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Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music

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Electronic music is now ubiquitous, from mainstream pop hits to the furthest reaches of the avant-garde. The future, a long time coming, finally arrived. But how did we get here? In Mars by 1980, David Stubbs charts the evolution of electronic music from the earliest mechanical experiments in the late nineteenth century to the pre-World War 1 inventions of the Futurist Luig Electronic music is now ubiquitous, from mainstream pop hits to the furthest reaches of the avant-garde. The future, a long time coming, finally arrived. But how did we get here? In Mars by 1980, David Stubbs charts the evolution of electronic music from the earliest mechanical experiments in the late nineteenth century to the pre-World War 1 inventions of the Futurist Luigi Russolo, author of the 'Art Of Noises' manifesto. He takes us through the musique concrete of radical composers such as Edgard Varese, Pierre Schaeffer, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to the gradual absorption of electronic instrumentation into the mainstream: be it through the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the work of pioneers like Delia Derbyshire, grandiose prog rock, or the more DIY approach of electronica, house, and techno. It's a tale of mavericks and future dreamers overcoming Luddite resistance, malfunctioning devices, and sonic mayhem. Its beginnings are in the world of avant-classical composition, but the book also encompasses the cosmic funk of Stevie Wonder, Giorgio Moroder, and unforgettable 80s electronic pop from the likes of Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys, and Laurie Anderson - right up to present day innovators on the underground scene. But above all, it's an essential story of authenticity: is this music? Is it legitimate? What drew its creators to make it? Where does it stand, in relation to rock and pop, classical and jazz music, to the modern society that generated it? And why does it resonate more strongly than ever in our own postmodern, seemingly post-futurist times? Mars by 1980 is the definitive account that answers these questions.


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Electronic music is now ubiquitous, from mainstream pop hits to the furthest reaches of the avant-garde. The future, a long time coming, finally arrived. But how did we get here? In Mars by 1980, David Stubbs charts the evolution of electronic music from the earliest mechanical experiments in the late nineteenth century to the pre-World War 1 inventions of the Futurist Luig Electronic music is now ubiquitous, from mainstream pop hits to the furthest reaches of the avant-garde. The future, a long time coming, finally arrived. But how did we get here? In Mars by 1980, David Stubbs charts the evolution of electronic music from the earliest mechanical experiments in the late nineteenth century to the pre-World War 1 inventions of the Futurist Luigi Russolo, author of the 'Art Of Noises' manifesto. He takes us through the musique concrete of radical composers such as Edgard Varese, Pierre Schaeffer, and Karlheinz Stockhausen, to the gradual absorption of electronic instrumentation into the mainstream: be it through the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the work of pioneers like Delia Derbyshire, grandiose prog rock, or the more DIY approach of electronica, house, and techno. It's a tale of mavericks and future dreamers overcoming Luddite resistance, malfunctioning devices, and sonic mayhem. Its beginnings are in the world of avant-classical composition, but the book also encompasses the cosmic funk of Stevie Wonder, Giorgio Moroder, and unforgettable 80s electronic pop from the likes of Depeche Mode, the Pet Shop Boys, and Laurie Anderson - right up to present day innovators on the underground scene. But above all, it's an essential story of authenticity: is this music? Is it legitimate? What drew its creators to make it? Where does it stand, in relation to rock and pop, classical and jazz music, to the modern society that generated it? And why does it resonate more strongly than ever in our own postmodern, seemingly post-futurist times? Mars by 1980 is the definitive account that answers these questions.

