An annotated bibliography of ambient-electronica and sound art — 124 titles and growing
[ Last updated: January 6, 2004 ]
Discussion on ambient-electronic newsgroups often gets associative: What constitutes an ambient movie (Peter Weir’s Picnic at Hanging Rock, the Philip Glass-scored Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi, perhaps Jacques Tati’s Playtime) or TV show (Seinfeld, anything by Jacques-Yves Cousteau)?
When the subject turns to books, the relative paucity of titles soon enough has the discussion’s participants reaching for the attenuated, stop-time prose of Nicholson Baker or Marcel Proust.
“Page-spotter” is a start at a bibliography of ambient and electronic music. For now, it’s restricted to book-length works and organized reverse-chronologically, alphabetized within each year. A list of books-to-be-published (in chronologial order) appears at the bottom of the page, when titles are available. Eventually, “Page-spotter” will be rigged database-style, so it can be sequenced by title, author, year, etc. The publisher listed is the American one, unless otherwise specified. More titles to follow.
The entries are organized as follows. A “” notes exemplary titles, distinguished by the quality of their writing and ideas and/or their value as flashpoints in the culture.
Which leads to questions like: Why is a philosophical book by an inventor of an electronic-music keyboard “outside the field” whereas a book of fiction including one short story by an electronic musician is considered “inside the field”? Needless to say, if this disinction fails to hold up, I’ll conflate them down the road.
Author (Last Name, First Name) Title: Subtitle (Publisher, Page Count, Year of Publication) Brief summary.Any suggestions, drop me a line.
Year Published: 2004
Souvignier, Todd The World of DJs and the Turntable Culture (Hal Leonard, 333 pp., 2004). By the author of Loops and Grooves: The Musician’s Guide to Groove Machines and Loop Sequencers and of Teach Yourself Computer Audio.
Norman, Katharine Sounding Art: Eight Literary Excursions through Electronic Music (Ashgate, 240 pp., 2004). The author, a Princeton PhD in composition, is the former director of the Electronic Music Studios at Goldsmiths, University of London. A CD is included, with music by Autechre, Merzbow, Evelyn Ficarra, Francis Dhomont, Hildegard Westerkamp and others.
Year Published: 2003
Brewster, Bill, and Frank Broughton How to DJ: The Art and Science of Playing Records (Grove, 288 pp., 2003). By the authors of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life.
Kid Koala Nufonia Must Fall (ECW, 352 pp., 2003). The great Canadian DJ produces his first full-length graphic novel, a silent love story. It comes with a superb CD of background music.
P-Orridge, Genesis; Abrahamsson, Carl, ed. Painful but Fabulous: The Lives and Art of Genesis P-Orridge (Soft Skull, 225 pp., 2003). Essays by and on Genesis P-Orridge, founder of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV. Contributors include Julie Wilson, Douglas Rushkoff, Carl Abrahamsson (who edited the book and wrote its introduction), Richard Metzger, Bengala, Paul Cecil, Carol Tessitore, and Genesis P-Orridge. (NB: Some reports on this book list the subtitle as “The Life and Art,” not “The Lives.”)
Warner, Timothy Pop Music — Technology and Creativity: Trevor Horn and the Digital Revolution (Ashgate, 214 pp., 2003). Thanks to Mike Brown of hyperreal.org: A book on the prolific producer, who has worked with Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Mike Oldfield, Art of Noise, Grace Jones and others.
Year Published: 2002 Anagnostopoulou, Christiana and Miguel Ferrand, Alan Smaill, eds. Music and Artificial Intelligence (Springer, 207 pp., 2002). Collected papers from the Second International Conference on Music and Artificial Intelligence, ICMAI 2002, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in September 2002.
Braun, Hans-Joachim, ed. Music and Technology in the Twentieth Century (Johns Hopkins University Press, 256 pp, 2002). An edited collection, featuring writing by Barbara Barthelmes, Karin Bijsterveld, Martha Brech, Hugh Davies, Bernd Enders, Geoffrey Hindley, Juergen Hocker, Mark Katz, Tatsuya Kobayashi, James P. Kraft, Alexander B. Magoun, Rebecca McSwain, Andre Millard, Helga de la Motte-Haber, Trevor Pinch, Susan Schmidt-Horning, and Frank Trocco. Braun is a professor of modern social, economic, and technological history at the Universitat der Bundeswehr in Hamburg, Germany.
Holmes, Thomas B. Electronic and Experimental Music (Routledge, 2002). An update of the author’s 1985 book of the same name.
Kakehasi, Ikutaro I Believe in Music: Life Experiences and Thoughts on the Future of Electronic Music by the Founder of the Roland Corporation (Hal Leonard, 224 pp., 2002).
