Early ElectroMIX #24

Selections/Mix/Text/Layout: Philippe Petit
Cover art: Yan Proefrock

Early ElectroMIX is a series to document the history of experimental Electronic music from the 50s to the 80s, composers making use of electronic instruments, test equipment, generators of synthetic signals and sounds… to analog synthesizers…While our sessions document those who make it today my desire is to transmit some pioneering works which paved the way to what we try to create today.
Realizing that most of those seminal recordings were not available I decided to archive them in a contemporary way, DJing-mixing them and while most of the time running several sources together or in medleys I made sure to respect the original intent of each composers as I want to transmit their message rather than mine.
The only one I would dare deliver being that they should not be forgotten…

Philippe Petit / April 2021.

Recorded (on April 01/2021) for our series broadcasted on Modular-Station


Priscilla Mc Lean – Voices of the Invisible (Medley) (1979 / Folkways) 00:00 > 21:30
Gil Mellé – Wildfire (1971/Kapp) 20:56 > 23:37
Bruno Menny ‎- Cosmos (1972/Orion) 22:11 > 37:04
Tim Clark – Collapse Towards Light (1971 / Self Released) 34:44 > 38:37
Gordon Mumma – Megaton For Wm. Burroughs (1979/Vital) 37:46 > 59:50
Carlos – Dialogues for Piano and Two Loudspeakers (1965/Turnabout) 55:59 > 59:57

Priscilla Mc Lean – Voices of the Invisible (Medley) (1979 / Folkways)

Priscilla McLean is an American composer, performer, video artist, writer, and music reviewer.
She graduated from the Universities of Massachusetts, Lowell + Indiana University, Bloomington (1969) and was greatly influenced by the music of Xenakis, who was teaching there. She has taught at Indiana University, Kokomo (1971-3), St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame (1973-6), and the University of Hawaii (1985) and the University of Malaysia (1996). From 1976 to 1980 she produced the American Society of Composers’ Radiofest series. In 1974 she and her husband, Barton McLean, began to perform together as The McLean Mix, and in 1983 to present concerts of their own music full-time.
She sings with extended vocal techniques and plays the piano, synthesizer, violin, percussion, and Amerindian wooden flutes, as well as newly created instruments.
The McLean Mix, the couple has performed throughout the United States and Europe, Southeast Asia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The New Grove Dictionary of Music describes McLean’s work as “[ranging] from abstract orchestral and chamber music to dramatic electro-acoustic works. Since 1978 most of her music has focused on the concept of the wilderness and has incorporated sounds from animals and nature along with synthesized music. »
I worked on a mix-medley of « Voices of the invisible »/« Archangels » and « Chariots » from the split album – with her husband Barton McLean – released by Folkways in 1979. Begun in 1975 and completed in 1977, her three-movement piece is named after a Carl Sandburg poem, about the “intuitive creative force” that shapes composition.

Gil Mellé – Wildfire (1971/Kapp)

Adapting the best-selling 1969 novel The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton, deserved an exceptional soundtrack.
Robert Wise was clear from day one that he did not want a traditional acoustic orchestra to provide the score for his film. This was a techno-thriller about a lethal alien organism and he wanted a modernistic cutting-edge soundscape, and so he hired Gil Mellé who was very happy to accept the assignment. Mellé was a successful jazz composer who also scored numerous television shows, earning distinction for his innovative use of electronic.
He relates:

“Robert Wise’s input was the toughest I’ve ever gotten in my life. I don’t think any composer in the history of the world has ever been asked to write music that had no themes, no chords, no harmonic structure, and with totally new sonorities! But I was just loaded with self-confidence and said I can do it!”

Mellé understood that the film was a suspense drama where technology bio-science and an alien organism intersect with potentially devastating consequences. His music would need to speak to the mystery, danger and implications posed by this truly horrific discovery. Fifteen years earlier, Bebe and Louis Barron created the first non-acoustic, electronic film score with their seminal work on Forbidden Planet. Drawing upon that tradition, and mindful of Wise’s direction, Mellé decided that audacious innovation was needed. To that end he conceived, and pioneered the creation of the first percussive synthesizer, which he named a Percussotron. He began making a number of recordings that captured dozens of organic sounds, such as the wind, bowling alleys, chain saws, and railways. His preparations also included taping electronic instrumental sounds in the NASA Jet Propulsion laboratory. Lastly, he also transformed traditional acoustic instrumental sounds into electronic forms to ensure fidelity to Wise’s vision. There are indeed no themes in the conventional sense, but there are a number of recurring motifs, including; The Wildfire Motif, which serves as the score’s main motif. It has three cycles; it’s A Cycle (0:00 – 1:12) is rhythmically mechanistic and kinetically empowered by ten electronically processed pianos with bongo-like percussive accents. Rapid-fire contrapuntal electronic rhythms join in non-harmonic patterns, some shifting from right to left in a discordant restless sea, which never resolves. The B Cycle (1:13 – 1:40) however is dissonant, wave-like and disorienting as though sound was slowed and distorted. The C Cycle (1:41 – 2:47) emotes like an electronic rendering of a cricket sounds, attended by formless meandering piano and kinetic pulsing effects. It intensifies, gaining force, yet never climaxes, instead dissipating into nothingness. The motif is brilliantly conceived and very malleable, and given that there is a multiplicity of cycles, there is opportunity to emote a significant spectrum of emotions.
The Wildfire Motif offered three patterns, which were used to create anxiety, tension and propel the film’s narrative flow. Mellé perfectly captured the alien and hellish nature of the Andromeda organism and his Strobe Crystal Green Motif, offers one of film score art’s most ingenious and kinetic creations. As the Andromeda crystal is bombarded with x-rays under an electron microscope, it begins exponential replication on the monitor – feeding on the bombarding energy. Empowered by the Percussotron, the motif unfolds with innumerable rhythmic textures, ever shifting, ever multiplying, thus musically simulating the exponential growth and myriad of mutations spawned before our eyes.
This is a wonderfully innovative electronica score with innumerable patterns, often in dynamic interplay and the artwork is real classy, gate folding + last but not least the only hexagonal vinyl in my collection .