30 review for Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Joe O'Donnell

    Some books on dance/electronic music that I’ve read have been content to declare “it all started with Kraftwerk and the soundtrack to ‘A Clockwork Orange’”, but in “Mars by 1980”, David Stubbs delves far deeper to uncover its genesis. In the early and most illuminating chapters of this wide-ranging history, Stubbs traces the roots of contemporary electronic music to the Italian futurist movement of the early 1900s and their radical “Art of Noises” manifesto, and back to avant-garde classical com Some books on dance/electronic music that I’ve read have been content to declare “it all started with Kraftwerk and the soundtrack to ‘A Clockwork Orange’”, but in “Mars by 1980”, David Stubbs delves far deeper to uncover its genesis. In the early and most illuminating chapters of this wide-ranging history, Stubbs traces the roots of contemporary electronic music to the Italian futurist movement of the early 1900s and their radical “Art of Noises” manifesto, and back to avant-garde classical composers like Edgard Varese and Karlheinz Stockhausen. He gives long overdue credit for the development of electronica to Delia Derbyshire of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, but also to Stevie Wonder who brought electronic instrumentation into the mainstream while bringing a more human, soulful dimension to synthesiser-based music. “Mars by 1980” doesn’t follow a rigid chronological order, and as Stubbs charts the development of electronic music he flits back-and-forth between eras and genres, touching on themes from afro-futurism, automation and A.I., dadism and surrealism, proto-fascism and communism. Stubbs is excellent on how the latest technological advances in electronic instrumentation – from moog synthesisers to vocoders and samplers – have driven the artform onwards. Incredibly knowledgeable about all genres of music from the last century (not just electronic/dance), Stubbs can weave the connections between acts as seemingly disparate as Throbbing Gristle, De La Soul, Young Gods and Beyonce within the space of a single page. What diminishes “Mars by 1980” somewhat (and prevents it attaining the level of “Energy Flash”, Simon Reynolds’s peerless exploration of dance culture) is that it relatively fleetingly deals with the development of electronic music forms during the last 25 years. Even though we appear to be an age when electronica is in the ascendancy – as it has been so thoroughly absorbed into mainstream that it now provides the soundtrack to Volkswagen ads and property programmes – the vast bulk of Stubbs’s analysis is devoted to the periods before pre-Acid House and Rave. Through this focus on the 20th century, and even through his title of “Mars by 1980”, David Stubbs contends that electronic music has lost the revolutionary fervour that once propelled it.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I was inspired to read this by the author's excellent and engaging presence on the superb Chart Music podcast while he also contributes regularly to When Saturday Comes . For the most part, it's an interesting trawl through the history of electronic music albeit a volume that never really catches fire. The inspiration is clearly Simon Reynolds' sublime Rip It Up and Start Again but it doesn't match that work in the way it inspired readers to go and seek out the music of unjustly neglected a I was inspired to read this by the author's excellent and engaging presence on the superb Chart Music podcast while he also contributes regularly to When Saturday Comes . For the most part, it's an interesting trawl through the history of electronic music albeit a volume that never really catches fire. The inspiration is clearly Simon Reynolds' sublime Rip It Up and Start Again but it doesn't match that work in the way it inspired readers to go and seek out the music of unjustly neglected artists (although I do need to go back to Cabaret Voltaire). Stubbs obviously took the decision to analyse the topic over the longue durée and while this is admirable, it does mean devoting 150 pages to early and mid twentieth century pioneers on the edges of the classical music world when most readers will surely have wished the book would jump straight in on Kraftwerk and The Human League. The book is strong on black music (laying waste to the notion of whiter than white synth boffins making the most pressing contributions to the genre), Suicide, Burial and Dubstep, the 1990s rave era and Joy Division while Drum and Bass gets surprisingly and unfair short shrift. Ultimately, there are very few artists these days that don't deploy electronics and rock music in its purest form is now about as unfashionable as it ever has been so this is a timely chronicle.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jake Goretzki