Mould, Rupert Rebel Radio Diary A Social-Historical Political-Intrigue, Poetic Travelogue Set in Cuba (Clinamen, 149 pp., 2002). A member of Up, Bustle & Out, the longtime (though no longer) Ninja Tune Records band that fuses an intoxication for studio funk and live turntablism with percussive ethnic music, wrote this diary of his tour of Cuba. Though it touches only occasionaly on electronic music, it’s a valuable peek inside the mind of a musician who’s been heavily involved in the British electronic community. Up, Bustle & Out have several albums of Cuban-drenched music that complement this book, Master Sessions Vol. 2 and Rebel Radio Master Sessions Vol. 1.
Perry, Michael (writer), Doug Cunningham (illustrator) and DJ Qbert (music) Turntable Timmy (Free Will Press, 32 pp., 2002). Not every publication about hip-hop is worth keeping track of in Page-spotter, but it’s hard to pass up a children’s book about spinning vinyl. Turntable Timmy includes a CD with scrathing on it, courtesy of DJ Qbert.
Pinch, Trevor and Frank Trocco Analog Days: The Invention and Impact of the Moog Synthesizer (Harvard University Pres, 384 pp., 2002).
Prochak, Tim How to Remix (Sanctuary Press, 200 pp., 2002).
Reich, Steve Writings on Music (1965 – 2000) (Oxford, 256 pp., 2002).
Schnittke, Alfred A Schnittke Reader (Indiana University Press, 352 pp., 2002). This posthumous collection of writings by composer Alfred Schnittke includes several essays either tangentially or directly related to ambient/electronic music, including “Timbral Relationships and Their Functional Use: The Timbral Scale,” “Klangfarbenmelodie — ‘Melody of Timbres’,” “A New Approach to Composition: The Statistical Method,” “Stereophone Tendencies in Modern Orchestral Thinking,” “Static Form: A New Conception of Time” and “Ligeti’s Orchestral Micropolyphony.” Edited by Alexander Ivashkin, translated by John Goodliffe, and with a foreward by cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
Taylor, Timothy Strange Sounds: Music, Technology and Culture (Routledge, 224 pp., 2002).
The Essential Databass (EDB, 132 pp., 2002) A trade guide to the electronic-dance industry. This is its premiere edition.
Raw Music Material: The 50 Most Famous Electronic Music DJ’s of the World (Scalo, 176 pp., 2002). Photos and interviews, plus a CD. Originally scheduled for publication last year.
Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music (Continuum, 320 pp., 2002) The volume collects writing celebrating the 20th anniversary of the great magazine the Wire, featuring essays on the origin of the phonograph, the role of amplification in the development of singing techniques, glitch music, drones and more.
Year Published: 2001 Bogdanov, Vladimir, ed., and others AllMusic Guide to Electronica (AllMusic/Backbeat, 600 pp., 2001).
James, Martin Moby: Replay (Olmstead, 208 pp., 2001).
Katz, David People Funny Boy: The Genius of Lee “Scratch” Perry (Payback/Canongate, 538 pp., 2001). Biography of dub reggae innovator Lee “Scratch” Perry.
Kettlewell, Ben Electronic Music Pioneers (ArtistPro / Hal Leonard, 286 pp., 2001). Subjects include Steve Roach, Robert Moog, Klaus Schulze, Chris Franke (Tangerine Dream) and others.
LaBelle, Brandon and Christof Migone, eds. Writing Aloud: The Sonics of Language (Errant Bodies Press, 279 pp., 2001). Includes a CD with work by one of the book’s editors, Christophe Mignone, plus Jocelyn Robert and Fluxus figure Yasunao Tone, among others.
Prendergast, Mark The Ambient Century: From Mahler to Trance: The Evolution of Sound in the Electronic Age (Bloomsbury, 512 pp., 2001). Initial reviews are fairly negative, especially in regard to routine factural misstatements. Brian Eno wrote the book’s introduction. Nonetheless, the book’s scope is to be admired.
Roads, Curtis Microsound (MIT Press, 392 pp., 2001).
010101: Art in Technological Times (SFMOMA, 152 pp., 2001). A catalog produced to complement the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s 2001 exhibit of the same name. Largely focused on visual art, the colorful and beautifully designed book collects themed summaries of various artists, including a section by David Toop, the author and musician, who reference Oval and other electronicists. Benjamin Weil, the museum’s curator of media arts, penned a section titled “Ambient Art and Our Changing Relationship to the Art Idea,” which includes a segment on Brian Eno.
Year Published: 2000
Barr, Tim Brighter Daze: The Dance Music Revolution (Sanctuary, 350 pp., 2000). Survey of electronic music.
Barr, Tim and J.M. Kelly Techno: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide/Penguin, 288 pp., 2000). From the pocket-size series of “mini” Rough Guides to electronic music. Due out later this year.
Born, Georgina and David Hesmondhalgh, eds. Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music (University of California Press, 409 pp., 2000). Wide range of subjects. Editor Hesmondhalgh contributes an essay titled “International Times: Fusions, Exoticism, and Antiracism in Electronic Dance Music.”
