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Sounds of Future Past: From Neu! to Numan

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Das Sound-Design bildet in der Popmusik eine entscheidende Komponente der kreativen Gestaltung und des ästhetischen Empfindens. Nicht der Ton macht die Musik, sondern dem Sound verdankt die Popmusik einen Großteil ihrer emotionalen Wirkung und ihres kommunikativen Gehalts. Zugleich ist Sound ein wichtiges Mittel zur sozialen Positionierung von Musikern und Hörern. Im vorliegenden Band wird erstmals der Versuch unternommen, dieser weitreichenden Bedeutung von Sound auf die Spur zu kommen und damit einen wichtigen Beitrag zur bislang ungeschriebenen Sound-Geschichte zu leisten - mit Beispielen, die von den Beatles und Stones über Kraftwerk, Ramones und Nirvana bis hin zu Blumfeld, den Strokes oder zur so genannten Weltmusik reichen.
Albiez, Sean (2003) - 'Sounds of Future Past: from Neu! to Numan' in Phleps, T and von Appen, R (eds.) POP
SOUNDS: Klangtexturen in der Pop - und Rockmusik. Bielefelder, Germany:Transcript-Verlag
Sean Albie z
In late 1970s and early 80s European rock and pop music a predominantly Deutsch-Englisch
creative network of musicians forged a sonic futurscape1, an imagined world of trans-local
musical activity, constituted through the exploration of new electronic synthesised sounds
and the radical re-invention of guitar based Anglo-American rock music. At the heart of this
futurscape was music embodying the notion that manipulating sound through recording
technology, the mixing desk, sound processors and tape editing was fundamental to the
creative musical process. Traditional criteria of musicality seemed peripheral in efforts to
reinvent the sonicality of rock music. Creative connections and collaborations were
inadvertently and formally constructed across the futurscape when artists deployed new
synthesizer and sequencer technologies within ›progressive‹ electronic music.2 This music
crossed over and brought into question the heavily policed ›iron curtain‹ between legitimate
1 After Anderson (1983), and Appadurai (1993) who argued contemporary global conditions are
characterised by chaotic dynamic cultural flows across scapes (ethnoscapes, technoscapes,
finanscapes, mediascapes and ideoscapes) that vary in velocity, extent and effect the sonic
futurscape is a nodal imaginary cultural space through which a Deutsch-Englisch imaginary musical
network consciously or inadvertently exchanged overlapping musical and thematic ideas and
2 Weinstein defines progressive rock as »rather less than a genre and a lot more than one, too […]
its defining feature is not a set of concrete sonic elements, such as particular rhythms or
instrumentation. Instead, progressive rock is distinguished by a conceptual trope: the appropriation
of nonpopular musical forms […] the sources are classical music, jazz and avant-garde music«
(Weinstein 2002: 91). It is the argument of this paper that progressive can be applied to future-
oriented electronic musics that attempted to question and critique mainstream Anglo-American rock
by the adoption of new sounds, strategies, instrumentation, sonic textures and in some cases,
musical modes. For example, in Gary Numan's »Are Friends Electric?« »the pitch material does not
have a pentatonic basis, setting it apart from styles of rock that consciously owe their origins to
rhythm'n'blues« (Moore 2001: 153).
marginal rock and illegitimate mainstream pop and disco, though arguably it was only after
the international success of Kraftwerk's Autobahn in 1975 that a broad awareness of the
possibilities of electronic music permeated the consciousness of musicians at large.
However, this music actually emerged a decade before from 1960s counter-cultural
electronic and musical experimentation in West Germany (e.g. Tangerine Dream) and
England (e.g. Pink Floyd), as well as from more ›commercial‹ contexts (e.g. Jean Jacques
Perrey and Gershon Kingsley).
In particular, German musicians in the late 1960s and early 1970s created a new
›indigenous‹ musical, or more precisely, sonic vocabulary that was ostensibly no longer in
awe of Anglo-American rock music. They embraced cyber-mysticism, ›freakout‹
improvisations, space-age electronic sound collages, ethnic and makeshift instruments, and
fresh compositional and recording methods often splicing together tracks from long-form
home studio jams. In doing so they helped shape the (still) future trajectory of popular
music across the Western world, from 70s and 80s synthesizer rock to ambient music3 to
black musics in the American context such as Electro, Hip-Hop and Techno. Eshun depicted
this process of influence by suggesting Kraftwerk epitomised
»the white soul of the synthesiser, die Seele der Synthesizer, the ultra whiteness of an
automatic sequenced future. To Model 500, [Kraftwerk] sounded straight up like they were
living in a computer […] Bambaataa steals the synthetic soul from Düsseldorf [and] bastardizes it
into Planet Rock. Kraftwerk happily called their sound Industriell Volk Musik […] For Techno,
Düsseldorf is the Mississippi Delta« (Eshun 1998: 100)
By deconstructing rock and roll ›traditions(whether established instrument combinations,
generic conventions, compositional techniques, temporal, tonal or dynamic sonic
parameters) and the overt retro-classicism found elsewhere in post-60s progressive popular
music, a number of German musicians attempted to idiosyncratically reflect on the
contemporary West German experience. There were regional ›clusters‹ of artists: Munich
(jazz, psychedelia and ethnic elements) Guru Guru, Popol Vuh, Amon Düül II; Berlin (free
electronic or Kosmische Musik) Klaus Schulze, Ash Ra Tempel, Tangerine Dream, Mythos;
Cologne (counter-cultural political rock composed from eclectic sources and pieced together
on the cutting table) Can; Düsseldorf (minimalistic, disciplined, repetitive electronic
music) Neu!, Kraftwerk, Cluster and La Düsseldorf. Faust believed that musicians should
create their own means of expression (usually from metal, sledgehammers and bricks and
other detritus of industrial production). Based at Wümme near Bremen they defined the
approach of German musicians stating:
3 Eno's adoption of the term ambient music referred generally to »music that surrounded the listener
with a sense of spaciousness and depth, encompassing one on all sides rather than coming at the
listener. It blended with the sounds of the environment, and seemed to invite one to listen musically
to the environment itself« (Tamm 1995: 131-132). It could be argued that all of the music addressed
in this study is ambient in one way or another, whether referring to a contemporary technological
or virtually constructed future sound environment. There is no ambient noise in outer space, but
Kosmische musicians and Eno (most directly on Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks) created an
anaphonic ambience that drew from the perceived sensation of weightlessness in an anaerobic
»Unlike rock musicians in other countries, this new breed of German musicians is not interested
in imitating what's gone before them. They're looking for new sounds and new forms of
expression [my emphasis]. Their music is no hand-me-down Beatles or Stones or the white man's
idea of R&B. It's their own, building as much on the immense tradition of German music as on
the Anglo-Saxon-dominated traditions of current pop” (Faust press release quoted in DeRogatis
1996: 125).
These scenes as a whole opened doorways into sonic territory that have never been closed.