    Excellent, passionate and highly lyrical - with some great lists and an impressive reach of the twentieth century to the present. Anyone who can persuade me to try out Brian Eno (easy) and Karlheinz Stockhausen (much harder) needs applauding (I always got Kraftwerk and Neu entirely - no convincing needing there). Good to read such a hearty defence and ode to electronica, with plenty of satisfying kicks against the meaningless, reactionary dross that is/was Oasis and so much guitar-bothering. Off Excellent, passionate and highly lyrical - with some great lists and an impressive reach of the twentieth century to the present. Anyone who can persuade me to try out Brian Eno (easy) and Karlheinz Stockhausen (much harder) needs applauding (I always got Kraftwerk and Neu entirely - no convincing needing there). Good to read such a hearty defence and ode to electronica, with plenty of satisfying kicks against the meaningless, reactionary dross that is/was Oasis and so much guitar-bothering. Off to listen to the sound of a man hoovering in a Edwardian diving suit now.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A surprisingly deep and broad look at electronic music. I found the early chapters in the book, where Stubbs explores Russolo's Art of Noises, fascinating early instruments like the intonarumori and the Telharmonium, and the foundational work of Varése, Stockhausen and other less well known pioneers especially valuable. I appreciate how the book makes a point of recognizing female pioneers like Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram as well as artists like Stevie Wonder who are not widely recognized f A surprisingly deep and broad look at electronic music. I found the early chapters in the book, where Stubbs explores Russolo's Art of Noises, fascinating early instruments like the intonarumori and the Telharmonium, and the foundational work of Varése, Stockhausen and other less well known pioneers especially valuable. I appreciate how the book makes a point of recognizing female pioneers like Delia Derbyshire and Daphne Oram as well as artists like Stevie Wonder who are not widely recognized for their contributions to electronic music. Mars by 1980 reads more like a long personal essay than an attempt at writing a comprehensive history. Given this, oversights are forgivable. Stubbs has a flair for writing evocative descriptions of sound and draws on his long career as a music journalist. This book was more than I expected and I will be going back to the long playlist provided at the end of the book again and again as I explore aspects of electronic music where I require further education.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music is a strange, duck-billed platypus of a book. It’s clearly trying to be something of an comprehensive narrative history of electronic music, but Stubbs doesn’t always follow through on this. In some places it’s a personal reminiscence of the author’s discovery of different music, in others a socio-political tract analysing the background and context to different musical movements. In the areas he covers well, Stubbs is excellent - his analysis of the e Mars by 1980: The Story of Electronic Music is a strange, duck-billed platypus of a book. It’s clearly trying to be something of an comprehensive narrative history of electronic music, but Stubbs doesn’t always follow through on this. In some places it’s a personal reminiscence of the author’s discovery of different music, in others a socio-political tract analysing the background and context to different musical movements. In the areas he covers well, Stubbs is excellent - his analysis of the early roots of electronic music from Varese and Xenakis to the concrete and radiophonic are strong and he’s clearly knowledgeable and passionate about the wider subject. There are however glaring omissions (Tangerine Dream, OMD and Yellow Magic Orchestra are only mentioned en passant, Boards of Canada do not appear at all) which mean this is far from authoritative. That said, Stubbs is an engaging and amusing guide through the process (he’s never backwards in coming forward with an opinion), and some sections (particularly his appraisal of Stevie Wonder in the context of his work with electronic music) are worth the price of admission alone.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alex Roth

    A must read for any house head, bass head, or trance lover alike! This paints such a vivid picture of how we got to where Electronic Music is today and where it all began.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David Collins

