cultural potential in the convergence of music, sound, technology, and science, and, through interactions with a large and growing public, apply what we learn towards the betterment of human life.

They maintain a concert production office and studio in New York City and an administrative, publication, distribution, and archival center in Albany, New York.

The benefits include participation in an artist-in-residence program, technical support, promotion, communication with colleagues around the world, information on professional opportunities, distribution of CDs and other materials, and exceptional access to materials. For more information on the services that they provide. Visit

Now for some interesting facts.

Researchers at the University of Rochester have digitally reproduced music in a file nearly 1,000 times smaller than a regular MP3 file. The music, a 20-second clarinet solo, is encoded in less than a single kilobyte, and is made possible by two innovations: recreating in a computer both the real-world physics of a clarinet and the physics of a clarinet player.

So, take a break and visit the Electronic Music Foundation

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Kraftwerk - a review

One of the bands that had a deep influence in me while I was in school was Kraftwerk. I just couldn’t get the song “feelin like a robota” outta my head. There was something in that music that sounded futuristic and intriguing at the same time had catchy tunes.

Now, what does Kraftwerk mean? It means "power plant" or "power station"

Kraftwerk is identified as a “pioneering and highly influential electronic music band from Düsseldorf, Germany. The signature Kraftwerk sound combines driving, repetitive rhythms with catchy melodies, mainly following a Western classical style of harmony, with a minimalistic and strictly electronic instrumentation”

The group's simplified lyrics are at times sung through a vocoder or generated by computer-speech software. Kraftwerk was one of the first groups to popularize electronic music. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraftwerk's distinctive sound was revolutionary, and has had a lasting effect across many genres of modern music.

Kraftwerk was formed in 1970 by Florian Schneider (flutes, synthesizers, electro-violin) and Ralf Hutter (electronic organ, synthesizers). The two had met as students at the Düsseldorf Conservatory in the late 1960s, participating in the German experimental music scene of the time, which the British music press dubbed "Krautrock". The group was fronted by them until Schneider's departure in 2008

The band’s members over the years consisted of;

• Ralf Hutter – synthesizers, organ, lead vocals, vocoder
• (early works also include: bass guitar, drums and percussion) (1970 - present)
• Fritz Hilpert – electronic percussion, sound engineering (1987 - present)
• Henning Schmitz – electronic percussion, sound engineering, live keyboards (1991 - present)
• Stefan Pfaffe – video technician (2008 - present)
• Florian Schneider –synthesizers, background vocals, computer-generated vocals ( acoustic and electronic flutes, guitars, violin, percussion) (1970–2008)
• Karl Bartos – electronic percussion, live keyboards (1975–1991)
• Wolfgang Flur – electronic percussion (1973–1987)
• Klaus Roder – guitar, electro-violin (1974)
• Klaus Dinger – drums (1970–1971)
• Andreas Hohmann – drums (1970)

In May 1981 Kraftwerk released the album Computer World. Some of the electronic vocals on Computer World were created using a Texas Instruments Language Translator. Kraftwerk’s earlier track "The Model" reached the number one position in the UK making "The Model" Kraftwerk's most successful record in the UK.

Really a craft at work !

Monday, 2 August 2010

Musical Instrument Digital Interface

All those who have tried to compose electronic music have realized that it is not an easy task. Composers and people who produce music have struggled to come up with futuristic sounds, science fiction themes, electronic music and trying to express digital music as a means of things that is about to happen.

We know by now that electronic music originated as an experiment, by pioneers of the machine generated sound (such as electric guitars etc). During the initial period, electronic music relied heavily on creativity and improvisation of machine generated sounds.

Finally, it was during the eighties, when a group of musicians and audio merchants met in the UK to standardize an interface, by which new instruments could communicate control instructions with other instruments and the existing microcomputer. This new standard was identified or called as MIDI or Musical Instrument Digital Interface.

A paper was authored by Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits and proposed to the Audio Engineering Society in 1981. Finally, it was during August 1983, the MIDI Specification 1.0 was finalized.

The advent of MIDI technology allows a single keystroke, control wheel motion, pedal movement, or command from a microcomputer to activate every device in the studio remotely and in synchrony, with each device responding according to conditions predetermined by the composer.

So much for MIDI

Now for some interesting facts.

Did you know that downloaded music accounts for 50.7% of music sold in the USA, with physical CD sales accounting for 49.3% in 2010

Did you also know that there are at least 1,000 computer music studios that exist in universities and institutions around the world out of which many of them are engaged in research. Since most personal studios are also computer music studios, there would be over hundreds of thousands to millions of such studios, worldwide.

Next week we discuss Kraftwerk and their contribution to music.

