David Tudor was an experimental composer and pianist of great importance in the development of music and recording techniques. He utilised both electronics (his homemade musical circuits) and analogue instruments. Most of his published works were in experimental electronic music. This article presents a number of his works recorded in video, as well as providing information and the history behind the works.
Rainforest began as an experimental musical composition, but with time, it evolved into a full-scale musical installation. Like many performance-based installations, there were a lot of different versions of it in every event.
Untitled is a part of a series composed in the 1970s. The series was produced through experiments in generating electronic sound without oscillators, tone generators, or recorded sounds. Composed in 1972, it was designed for simultaneous performance with John Cage’s vocalization of his Mesotics re Merce Cunningham. The work was redone in 1982, and performed with improvised vocals by Takehisa Kosugi.
MICROPHONE was a work David Tudor created for the Pepsi Pavilion in 1970 using feedback in the Pavilion space between two shotgun microphones and the 37 speakers that were placed inside. This feedback was processed through a system designed by Gordon Mumma. Another version was made at Mills College which utilized more than just one room/hall. MICROPHONE was the basis for a commission titled “Dinosaur Parts” (1974) with the Viola Farber Dance Company. There was a video dance collaboration, “Brazos River”, made with Viola Farber (choreography), Robert Rauschenberg (sets), and David Tudor (music).
This work was part of Three Works For Live Electronics. Originally released on LP in 1984 and rereleased in September 1996, just following Tudor’s death on August 13, Phonemes was added to it.
Phonemes was commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for Cunningham’s dance Inserts, a work made both as a “film dance” and for the stage. Phonemes uses 2 discrete processes which provide input source material for an array of sound modifying electronics, which creates lots of outputs.
Pulsers dives into rhythms created electronically by analog circuitry. With analog, the time-base common to the rhythms can be varied in a multitude of ways by the performer.
Neural Synthesis (No. 2), was created for the Neural-Network Audio Synthesizer, an instrument developed for David Tudor by the designer Forrest Warthman in collaboration with Mark Thorson and Mark Holler of Intel Corporation. The instrument uses Intel’s 80710NX neural-network chip, which can process both analog and digital signals at the same time. The Neural-Network Audio Synthesizer is unique because it utilises exclusively the chip’s analog capabilities.
The album Neural Synthesis 6-9 combines music and electrical engineering, all inspired by biology. Tudor surrounds the synthesiser with his own unique electronic devices, and in the recording of the CD version meant for headphone listening, he used a new binaural technique for translating sound into out-of-head localisations. The sound seems to originate from specific, changing points around the listener’s space. David Tudor’s Neural Synthesis recordings are based off of a score named Neural Network Plus. A stereo ambient microphone (Pearl TL-4) was placed in the middle of the room above a Sennheiser binaural head outfitted with Sony ECM-5 microphones.
The picture above shows Harmor’s interface. We can group the Interface into three sections: The red part, the gray part and the window to the right. Firstly, the easiest section to understand is the window to the right. Harmor is an additive synthesizer, which means the sounds it generates are made up of sine waves added on top of each other. The window on the right displays the frequencies of the individual sine waves, played over the last few seconds. Secondly, the red window is where most of the sound is generated. There are different sections and color-coded knobs to be able to identify what works together. Left of the center you can see an A/B switch. The red section exists twice: once for state A and once for state B. These states can be mixed together via the fader below. Lastly the gray area is for global controls. The only exception is the IMG tab, which we will cover a little later. As you can see there are many knob, tabs and dropdowns. But in addition to that most most of the processing can be altered with envelopes. These allow the user to draw a graph with infinitely many points to either use it as an ADSR curve, an LFO, or map it to keyboard, velocity, X, Y & Z quick modulation and more. At this point it already might become clear that Harmor is a hugely versatile synth. It’s marketed as an additive / subtractive synthesizer and features an immense amount of features which we will take a closer look at now.
Additive or Subtractive?