    The true test of whether you might enjoy Future Sounds is this: Scope the names listed not-quite-chronologically on the back jacket; if a few of them are familiar and beloved, read it. If nothing rings a bell or strikes your fancy, leave it aside. I found several names whose works I have devoured or merely enjoyed, and I loved seeing where in the multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of electronic sound the author places them. Future Sounds came into my possession via my wife's book prospecting trip to The true test of whether you might enjoy Future Sounds is this: Scope the names listed not-quite-chronologically on the back jacket; if a few of them are familiar and beloved, read it. If nothing rings a bell or strikes your fancy, leave it aside. I found several names whose works I have devoured or merely enjoyed, and I loved seeing where in the multi-dimensional jigsaw puzzle of electronic sound the author places them. Future Sounds came into my possession via my wife's book prospecting trip to Brazos Books, my favorite indy bookseller in Houston. She has done this just a few times, sometimes surprising me with new releases in which I have expressed an interest, sometimes bringing home books I would have glanced at and moved on if I had gone myself. Jeff Tweedy's memoir Let's Go (So We Can Get Back) is an example of successful prospecting; the English translation of László Krasznahorkai's The World Goes On...less so (but some day, dammit, I will work through this rather challenging set of shorts, just as I plowed my way through Moby Dick). So, in sum, I was uncertain whether I would enjoy this. My taste in electronic music—which, as Stubbs illustrates, is an enormously broad category—is rather picky. The list of big electronica names on the back jacket seems to indicate that all electronic music points the way to the various sub-subgenres of EDM, personified by Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Skrillex, et al. The ubiquity of EDM and whip-its are my two least favorite aspects of the Burner scene in Texas, and raves only became a thing when I was well into my 30s (too late, really). Goodreads notes that there are at least two authors named David Stubbs in its database; the other one is a historian. There are also several works with "Future Sounds" in their titles—not very original, mate. It didn't help that I caught some factual slip-ups in the first few pages (I might get around to citing examples—never developed the habit of reading with highlighter in hand), plus the occasional head-scratching goof in the ensuing chapters (sketchy knowledge of US geography, for example, for which we can forgive a Brit); or that Stubbs begins the Introduction name-checking some Top-40 acts not known for their electro-savvy, such as Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran. And then he had the gall to suggest that Frank Zappa's output went downhill after he stopped using the musique concrète techniques found on the early Mothers of Invention albums. Misgivings officially assuaged: I enjoyed the 400+ pages of this book, including the index, on several levels, thanks. Let's bullet just a few of the reasons I found this tome worth my time. 1. The writing style: I have enjoyed reading album reviews since my teens, when I subscribed to Rolling Stone, Musician, Player, and Listener, and Songwriter magazines. It isn't always that I can enjoy an entire book full of album review–style writing, but Stubbs's prose style is florid, stretching for the loftiest and most florid reaches of his vocabulary without going over the top (or remaining there for long when he does). However, one of the pitfalls of writing from the perspective of a music reviewer is comparing the work of unfamiliar musicians to those he might just assume are household names that require no further identification: e.g., saying something sounds like early Tangerine Dream but offering no appositive to explain what a Tangerine Dream is. 2. The breadth and depth of knowledge: As befits a writer with a lengthy career at outlets such as Melody Maker and New Music Express, Stubbs knows a lot about a lot of modern music. His tastes developed along similar lines as my own: born the same year I was, encountered some of the same musical epiphanies as I did at about the same ages, and having done some DJ work in his university days. Just like your friend's kid who discovers the blues via heavy metal and Led Zeppelin, unsatisfied with just enjoying the present incarnation of the music, from an early age Stubbs sought out the inspirations of the music he liked, and the inspirations for that, all the way back to the late Romantic era and the antitheses of classical music that arose in the early 20th century when Western music had just about run out of original melodies and chord progressions. Stubbs takes pains in his two Prefaces to name-check some of the obvious names omitted from the main chapters, such as Todd Rundgren and Jean-Michel Jarre, pointing out that the book focuses on his own personal favorites (of which there are literally dozens). 3. The inclusion of innovators who weren't pasty-white academics: The chapter focusing on Sun Ra and Miles Davis is super-important in reminding us that black artists and others from the jazz world leveraged technology to expand their musical palettes (and their fans' palates). Detroit techno also has African-American lineage, following the lead of hip-hoppers like Run-DMC and De La Soul, with black mixologists sampling and contorting a wide range of white music and reversing the old paradigm of white artists misappropriating black songwriters' work. Think of how Afrika Bambaataa gave Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express" new life in 1982, or the way Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner" went from a cappella novelty to dance floor sensation. As much as I enjoyed reading about the careers of musicians whose works I know deeply (Joy Division/New Order) or have only tasted (Karlheinz Stockhausen), my favorite chapter mostly contains names I've never known: "Reverberation and Decay." Here Stubbs not only gets to quote or allude to Jacques Derrida a few times like a proper Oxonian, but also to demonstrate how Derrida-esque deconstructivism has informed the electronic canon of the past 20 years. Do you like found sounds, such as those used by David Byrne and Brian Eno in some of their collaborations? How about making a recording mixing playbacks from badly stored reel-to-reel tapes that literally decompose as you play them in loops, each iteration a tad more gappy than the previous? Check out William Basinski's The Disintegration Loops, recorded mostly in 2001, if you find that intriguing. I also learned quite a bit about the group Cabaret Voltaire's early years as electro-pioneers in 1970s Sheffield (South Yorkshire UK), emerging from the post-industrial horrorscape and paving the way for the Human League/Heaven 17 axis that in turn birthed the smart-pop from ABC and Thompson Twins. When I first heard Cabaret Voltaire in the early '80s, I just found them annoying, ignorant at the time of their historical importance (still nascent at the time), unable to foresee the influence they would eventually exert on multiple flavors of music.