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e  x  p  l  o  r  e   -   d  i  s  c  o  v  e  r    &    d  r  e  a  m    e  x  t  r  e  m  e
Zbigniew Karkowski (1958 - ) is a Polish composer and kind of a wanderer. He studied in Sweden (modern music), The Hague (Sonology), followed master courses in France with Iannis Xenakis and Pierre Boulez, was part of the noise scene in Tokyo and is now living in California. Xenakis was the only teacher who tought him something real is Karkowski ‘s today’s opinion. He believes that geographical, political and social aspects are essential elements for a strong composition. But as if that is not enough: all theory and musical systems have to be destroyed to create something real. Karkowski not only composed electronic or multimedia works, but also works for classical orchestra.
He made lots of records, solo or with others. His orchestral compositions were performed in Europe. He is still very active as musician and performer.

In 1993 Karkowski, together with Edwin van der Heide and Atau Tanaka, established the Sensorband. The band used interactive electronics as basics for their ‘ultrasound’. Van der Heide used handheld controllers to sample his own vocals, Tanaka used his muscles (neural signals), connected to electronics and played the so named ‘air guitar or bass’ and Karkowski himself played virtual drums, standing in a cage and using invisible infrared light beams. The band went on various tours in Europe and the US, not only as trio but more often as duo. Geographically divorced, they couldn’t play as much live as they wanted so in 2003 the band stopped as a band, but the three continued playing in various settings. Sensorband left us Soundnet, a giant rope web (11x11 meters). Inspired by The Web invented by Michel Waisvisz, Soundnet is a huge variation of it. Climbing into the net , the attached sensors are activated and create ‘sound’. Sensorband was of course a live group, but they made one CD, Area/Pulse (1999).

Sensorband: Tanaka, vd Heide, Karkowsk
Chinese electronic music is relatively young. Nobody in China new of the existing electronic music in the world. After opening the boarders, end 70s, Yuanlin Chen together with Tan Dun and others composed and presented China’s first electronic music concert in 1984. It was an experience with synthesizers and pre-recorded material. The event was new to everybody both on stage as in the hall. None of the participants new how to perform. After 2000 the Chinese government opened the internet. After that, sounds and movies spread around fast. Chinese composers were confronted with the ‘classical’ electronic music, but also with for instance modern, Japanese noise. Soon new artists found their way into the electronic maze. In Beijing not only FM3 started, but also people like Wang Changcun, Zhong Minje, Zhou Pei and Zhang Anding. FM3 (left) exists of American-born Christiaan Virant and Chinese keyboardist and computer musician, Zhang Jian. The Beijing-based duo is now well known for its meditative, minimal like music, using electronics, computers, but also traditional Chinese instruments. Their CD, Buddha Machine, was the first record which was picked up outside China.

End 2003 Dajuin Yao organized the Sounding Beijing Festival. It was the first for electronic music. The program was open for both Chinese and foreign composers. It is seen as a breakthrough for the ‘new’ music. Developments soon were speeded up and more like the ones in Europe and the US. Their new tool: the laptop. Most artists aslo started releasing their own music. A fast growing label is DouFo, realised by Zhou Pei. Most releases are CDRs.
A band which is famous now is Torturing Nurse (2004), creating their version of noise. The Shanghai based band was founded by Misuzu and Junky Cao (both from noise/no-wave band Junkyard) and already gave lots of performances, released over 200 outings of their music on various sound carriers. They use their own label, Shasha Records. The music is often released on limited edition CDR, sometimes just 30 copies. Until now every month they present and organise the NOIShanghai, avant garde gig.

Another important series for new music started in 2006 by Yan Jun: The Waterland Kwanyin series in which new or avant-garde music is presented to a larger audience.

Torturing Nurse live

Torturing Nurse: limited edition CDR
Latin American electronic music is rather unknown since the availability of the music just wasn’t there. Even present day composers find it hard to explore and research the music in their own country because of that. Not that there isn’t any. For over ten years there have been regular radio broadcast, for instance the “Música electroacústica y por computadors” series. Most composers are to be found in Argentina, Mexico and Brazil. Research for this music was done by Ricardo Dal Farra (picture left, Argentina, 1957- ). Most information about early electronics below comes from his document: Latin American Electroacoustic Music Collection (2004).

The history starts (probably) with Argentine classical composer Mauricio Kagel (1931- ). Early 50s he composed electro-acoustic works. His Música para la Torre, a music concrete composition, was specially composed for an industrial exhibition in Mendoza. After 1957 he moved to Germany and composed more works with electronics. Other early composers are Reginaldo Carvalho, Mario Davidovsky, Hilda Dianda (the only one who used electronic sounds only) and Centro de Música Experimental (Córdoba).