As mentioned above Harmor is marketed as an additive / subtractive synthesizer. But what does that mean? While Harmor is built using additive synthesis as its foundation, the available features closely resemble a typical subtractive synth. But because Harmor is additive, there are no audio streams being processed. Instead a table of frequency and amplitude data is manipulated resulting in an efficient, accurate and partly very unfamiliar and creative way to generate audio streams. Harmor features four of these additive / subtractive oscillators. Two can be seen on the image above in the top left corner. These can be mixed in different modes and then again mixed with the other two via the A/B switch. In addition to the four oscillators, Harmor is also able to synthesize sound from the IMG section. The user can drag-and-drop audio or image files in and Harmor can act like a sampler, re-synthesizing audio or even generating audio from images drawn in Photoshop.
The Generator Section
As you can see in addition to the different subsections being walled in by dotted lines, this section is color coded as well. The Timbre section allows you to select any waveform by again drawing and then morphing between two of them with different mixing modes. Harmor allows you to import a single cycle waveform to generate the envelope. But you can import any sample and generate a waveform from it. Here is an example where I dragged a full song into it and processed it with the internal compressor module only:
The blur module allows you to generate reverb-like effects and also preverb. Tremolo generates the effect of a stereo vibrato, think about jazz organs. Harmonizer clones existing harmonics by the offset/octaves defined. And prism shifts partials away from their original relationship with the fundamental frequency. A little prism usually generates a detune-like effect, more usually metallic sounds. And here is the interesting part: As with many other parameters as well, you can edit the harmonic prism mapping via the envelopes section. This allows you to create an offset to the amount knob on a per frequency basis. Here is an example of a usage of prism:
As you can see in the analyzer on the right: There is movement over time. In the Harmonic prism envelope I painted a graph so that the knob does not modify lower frequencies but only starts at +3 octaves. The other options from this section, unison, pitch, vibrato and legato should be clear from other synthesizers.
The Filter Section
As seen above, Harmor features two filters per state. Each filter can have a curve selected from the presets menu. The presets include low pass, band pass, high pass and comb filtering. Additionally you can draw your own curve as explained in the Basics section above. The filters can additionally be control the mix for the envelope, keyboard tracking, width, actual frequency and resonance. But the cool thing is how these filters are combined: The knob in the middle lets you fade between only filter 2, parallel processing, only filter 1, filter 1 + serial processing and serial processing only. In the bottom half there is a one-knob pluck knob as well as a phaser module with, again, custom shaped filters.
The Bottom Section
As you can see above the bottom section features some general global functions. On the left side most should be clear. The XYZ coordinate grid offers a fast way to automate many parameters by mapping them to either X Y or Z and then just editing events in the DAW. On the top right however there are four tabs that open new views. Above we have seen the ENV section where you can modulate about anything. The green tab is the image tab. We already know that Harmor can generate sound from images and sound (not that this is a different way of using existing sound, before I loaded it into an oscillator, now we are talking about the IMG tab). On the right you can see a whole lot of knobs, some of them can be modified by clicking in the image. C and F are course and fine playback speed adjustments, time is the time offset. The other controls are used to change how the image is interpreted and partially could be outsourced to image editors. I’m going to skip this part, as this post would get a whole lot more complicated if not. It would probably be best to just try it out yourself.
The third tab contains some standard effects. These are quite good but especially the compressor stands out as it rivals the easy-but-usefullness of OTT.
And finally, the last section: Advanced (did you really think this was advanced until now? :P) Literally the whole plugin can be restructured here. I usually only go in here to enable perfect precision mode, threaded mode (enables multi core processing) and high precision image resynthesis. Most of these features are usually not needed and seem more like debugging features so I will not go into detail about them, but like before I encourage you to try it out. Harmor can be very overwhelming and as many people mention in reviews: “Harmor’s biggest strength is also it’s greatest weakness, and probably why there are so few reviews for such an amazing synth. You can use Harmor for years, and still feel like a noob only scratching the surface. That makes writing a review difficult. How can you give an in-depth review, when you feel so green behind the ears? You only need to watch a few YT videos (e.g. Seamless) or chat with another user to discover yet another side to this truly versatile beast.”