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    David Stubbs—the author of this book—wrote "Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany", an excellent recant of how "kosmische" music came about. In that book, he kept a narrow view of how things came to be, and founded much of his analysis on interviews with musicians. This time, he has written a book that is both sprawling and, at times, probably verges into the fictional, at least where he digresses on actual words from musicians and theories on why they did things. Having said t David Stubbs—the author of this book—wrote "Future Days: Krautrock and the Building of Modern Germany", an excellent recant of how "kosmische" music came about. In that book, he kept a narrow view of how things came to be, and founded much of his analysis on interviews with musicians. This time, he has written a book that is both sprawling and, at times, probably verges into the fictional, at least where he digresses on actual words from musicians and theories on why they did things. Having said that, this book does contain much information that is probably of importance both to persons like the perennially name-dropping Moby, and to persons who want to receive a skimpy version of electronic music history. The forté and pain of this book both lie in the fact that it skips over a lot of theory quickly. It's also sensationalistic, which is almost always a bad thing to myself, and to the facts. The best about Stubbs's writing is undoubtedly his style: Practically the moment it beams down, ‘I Feel Love’ feels like first contact: the slow opening of the spacecraft door, the blinding shaft of green light. This is … what is this? Brian Eno hears it and rushes straight into David Bowie’s studio, claiming to be holding the future in his hands. Sparks hear it and promptly decide to ditch their band, hit up Moroder and function as an electronic duo. And that’s just the start. What’s also striking, and similarly depressing, is that pop hasn’t been this non-queer since the days of Rosemary Clooney, the early 1950s. Gay culture had always been one of the great underground drivers of rock and pop, from Little Richard right through to Hi-NRG, often necessarily coded in a world that was institutionally homophobic. And yet today, when gay rights, while by no means universally accepted, are more established in the Western world than ever before, queer pop has disappeared. The charts in 2017 are primarily an idyll of young, photogenic, heterosexual love, preferably experienced in a seaside environment. A few weeks after I interviewed them, I was at a record-company bash. Though I had spent an hour in their company, when Bangalter flagged me down to say ‘Hi’ there was a mortifying second or so before I remembered who he and his partner, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, were. Daft Punk, however, had a grasp on the immediate future. ‘Today, it’s possible to make a record in your bedroom at a cheap price,’ said Bangalter. ‘Our album, Homework, is cheaper than nearly any rock album. No studio expenses, producers, engineers. We’re not saying there is a right way or wrong way to go about things, but this is certainly a way. When we started to make music, we were just trying to form the teenage band everyone wants to be in.’ For Futurists like Luigi Russolo, as well as visionary composers such as Busoni, Varèse and, later, Stockhausen, new electronic modes of music-making weren’t novelties, conveniences, cost-cutting devices or objects of tinkering fascination for gadget nerds who were less than human in their make-up. They were the means whereby music would exceed the bounds of mere scripted notation, explore infinite possibilities in tandem with a world whose technological leaps and bounds seemed limitless. In their wildest dreams, they truly believed that electronic music could soundtrack, or even by some occult means be the source of, an expansion of mankind’s capabilities. Stockhausen’s mind was a brilliant one, operating with the strength of multiple lasers. He could speak – in detail and with a conviction lesser brains found hard to counter – of ancient Japanese ritual and musical custom, of horticulture, of Eastern mystical thought, of the all-embracing importance of spirals (an idea introduced to him by the English writer Jill Purce, with whom he liaised in the early 1970s), allude easily to philosophers like Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as well as explain, to those with the ability to take it in, the workings of serial music, notions such as periodicity and harmonic perspective. He could out-converse most people across a range of topics, without even resorting to his first language. ‘You know people are going to laugh?’ the host warned Cage gravely – though that, of course, was the entire purpose of this TV exercise. Cage refused to play the stuffed avant-garde shirt. ‘I consider laughter preferable to tears,’ he said, to more laughter. The host referred to Cage as someone who dealt in ‘experimental sound’, only to be firmly corrected by Cage. ‘Experimental music,’ he said. He explained simply that since music was the production of sounds, and sounds were what he produced, then the result was music. It was that simple. He would demonstrate this to the audience with his presentation of ‘Water Walk’, so called because it featured the running of water and himself walking through the piece, event by event. Even seventeen years later, Alan Vega couldn’t hide his bitterness at the success Soft Cell enjoyed. ‘Suicide finally get to go to Britain, in 1978. And sure enough, a year or so later, you’ve got this big techno-pop explosion. Soft Cell, who admit to being influenced by Suicide – one guy on vocals, one guy on keyboards. And what happens? Soft Cell go on to sell millions of records, Suicide sell squat. Soft Cell come to America, they’re huge, we come back, nada. To this day.’ The book goes from Schaeffer, Rossolo, Stockhausen, and Ligeti, all to Aphex Twin, Actress, and...it's a hyperkinetic mash-up; at times, it felt stressed and forced, other times it felt as though Stubbs's language and style really did the music and the artists a huge service. However, if you want a pop-ish view of the history of electronic music, I can't think of a better place to start than this book.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Michael Ritchie