This German critique of rock reversed the usual flows of the Anglo-American musical
hegemony to the extent that a new Deutsch-Englisch alliance formed in late 1970s music
making which went on to shape the future trajectories of Western popular music.
In parallel with Kraftwerk's success, artists who had already been involved with
electronics at an earlier stage made an increasingly conscious effort to deal with the new
musical, textural and sonic possibilities of synthesizers that were becoming increasingly
accessible throughout the 1970s. Brian Eno and David Bowie both individually and in
partnership led such experimentation in the mainstream currents of Anglo-American popular
music, but both were enthralled and informed by the work of German ›Krautrockers‹ a
British label of dubious heritage (Prendergast 2000: 278-279). Most specifically they admired
the musicians who constituted the network of musical activity working since the early 1970s
under the names Kraftwerk, Neu!, Kluster, Cluster, Harmonia and La Düsseldorf. These
bands were connected backwards to Ash Ra Tempel, Schulze et al (most specifically through
Hans Joachim Roedelius of Cluster) but were also distinctively linked to British electronic
music as it developed in the late 1970s. Eno's interest in the work of these bands resulted in
collaborations with Cluster and Harmonia on three albums in the late 1970s (Cluster & Eno,
After The Heat and Harmonia '76). Bowie's unsuccessful efforts to encourage Kraftwerk and
Neu! to work with him did not prevent his ›Berlin period‹ albums Low, Heroes and Lodger,
and his collaborations with Iggy Pop, from owing a great deal to these reluctant fellow
musical travellers (Neu!'s »Hero« inspiring Bowie's »Heroes« and Pop's »Fun Time«; »V2
Schneider« and »Mass Production« were homages to Kraftwerk). However, Eno's work on
Bowie's albums constructed an indirect but distinct creative connection with artists
operating in the German context.
Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s a key figure at the hub of experimental musical
practice in the German and later British contexts was Conny Plank. He operated as a
producer, musician, engineer and facilitator with Cluster, Kraftwerk, Neu!, La Düsseldorf,
DAF, Devo and (as well as Eno) Ultravox. Through this web of connectivity, with Plank and
Eno acting as conduits as much as instigators, a relatively diverse set of musicians shared
common technical, musical and aesthetic resources that blended and fused into a European
sonic futurscape. This futurscape operated spatially and (con)temporally and connected the
previously mentioned with other electronic artists in the British context. For example, The
Human League credited ›Krautrock‹ as an influence on the sleeve of their »Being Boiled«
single. Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, PiL and Joy Division / New Order created a more
pessimistic, dystopian and self-conscious art-industrial aesthetic that drew from Can and
other German bands. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) recorded a track »4-Neu« in
1983 which was a clear homage to Neu!'s »Leb Wohl«. At the end of the 1970s, Gary Numan,
heavily influenced by Ultravox's Systems of Romance and Neu!, transported the European
sonic futurscape into the mainstream pop market with »Are ›Friends‹ Electric?« and »Cars«.
From Neu! to Numan we can map a diverse but connected European sonic network
negotiated and forged by artists attempting to construct a progressive sonic vocabulary.
However, too often in popular music analysis, internal hierarchies of perceived cultural
value obstruct the understanding of the connectedness of music making practice. Partly due
to the later overt commercial success of OMD, John Foxx, Numan, the Human League and
Ultravox priority is often given in studies such as this to artists perceived as culturally
marginal, and who have operated then and since within a prescribed field of avant-garde
anti-mainstream practice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, it was hard to differentiate the
avant-garde from the mainstream in electronic music and as such, influential electronic
artists such as Jean Michel Jarre (France) and Giorgio Moroder should not remain
unacknowledged. The German based disco producer Moroder is specifically important to the
European futurscape.
Though Moroder was an Italian, he operated in the 1960s and 1970s almost entirely in
Germany, based in Musicland Studios in Munich. Moroder produced an experimental
electronic album Einzelgänger in 1975 and in 1977 he worked in collaboration with the
English Peter Bellotte on the Donna Summer hit »I Feel Love« and the album From Here to
Eternity that introduced Moog ›machinic‹ sequencing and the thudding drum machine 4/4-
patterns to European and American pop and disco. Eno and Bowie (a later collaborator) and
music journalists were entranced by the electronic futurscape that Moroder was consciously
constructing, and he was widely popular both in Europe and the United States. Later
electronic artists such as New Order were influenced as much by Moroder as Kraftwerk, and
it has been argued that Kraftwerk's Man Machine owes more to Moroder than is usually
acknowledged (Mackinnon 1978: 5). Mackinnon suggests rock and music commentators in the
1970s discussed how Moroder dehumanised disco by formulating »a sono-track for much
more than just another auto-style age« and »even introduced an entirely novel ›post-Euro-
industrial‹ sensibility into modern dancing methods« (ibid.: 1). However, like Bowie, Eno
and Kraftwerk, Moroder was as interested in American disco, funk and soul as electronic
music (in particular the Motown and Philadelphia sound it should also be observed that
Kraftwerk's Man-Machine was mixed in the USA by Motown-connected producer Leanard
Jackson). It is important to note that in the late 1970s Bowie, Eno, Kraftwerk and Moroder
were viewed as creating not only the future of rock, but also the future of dance music
(ibid.). This demonstrates that even within the Europeanism of artists in the sonic
futurscape, the cultural flow of black American music into this space is clear, and perhaps
partly explains the later ›re-appropriation‹ of this music by artists such as Afrika Bambaataa
and Cybotron. Eno in particular was interested in the futurism of Parliament and Funkadelic,
and in cultural hybridity, and in 1978 considered the possibilities saying:
»I think it would make a saleable combination if Kraftwerk employed Parliament, or the other
way around. It would be interesting if you had the Parliament group playing bass, and Kraftwerk
playing the drums. There would be a cross-cultural hybrid, especially if everybody stuck to their
guns« (Eno quoted in Tamm 1995: 19).
It is my contention that the artists included in this study (admittedly from different cultural
positions and perspectives) consciously attempted to construct future-oriented soundscapes
from common cultural resources in a historical period where technology of any sort was as
likely to be viewed as an answer as much as a threat to humanity. As will be discussed
below, in one way or another, these artists ›performed‹ the utopian and dystopian
preoccupations of science fiction with technology in their records the sonic futurscape
constructed by Neu!, Numan, Bowie, Eno, Kraftwerk, Cabaret Voltaire, and the Human
League specifically draws from the speculative futures of Dick, Ballard, Burroughs, Toffler,
McLuhan and others.4 However the dystopian bleakness of lyrical content is often
contradicted by the utopian, celebratory relationship to technology and its potential. This is
represented in the exuberant use of the synthesizer to carry a foregrounded and exultant
melody line (Ultravox's »Slow Motion«, Numan's »Cars«) which counteracts ambiguous lyrical
pessimism, and in Neu!'s »Hero«, where we can imagine the ecstatic road-punk Klaus Dinger
driving at breakneck velocity around the streets of Düsseldorf to his Marinetti-like Futurist
delight, both vulnerable and intoxicated by speed.