In 2018 one event shook the electronic music scene- Avicii had committed suicide, shortly after his close friends reported how happy and inspired he seemed. He retired from playing shows and instead of getting better, it looks like he got worse. The event was quite a shock, but it lead to numerous other electronic musicians to take a break from music and focus on their mental health. Last year Eric Morillo (49) and i_o (30, one of my personal favourites) both committed suicide, along with countless others- the list is too long. What is behind these events? The trend is worrying and uncovers a dangerous truth hidden behind the DJ desks…
Mental health has always been a big issue in the music scene, especially after the rise of popularity in drugs. This is especially prevalent in the electronic/dance scene. The deadliest part of the whole story is the lack of sleep. DJs can sometimes play daily shows up to months at a time, leading to dangerous lack of sleep. They take drugs and drink alcohol in order to keep u with the crowd and also stop themselves from crashing. This is a vicious cycle that leads to many dying and those who survive experience total mental depletion. Burnout, depression and anxiety creep up onto touring DJs, especially on comedown from drugs, and this gets worse and worse with prolonged chemical abuse. On top of that, people in the industry do not seem to have proper support from experts, or refuse to listen until it’s too late.
A big problem in the music industry is that it is heavily populated with 2 high-risk groups- young, inexperienced people and people with previous mental health issues. Living such a high-paced life filled with dangerous temptations will quickly exaggerate mental disorders and on the other side overwhelm the young and developing mind, breeding many insecurities and mental struggles.
Having a public life is a very hard thing to deal with. The most notable example of this is Britney Spears’ breakdown. Though she is a pop star and not an electronic musician, this is quite relevant to this article, as Britney is a musician under heavy public scrutiny. She is a prime example how badly negative press can impact someone’s mental health. On top of that, she is still being controlled by her family and management to an extent. DJs are also heavily directed by their management and this often leads to them feeling powerless, even miserable.
i_o once mentioned in his Tweets how during the times of the pandemic, we can truly see how many people care for us. Those who do will check in on us daily and offer help in any form they can. Unfortunately, one of his last posts on instagram, with a caption “do u ever question ur life” wasn’t taken as a warning sign that he needs checking up on.
This documentary gives an insight behind the scenes and showcases interviews with iconic DJs, like Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Eric Morillo, Seth Troxler, Luciano and other, giving us an insight in how they feel being part of the business:
This second documentary is about the world’s “craziest” DJ, Fat Tony, who claims he had spent over a million pounds on drugs, during his 28 years of using. He clearly shows us how much problems drugs cause to DJs and multiply their mental health struggles:
This article is a reminder to frequently check on your loved ones and make action, don’t just leave them with a few empty words.
Raves are an integral part of today;’s Dance Culture. But how did they come to be? What resulted in a need to “get down” on the dance floor and forget reality for one night? This articles explores the unique and crazy history of raves.
The term “rave” was first used to describe wild bohemian parties in the late 1950s, but it wasn’t until the 80s that the term gained lasting popularity. It still took a few years until the late 80s, when Acid House was born in Chicago, which marks the beginning of raves as we know them today. These raves started out as illegal warehouse parties full of attendees of enhanced states of mind influenced by drugs. Today, raves are much more common and much less often illegal.
In 1985 DJ Pierre (Nathan Jones) bought a Roland TB-303 bass synth at a second-hand shop and experimented with it until he accidentally got the squelchy bassline, which is such a characteristic sound of Acid House. From there on, the number of raves exploded, causing so much late-night ruckus that they attracted police. Laws in England particularly resulted in more and more illegal raves, which made it hard for promoters to organise events in Clubs.
This new sound began with a record produced by Phuture, a group founded by DJ Pierre, Earl “Spanky” Smith Jr., and Herbert “Herb J” Jackson. Newly turned on to the unique sounds of the TB-303, the trio released a demo of ‘Acid Tracks’.