Brewster, Bill and Frank Broughton Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: A History of the Disk Jockey (Grove, 435 pp., 2000). The name of the Indeep house hit provides the title to this popular survey of the role of the disk jockey. Chapters include genre coverage (techno, house, disco, hip-hop) and thought pieces (“The DJ as Artist,” “… Outlaw,” “… Superstar”). Both writers have edited Mixmag and written for a variety of other publications.
Eno, Brian and Mimmo Paladino; Demetrio Paparoni, ed. I Dormienti (Alberico Cetti Serbelloni Editore, 108 pp., 2000). Collaboration between musician Eno and sculptor Paladino; includes a CD, 59 illustrations and text in Italian and English.
Fikentscher, Kai You Better Work!: Underground Dance Music in New York (Wesleyan/University Press of New England, 252 pp., 2000). This is Fikentscher’s doctoral dissertation from Columbia University. He also studied at Berklee College of Music and Manhattan School of Music. A somewhat out-of-date resume of his is housed here.
Francastel, Pierre Art and Technology in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Zone Books, 325 pp., 2000). Makes a strong historic case for the relation between art and technology over the course of two centures, with a particular focus on architecture. Doesn’t include an index, which would have been valuable. Francastel passed away in 1970. This Zone edition is the first time the book has been available in English translation.
Futura Futura (Booth Clibborn Editions/Mo’ Wax, 176 pp., 2000). Futura is, among other things, one of the primary artists producing album covers for the Mo’ Wax record label. This is a collection of his art.
Gerrish, Bruce Re-Mix: The Electronic Music Explosion (Hal Leonard, 2000).
Glinsky, Albert Theremin: Ether Music and Espionage (University of Illinois Press, 464 pp., 2000). Biography of Leon Theremin (1896-1993), one of the fathers of electronic music, and best known for the instrument he named after himself. Lesser known is Theremin’s professional experience as a spy. The biographer is an associate professor of music at Mercy-hurst College in Pennsylvania. Robert Moog, who named his own synthesizer after himself, provides an introduction. The book includes numerous photographs and line drawings.
Jordan, Joel T. and Summer Forest Hoeckel and Jason A. Forest Jordan Searching for the Perfect Beat: Flyer Designs of the American Rave Scene (Watson-Guptill, pp. 160, 2000). Collection put together by the Earth Program, a New York-based multimedia firm. Introduction by New York Times critic Neil Strauss.
Noon, Jeff Needle in the Groove (Anchor Books, 288 pp., 2000). The science fiction novelist best known for his book Vurt wrote this story about a rock musician who joins up with a DJ group and finds himself immersed in the mysterious disappearance of one of its members.
Reighley, Kurt B. Looking for the Perfect Beat: The Art and Culture of the DJ (MTV, 176 pp., 2000). The author’s previous book, for St. Martin’s Press, was a biography of Marilyn Manson.
Shapiro, Peter, ed. Modulations: A History of Electronic Music, Throbbing Words on Sound (DAP/Caipirinha, 255 pp., 2000). A book companion to the documentary film Modulations. The 11 chapters focus on various categories/genres (pioneers, Krautrock, disco, post-punk, house, hip-hop, techno, jungle, ambient, downtempo, technology) and, with a few exceptions, include a representative interview (for example Robert Moog for technology, Derrick May for techno and Squarepusher for jungle). The names of many of the writers (Simon Reynolds, Rob Young and Peter Shapiro, the editor) will be familiar to readers of the British music magazine, The Wire. There’s also a heap of indexes (songs, labels, equipment, etc.) and a helpful glossary.
Year Published: 1999 Barbuzza, Tite Barcelona Club Flyers (Actar, 360 pp., 1999).
Barr, Tim Kraftwerk: From Düsseldorf to the Future (with Love) (Ebury House, ? pp., 1999). Biography of the influential electronic-pop group.
Bidder, Sean House: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide/Penguin, 384 pp., 1999). Pocket-size (6″ x 4″) guide consisting of arist and label profiles (from A Guy Called Gerald to Kevin Yost).
Fritz, Jimi Rave Culture: An Insider’s Overview (Small Fry Press, 1999). Self-described as “a comprehensive guidebook to the rave phenomenon for ravers and non-ravers alike.” For more info from the publisher, click here.
Gilbert, Jeremy and Ewan Pearson Discographies: Dance Music Cultures and the Politics of Sound (Routledge, 224 pp., 1999).
Heintze, James R., ed. Perspectives on American Music Since 1950 (Garland, 482 pp., 1999). Specifically of interest for the 37-page first chapter, Lloyd Ultan’s “Electronic Music: An American Voice,” which makes a strong case for the American-ness of computer/electronic composition. (The subjects of the books other chapters include Elliot Carter, Morton Feldman and time, John Cage and Louis Armstrong.)
