LEARN TOGETHER:A BRIEF HISTORY OF ELECTRONIC MUSICIn association with ePublishingPartners, Inc.g.co/musicmakersmachines
Using the lesson plan andGoogle Arts & Culture resourcesThis lesson plan is designed to support you as you explorethe stories and exhibits on Google Arts & Culture related tothe lesson topic. The images you will see here are just asample of the media—texts, images, audio and video—availableto you on the Google Arts & Culture website and app. As thelesson uses only resources found on Google Arts & Culture,it cannot present every aspect of a given topic. A parentor teacher might be guiding you through the lesson, or youmight choose to complete it on your own.All you need to access the lesson is an internet connectionand a web browser or the Google Arts & Culture app. You maywant to take notes, whether you do that digitally or withpaper and pen.The lesson plan has an introduction, which will describe thetopic and provide some background information that will helpyou understand what you are seeing, hearing, and reading.Then the lesson will take you on a journey from one Story toanother, fill in some details along the way and pose questions that will help you focus on important ideas. A quizand links for exploring the topic further are followed byfurther ideas for projects related to the lesson topic thatyou can do at home or in the classroom.Theandthecanlesson plan includes questions about the main storiesthere is also a quiz. You will want to write answers toquestions in a notebook or on a piece of paper. Then youcheck all your answers when you’ve finished the lesson.Resources on the Google Arts & Culture website includeThemes, Stories, Museum Views, items and images. Themes bring together stories, exhibits, collections,images, audio, and video files that relate to a topic. In a Story, clicking on the arrows on the right and leftsides of a slide will move you forward and backward. Justkeep clicking to keep moving forward. (Note that in somestories, you scroll up and down.) Audio and videos onslides will play automatically. Clicking on an image titlewill take you to a page with more information about it. In Museum Views, you move through a 3D space. Click tomove forward. Click, hold and move the cursor left orright to turn. An item will take you to an individual image, where youcan zoom in and sometimes read more about the artefact.2
In this lesson, you will learn about: How electronics and electronic instruments make music. The early inventors of electronic instruments and how theychanged music. How electronic music fueled social and artistic scenesaround the world. How electronic music developed into the broad range itoccupies today.You will: Explore some stories and exhibits about electronic musicand musicians. Answer some questions about what you have seen and read.This lesson will take 45–60 minutes to complete.3Suzanne Ciani playing with a Synthesizer, 1974 Suzanne Ciani3
Learn Together: A Brief History ofElectronic MusicElectronic music is so interwoven within today’s culturethat it is nearly impossible to define. Every type of popular music, from hip-hop to rock to K-pop and jazz, useselectronic tools, either as instruments or during recordingsor performances.When electronic music first gained popularity in the 1960s,it seemed alien. Inventors, academics, and experimental musicians created strange sounds with enormous, expensiveequipment. Slowly, popular musicians began to see the potential of synthesizers. And when dance music went electronic, it exploded onto a number of diverse and thriving underground scenes that have gone onto influence nearly all ofpopular music today.As you view the exhibits and stories in this lesson,think about these questions: How did electronic instruments develop and how did theychange over time? How did electronic instruments change the way musiciansmake music? What social changes accompanied the popularity of electronic music?4Jeff Mills, Groove Archive, Groove Magazine, Berlin4
What Is Electronic Music?A traditional musical instrument makes sound by vibrating anobject, such as a string or a drumhead. An electronic instrument makes sound by directly converting electrical signals to waves that travel from a speaker.Read some background about sound waves and how electronicinstruments make them. Then read how inventors began creating electronic instruments in the 1890s in Parts 1, 2, and 3of the Timeline of Synthesis. If you would like further information, you can learn more about the earliest electronicinstruments and how they worked here (optional).Then come back to answer these questions:1. What is the main difference between a traditional oracoustic instrument, such as a violin and an electronicinstrument, such as a synthesizer?2. Name two ways that a synthesizer modifies a simple soundwave to change how it sounds.3. How were early synthesizers different from later synthesizers?To learn more about modular synthesizers, click here.5R.A. Moog Modular 1967. Bob Moog Foundation/Moogseum5