The top ten electronic songs in the UK is given below;

Witchcraft - Pendulum
I Think I Like It - Fake Blood
XXXO (Jay-Z Remix) - M.I.A.
Baptism - Crystal Castles
Fireflies - Owl City
4th of July (Fireworks) [Club Version] - Kelis
Paper Planes - M.I.A.
Watercolour - Pendulum
Invaders Must Die - The Prodigy
Acapella - Kelis

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Computers in electronic music

Writing electronic music may initially appear to be an easy task. Most of the people who have tried writing it say that their pieces ended up sounding either too commercial or something rather amateur. They finally realize that there truly exists a difference in creating something unique and something too amateurish. Unlike other forms of music, electronic music is not limited to the properties of the natural instruments or its musicians.

Although, one can argue that these boundaries can be broken and can bring the creator close to the ultimate barrier. Naturally, this is just only inspiration.

While I have tried my hands on creating something on my laptop, I must confess that some of the pieces did sound good (now, I am not blowing my own trumpet here). What I am trying to emphasize is that there is so much pre-recorded music available and all you go to do is to come up with the correct mix. In fact, there are a plenty of pre recorded audio software samples and software packages out there, in fact maybe too many. Besides machines are fast and humans even more impatient which helps in a situation where machines would be able to interact with the humans on an organic level so as to achieve instant results.

I can still remember my piano and saxophone lessons in school – I hated it and most of the time ended up playing the drums. This was because I thought it was more fashionable and rhythmic. Nowadays when I get to hear the drum tunes in my laptop software, I think the kids nowadays have it too easy as they are rewarded with instant results.

Summarizing, electronic music celebrates the union between advancement of technology and the human intellect. If we reflect on the current movements in music with the past, we visualize the futurism in music. My personal feeling is that we still are not there yet and there is more to come.

Until then enjoy.

Next week I’ll take on independent performers.

Friday, 16 July 2010

History of electronic music

For those who came in late, what is electronic music?

Basically, it is a form of music that utilizes musical electronic music technology, be it synthesizers or computers while producing it.

Confusing huh?

While some of you may have heard about Kraftwerk, a lot more of you would have listened to Pink Floyd’s or Jean Michel Jarre’s music. Have you noticed any difference from the standard pop or rock music? I am sure you would have noticed the electronic music tunes that predominantly stand out in their music. That is to say you might be able to differentiate the music made using electromechanical means (such as the electric guitar or the Hammond organ) and the music produced using electronic technology (devices such as the synthesizer and the computer). Well the electronic part is what is called electronic music.

Although electronic music was initially identified as western art music, with the advent of affordable music technology, it became very popular. However, it was during the sixties, that electronic music became increasingly popular as synthesizers started becoming a part of many music bands. One of the most popular electronic music artists during the sixties was Delia Derbyshire, who worked with the BBC Radiophone Workshop which incidentally was a very popular electronic music studio.

But it was in the seventies that synthesizers became a part of rock music with popular bands such as Pink Floyd, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and Yes using this format in their music. The German band Kraftwerk took a more electronic approach and released an album totally composed on an electronic theme. Although it was a bit bizarre, it sounded rather cool. The other artists who popularized this were Jean Michel Jarre (his concerts were phenomenal, we’ll leave that for another day!), Vangelis, Tangerine Dream etc. Besides most of the leading bands started incorporating the synthesizer into their music. There was Bowie, Genesis, Roxy Music, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode and Police… so many of them.

And now can you name a single band that doesn’t use electronic music technology in their music?

That’s enough for this week… gotta catch some sleep

Next week, we will discuss how computers play a part in electronic music.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

The Top Music Hit Singles For 2010 – Part I

I have set out to find the 10 top music singles for the first half of 2010.

The first half of 2010 is coming to a close and I have come up with a tentative list of the ten best hits for the year 2010. I plan to update this at the end of the year 2010 or beginning of 2011 and by which time, I would have time to include any songs that have been overlooked by me and which were added by you.

I have listed ten random personal selections, which apart from solely being personal, are also determined by their inclusion in various popular publications. Please feel free to comment on this list and vote for the song that you think was the best. Alternately, if your choice isn’t here, I would love to see it in the comments section. As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome and there’s nothing better than discovering tunes that I might have overlooked.

I have selected these hits based on the criteria that only a single song by a band or an artist can be added on to this list. That is to say, no two singles from an album. Besides, only those numbers that have been released in the year 2010 will be considered. Anyway, readers always have the option to add new songs to the comment list.

The High Road - Broken Bells
Excuses - The Morning Benders
Little Lion Man - Mumford & Sons
O.N.E - Yeasayer
I Feel Better - Hot Chip
Zebra - Beach House
Waka Waka – Shakira
Terrible Love - The Nationals
Colouring of Pigeons - The Knife
Airplanes - Local Natives

Now let’s get on with our ten favorite music hits for the first half of 2010.