    This book touches on all the expected names, from Stockhausen and John Cage to Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode and so on, but as a narrative history of electronic music, it falls quite short. It reads more like a collection of essays, some with interviews, loosely banded together, and Stubbs's style is idiosyncratic and not to my liking. His coverage of artists also seems more determined by his personal liking, devoting, for example, way more space to Suicide than to the arguably more influential Gio This book touches on all the expected names, from Stockhausen and John Cage to Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode and so on, but as a narrative history of electronic music, it falls quite short. It reads more like a collection of essays, some with interviews, loosely banded together, and Stubbs's style is idiosyncratic and not to my liking. His coverage of artists also seems more determined by his personal liking, devoting, for example, way more space to Suicide than to the arguably more influential Giorgio Moroder. His chapter on Stevie Wonder is marred by some strange critical stances, and he could have done a lot more with electronic soul. A disappointment.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Avery Bradshaw

    I first saw Future Sounds at Junkman's Daughter in Atlanta a couple years ago. It seemed interesting, but I never got around to buying it. Thankfully a friend bought it for me this past Christmas. I am glad I got it as a gift and didn't have to buy it myself. I definitely liked Future Sounds, though I didn't love it. What I liked about Future Sounds is that it felt well researched without feeling too academic or sterile. Stubbs knows what he's talking about and it feels conversational. At times I first saw Future Sounds at Junkman's Daughter in Atlanta a couple years ago. It seemed interesting, but I never got around to buying it. Thankfully a friend bought it for me this past Christmas. I am glad I got it as a gift and didn't have to buy it myself. I definitely liked Future Sounds, though I didn't love it. What I liked about Future Sounds is that it felt well researched without feeling too academic or sterile. Stubbs knows what he's talking about and it feels conversational. At times it feels like talking to a friend who just showed you a song, which you immediately like, by an artist they are very passionate about. I definitely became more interested in early electronic music and enjoyed learning more about those I already like such as Joy Division and Brian Eno. Why I didn't love it though: This is a book for someone who already enjoys electronic music in some form or another. Someone who doesn't like electronic music is not going to have their mind changed by reading Future Sounds. For those that do, I would recommend focusing on the chapters/sections that discuss artists/groups and subgenres you already like, or are interested in learning about. I say this because I ended up skipping some sections that covered artists/groups or subgenres I already knew I didn't care for. Best personal example being that I skipped the majority of the next to last chapter about recent developments of acid house and dubstep. I already know I don't like Skrillex and deadmau5; what little bit I did read about them didn't change my mind and I got bored quickly. This is due to the flip-side of the conversational comparison coin. Attempting to read the sections about the stuff I didn't like was akin to someone continuing to play and rant about music they liked, even though you've already been vocal about your distaste for it. Stubbs is not entirely objective; rather his personal bias and left-leaning socio-political views tend to be the basis of why a particular artist is good and impactful. It comes off as arrogant and domineering, as if he's trying to say something to the effect of, "You should like this. If you don't you aren't cool and/or your morals should be questioned." This also created a greater sense of disappointment in checking out some artists I hadn't heard of before. Another personal example is reading about the group Suicide. I didn't enjoy them upon listening, and I kept asking myself "This is it?" because of Stubbs' constant over-hyping of the group spread over 11 pages. Overall, I am happy with reading Future Sounds. Despite Stubbs' being somewhat overbearing at times, it made me enjoy the electronic music I do like even more. It further amplified my interest in electronic music and I would like to read another book of his, Fear of Music.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sherry Thomas

    Ah, the synthesizer! To some, it defined a generation adored by many and to others, it debased instrumentation. Either way, it completely changed the landscape of music and ruffled a few feathers along the way. David Stubbs takes a complex look at the history of electronic music in Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex. Stubbs provides a disclaimer, which basically states that not every artist affiliated with electronic music are not incorporated. However, a ra Ah, the synthesizer! To some, it defined a generation adored by many and to others, it debased instrumentation. Either way, it completely changed the landscape of music and ruffled a few feathers along the way. David Stubbs takes a complex look at the history of electronic music in Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex. Stubbs provides a disclaimer, which basically states that not every artist affiliated with electronic music are not incorporated. However, a range of genres (funk, new wave, EDM, classical) and decades are acknowledged. Don’t worry though – Kraftwerk and Depeche Mode are found in the pages. Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex is encompasses an Introduction that provides a brief overview, Preface I and Preface II which offers a bit of insight behind the author and his fascination with the sounds emanating from his speakers, and four complete parts that dissect the history and future of the innovative invention. At the conclusion, there is a helpful timeline of Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Musical Technology and A Future Sounds playlist. Future Sounds: The Story of Electronic Music from Stockhausen to Skrillex takes some time to digest due to its size and a plethora of information, but interesting nonetheless. This is the perfect book for a musicologist or lover of electronica in general.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jason