Inventors and PioneersAlan R. Pearlman using the ARP 2500,1972 Alan R. Pearlman FoundationBuilding on the pioneering work at radio labs such as GRM (Paris), theElectronic Music Studio at Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in Cologne, BBCRadiophonic Workshop (London) and industrial research institutes suchas Bell Labs (Murray Hill), a handful of inventors began building synthesizers that were powerful enough to create a world of new sounds,but simple enough for musicians to learn to use.Bob Moog’s series of synthesizers quickly gained popularity with studiomusicians. Early experimental musicians such as Suzanne Ciani masteredthe first large, complex Buchla synthesizers. Read about how classicrock and pop artists used his tools here and here.Another early pioneer was Alan R. Pearlman, whose ARP 2500 and ARP 2600powered some of the most inventive sounds in 1970s pop and rock. Thisoverview of the ARP 2500 gives a walkthrough of how synthesizers work,while this story shows how Pearlman’s thoughtful designs made his instruments easy and popular for musicians.Then come back to answer these questions:1. Name two artists who used synthesizers to create new sounds inpopular music.2. How did inventors simplify their early synthesizers to make themsmaller and easier to use?3. How did adding synthesizers change the sound of traditional rock orpop music of the time?To learn about a drum machine that became a founding sound of hip-hop,click here.66
Electric Streets:Cities, Clubs, and ScenesFrankie Knuckles, considered the fatherof House music Groove Archive, Groove Magazine, BerlinBy the 1970s, electronic instruments were appearing in many genresof music. That changed with the introduction of disco in the 1970s,which added a synthesizer’s endless beat to the funky sounds ofsoul and R&B, allowing club-goers to dance all night. After a backlash in the late 1970s against disco and its Black, Latin and LGBTQaudiences and makers in the USA, disco became more underground.DJs such as Larry Levan (NY), Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy (Chicago) and Ken Collier (Detroit) picked up where disco left off andstarted their own club nights. In the summer of 1988, this new kindof music appeared in clubs, abandoned warehouses and fields acrossthe UK which became known as Acid House. In 1990s Berlin, a thriving club scene sprung up in the vacant spaces left by the fall ofthe Berlin Wall, especially the legendary Tresor. Many of thesescenes, clubs and parties welcomed marginalized groups.After reading, come back to answer these questions:1. What were the characteristics of the cities that became home toelectronic music scenes?2. What were electronic music clubs like?3. How did being “underground,” or not popular, affectelectronic music’s development?To learn about the rave scene in the UK and elsewhere, click here.7
Early GenresToday, there are many subgenres of electronic music. Many oftoday’s genres of electronic dance music and electronic pophave their roots in the dance sounds of the 1980s and 1990s.Even in these early days, electronic music quickly spreadand diversified into dozens of styles.These links provide overviews of the electronic genres ofKrautrock, House music, Detroit techno and Dubstep.You can also learn more about other genres that use electronic sounds, such as synth pop, funk and R&B and jazz-rockfusion.Explore as many links as you wish, then come back to answerthese questions:1. Describe the characteristics of one genre of electronicmusic.2. Choose two genres of electronic or electronically influenced music. How are they alike? How are they different?3. How have the electronic music genres of the 1980s and1990s influenced music today?Larry Levan recorded live at the Paradise Garage,1987 Keith Haring Foundation, Courtesy of Nakamura Keith Haring Collection8