Son ic F u t u r s c a p e
How can we characterise the trans-geographical/trans-national creative space within which
these musicians operated? Toynbee's (2000) reconfiguration of Bourdieu's (1984) concepts of
habitus, strategy and field in his »radius of creativity« helps us understand the individual
experience of musicians operating in the cultural field of the sonic futurscape and the
creative interchange between musicians. He argues that making popular music is not an
intuitive act of self-expression musicians are active creative agents but their modes of
expression are heavily prescribed. Toynbee suggests a musician's habitus (personal cultural
dispositions) pre-dispose a musician to a set of approaches to playing, writing and
performing Bourdieu calls these strategies. These strategies are deployed on a cultural
field a prescribed space of music production and practices. Augmenting Bourdieu, Toynbee
suggests it is the space of possibles that is key to understanding musical creativity. Possibles
arise in the relationship between the habitus, the musical works and the likelihood of
selection from the field of cultural production. This forms the basis of the radius of
creativity - a figurative space demonstrating the likely creative possibles of an individual
agent, and the relative likelihood of the creator selecting from these possibles. From the
radius the creator constructs an individual voice. This voice speaks through musical
›languages‹ that are »already populated with the social intentions of others [but the
creator] compels [them] to serve [their] own new intentions« (Bakhtin quoted in Toynbee
2000: 46).
The individual radius of creativity is not only a given objective space ›out there‹.
Through negotiation and discrimination musicians create an ›in here‹ experience. Their
4 For example, Numan (who changed his assumed name, found in a phone book, from Neumann to
Numan to avoid being associated with Bowie's Berlin fixation and adoption of German influences)
was inspired by Philip K. Dick, Orwell, Ballard, Asimov, Saberhagen, and William Burroughs (Numan
1998: 36). Cabaret Voltaire acknowledged the same sources (Juno & Vale 1983: 47).
idiomatic choices enable them to construct a bank of works from which they draw creative
sustenance. This bank is sometimes tangible (a record collection/artist's recorded
works/performances attended) or made so through the creative process (a predilection for
certain sonic strategies and techniques), and is the basis of what is commonly called
›musical influences‹.
Musicians involved in the sonic futurscape of late 1970s Deutsch-Englisch rock through
collaborating, referencing and acknowledging each others work, created a shared repository
of sonic techniques and resources which operated across the intersecting radii of individual
musicians. Michael Rother of Harmonia and Neu! implicitly acknowledges saying:
»Everybody in Harmonia was really fond of the first [Eno] Roxy Music albums, but we didn't want
to draw from those for our own music […] Brian's later albums (Another Green World, Before &
After Science etc.) I liked a lot. But I always had the rule that my own work shouldn't possibly
be influenced But of course an exertion of influence never can be ruled out, even if it is not
desire […] Fact of the matter is that nobody lives by himself on an island and creates his music
out of a vacuum. And this applies to all of us« (Rother quoted in Hargus 1998).
The sonic futurscape of the 1970s was therefore constructed both consciously and
unconsciously by artists working in the shadow and light of each others works. The shared
repository of texts, references and touchstones became trans-locational foundations upon
which social and individual authorship rested.
But why sonic futurscape when it is clear that these musicians were the product of
creative and cultural currents specific to the historical 1970s? The answer is twofold. Firstly,
these artists opened up and explored sonic territory that only could have been purposefully
produced and controlled by the new synthesizer and sequencer technologies of the 1970s.
This was extended into the manipulation of traditional rock instruments which were
exploited in new ways through the processing of their sounds for example, Robert Fripp's
guitar processed through Eno's EMS VCS 3 on Bowie's »Heroes« in the performance,
recording and mixing process (Dalton and Hughes 2001: 60). Since the late 1980s artists have
returned time and again to the creative and sonic resources of the 1970s in electronica,
drum and bass, hip hop and techno as well as in ›progressive‹ areas of contemporary rock
(e.g. Radiohead). Due to this chronological inversion, to listen today to this late 1970s music
is to listen to the past, present and future. This music of the sonic futurscape seems
prescient as rock and dance musicians from the late 1980s onwards returned continually to
this moment, and to the sonic characteristics and continuities of this music. It also seems
surprising, not least because »never before (or since) has so much experimental, avant-
garde, even just plain weird, music connected with the general public on such a grand
scale« (Lester 2000). It is ironic that this nostalgia for »future past« is met by a nostalgia for
»the future to come« (Prendergast 2000: 299) in Eno, and in Kraftwerk's retro-futurist Radio-
Activity and Trans Europe Express. Bowie suggests that his ›Berlin‹ albums »really captured
unlike anything else in that time, a sense of yearning for a future that we all knew would
never come to pass« (Bowie quoted in Dalton and Hughes 2001: 66).
Secondly, a broader point needs to be made about the role of machine and electronic
sound in the media and music culture, and material spaces of the twentieth century.
Schafer argues that machines polluted what he called the twentieth century soundscape
such that machine noise became ubiquitous. He characterises this stating:
»God was a first rate acoustical engineer. We have been more inept in the design of our
machines. For noise represents escaped energy. The perfect machine would be a silent
machine: all energy used efficiently. The human anatomy […] is the best machine we know and
it ought to be our model in terms of engineering perfection« (Schafer 1994: 207).
He suggests twentieth-century silence was always infiltrated by electronic noise and drones,
and noted »Electrical equipment will often produce resonant harmonics and in a quiet city
at night a whole series of steady pitches may be heard from street lighting, signs or
generators« (ibid.: 99). Schafer demonstrated how the acoustic environment influences our
fundamental perception of sound, with studies demonstrating how European students
reproduced the »resonant electrical frequency of 60 cycles […] G-Sharp [heard in all
electrical devices from lights and amplifiers to generators] […] when asked to hum the tone
of ›prime unity‹ [the central sound against which all other vibrations may be measured]«
Since the beginning of the twentieth century, ›accidental‹ electronic noise had also been
observed emanating from the wiring of electronic communication technologies. Radio from
an early period received other-worldly noises that inventors assumed were space
communications, and telephone circuits would transmit ›snaps, bird chirps and ghostly
grinding noises‹ Kraftwerk's Radio-Activity and OMD's Dazzleships both contain hymns to
this phenomenon. Thomas Watson, listening to these noises in the early twentieth century in
the Bell Laboratory stated:
»My theory at the time was that the currents causing these sounds came from explosions from
the sun or that they were signals from another planet. They were mystic enough to suggest the
latter explanation but I never detected any regularity in them that would indicate they were
intelligent signals« (Watson quoted in Davis 1999: 18).