Kahn, Douglas Noise Water Meat: A History of Sound in the Arts (MIT, 455 pp., 1999). Kahn is a professor of media arts at the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia. The unfortunate title of his book is offset by the fairly self-explanatory subtitle. By “arts,” he meants, for the most part, the avant-garde, from John Cage’s silences to William S. Burroughs’ virus metaphor, from a brief history of water in sonic culture (Henry Cowell’s wet percussion, Lou Harrison’s water gong, Kurt Schwitter’s use of water dripping in a theater piece) to word scores of Yoko Ono. This isn’t an easily digestible book — it’s embedded with cultural theory. It is also thorough and welcome. Among other things, it is a fount of references that will, over time, become part of this list.
Kurzweil, Ray The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (Viking, 388 pp., 1999). One of the themes that runs through Disquiet.com is the idea that electronic music is a place where we’re working out the relationship between humans and machines, often in ways that general practice become a more pervasive metaphor. Kurzweil, perhaps best known for the keyboard he invented and gave his name to, weighs in on the subject, as well as a variety of other futurisms.
Larkin, Colin, ed. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Dance Music (Virgin Books, 416 pp., 1999). Large-scale overview by the editor of The Guinness Who’s Who of Rap, Dance & Techno. For more info from the publisher, click here.
Pesch, Martin and Markus Weisbeck Discstyle: The Graphic Arts of Electronic Music and Club Culture (Editions Olms/Gingko, 1999). Album covers and other graphics. (Thanks to Brian Biggs for the reference.)
Rule, Greg Elektro Shock!: Groundbreakers of Synth Music (Miller Freeman, 248 pp., 1999).
Shapiro, Peter Drum’n’bass: The Rough Guide (Rough Guide/Penguin, 377 pp., 1999). Pocket-size (6″ x 4″) guide, divided into two sections (“Drum’n’bass” and “Down Tempo and Big Beat”), both consisting of arist and label profiles (from A Guy Called Gerald to DJ Zinc and from Amon Tobin to µ-ziq, respectively).
Sicko, Dan Techno Rebels: The Renegades of Electronic Funk (Billboard, 240 pp., 1999). More information at the book’s home page: techno-rebels.com.
Silcott, Mireille Rave America: New School Dancescapes (E.C.W. Press, 144 pp., 1999). Author has a forthcoming book on ecstacy, due from Omnibus Press.
Toop, David Exotica (Consortium, 256 pp., 1999).
Year Published: 1998 Beverage, Eddie I. 200 Beats Per Minute (Sure Shot, 168 pp., 1998). A rave novel set in Florida. The author posted the following on Amazon.com’s page for the book: “I decided I really wanted to reach people with this novel. I wanted them to feel the bass, and see the lights, but I also wanted it to be more than that. When you read 200 Beats, you’re witnessing the maturation process in action; the maturation of Danny Boyle … and of myself, as a writer and a person.”
Collin, Matthew (with contributions by John Godfrey) Altered State: The Story of Ecstacy Culture and Acid House, 2nd Edition (Serpent’s Tail, 320 pp., 1998). No news on its additional content at this date, but it’s apparently six pages thicker than the original, which was published a year earlier in Collin’s native Britain.
Eshun, Kodwo More Brilliant Than the Sun (Quartet Books, 224 pp., 1998). Experimental mix of imaginative reporting and theoretical fiction about sound, science and the future. An excerpt is available at the following link.
McKay, George, ed. DiY: Party & Protest in Nineties Britain (Verso, U.K., 310 pp., 1998). Solid final chapter on rave scene. (Thanks to Patrick Welch for the recommendation.)
Osgerby, Bill Youth in Britain Since 1945 (Blackwell, U.K., 256 pp., 1998). This sociological survey of British youth and youth culture since World War II is exceptionally musically literate. Chapter 12, “‘Twenty-Four Hour Party People’: Dance Culture, Travellers and the Criminal Justice Act,” covers the rave scene in England, and the infamous curfew acts that worked to curtail it. Also includes a valuable bibliography, some of which listings have been absorbed by this document.
Parker, Howard J., Judith Aldridge and Fiona Measham, eds. Illegal Leisure: The Normalization of Adolescent Recreational Drug Use (Adolescence and Society) (Routledge, 1998). Academic collection about drugs and youth in Britain.
Reynolds, Simon Generation Ecstasy: Into the World of Techno and Rave Culture (Little, Brown, 454 pp., 1998).
Rietveld, Hillegonda C. This Is Our House: House Music, Cultural Spaces and Technologies (Ashgate, 276 pp., 1998).
Year Published: 1997 Benson, Richard, ed. Night Fever: Club Writing in The Face 1980-1997 (Boxtree Books, U.K., 1997).