QuizRead the questions and write your answer in your notebook or on a pieceof paper.1. How does an electronic instrument produce a sound that you can hear?2. What are some of the main parts or elements that make up a synthesizer?3. What made the MiniMoog and the ARP 2600 more appealing to musicians?4. What kinds of sounds did 1960s and 1970s popular musicians createwith electronic instruments?5. Name two early musicians or DJs of underground electronic dancemusic.6. What type of social scenes accompanied the spread of electronicmusic and why?7. Where was Krautrock from and what are its characteristics?8. What genres of electronic music are most popular today?Explore FurtherYou have learned a few of the basics about electronic music, but thereis much more to discover. To learn more about the full history of electronic music and the social scenes it inspired, click here.Please note that this link directs you to a web page where some of the content has maturethemes that may not be appropriate for younger students.United We Stream at Watergate Berlin,2020 Johann Jascha, Clubcommission9
It’s Your Turn!In this lesson, you learned about the history of electronicmusic. Here are some ideas for projects that you can do athome or in the classroom.1. Find an online tool or experiment that allows you to produce electronic sounds, including beats and notes, such asAR Synth. Create your own simple electronic song or loop(repeated sounds).2. Review some of the flyers, or small posters, that advertised clubs3. and raves in the early dance-music scenes, such as theone shown here. Use physical art materials such as paper,paint, markers or collage (cutouts from magazines) to design your own flyer for a type of music you enjoy.4. Choose a song you enjoy that uses electronic sounds. Research the instruments and tools the musicians used tocreate the song.Listen to the “Electronic Pioneers” playlist on YouTube Music.Tresor Berlin Groove Archive, Groove Magazine, Berlin10
AnswersWhat Is Electronic Music?Early Genres1. An acoustic instrument vibrates a physical object, such as a string, while anelectronic instrument uses electric current to vibrate a speaker.1. Answers will vary. Most early electronic music included repetitive,long-lasting beats modified with sampled sounds on top.2. A synthesizer can filter a sound to take away parts of the sound wave, it canadd reverb (echo), it can add additional tones or overtones and it can changethe pitch (frequency) and volume (amplitude).2. Answers will vary.3. Early synthesizers were very large and they were controlled mechanicallyusing cables. Later synthesizers included more hard-wired choices and weresmaller.3. Early genres of electronic music created dance music with heavy bass, repeatedloops and samples, which influence hip-hop, pop, R&B and other music today.QuizInventors and Pioneers1. Electronic instruments use a changing electric current to vibrate the coneof a speaker.1. Artists who used synthesizers included Herbie Hancock, Neu!, The Who, StevieWonder, Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, and many others.2. Synthesizer elements include oscillators, which make a sound wave, filters,amplifiers, and additional features like noise generators.2. Synthesizers got smaller by hard-wiring in many pre-set sounds. They alsoincluded piano-like keyboards and simplified user interfaces.3. The Minimoog and ARP 2600 were smaller, simpler to use and portable.3. Traditional rock and pop music often added longer sections with unusualsounds that were less melodic.5. Early electronic music DJs and musicians include Kraftwerk, Brian Eno,Frankie Knuckles and the Belleville Three (Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson andDerrick May).Electric Streets: Cities, Clubs, and Scenes1. Many cities with electronic music scenes had experienced economic or socialdifficulties, which left lots of empty spaces and marginalized people whoneeded a place to socialize.2. Electronic music clubs were often dark and hidden in industrial areas.3. Underground music attracted marginalized groups and allowed for moreunusual sounds than popular music, whereas clubs were a second home for ahuge cross-section of society.4. Musicians created very artificial sounds that were “spacey” or strange.6. Early electronic music scenes were often populated by Black, Latin and LGBTQaudiences. Most people were young.7. Krautrock was developed in West Germany and used both electronic and rockinstruments to make long, artificial-sounding and artistic music.8. Genres of electronic music today include House, Techno Gabber, Electropop,Dubstep, Grime, Drum & Bass, and many others.11
Electronic Music Electronic music is so interwoven within today’s culture that it is nearly impossible to define. Every type of pop-ular music, from hip-hop to rock to K-pop and jazz, uses electronic tools, either as instruments or during recordings or performances. When electronic music
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