These sounds were hidden in the wiring of twentieth century technology until the Theremin,
Ondes Martenot and later electronic instruments were developed and utilised in music and
film soundtracks (the Theremin used in The Lost Weekend (1945) and the Ondes Martenot
used in the Star Trek TV series theme, and later by Radiohead on Kid A and Amnesiac). The
film Forbidden Planet (1956) has an all electronic soundtrack by Louis and Bebe Barron
which Brophy (1997: 32) suggests »signposts the clumsy audio visual fusion of ›electronics‹
with ›sci-fi‹ which persists today. In the 90s, outer space still sounds downright weird and
outwardly electronic«. Brophy points out the illogical nature of ›space music‹; there is no
sound in space, and certainly no cavernous reverb as utilised in Forbidden Planet. He
further argues that:
»The post-war space race introduced an array of […] illogical, crazed and charming sono-musical
icons: the arrhythmic, echo-laden twang of rockabilly singers yodelling about atomic power […]
the joy of twiddling the dial on portable short-wave radios; the cosmic and orgasmic symphonies
of Theremins, oscillators and vibraphones on record and in the cinema« (ibid.: 32).
As such twentieth century culture was suffused with machine and electronic sound, but it is
not until the 1970s that this sound could easily be generated and accessibly shaped,
controlled and deployed within popular music. The Futurist Russolo and his noise machines,
Varese, Stockhausen, Cage and others had employed electronic sound in modernist
electronic music throughout the twentieth century, but the equipment used had been out of
the reach of popular musicians. This new accessibility was made possible through the
availability and relative cheapness of synthesizers (e.g. EMS VCS 3, A.R.P. Pro Soloist,
MiniMoog, Korg MS 10 and Roland SH1000), integral or external sequencers and rhythm
programming machines. It was also made possible through the ›DIY‹ ethic (a pre and post-
punk pursuit in electronic music) embraced by Kraftwerk, OMD and Bernard Sumner of Joy
Division / New Order who adapted or built their own electronic synthesizers and
instruments. Arguably, it was because of the audience's previous exposure to electronic
sounds in film, media, expos and exhibitions5, radio jingles and advertising that there
existed a broad acceptance of electronic sound as ›musical‹. Artists were therefore able to
incorporate these sonic materials and textures into popular music making with audiences
already receptive to these new sounds. It was both their cultural familiarity as space music
or sci-fi soundtrack, and innovative qualities (new textures and timbres in the sonic arsenal
of musicians) that enabled popular music in the 1970s to embrace electronic sound.
It was paradoxically within the ›non-representational‹ uses of this equipment in
Kosmische and other German music and British synthesizer rock where the greatest sense of
sonic innovation was found. When synthesizers were freed from endeavouring to simulate
analogue instruments they came into their own as tools to exploit a broad and diverse field
of new electronic sound timbres and textures. When they were freed from the virtuoso
Romantic performances of the more elaborate progressive musicians (e.g. Rick Wakeman
and Keith Emerson), synthesizers became tools to create new modes of sonic expression.
Particularly in the synthesised sequencer patterns of Tangerine Dream, Giorgio Moroder and
Kraftwerk the ability to use machines as tools to push music into new sonic ›in-human‹
dimensions was implicitly celebrated. Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk in 1975 stated that when he
listened to Rick Wakeman »He is something else […] distraction. It's not electronic music, its
circus tricks on the synthesizer. I think it is paranoid. I don't want to put anybody down, but
I cannot listen to it. I get nervous. It is traditional« (Bangs 1996: 159).
Son ic C o n t i n u i t i e s
In approaching the theoretical dimension of the sonic futurscape of 1970s popular music, it
is important to consider the chief aural theoretician, Brian Eno, who as precursor,
collaborator and facilitator created a progressive intellectuality that spoke for and through
many other Anglo-German electronic and progressive artists. As Tamm suggests, the key
innovation of Eno then, and since in his work with U2 and others, has been to sideline
musical notation as a criterion for aesthetic or compositional judgement. Instead he
concentrated on »aspects of musical style which are extremely important in popular music,
but which are difficult or impossible to notate, such as overall ›sound‹ (or what are known
as ›production values‹), timbre, vocal quality and nuance, and ornamentation« (Tamm 1995:
9). Eno was responsible for overtly highlighting the importance and potential of
concentrating on timbre (tone colour »what makes the same note played on a violin, a
trumpet, or a xylophone sound different«, ibid.: 3) and sonic texture. It was through
5 For example, Varese's Poeme Electronique at the Brussels World Fair in 1958.
emphasising these para-musical aspects of sonic creativity that Eno was able, alongside
others in the futurscape, to develop a new arena for popular/art music experimentation.
Crucially, Eno often identified himself as a non-musician to emphasise his lack of interest in
musicality per se and to affirm his interest in sonicality. It has been suggested his key
contribution to late 1970s rock in the receptive punk and post-punk period was to stimulate
»countless young artists to liberate themselves from the musical conventions in which they
had been raised, and to follow no dogma including Kraftwerk's techno-rock gospel
blindly« (Doerschuk quoted in Tamm 1995: 170). Therefore, his collaborative contribution to
the sonic re-invention of rock music is wide-ranging and profound.
Particularly in the post-1975 period, and as a response to the affirmation of minimalism,
simplicity and directness found in punk and new wave, Eno was able to work across a range
of musics and creatively inf(l)ected (and was inf(l)ected by) the work of Bowie, Cluster,
Ultravox, Robert Fripp, Devo, David Byrne and others. Gary Numan (on Telekon and Dance)
and OMD were also both consciously referencing Eno and those who had worked with him in
the sonic futurscape. This does not necessarily mean that Numan deployed Eno's, or anybody
else's, intellectual innovations around musical systems and ›oblique strategies‹ (aids to
compositional improvisation). Numan heard in Eno's music the outcome of his intellectual
play and on Dance employed in practice some of the textures and timbres; Eno's »Sky Saw«
from Another Green World is a direct ancestor (fretless bass, heavily synthesizer-processed
guitar, vocal delivery) of Numan's »She's Got Claws« and »A Subway Called ›You‹«; Eno's
»Over Fire Island« a precursor of Numan's »Slowcar To China«.
Equally, Neu!'s yearning high guitar lines and the soporific rhythm of »Seeland« resonate
in Numan / Tubeway Army's »Replicas«, and the sweet synthesizer lines of Neu!'s »Isi« are
echoed in »When the Machine's Rock«. Cluster's rhythm machines and slowly evolving
arpeggiated patterns in Sowiesoso and Zuckerzeit are acknowledged in Numan's »Cry, the
Clock Said«.
Obviously Numan was not alone in engaging with these works. In the British context,
London clubs such as Blitz and Heroes purveyed what was termed ›Electro-Disco‹ to their
audience a mixture of aspiring and successful musicians, style journalists and club-goers.