Collin, Matthew (with contributions by John Godfrey) Altered State: The Story of Ecstacy Culture and Acid House (Serpent’s Tail, U.K., 314 pp., 1997). Re-published in the States in late 1998 in an updated, 2nd edition.
Costello, Mark and David Foster Wallace Signifying Rappers (Ecco Press, 160 pp., 1997) Novelist and essayist Wallace was a grad student in 1990 when he and roommate Costello cowrote this slim hip-hop book. The authors’ alternating chapters don’t so much investigate rap as they investigate the authors’ obsession with, involvement in, fear of, and fear of fear of rap. Replace the word “rap” with “sample,” and the book’s value on this list becomes apparent. (The 1997 edition is a reprint.)
Ehrlich, Dimitri Inside the Music: Conversations with Contemporary Musicians About Spirituality, Creativity, and Consciousness (Shambhala, 240 pp., 1997). Moby and Dead Can Dance (as well as Philip Glass and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan) are among the musicians interviewed Q&A style.
Gavlak, Sarah and Chris Kraus, eds, and Susan Martin Chance: A Philosophical Rave in the Desert (Distributed Art Publications, 40 pp., 1997).
Herz, J.C. Joystick Nation: How Videogames Ate Our Quarters, Won Our Hearts, and Rewired Our Minds (Little, Brown, 230 pp., 1997). Joystick Nation is a social history of the videogame in America. Author previously of Surfing on the Internet, Herz in Joystick sews together facets of the videogame business toward a portrait of the culture industry’s least chronicled major product group. The tone is routinely hyperbolic, and the claims are presented with negligible skepticism (videogames prepare kids for the future, videogames spur the economy, videogames are the first taste of a 21st century art form). But the variety of coverage keeps the pages turning: games’ accelerated evolution from Pong to Mortal Kombat, a visit to a computerized cartridge-distribution warehouse, interviews with game programmers and testers, the adoption of videogame technology by the military for training. Throughout, one can sense the material’s attempt to suggest that the reader extrapolate from videogame culture a model for the growing role of digital culture in our lives. The book never quite gets there, but one chapter in particular will be of interest to broad-minded electronic-music fans: in “Chapter 8: Ditties of the Apocalypse” Herz talks with several men who program (or “compose”—choose your verb wisely) the scores that accompany videogames such as Wing Commander and Seventh Guest. The conversants muse on the intersection of special effects and music, the skills required to compose for limited voices (the number of distinct sounds a computer’s soundcard can play simultaneously) and memory capabilities, and the economic forces that will (in short time) make videogame companies real players in the hit-starved pop-music business.
James, Martin State of Bass: Jungle: The Story So Far (Boxtree, U.K., 1997).
Lopiano-Misdom, Janine and Joanne De Luca Street Trends: How Today’s Alternative Youth Cultures Are Creating Tomorrow’s Mainstream Markets (HarperBusiness, 206 pp., 1997). Lopiano-Misdom and De Luca are the cofounders of The Sputnik Mindtrends Report, a tip sheet advising marketing executives who vie for adolescent and collegiate wallets. “Look at the synthesizer as the new electric guitar,” they write, “(and we all know how that changed rock and roll forever).” Was there rock and roll before the electric guitar? No matter. The Mindtrends duo’s jist is that street culture gets validated by commercial appropriation. Street Trends examines a heap of rising trends, electronic music among them. The genre’s mainstream arrival is marked by a Boss Jeans commercial. Toward the end of the report, they write, “Techno as a mass pop-culture music genre hasn’t peaked yet, it’s only just begun its pitch.” As in sales pitch. (Never mind the comma splice.)
Pepperell, Robert The Post Human Condition (?, 1997). Author Pepperell is member of HEX, the British multimedia posse associated with Coldcut and Ninja Tune Records. Though not explicitly about electronic music, Post Human’s wired focus — “The book outlines some of the dramatic developments in high technology which point to a blurring of the distinctions between the natural and the artificial, including genetics, VR, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial life and intelligence.” — and the author’s place in Britain’s DJ community suggest its inclusion here.
Potash, Chris, ed. Reggae, Rasta, Revolution: Jamaican Music from Ska to Dub (Schirmer Books, 290 pp., 1997). Dozens of essays compiled by the editor of the Jimi Hendrix Companion, including work by David (Ocean of Sound) Toop and the New York Times’ Neil Strauss, plus material whose sources range from Caribbean news services to the halls of American academia. Applicable here due, primarily, to its nine entries on dub. (Full disclosure: I have a piece in this collection.)
Redhead, Steve, ed., with Derek Wynne and Justin O’Connor; photographs by Patrick Henry The Clubcultures Reader: Readings in Popular Culture Studies (Blackwell, U.K., 251 pp., 1997). Sixteen essays explain why club culture rhymes with sub culture. Writers include Simon Reynolds (Blissed Out), Simon Frith (Sound Effects), and Jon Savage (England’s Dreaming), the last two in collaboration.