Juan Blanco (1919- ) from Cuba composed his first piece in 1961: Música para Danza for tape recorder and oscillator. Blanco organized Cuba’s first public concert (1964). The next year he composed electro acoustic works for large audiences and for Cuba’s pavilion (Móntreal, 1967). Blanco composed dozens of electronic works. In 1962 he imagined (it was never built) his “Multiórgano”, a polyphonic organ based on 12 wire loops for tape. This organ predated the Mellotron for several years. Other inventors were Raúl Pavón and Fernando von Reichenbach. Pavón developed a loop-like tape recorder instrument. Von Reichenbach worked for CLEAM and created a device which could read visual signals and translate them into frequencies.

In 1962 CLEAM (Centro Latinoamericano de Altos Músicales) was established in Buenos Aires by Alberto Ginastera. Until its closing in 1970 lots of artist from all over Latin America worked here. Sometimes there were lectures giving by no one less than Xenakis, Maderna, Non, Messiaen and Ussachevsky. The first work coming out of CLEAM’s rooms was Intensidad y Altura from Peruvian composer César Bolaños (1931- ). Edgar Valcárel Peru, 1932- ) also worked at CLEAM, but ironically his first composition came out of Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Centre, Invención (1967) for tape.

Elsewhere on this site Jorge Antunes (Brazil, 1942- ) was already mentioned. Because of his merits for the electronic music he was awarded a scholarship for CLEAM in 1969. The same year Coriún Aharonián (Uruguay, 1940- ) was awarded the same scholarship. Aharonián, together with other composers, organised the Cursos Latinoamericanos de Música Contemporánea in various cities.

Today Latin America has a lively minimal and techno scene, often based on the exotic rhythms of the original roots music. The Mexican Institute of Sound MIS (Instituto Mexicano Del Sonido) is an electronic music project created by Mexico City DJ and producer Camilo Lara (left). Along with groups like Nortec Collective and Kinky, M.I.S. is part of a growing Mexican electronica movement, encouraging fusions of folk and more traditional music with modern sounds.

CLEAM studio

CLEAM 1965, l-r: Rafael Aponte Ledée (Puerto Rico),
César Bolaños (Peru), Gabriel Brncic (Chile),
Blas Emilio Atehortúa (Colombia)

César Bolaños

Nortec Collective)
Although Australia seen in musical terms seemed to be as isolated as China the first music concrete was probably made in 1930 (or 1954 as suggested by some) by Jack Ellitt (1902-2001). Mostly he worked together with Len Lye on movies and the accompanying music. He recorded every day sounds for his own pleasure and it seemed logical to ‘glue’ them together in a longer ‘composition’ as was his Journey #1. It was intended for use on a space travel movie named Quicksilver. Most of his work is lost. That goes for more composers and compositions.

Grainger (1882-1961 left), collector of folk, maybe was more important for Australian sounds. Strange though his more experimental music was made in the US. His Free Music series was influenced by continuous waves tapping against his boat. Grainger used that idea creating his music. He worked with Theremin to create a ‘gliding tone’ but was frustrated at the lack of control. Engineer Burnett Cross tried to help him develop another instrument, but both failed. Since Australia was a conservative country, the radical views of Grainger soon led to a social isolation.
One of the first completely electronic compositions, Of Spiralling Why, came from Bruce Clarke (1925-2008). It was commissioned for the 1968 Adelaide Arts Festival. Clarke had heard Stockhausen’s music and soon became interested in electronic music. He worked with one of the first Moog’s in Australia using it for music to a cigarette commercial. It led to his Jingle Workshop (1957). Later on he worked with classical ensembles and jazz musicians.

Another pioneer is Val Stephen (1919-1998). His Fireworks is one of the first to be published outside Australia. Fireworks is built up with every day sounds using tape manipulation. End 60s, early 70s he worked for ABC radio as an expert on electronic music and hosted his own series: Beyond the Fringe of Music. During his life he composed more electronic pieces but stopped after discovering acupuncture. Arthur Cantrill (1938- ) made lots of soundtracks for (experimental-) films, together with his wife Corinne (1928- ). In the beginning he often used tape loops.

After the 60s Australia became more open to worldly influences. Young musicians discovered rock and other experimental music, but also synthesizers. They too started fumbling around with sounds. Keith Humble (1927-1995 left) inspired lots of ‘new’ musicians. He established the Society for the Private Performance of New Music. The performances were in the Grainger Museum.

Another small boost of electronics came from Englishman Tristram Cary (1925-2008). The co-designer of the EMS VCS3 and co-creator of the music for TV-series Dr Who. Cary stayed after a short visit and developed his own studio and worked with the University of Adelaide. He was one of the first to use the Synclavier with its built in sampling machine.

Of course there are other composers in the field, but electronic music never really landed down under. The music had its influences but never an impact like it had in China for instance. . As in other countries electronic dance music is very popular now. The Avalanches CD Since I Left You is one of the most popular ever. It led to ‘new’ lessons at the University of Adelaide’s Electronic Music Unit in studio production and music technology.

Jack Ellitt

Val Stephen

Trstram Cary

The Avalaches