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Dick Raaijmakers & Tom Dissevelt and the Ancient Creation of Electronic Music

This is a fascinating look at the prehistory of electronic music (1959!) and early production methods before computers were smaller than large rooms. Neat! Back then, basically a million years ago, electronic music was not the heavily rhythmic, structured style it came to be known as, but an ethereal, spacey, abstract thing, filled with bloops and bleeps and pulses and saws. That’s, of course, because there wasn’t yet any MIDI, drum machines, sequencers, samplers, or any of the modern implements of electronic music production. You can clearly see them actually splicing bits of reel to reel tape to create new sounds, taking a sample in the most literal sense and then manipulating it. Pretty awesome. It all predates even Kraftwerk, the clear grandfathers of the modern electronic music scene, whose breakthrough, genre-defining record, Die Mensch Maschine, wasn’t released until 1978. These Dutch guys in the late 50s were exploring the wild frontier with no rules, no definitions, and no expectations. Everything new and exciting, fresh. The world had never heard sounds like this before.

If this is interesting to you—and it had better be—then I recommend Popular Electronics – Early Dutch Electronic Music From Philips Research Laboratories 1956-1963, a compilation of very early electronic experiments from the Philips lab, obviously. It features music by both of the men in the video, Dick Raaijmakers and Tom Dissevelt, as well as some other folks. It’s not exactly the most listenable thing, especially by modern standards, but it’s fascinating as a historical document. Check it out.