Roach, Martin The Prodigy: Fat of the Land (Omnibus Press, U.K., 128 pp., 1997). Quicky photo-heavy band bio from a publisher that specializes in them. Roach is also the author of an excellent collection of musician interviews, titled The Right to Imagination and Madness; see below.
Rushkoff, Douglas Ecstasy Club: A Novel (HarperCollins, 256 pp., 1997).
Skelton, Tracey and Gill Valentine, eds. Cool Places: Geographies of Youth Culture (Routledge, 400 pp., 1997).
Stone, C.J. Fierce Dancing: Adventures in the Underground (Faber and Faber, 243 pp., 1997).
Stump, Paul Digital Gothic: A Critical Discography of Tangerine Dream (SAF, U.K., 160 pp., 1997). The back cover reads “Having recorded more than 60 albums …” and the second sentence of the preface estimates Tangerine Dream as having “released more than seventy albums,” so don’t take the integrity of the book’s data (or, apparently, its copyediting) at face value. But this is a fresh look at the band’s complete works, with a detailed discography, and a fairly opinionated take on what is, to the author, exemplary (Rubycon [Virgin, 1975]) and what’s unlistenable (220 Volt Live [Miramar, 1993]). Stump is also the author of The Music’s All That Matters: A History of Progressive Rock (Quartet Books).
Theberge, Paul Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology (Wesleyan University, 303 pp., 1997).
Walton, Roger, ed. Sight for Sound: Design and Music Mixes (Watson-Guptil, 184 pp., 1997).
Warner, Alan Morvern Callar (Bantam Doubleday, 224 pp., 1997). Scottish novel about a girl, the title character, and her venture into the rave scene. In the New York Times, reviewer Jennifer Kornreich wrote: “Unfortunately, [the] appalling but convincing details never add up to anything in particular.” (Click here for the complete review.)
Year Published: 1996 Ackland-Snow, Nicola and Nathan Brett and Steven Williams Fly: The Art of the Club Flyer (Watson-Guptill, U.K., 1996). Ackland-Snow, Brett, and Williams comprise the creative-design team Blink. Their book collects several hundred flyers, ranging from Jeff Koons-inspired house announcements to the cyber-pop of today’s electronica confetti. Brief essays illuminate cultural and aesthetic themes, and a lengthy list of designer contact addresses is included.
Bussy, Pascal Kraftwerk: Man, Machine and Music (SAP, U.K., 200 pp., 1996).
Chadabe, Joe Electric Sound: The Past and Promise of Electronic Music (Prentice Hall Press., 336 pp., 1996).
Champion, Sarah, ed. Disco Bisquits (Spectre, U.K., 1996?). Honestly, I’ve never seen this book, and searches on the web haven’t proven fruitful. However, mentions of it pop up from time to time. Apparently it’s a collection of short stories all of which have club life as a common theme. Jeff Noon (Vurt) and Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) are reported to be among its contributors.
Cope, Julian Krautrocksampler: One Head’s Guide to the Great Kosmiche Musik — 1968 Onwards (Head Heritage, U.K., 140 pp., 1996). The pop singer’s tour of prog rock’s Teutonic faction begins, “I was a teenage Krautrocker.” What follows is a true fan’s guide, replete with annotated discographies, detailed personnel trajectories, and remembrances of trips past. “The psychic and the physical could easily mix to become Science Fiction,” he writes at one point. “It was almost too good to be true.” Uh, yeah. Rock on.
Derogatis, Jim Kaleidoscope Eyes: Psychedelic Rock from the ’60s to the ’90s (Citadel Underground Series, 288 pp., 1996). Tracing the thread of drugs and fractal visions through four decades of rock’n’roll. Two chapters are of relevance to this list: “Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine: Psychedelic Hip-Hop” and “Raving and Drooling: Psychedelic Dance Music.”
Eno, Brian The Year With Swollen Appendices (Faber and Faber, 1996). Eno’s book is the musician’s 1995 diary supplemented with a 100-page appendix of pithy essays and personal letters. The appendices are highly aphoristic, addressing subjects from ambient music to Bosnian relief efforts. The diary is as personal as it is professional, and lends perspective to his work habits, his youthful vigor and the nature of his collaborations.
Jones, Alfred M. Localizer 1.1: Technoart: Chromopark Issue (Die Gestalten, 80 pp., 1996).
Kempster, Chris, ed. History of House (Sanctuary Publishing, U.K., 205 pp., 1996).
Saunders, Nicholas and Rick Doblin Ecstasy: Dance, Trance & Transformation (Quick Trading, U.K., 1996).
Thornton, Sarah Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Wesleyan Univ Press, 191 pp., 1996). Originally issued by Polity Press in London in 1995.