In 1981, Rusty Egan (who alongside Steve Strange was the Heroes club promoter and
member of Visage) spoke of the key influence of German electronic artists in Britain (though
his interviewer was obviously not familiar enough with the artists to spell their names
»›Electro-disco is the label that's been slapped on it. Among the most requested items are such
unusual fare as Self Portrait by Rodelius, News by Mobius and Conny Planck as well as sundry
other tracks by La Düsseldorf and, the founding fathers of the whole style, Kraftwerk« (Stand
1981: 38).
This is just one indication of the connected nature of progressive electronic musics in the
Deutsch-Englisch futurscape, but demonstrates the wider connective relations between
artists and consumers operating at this time across this inter-cultural space. Conny Plank is
also crucial in understanding the relations between artists across this space.
It is evident that Plank was a prolific instigator and collaborator who nurtured and
worked with many German and British bands across the sonic futurscape. In his case,
however, the joy was seemingly in the doing of music rather than in the intellectual
strategies often favoured by Eno. He had a great deal of success as a producer but refused
to expand ›Conny's Studio‹ as he preferred its private and intimate atmosphere (Bussy 2001:
66). His contribution as a whole, working with Eno, La Düsseldorf, Neu!, DAF, Holger Czukay
and Ultravox among others, was no less important than Eno's and his legacy can be found in
the work of these artists. He acted as a point of reference and creative inspiration in the
network of artists creating electronic music.
In the investigation of the work of the artists outlined above, an analytical framework is
necessary through which to organise the discussion of timbre and texture in revealing sonic
continuities that is, the sonic elements that connect these music.6 It is important to note
that most of these artists combined electronic instruments with other electric and acoustic
instruments (e.g. Ultravox and Numan used, alongside synthesizers, piano, electric bass
guitars, acoustic drums, violas and violins), but the universal emphasis on the sonic
dimensions of the music resulted in old and new combining in progressive and innovative
works. For the purpose of this study, two organising categories are suggested to aid the
mapping of the sonic futurscape these works constructed and operated within.7
1) M ac h i n e R o c k : t h e S o u n d s o f I n d u s t r y a n d Trav el
Kraftwerk's album Man Machine (1978) concretised in visual and sonic iconography the
futurist strands that constitute ›machine rock‹. The relationship of humanity and machines
had been previously explored (e.g. in Klaus Schulze's instrumental album Cyber), but
Kraftwerk created a distinct sonic environment of robots, space labs and neon lights in a
retro-futurist ›Metropolis‹ with a Russian constructivist visual setting. Others followed
Kraftwerk's lead in the British context, with Gary Numan using the term ›machine rock‹ in
describing the music he was attempting to forge after discovering the synthesizer. How can
we specify the sonic elements that constitute machine rock?
Machine rock, in sonic, rhythmic and textural terms can be identified by the associative
terms of reference of sound events whether synthesised or other electronic sounds that
signify for the listener rapid machine motion and noise, human movement, displacement
6 Tagg and Collins (2001) mapped in a study of 1980s and 1990s Industrial music the key oppositions
in the connotations of the genre's soundscape, mapping the sonic aesthetics of bands such as Front
Line Assembly and Front 242. These oppositions (Dirty v. Clean, Chaos v. Simplicity, Low-tech v.
High tech sounds, Low Pitch v. High Pitch, Heavy v. Light, Male v. Female, Monotone, percussive
noise v. melody, song) represent the later elaboration of the sonic aesthetics that were at a
developmental, ›becoming‹ stage at the turn of the 1980s in electronic and proto-industrial music of
the sonic futurscape.
7 This suffices as a point of departure in analysing these musics, but as in any attempt to illuminate
a subject of study through mapping unambiguous distinctions, it quickly becomes clear that the
subject is not neatly reducible to a binary model. This taxonomy of sound is not meant to suggest
that late 1970s electronic popular music can be understood as fitting conveniently into either of
these categories. There are some general characteristics which mean that these categories are
useful analytical tools, but they are not mutually exclusive or fixed. The examples given for each
exhibit a certain commonality and evince a way into understanding this music a longer study would
further develop this mapping.
and relocation (e.g. as a passenger, rider, driver or pilot). This is proto-industrial music with
its sonic dimension homologous with the electronic and industrial soundscape of the
twentieth century. Tagg (1999) proposes the term ›anaphone‹ (meaning the imitation of
existing events, actions, emotions and experiences through the formation of musical sounds)
as a way into understanding how this music represents the sound of hyper-techno-modernity
in a sonic futurscape inhabited by the sounds of future past. Biba Kopf exemplified how this
is represented in the music of Neu! Suggesting:
»Neu! music is not so much a matter of musical composition it's a competition of velocities.
Powered by a rhythmic tic clawing the asphalt the basis of all motorik disco to follow
yearning, yawning guitar noises race against each other, some accelerating ahead, others
receding in the distance. And every now and then a menacing bass rumble hurtles past in the
outside lane« (Kopf 1999: 50).
Drawing from Tagg (1999: 25) we can describe Neu!'s music as suffused with kinetic
anaphones the sounds of human and machine movement through time and space. The
machine-human interface is emphasised, and in the case of Moroder and Kraftwerk, music
becomes a machine to move in. Neu!'s motoric rhythm becomes the repetitive beat of disco-
trance. Ralf Hütter of Kraftwerk explained »the dynamism of the machines, the ›soul‹ of the
machines, has always been a part of our music« and that »the machines produce an
absolutely perfect trance« (Bussy 2001: 99). Kraftwerk's interest in James Brown and
Parliament, and 1970s performances in the USA where a large part of their audience »was
dancing, the black audience, Hispanic, hispano-American« (ibid.: 115) demonstrates their
simultaneous operation outside the white rock context. From the mid-1970s machine rock
was perceived by black and white audiences in Europe and the USA, as ›machine disco‹ or
›disko‹ – rather than de-humanising, machines re-humanised the individual through the
›industry‹ of dancing. The integral kineticism of these works produced a desire to move to
the music the ›head‹ intellectualism of Kraftwerk and ›body‹ pragmatism of Moroder
resulted in the same outcome dance.
The following are some examples of kineticism in machine rock:
- The clearest examples of the kinetic anaphones of machine rock can be found in
Kraftwerk's synthesised representation of train travel in »Trans-Europe Express« and
the portamento, ›Doppler effect‹ synthesizer sweeps in this song and »Autobahn«.
- Bowie's »Speed Of Life« has a synthesizer texture throughout that sounds like machine
deceleration (a downward change to a ›Low‹ gear). –
- It is in the ›motoricdrumming of Neu! and rhythm programming of Kraftwerk, OMD,
Cluster, New Order and others that the machine-like nature of machine rock can be
most easily identified. Motoric rhythm is not about pure speed but about machine-like
consistency and discipline. Neu!'s Klaus Dinger drummed in imitation of a drum
machine with repetitive beats embellished by occasional fills. Asymmetrical or
polyrhythmic beats can be found employed by Cluster in »Hollywood« and »Rote Riki«
from Zuckerzeit but they are still motor-rhythmic as they are produced by rhythm
programmers or sequencers. They suggest a subtle competition between machines
rather than the mono-rhythmic drive of Neu!.
