Technology

Sorry to put a spanner in your kraftwerks but Techno, in case you hadn’t noticed, has got fuck all to do with technology. The sounds of Detroit were made with cheap boxes with less complex wiring in them than the average pocket calculator. Derrick, and his Gary Numan obsessed mates couldn’t afford anything else at the time. Yet over zealous fan boys insist on making simple music signifying a vague futurist agenda. Little wonder then that the now antiquated equipment used by the pioneers of techno has become over-valued and overworked in bedrooms and studios across the land. Can’t keep up with the counter bores at your local record store? Feel like a girl when the lads are talking techno-twaddle? Then read on for an instant guide to the machines they all want for Christmas.

Arp 2600Back in 1975, when the first issue of Keyboard hit the stands, there were only a handful of companies making synthesizers. The first polyphonic instruments had just appeared, and programmability was still several years in the future. The leaders of this fledgling industry were Moog Music and ARP Instruments, both of which were named after their founders -- Bob Moog and Alan R. Pearlman. Over the years, ARP produced a number of keyboards that were eagerly embraced by musicians, including the Odyssey, the Pro-Soloist, and the Omni, and one -- the 2600 -- that remains a classic. Today, however, ARP no longer exists.

Although experiments in recording sound onto magnetic tape began at the turn of the century, it wasn’t until the 1940’s that the first portable magnetophone tape recorder was invented in Germany. After the war, this technology was confiscated by the Allies and introduced to North America and other European capitals for research throughout the post-war years. The tape recorder’s popular fate was sealed; but even when commercial success soared in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the device was still intended to reproduce music, not to create it. However, unbeknownst to the music establishment at that time, groups of pioneering alternative music composers in various parts of the world had other ideas.

“I was interested in making a different kind of instrument. And I wanted, of course, to make an apparatus that would be controlled in space, exploiting electrical fields, and that would use little energy. Therefore I transformed electronic [equipment] into a musical instrument that would provide greater resources”

Leon Theremin, in an interview in Paris, 1989

Electronic music is a medium of expression, not a specific type of music. When a pianist sits down and does a virtuoso performance he is in a technical sense transmitting more information to a machine than any other human activity involving machinery allows.
--Robert Moog

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