    Having read *Mars by 1980* I now I know a little more about the history of electronic music, but not as much as I'd hoped. The book rotates between history lessons, personal anecdote and discursive stream-of-consciousness rambling about the music and what it means. It dwells on early 20th Century experiments and the use of tape loops in contemporary classical works, followed by an idiosyncratic selection of notable (and not-so-notable) artists of the 1960s-2000s but says very little about today’ Having read *Mars by 1980* I now I know a little more about the history of electronic music, but not as much as I'd hoped. The book rotates between history lessons, personal anecdote and discursive stream-of-consciousness rambling about the music and what it means. It dwells on early 20th Century experiments and the use of tape loops in contemporary classical works, followed by an idiosyncratic selection of notable (and not-so-notable) artists of the 1960s-2000s but says very little about today’s innumerable genres of EDM. It also says almost nothing about the development of technologies this side of the 1950s (synthesisers, drum machines, samplers etc.) beyond mentioning that they exist and were used by various artists. Where the book is at its best (or at least, most emotionally satisfying) is in its sociological and political analysis of electronic music: it charts waves of futuristic optimism, hippy freedom, punk rebellion and neoliberal disintegration, and the electronic music each wave spawns and subsumes. The connections between electronic music and racial politics are particularly explored.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jacob Kelly

    A decent attempt at outlying the developments of electronic music. It starts right back before kraftwerk and even before John Cage. Stubbs attempts to build a narrative from the beginning to the present. Occasionally, he jumps ahead or even back on himself in non linear fashion. However, its almost impossible not to do that. He splits sections off quite neatly and manages to follow many trends. Some of the newer stuff becomes a little too messy, unstructured or even unmentioned. I can understand A decent attempt at outlying the developments of electronic music. It starts right back before kraftwerk and even before John Cage. Stubbs attempts to build a narrative from the beginning to the present. Occasionally, he jumps ahead or even back on himself in non linear fashion. However, its almost impossible not to do that. He splits sections off quite neatly and manages to follow many trends. Some of the newer stuff becomes a little too messy, unstructured or even unmentioned. I can understand that though as part of the argument is that it's about all the small changes each decade up to the point it's now crazy and so much happening at a rapid rate. It's also extremely difficult to right about a cycle or movement whilst currently in it. That shit takes time. Stubbs deserves praise for his ability to weave in a political narrative, connect genres and not shy a way from lower quality popular stadium filling music. Hes quite respectful in distancing himself from some of the material, whilst acknowledging the contributions made to the history of electronic music.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Corsini

    David Stubbs tells the story of electronic music which includes enough genuinely interesting material for the reader to discount some of his errors. For instance, "Stranvinsky" or his wrong dating of the Kent State shootings to 1974. I'd put these down mainly to a first edition error, so not entirely his fault. He veers into a personal style that I worried would be too much like Paul Morley, a music journalist I hate, but Stubbs won me over by actually slamming the real Paul Morley late in the b David Stubbs tells the story of electronic music which includes enough genuinely interesting material for the reader to discount some of his errors. For instance, "Stranvinsky" or his wrong dating of the Kent State shootings to 1974. I'd put these down mainly to a first edition error, so not entirely his fault. He veers into a personal style that I worried would be too much like Paul Morley, a music journalist I hate, but Stubbs won me over by actually slamming the real Paul Morley late in the book. He has some fascinating threads. His connection of early electronic music to fascism. Something that, ironically, led a coked-up Hitler-obsessed Bowie to Kraftwerk in the 1970s. Stubbs also has an incredible reading of the anti-colonial themes in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein which, while has little to do with electronic music, piques the reader's interest. Naturally, I was more interested in his takes on Kraftwerk and Joy Division, rather than Stockhausen, but the entire book is worth a read.

  15. 5 out of 5

    El Sh'Booms

    Truly engaging. A thorough, if not complete, review of major contributors to the development of electronic music in the 20th century. It begins with the Futurists' "The Art of Noise" and travels through time to Delia Derbyshire's production of the "Dr. Who" theme song to "Paul's Boutique" and "The Disintegration Loops". This is one of the greatest books I have read in a while. I listened to each work on YouTube as I was reading and it was such a gratifying reading experience. So much to learn, s Truly engaging. A thorough, if not complete, review of major contributors to the development of electronic music in the 20th century. It begins with the Futurists' "The Art of Noise" and travels through time to Delia Derbyshire's production of the "Dr. Who" theme song to "Paul's Boutique" and "The Disintegration Loops". This is one of the greatest books I have read in a while. I listened to each work on YouTube as I was reading and it was such a gratifying reading experience. So much to learn, so much to listen to, so much knowledge to walk away with when you close the book. If you've ever heard the name Stockhausen and said, "huh?" or wondered why Stereolab titled one of their tracks "John Cage Bubblegum", then you've got answers coming when you give this one a look. I actually read this in tandem with Julian Cope's "A Krautrock Sampler" and Harry Sword's, "Monolithic Undertow" and it's amazing how much overlap there is between Krautrock, Drone, and Electronic. Cannot recommend more.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Clicky Steve