Acid house hadn’t really made a big impact, until a group of four DJs (Paul Oakenfold, Danny Rampling, Nicky Holloway and Johnny Walker) took a trip to Ibiza to visit the acclaimed club Amnesia. This is where they heard resident DJs play the “balearic” style- a blend of multiple genres, including the Chicago Acid House. This inspired Danny to start a rave called Shoom in a gym. The sound system used was provided by Carl Cox, another DJ who went on to become a House legend. Ravers were obsessed with a then-new drug called ecstasy. This drug went on to become tightly related to the rave scene. One of the Shoom part tickets had a smiley face on it, which went on to become a trademark sign of the Acid House scene. The late 80s and early 90s was when the era of “dressing down, not dressing up” started. Club-goers were dressing increasingly tribalistic and laid-back.
Organized by production companies, raves began to gain press attention. A popular fanzine written by Paul Oakenfold called Boy’s Own was responsible for publishing the first article on acid house . Boy’s Own also held the first documented outdoor acid rave in 1988. Legend has it that the young Norman Cook – aka Fatboy Slim – was turned onto house music during one of their parties.
Sunrise and Revolution in Progress groups started making bigger parties. They brought raves out of the darkness of illegal warehouses into the light of big public events. Freedom to Party was a huge campaign in Trafalgar Square which influenced the loosening of UK’s licensing laws. Clubs and dance venues were finally allowed to stay open all night long.
The rise of use of drugs and psychedelics in parties gave them a lot of negative press. During the backlash, a UK acid house record managed to break into the mainstream. Produced by a mysterious artist called Humanoid, ‘Stakker Humanoid’ reached #17 on the UK charts in 1988.
During the early 90s, it became much harder to hold one-off events due to new bylaws. However, organizations such as Fantazia, Universe, N.A.S.A. (Nice and Safe Attitude), Raindance, Amnesia House, ESP, and Helter Skelter still managed to hold large-scale legal raves in warehouses and fields.
Genre styles started developing in the scene, and thus happy hardcore was born. In 1992 a bill was passed that allowed police to stop open air parties, or events organised by more than one promoter, as well as people on their way to raves. After 1993, most raves took place in licensed venues, including Helter Skelter, Life at Bowlers, the Edge, The Sanctuary, and Club Kinetic.
After 1995, DnB got more and more often into house-oriented clubs, starting from the Ministry of Sound. However, the rave as it was back in the day was on a decline due to bad press. An organization called World Dance put on their “last” rave at Lydd Airport. “Here is your last chance before another chapter in ‘Rave History’ comes to an end!” the adverts posted around London proclaimed.
Meanwhile in the US during the 90s the timeline was as follows. A rave scene legend, DJ Scotto, made Manhattan’s first rave at Studio 54 (the Ritz back then). Frankie Bones started his famous Storm Raves in Brooklyn, with DJs Like Josh Wink and Sven Väth. Franky may have been the person behind PLUR
Frankie Bones would go on to start his own successful series of raves in Brooklyn, Storm Raves – where future international DJs like Josh Wink and Sven Väth got a chance to perform. Frankie also allegedly was the man behind the concept of PLUR, having once famously yelled on the microphone during a fight at a Storm Rave: “If you don’t start showing some peace, love, and unity, I’ll break your faces.”
Global Underworld Network was the most famous rave promotion crew. They are behind the OPIUM and NARNIA Festivals that were attended by an astounding 60.000 people. Narnia was featured on MTV and Life Magazine, as well as winning event of the year in 1995. It was dubbed the “Woodstock of Generation X”.
In the 80s and 90s raves were extremely popular in the Bay Area. There was no curfew and soon enough venues had up to 20.000 visitors every weekend. ‘Homebase’, and ’85 & Baldwin’ were two of the biggest venues that raves were held in the Bay Area. California also became notorious for raves.
After a few tragic incidents, the scene was brought to an end- watch this Fox News report from 1998. Even though illegal drugs were part of the scene, most people were there for more than just non-stop partying. It was an experience in its own: seeing your favourite DJs live, as well as MCs from abroad.
The rave scene influenced the emergence of electronic music and made it more mainstream. Even though the golden rave era was back in the 80s and 90s, we still carried over most of its principles into the new age. It is not the same, but all the core principles are still. there. People will always gather in unity to let go of worries and dance together like the unhinged animals we are.