Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Electronic Music interview- past, present, future

Student Henry Plotnick, whose father describes him as a 'minimalist, electronic music fanatic' was doing a research project on electronic music for school and needed to interview subjects about this. I partook in this questionnaire, focusing on the OHM- Early Gurus of Electronic Music box set that I co-produced, and here's the result. 


1. What musical discovery (do you think) has lead to the most progression in electronic music?

I think one of the most important things that came out of electronic music in terms of musical discoveries is the re-imagining of what is considered 'noise' and what is considered 'music' even though that battle and the surrounding arguments are still ongoing (and will always be around in some form).

2. Do you think new pop musicians have been in any way influenced by the avant garde artists, or do you think the 2 genres aren't related?

There's definitely been a connection, which has grown stronger over the last few decades and they definitely feed off of each other more and more, especially as some artists drift back and forth between the genres.  I covered this topic several years ago in an EMP lecture: http://www.furious.com/perfect/rockexp/index.html

3. In your selection process for the box set, how did you choose what to include and what not to include?

We wanted to include some of the giants ('gurus') of the genre but we also wanted to cover several decades and styles as well as some lesser known composers who deserved recognition for their individualized work.  We also didn't want to limit it only to America, especially as there were very important movements in this area in other countries going on.  Even though there were 3 CD's, we had material for a 4th CD or a follow-up volume planned too (maybe which will happen someday).

4. How have electronic music styles changed in the last 100 years?

It's definitely evolved but the full answer would be a book length essay.  What's most fascinating are the different strands and combinations that have come up, often in surprising and unexpected ways.  For instance, the hundreds of sub-genres that are lumped under 'techno' were pretty much unimaginable before krautrock pioneers like Cluster and Kraftwerk.

5. Did people want electronic music to happen, or did it just evolve by itself?

Several people willed it into existence (thanks especially to gadgeteers like Thermin, Moog and Buchla) and led the way for others, some of whom took very divergent paths.  As I mentioned in one of the OHM booklet essays, it all seemed to be a natural extension of the atomic age and the industrial age happening at the time.

6. Were there any unexpected discoveries made while making the box set?

It was amusing to hear about certain rivalries (both friendly and unfriendly) that arose between the German (WDR) and French (INA/GRM) electronic movements.  I also learned about composers like Hugh LeCaine and Joji Yuasa that I wasn't familiar with before but I thought that they were unique and significant enough to include there.

7. Who do you think are the 2 most influential musicians in this category?

The standard answer is 'Cage and Stockhausen' and while that's probably true, it's become kind of an over-used cliche that they're the pinnacle, usually cited as a stock answer.  La Monte Young should also be included in that elite group too though.

8. Why do you think people were suspicious of electronically produced sounds at first?

Any art form that's new and revolutionary always causes confusion, anger and suspicion- the same thing happened with jazz, rock and roll, rap, techno, punk, etc..

9. Where do you think electronic music is heading?

As the tools to participate become easier and cheaper to obtain, I think it has a rich and long future ahead of it.

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