Techno Style: Music, Graphics, Fashion and Party Culture of the Techno Movement (Gingko Press, 1996).
Year Published: 1995
Born, Georgina. Rationalizing Culture: IRCAM, Boulez, and the Institutionalization of the Musical Avant-Garde (The University of California Press, 392 pp., 1995). An anthropologist investigates the Paris-based cultural organization, which has a substantial computer- and electronic-music wing.
Lucier, Alvin. Reflections: Interviews, Scores, Writings (MusikTexte, 544 pp., 1995). Technically, the book is only half its 544 pages, because it prints the entirety of the text in English and German, side by side. This is, nonetheless, an extensive document of the work, career, mindset and attititudes of one of the pre-eminent 20th composers of electronically mediated music. Several interviews are here, as well as introductory remarks by composers Pauline Oliveros and James Tenney. Perhaps the highlight of the book: several dozen of Lucier’s “prose scores,” in which he presents compositions as a series of instructions.
Manning, Peter. Electronic and Computer Music (Oxford University Press, 416 pp., 1995). Paperback edition features significant revision of this historical survey.
Palmer, Elaine, ed. TechnoPagan (Pulp Faction, U.K., 1995). Collection of fiction “thematically linked with ritual, technology and their clash with human desires and needs.” Along with work by Jeff Noon, Kirk Lake, and editor Palmer, there is a piece by the electronic musician Scanner.
Roach, Martin The Right to Imagination and Madness: An Essential Collection of Candid Interviews with U.K. Top Alternative Songwriters (Omnibus Press, U.K., 1995). Collection of Q&As with a variety of British musicians, including Richard D. James, aka Aphex Twin. Introduction by legendary BBC disc jockey John Peel. (Strange, the urge to distinguish a disc jockey from a DJ.)
Smith, Geoff and Nicola Watker New Voices: American Composers Talk about Their Music (Amadeus Press, 280 pp., 1995). Capitalizing “about” in the subtitle would change its meaning, but perhaps the meandering conotation is the one the authors sought. This estimable collection of conversations with contemporary composers is at its best when the subjects veer from specific pieces into the hypothetical realm of sonic experimentation that is American minimalism, electronic or otherwise. Most are relevant to this list, especially Philip Glass, Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Lucier, Terry Riley, and La Monte Young.
Toop, David Ocean of Sound: Aether Talk, Ambient Sound and Imaginary Worlds (Serpent’s Tail, U.K., 1995). Toop is a British musician and journalist. Ocean of Sound is more of a travel diary than a book of pop-cultural musicology. It is a highly personal, free-flowing, enjoyably anecdotal survey of all manner of ambient musics, with little structural definition or editorial direction aside from Toop’s stream of consciousness.
highflyers: clubravepartyart (Booth-Clibborn Editions, U.K., 184 pp., 1995). Intro by Jon Savage, author of England’s Dreaming.
Localizer 1.0: The Techno House Book (Die Gestalten + Chrompark E.V., Germany, 184 pp., 1995). Enormous coffee table book whose visual expansiveness makes up for the fact that, well, it’s only available in German.
Year Published: 1994
Hyde, Karl and John Warwicker Mmm … Skyscraper I Love You: A Typographic Journal of New York (Tomato/Underworld/Booth-Clibborn Editions, 1997 [originally ’94]). Graphic-design project by member of Underworld, Karl Hyde.
Lanza, Joseph Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong (St. Martin’s, 1994). Lanza’s collection of essays is more about the history of lounge music and the Muzak corporation than it is about the current crop of ambient music, but it develops a vocabulary of mood music, at once concise and perfumed. Lanza subsequently published a book about cocktails in American culture and gravity. Previous work includes a biography of filmmaker Nicolas Roeg.
Larkin, Colin, ed. The Guinnness Who’s Who of Rap, Dance & Techno (Guinness, U.K., 348 pp., 1994). Two alphabetical biographical encyclopedias of music, in one volume. Pages 5-175 are the rap section, 176-348 the “dance & techno section. Not surprisingly, the book is a bit myopic in regard to British contributions to music. Australia’s Extreme is absent, as are many of its artists; ditto L.A.-based Moonshine, though San Francisco’s Silent is here. The book was quite forward-looking at its time, including many musicians who have only truly proven their worth since its publication. Typically, rather than be updated, the book has fallen out of print.
Levenson, Thomas Measure for Measure: A Musical History of Science (Simon and Schuster, 352 pp, 1994). Thanks for this recommendation go to Michael Bentley, who runs Foundry Records and records as eM: “This book is really more a history of science, but by approaching this topic through parallels between scientific advances and develops in musical instruments he gives a unique insight into both topics.”
Ross, Andrew and Tricia Rose, Andrew Rose Microphone Fiends: Youth Music & Youth Culture (Routledge, 276 pp., 1994).