- The sequencer programming of Moroder on »I Feel Love« and »From Here To Eternity«
self-referentially employs machines to imitate machines and produces a template for
long form trance to come.
- The portamento glissando slide effect where pitch change between notes is more or
less gradual is also used as a kinetic anaphone representing machines starting, sirens
calling or bombers diving as in Numan's single »Bombers«.
- Phasing used on synthesizer lines also references our experience of machine noise
aircraft flying overhead Bowie's »Moss Garden« and spatial movement over time,
and in some cases this is interspersed with recorded machine noise as in La
Düsseldorf's »Düsseldorf« with airport ambience and the sound of a plane taking off.
- High pitched synthesizer sounds suggest exuberance and flight and low drones are
ominous, threatening and signify machine monotony. Gary Numan's »Cars« employs a
sonic duality, beginning with a low drone (an idling car engine) and finishing with
competing high synthesizer lines representing machines or cars in motion.
- Kinetic music signifies restlessness, escape from the static, from stillness to
progressive movement, forever onwards (Neu! - »Für Immer«).
- The sounds of future technologies usually random synthesizer textures, bleeps and
whirrs used to denote computers and electronic technology in operation (»I Dream Of
Wires« Numan and throughout Kraftwerk's Man Machine and Computer World) a
technique referencing science fiction film and TV soundscapes / soundtracks (e.g.
Star Trek), but not necessarily reflecting the actual sounds of the workings or
operation of computers (though computers do contribute to the electronic soundscape
in operation at the level of hums, whirrs and drones at a less consciously perceived
It has to be noted that though this study focuses on the sonic futurscape of Deutsch-Englisch
music, it is essential to acknowledge the thematic continuities that these musics share.
Lyrical content, particularly in British electronic rock after Kraftwerk, often focuses
obsessively on machines and technology (sometimes underpinned by machine-like delivery
with a spoken, deadened timbre Kraftwerk, Numan, and John Foxx). Often these are
technologies of travel, but also reference the broad sweep of twentieth century technology.
At different times the tracks are critical, ambiguous and/or celebratory sometimes neo-
Futurist other times dystopian. Kraftwerk alongside the previously mentioned technologies
in the 1980s dealt with computers and bicycles (techno-nostalgic and futurist). Song titles
also provide evidence of the sonic and textual homologies evident in this music; in Ultravox's
»I Want To Be A Machine«, »Maximum Acceleration« and through to John Foxx's solo
8 Other examples that can be broadly described as machine rock include:
Neu!: »Hallogallo«, »Lila Engel (Lilac Angel)«, »After Eight«; Harmonia: »Dino«, »Veterano«;
Tubeway Army: »Are Friends Electric?«; Bowie: »Always Crashing in the Same Car«, »Beauty
& the Beast«, »Joe the Lion«, »Heroes«, »Blackout«, »Red Sails«, »Look Back in Anger«; Eno: »Third
Uncle«, »Kings Lead Hat«; Joy Division / New Order: »Isolation«, »Everything's Gone Green«, »Your
Silent Face«.
»Underpass«, »Metal Beat« and in his recent album The Pleasures of Electricity9; Numan's
»Airlane«, »Cars«, »Metal«, »Engineers«, »I Dream of Wires«; OMD particularly took the lead
of Kraftwerk in dealing with technological themes with »Electricity«, »The Messerschmitt
Twins«, »Enola Gay«, »Sealand«, »ABC Auto-Industry«, »Telegraph«, and »The Romance Of
The Telescope«; Simple Minds also followed these thematic trends with »Factory«, »Thirty
Frames A Second«, »Theme for Great Cities« and »20th Century Promised Land«.
Alongside this thematic content, bands also wore their techno-electronic hearts on their
sleeves in espousing ›futurist‹ manifestos. La Düsseldorf began Viva with the phrase »The
Future is calling«; Kraftwerk spoke of home computers beaming operators ›into the future‹;
The Human League in early publicity material stated: »Interested in combining the best of
all possible worlds, the Human League would like to positively affect the future by close
attention to the present, allying technology with humanity and humour«10; OMD were
»Pretending to See the Future« but often with an amount of ambivalence as to the potential
for human progress, and the ethical problems of new technologies (›Genetic Engineering‹).
2) Oc ea n i c R o c k : t h e S o u n d s o f S t a s i s
Whether found in Eno and his ambient works, Neu!, Cluster with or without Eno, Tangerine
Dream's Phaedra and Rubycon, or Bowie's instrumentals, ›oceanic rock‹ is contemplative,
resting but sonically and texturally still searching for the new. The oceans of oceanic rock
are not to be confused with ›nature‹ as opposed to ›artificial‹ machine rock. The oceans
evoked within this music are as likely to be the lunar Sea of Tranquillity or the space oceans
between terrestrial objects. This is music about immersive space accessed through, for
example, imaginary inter-stellar travel as much as terrestrial trans-local movement across
the earth's oceans.
The term most synonymous with Eno since the late 1970s has been ambient. His
›oceanic‹ Music For Airports was a contemplative soundscape emphasising the aesthetics of
stasis gentleness and quietness, non-developmental, cyclic, sparse, layered and balanced
with pulses rather than rhythms (Tamm 1995: 132).
However, oceanic rock music is not synonymous with serenity it can also be disquieting
rather than consoling and calming. Cluster II contains synthesised electronic drones which
are non-developmental and cyclic, but in terms of sonic texture the anaphonic associations
suggested are darkness, tension and malevolent machinery. Harmonia's »Ohr Wurm« is as
equally unsettling. Bowie/Eno's »Warszawa«, »Subterraneans«, »Sense Of Doubt« and
»Neuköln« also contain elements of sonic dissonance that make for uneasy listening. Joy
Divisions »The Eternal« and New Order's »Doubts Even Here« share a similar bleak beauty
with OMD's »Statues«. As such, oceanic rock may contain what is described as ambient
music, but contrary to the later conflation of ambient and ›chill out‹ does not necessarily
9 John Foxx in collaboration with Louis Gordon has recently returned to his early 1980s electronic
style and themes with a clearly pro-technological, progressive and future-nostalgist set of songs
(»Cities of Light«, »Automobile«, »Camera« and »Travel«).
10 From the sleevenotes of The Golden Hour of the Future: Recordings by The Future and The Human
League. London: Black Melody 2002.
signify peace and tranquillity. David Toop proposed the term ›oceanic‹ to describe music
that does not assault and demand avid attention but intellectually or spiritually enfolds the
listener suggesting:
»As the world has moved towards becoming an information ocean, so music has become
immersive. Listeners float in that ocean; musicians have become virtual travellers, creators of
sonic theatre, transmitters of all the signals received across the aether« (Toop 1995: iii).