Bruno Menny ‎- Cosmos (1972/Orion)

Bruno Menny was a student of Iannis Xenakis and collaborated with Michel Magne.
He composed electronic music, mainly by pasting-manipulating tapes of instrumental resonances from the studios and using oscillators and synthesizers. His only LP Album, Cosmographie was published by Arion in 1972.
Then throughout the 70s he recorded and got active in the Folk scene…

Tim Clark – Collapse Towards Light (1971 / Self Released)

Ambient / Electronic composer Tim Clark started his career in the early 1970’s composing Moog synthesizer soundtracks for Planetarium shows at the Strasenburgh Planetarium in Rochester, New York. He was the Music Director at the Strasenburgh, and it was his job to assemble complete soundtracks for the various planetarium shows. Thiswas the soundtrack for an Isaac Asimov short story first published in 1956, which according to the liner notes “takes place in six time settings beginning in 2061 and progressing forward to the moment when entropy has reached the maximum and the Universe is dead.”

Gordon Mumma – Megaton For Wm. Burroughs (1979/Vital)

Gordon Mumma is an American composer who attented the School of Music (1952–53) and Institute of Science and Technology (1959–62) of the University of Michigan and studied composition, piano and the horn privately. Mumma’s performances on piano were often in the context of piano ensembles, partnered with John Cage, David Tudor, and other performers. He toured internationally in the 1960s in a two-piano performance collaboration with Robert Ashley.
Mumma co-founded and worked with the Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music in Ann Arbor (1958–66) and the ONCE Group (1960–68). Mumma also collaborated with Milton Cohen’s Space Theater in Ann Arbor (1957–64) and in New York with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (1966–74) and the Sonic Arts Union (from 1966). His reputation was founded on his contributions to electro-acoustic music, particularly his custom-built circuits for sound creation and manipulation. Mumma’s cybersonic circuitry modifies and interrelates live instrumental, ambient and electronically-produced sounds and their various transformations. I had already played « The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945 » which opens this album in Mix 20 but I like it a lot and wanted to play this one being in hommage to one of my favorite writers Burroughs…

Carlos – Dialogues for Piano and Two Loudspeakers (1965/Turnabout)

Once again this beautiful LP compilation on the great Turnabout label featuring such influential classics from Lewin-Richter, Mimaroglu, Avni, and Carlos… Being none other than the famous Wendy Carlos when she was still Walter Carlos who in the early 50s had already built a small computer which won him a Westinghouse Science Fair scholarship. Three years later Carlos assembled an electronic music studio and created his first electronic musical composition via tape manipulation.
At Brown University (1958-1962), Carlos studied music and physics and informally taught electronic music. While earning a Master’s degree in music at Columbia University (1962-1965) he did extensive work at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center studying under composer and electronic music pioneer Vladimir Ussachevsky and recording early compositions such as Dialogues for Piano and Two Loudspeakers and Variations for Flute and Electronic Sound which are on this LP.
During this period Carlos also assisted conductor Leonard Bernstein in a concert of electronic music at the Lincoln Center Philharmonic Hall and later found employment at Gotham Recording Studios as a recording, mastering, and cutting engineer.
Carlos began a collaboration with engineer Robert Moog in 1966. The result was an ongoing evolution of the standard Moog synthesizer incorporating Carlos’ suggestions and needs. The bulk of the performances found on Carlos’ releases from 1968-1980 were realized on the Moog, though a few other instruments (including a Yamaha Electone organ) were also used.
In 1972 Carlos underwent the final stage of gender reassignment and changed her name from Walter to Wendy Carlos, and she kept proving her influence in Electronic music and soundtracking movies such as The Shining…