Thompson, Dave Space Daze: The History & Mystery of Electronic Ambient Space Rock (Cleopatra, 1994). Thompson’s book is concerned with psychedelic and “progressive rock” precursors to today’s electronic scene: Tangerine Dream, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd, etc. Cleopatra, the book’s publisher, is primarily a record label and distributor.
Year Published: 1993 Beadle, Jeremy J. Will Pop Eat Itself? (Faber & Faber, 260 pp., 1993). Thanks to Mike Brown of hyperreal.org: “Have you read Jeremy Beadle’s book Will Pop Eat Itself? It isn’t about ambient per se, but discusses sampling and the evolution of pop-dance music in the UK in the late 80s and early 90s. Besides devoting an entire chapter to Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers, it does a good job of explaining a lot of things related to deconstructive, sample based music.”
Year Published: 1992 Thompson, Dave. Industrial Revolution (Cleopatra, 150 pp., 1992). Overview of industrial music, published by a record company. (Thanks to Disquiet.com reader Brian Duguid for the reference.)
Year Published: 1989 Tamm, Eric Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound (Da Capo, 1995; originally Faber and Faber, 1989). Tamm’s book is his doctoral dissertation on Eno’s music. It is a work of musicological scholarship, apparently not intended for popular consumption. When Da Capo reprinted the book, Tamm appended very brief chapters bringing Eno’s discography up to date and touching on the Internet. He has also published a book on Eno’s sometime collaborator, guitarist Robert Fripp.
Year Published: 1987 Schaeffer, John New Sounds: A Listener’s Guide to New Music (Harper & Row, 297 pp., 1987). Interviews with and profiles of Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, Kitaro, John Cage, and Philip Glass are but a facet of this book by big-eared NPR figure Schaeffer.
Tape Delay (S.A.F., U.K., 256 pp., 1987). Profiles of the Hafler Trio, Cabaret Voltaire, Psychic TV, and others. Interviews conducted by Charles Neal.
Year Published: 1986 Eno, Brian and Russell Mills, Rick Poynor More Dark Than Shark (Faber and Faber, 1986).
Year Published: 1983 Armbruster, Greg, ed. and Tom Darter, compiler The Art of Electronic Music (Quill, 1984). A collection of material originally published in Keyboard magazine from 1975 to 1983.
Year Published: 1979 Griffiths, Paul A Guide to Electronic Music (Thames & Hudson, 1979). An elegant, if inevitably dated, introduction to electronic music from the longtime New York Times music critic. It includes pithy essay-like chapters, a canonical discography (weighted, like much of the book, toward academic and avant-garde compostion), brief bios of major figures, and a highly valuable glossary. Define dated, you ask. Well, the book’s rock-oriented chapter focuses on the Grateful Dead, the Beatles and, of course Brian Eno, and the glossary begins with “amplifier,” bypassing “ambient” entirely.
Year Published: 1974 Nyman, Michael Experimental Music: Cage and Beyond (Schirmer Books, 154 pp., 1974).
Year Published: 1973 Cage, John Silence (Wesleyan Univ Press, 1973).
Year Published: 1972
Ruscol, Herbert The Liberation of Sound: An Introduction to Electronic Music (Prentice Hall, 1972).
Year Published: 1989 Matsumoto, Seicho Inspector Imanishi Investigates (Soho Crime, 313 pp., 1989). To include this detective novel in a list of books about electronic music is to risk spoiling the conclusion. So be it. Published in Japan in 1961, this police procedural sets a traditional homicide detective on a trail that leads him into the milieu of a cutting-edge group of art-world figures. Contemporary art — and, in particular, musique concrete — represents Western cultural influence to a salaryman police officer who writes haikus while taking trains to the remote countryside to follow leads. Over the course of the investigation, Inspector Imanishi absorbs what he learns about electronic music, reflecting at one point, “The sound of the night train followed a simple rhythm. It was not an unpleasant sound. In some ways it was as gentle as a lullaby.” Along with being a compelling mystery novel, the book provides a valuable portrayal of Japan just as electronic music was coming on the national arts scene. The story nicely complements the overview of early Japanese electronic music presented by Emmanuelle Loubet in the Computer Music Journal issues Winter 1997 (Vol. 21, No. 4) and Spring 1998 (Vol. 22, No. 1). The English edition of the novel, translated by Beth Cary, was published in 1989. The novel’s original title, Suna no Utsuwa, translates as Vessel of Sand.
Year Published: 1945 Antheil, George Bad Boy of Music (Doubleday, Doran & Company, 378 pp., 1945). Autobiography of composer George Antheil (1900-59), who, among other things, composed avant-garde music for the player piano and invented a radio torpedo with Heddy Lamarr. Of his major work, the Ballet Mécanique, he wrote: “it had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual description of factories, machinery.” For a lengthy Wired magazine article on Antheil (November 1999), by composer and educator Paul D. Lehrman, click here.