This is apparently true if we survey the evidence of the twentieth century explosion of
popular and other musics due to travel, mass communication, recorded sound and computer
networks. But the ›signals‹ transmitted across the aether, or in this case sonic futurscape,
are not necessarily benevolent. Oceanic rock can enfold the listener both in a comforting
and discomforting manner. This sensual enfoldment can be described as attributable to the
»tactile anaphones« (Tagg 1999: 25) employed in this music. For example, Tagg emphasises
that the long, sustained, slowly developing and decaying sounds created by synthesizer pads
(string like sounds that ›fill the holes‹ in the soundscape) and the use of extended delay and
reverb creates a thick, rich and viscous sonic texture suggesting smoothness and comfort.
However, in oceanic rock, the sonic texture can also signify discomfort, claustrophobia,
tension and instead of buoyancy, drowning. Numan's »Asylum« (b-side of »Cars«) represents
the latter his »I Nearly Married A Human« and version of Satie's Trois Gymnopédies the
Oceanic rock is on the whole, but not always, avocal and anti-narrative. The human
voice is used as an instrument nonsense lyrics with words used for their soundshapes (Eno),
paralinguistic techniques of emphasis (impenetrable sighs, moans, mumbles, howls as in
Neu!'s »Leb Wohl«), and invented languages (Bowie's »Subterraneans«) create polysemic
ambivalence. The voice is used for its sonic texture not for narrative the music emphasises
anti-narrative but communicates space, feelings and emotions through sonic anaphones. If
the 1960s gave licence to rock musicians to protest through words, the 1970s gave musicians
the right to say nothing that is mean nothing or create impressionistic voice tracks. Though
Kraftwerk specifically criticised British synth bands for their ›silly lyrics …« (Bussy 2001:
104), Kraftwerk themselves used spare and minimalist language (and wit) in the often
absurd, surreal or ›silly‹ celebration of the inanimate world (»Showroom Dummies«). In
oceanic rock, the voice therefore was no longer primary as music became equivocal,
layered, textured and the voice receded from audibility the voice was no longer the
primary vehicle for the musics ›message‹.
The ›space rock‹ of early German Kosmische Musik and British artists such as Hawkwind
and Pink Floyd, shaped early developments in the trans-European futurscape before the
later ›space‹ or ambient rock propagated by Eno and others. Outer space became
synonymous with immersive soundscapes (though as has been pointed out previously, there
is no soundscape in space in space nobody can hear you modulate!) in the ›space‹ music of
the early 1970s, whether created by German or British Astronauten‹. This music was about
escape from the terrestrial and from grounded consciousness or lived experience (and was
therefore psychedelic). In 1974, Harmonia possibly mischievously acknowledged this sonic
(head) space exploration through the track »Sehr Kosmisch« [Very Cosmic].
In some ways Eno ›returned to Earth‹ in investigating terrestrial ambient spaces and
opening them to sonic exploration. This investigation attempted to create space music from
actual environmental soundscapes rather than through a fictional exploration of ›outer
space‹, using the conventional electronic signifiers of space travel. Eno later looked to outer
space with Apollo: Atmospheres And Soundtracks and eloquently depicted the US space
missions through sound. In oceanic rock it is through the sonic dimension of the music, and
not through the rock voice, that this exploration is enunciated and documented. Therefore,
oceanic rock, like machine rock, deals with travel and movement (whether intellectual or
imaginary) while seeming to stand still.
What is paradoxical in oceanic rock is the emphasis on music as travelogue that is,
oceanic rock may not be about travel, but it can be about the moments before departure
and after arrival in suggesting the experiences of negotiating a location. Eno's Ambient 1 /
Music For Airports is absolutely about this experience, and where the locational subject
matter of tracks is suggested in a title (Ultravox's »Vienna«, Bowie's »Warszawa« and
»Neuköln«, OMD's »Stanlow«), songs become aural snapshots. Eno's travels in the 1970s
across Europe and the USA in his burgeoning collaborations further develop this sense of
momentary reflection on locational experience, but Bowie's Berlin period11 is a more
grounded example of the sonic tourism of musicians working at the time.
Son ic T o u r i s m
The sonic tourism of key figures such as Bowie, Eno and Plank across the sonic futurscape
and physical geography of Europe and beyond is an important aspect of music in the late
1970s and early 1980s. Bowie's music in the Berlin period most specifically has an
anthropological and touristic dimension. Bowie was drawn to the possibilities of enacting
the sonic landscape of Berlin. In the twentieth century Berlin had a reputation as hedonistic
and decadent, and as suffused with political conflict and with a wild, vibrant night life. In
the 1970s Bowie and Iggy Pop were drawn to Berlin and its geographical isolation as a cold
war no-mans land. Hansa studios were adjacent to the Berlin Wall, and this theatrical
backdrop provided the mise-en-scene to Bowie's and Pop's works. In a sense, Bowie
performed the urban and political landscape of Berlin, most specifically in »Heroes« and
»Neuköln«. Artists such as U2, Nick Cave and Depeche Mode among others have since been
drawn to Hansa as it
»not only provided the physical infrastructure necessary for recording significant albums […] but
also represented a location, with a political and cultural style, that somehow combined pre-war
hedonism with post-war geopolitical tensions« (Connell and Gibson 2003: 105).
However, Bowie's Berlin albums are snapshots and souvenirs of a brief dalliance with new
West German music, and represent the impressions of an outsider. They were a conduit
through which travelled a soundscape that artists in the British context were fascinated by.
In opposition to Bowie, most West German artists were undertaking an internal re-invention
11 Bowie's Berlin period albums were actually recorded in France and Switzerland as well as Hansa
Studios in Berlin.
of German music partly to bypass and crush this Anglo-American touristic nostalgia. They
looked beyond the divisions in 1970s Germany both spatially (looking to sources beyond the
very real Anglo-American hegemony after all, Germany was still militarily occupied) and
temporally (looking to the future rather than dwelling on a troubled past). For example,
Plank's sonic tourism took place both geographically and sonically through the pursuit of
alien and exotic sounds, forged from new sound technologies and a rootless creative
imagination. Alongside other West German artists, this exploration attempted to discover
new sonic textures, possibilities and hybrid forms in trying to create German music anew.
British artists found this music unfamiliar, ›foreign‹ and exciting, and voraciously
incorporated aspects of it into their own work. The resultant sonic futurscape remains today
a source of creative renewal.
Ra d i o head - B a c k t o t he F u t ur e
From around 1980 onwards a new generation of Düsseldorf bands, including DAF, Der Plan,
Propaganda and Die Krupps drew together strands from pre and post-punk electronic
progressive music in formulating a more intense version of machine rock. This transmuted
into the Industrial genre that thrived in the 1980s in Germany, Britain, Belgium and the
Netherlands, with Front 242, Einstürzende Neubauten and Test Dept. among others. They
were followed over the ensuing years by bands that drew together strands from machine and
oceanic rock of the 1970s. These included Laika, Tortoise, Stereolab, and the German
Kreidler, To Rococo Rot and Pluramon among others who traversed similar terrain to that
now defined as post-rock.
Alongside these developments in what can broadly be called the rock context, dance
music followed the lead of artists in the sonic futurscape with Electro, HipHop (Bambaataa)
and Techno (Cybotron, Model 500 and later Berlin Techno) specifically drawing from music
of this period. Through the later development of electronic House in all its forms, and
versions of ambient music, the futurscape of the 1970s has become the soundtrack to our
present and future. It is in these fields that contemporary sonic experimentation is most
extreme and progressive. In the recent Electroclash scene, artists such as Fischerspooner,
Felix Da Housecat and more specifically Ladytron have produced electronic music that is
dance, rock and electro-pop and returns the synthetic aesthetics of early synth-pop to a
rock context. However there are still rock artists who are more at home in soundtracking
the future than dwelling on rock's past (while paradoxically looking to the past for
In this context, Radiohead's Kid A and Amnesiac explored similar sonic and musical space
to that negotiated by the musicians of the Deutsch-Englisch alliance in the late 1970s and
early 80s, and the post-rock bands of the 1990s. They moved into sonic experimentation as a
strategy to creatively relocate themselves after exhausting their potentialities as a major-
league rock band. Their approach on Kid A and Amnesiac was remarkably similar to that
followed by progressive Kosmsiche and other electronic German bands of the 1960s and
1970s. As such the music they produced was intellectually progressive, in future-oriented
escapist terms, as well as sharing in the sonic heritage of Cluster, Neu!, Eno, Bowie and
For example, on these albums, Thom Yorke wilfully ›destroyed‹ his vocals in an attempt
to obfuscate his lyrics and refused to allow them to be published so that listeners would
focus on the sound of his voice. Reynolds suggests that every member of Radiohead took on
the role of Brian Eno in Roxy Music, each being »a non-musician producer/catalyst,
abandoning their designated instrumental function and grappling with unfamiliar sound
generation devices as if they were toys« (Reynolds 2001: 28). The band followed Holger
Czukay's ›jam/slice/splice‹ production technique and abandoned the performance of songs,
creating tracks using the mixing desk as an instrument. They worked in their own studio on
several fragmented song ideas at once and tried various strategies to reinvent and
deconstruct the expectations of what constituted ›Radiohead‹. Thematically and sonically,
the albums are much less utopian than the positively future-oriented nature of the earlier
sonic futurscape. Reynolds suggests when Yorke's lyrics are momentarily glimpsed they
contain »oblique images of running out of future, Darwinian dog eat dog struggle,
cannibalism and [an] emotional ›Ice Age coming‹« (ibid.: 30). However, they share with this
earlier work a desire to escape and reinvent rock music in Radiohead's case because they
felt trapped by their success. John Lennon's suggestion that rock music required the artist
and listener to be here now has shifted to a desire to be there then. The sounds of future
past and present sonically transport us to unfamiliar and alien territory. In Radiohead, and
the many bands that have followed the lead of Krautrock, post-punk and electronic
futurism, there is a sense that there is still much to be ›said‹ that has not already been
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There has been a marked resurgence of interest in progressive rock music both commercially and critically, with a number of articles and books now reassessing its styles, meanings, politics and appeal. Despite this, there has been a tendency to define progressive rock through a ‘symphonic orthodoxy’ which preferences a limited, albeit highly successful, number of British groups operating in a relatively narrow sonic landscape. This article questions that orthodoxy by drawing on the lay definitions and understandings of fans to extend the definitions and geographies of progressive rock, and to characterise it as a European meta-genre. It examines the meta-genre's formative years at the beginning of the 1970s, and argues that progressive rock was inspired by the explorations of a European youth counterculture whose music was influenced by local socio-political and economic contexts, as well as by the music and attitudes of the American counterculture and of European Romanticism.
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In this paper we seek to explain connections between a particular genre of music and the attitudes of groups associated with that music in relation to their collective experience of contemporary society in the industrialised 'first' world. Since, for reasons which will become clear, we are unable to draw precise conclusions about the ideological potential of the music, its origina- tors and users, we present this paper as a small contribution to our understanding of music's importance in the construction of shared ideas, at- titudes and values in today's society. Many of the obstructions to such meth- od development (and this is the main reason for the necessity of a paper such as this) arise from the disciplinary Tower of Babel in our institutions of research and education where music, musicology, acoustic physics, acoustic ecology, moral philosophy, political philosophy, anthropology, sociology, psychology, media studies, art history, etc., to name just a few subjects pro- viding information and approaches essential to understanding our topic, are housed in different departments and faculties, or appear as separate mod- ules on the curriculum. Clearly, there is no way in which we can put this epis- temologically atomised state of affairs to right in a single conference paper. However, we do hope to demonstrate how a particular kind of music can be studied as a set of socially and ideologically meaningful practices. Moreover, since this a Soundscape Studies Conference, we shall concentrate on how particular types of sound inform that music and the social and ideological ac- tion embedded in it. It is perhaps wise, before presenting our main account, to motivate our choice of topic, to summarise our underlying hypotheses and to provide a few methodological pointers. We have chosen this topic because: (i) one of us is a fan writing a doctoral thesis about the industrial genre; (ii) due to advances in sound technology (notably the sampler and synthesizer) industrial music draws extensively, as we shall see, on sounds that in conventional aesthetic terms would hardly qualify as 'musical': such use of 'extramusical' sound could provide valuable insights into relations between the soundscape and music; (iii) the music has considerable contemporary relevance to the lives of many young people in the industrialised world. This third reason is also at the basis of our underlying hypothesis that indus- trial music expresses in sonic terms dissatisfaction with the society in which its community of musicians and fans are forced to find strategies for surviv- al. 'Forced' is the operative word here, for among recurrent verbal expres- sions of alienation in recent popular culture, including music, we find feeling like a machine, being treated like a cog in a machine, or raging against the machine of contemporary society.1 Of course, this notion of the machine as an inexorable force is nothing new in our culture: Roget's Thesaurus puts
This thoroughly revised second edition of Allan Moore's ground-breaking book features new sections on melody, Britpop, authenticity, intertextuality, and an extended discussion of texture. Rock's 'primary text' - its sounds - is the focus of attention here. Allan Moore argues for the development of a musicology particular to rock within the context of the background to the genres, the beat and rhythm and blues styles of the early 1960s, 'progressive' rock and subsequent styles. He also explores the fundamental issue of rock as a medium for self-expression, and the relationship of this to changing musical styles. Rock: The Primary Text remains innovative in its exploration of an aesthetics of rock.
'Imagined Communities' examines the creation & function of the 'imagined communities' of nationality & the way these communities were in part created by the growth of the nation-state, the interaction between capitalism & printing & the birth of vernacular languages in early modern Europe.