    I picked this up as something to read while feeling musically inspired, but unfortunately didn't enjoy it. While the book has some interesting stories, and the descriptions of the music it talks about are creative and original, it ultimately felt like it didn't quite know what it was. In some ways it feels more like an academic textbook in how it approaches the history, as opposed to providing a narrative... but at the same time it lacks the demonstration of sources one would expect from that ki I picked this up as something to read while feeling musically inspired, but unfortunately didn't enjoy it. While the book has some interesting stories, and the descriptions of the music it talks about are creative and original, it ultimately felt like it didn't quite know what it was. In some ways it feels more like an academic textbook in how it approaches the history, as opposed to providing a narrative... but at the same time it lacks the demonstration of sources one would expect from that kind of text. I appreciate the knowledge and experience of the author, but ultimately I found this a struggle to read. If the book had spent more time telling the story of electronic music, and less meandering from one artist to another by way of seemingly random anecdotes, it would have been far more compelling.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erica Basnicki

    I loved the breadth of artists covered, and the introduction to so many that are new to me. Unfortunately, the writing was, too often, sloppy. I get the distinct feeling this book was hastily put together, with not enough time to give it a proper edit. Or maybe I’m just not a fan of this kind of describe-it-in-every-kind-of-metaphor-possible style of music writing. And my head hurts from being bashed with the hammer that is Stubbs’ disdain for Margaret Thatcher’s politics (which is fair enough b I loved the breadth of artists covered, and the introduction to so many that are new to me. Unfortunately, the writing was, too often, sloppy. I get the distinct feeling this book was hastily put together, with not enough time to give it a proper edit. Or maybe I’m just not a fan of this kind of describe-it-in-every-kind-of-metaphor-possible style of music writing. And my head hurts from being bashed with the hammer that is Stubbs’ disdain for Margaret Thatcher’s politics (which is fair enough but I think she gets name-dropped more than half the artists profiled). Still, it’s a treasure trove of sonic delights to be explored, and maybe that’s the better way to take in this book: Read a little bit, stop, and listen.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brett

    closer to 3.5 It's generally interesting and Stubbs can be funny at times, but he often goes on weird tangents/transitions in attempting to expand its point. It also seems odd to chide earlier Rock for lack of electronic experimentation while simultaneously dismissing those that did (i.e. Pink Floyd, Prog in general). While the author admits he doesn't cover every artist, Jean-Michel Jarre in particular, it's still a big hole in the narrative to relegate him or Tangerine Dream to footnotes at mos closer to 3.5 It's generally interesting and Stubbs can be funny at times, but he often goes on weird tangents/transitions in attempting to expand its point. It also seems odd to chide earlier Rock for lack of electronic experimentation while simultaneously dismissing those that did (i.e. Pink Floyd, Prog in general). While the author admits he doesn't cover every artist, Jean-Michel Jarre in particular, it's still a big hole in the narrative to relegate him or Tangerine Dream to footnotes at most, especially when spending a long time describing (quasi-relevant) Miles Davis' Jack Johnson album in favor of Bitches Brew or On the Corner.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve Erickson

    Stubbs' book begins far before house and techno music, and it's quite good at describing the history of pioneering avant-classical composers. But when it gets close to the present, it seems redundant, covering territory that his friends Simon Reynolds and the late Mark Fisher have written about better. "The story of electronic music" is so expansive that it could fill a book three times this size, and Stubs makes some weird choices: LEMONADE is a great album, but it's no more dominated by electr Stubbs' book begins far before house and techno music, and it's quite good at describing the history of pioneering avant-classical composers. But when it gets close to the present, it seems redundant, covering territory that his friends Simon Reynolds and the late Mark Fisher have written about better. "The story of electronic music" is so expansive that it could fill a book three times this size, and Stubs makes some weird choices: LEMONADE is a great album, but it's no more dominated by electronics than the average pop music of 2016. He could've written a paragraph about Frank Ocean pitching his voice up and down on BLONDE instead.

  20. 5 out of 5

    dimwig

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. breezy - mostly familiar anecdotes, more journalistic than strictly historical, not a ton of ARGUMENT per se (and about half of what there is in that department comes via mark fisher & simon reynolds). fun tho. & of course some interesting thoughts on failed utopias, lost futures, retromania, proliferation of sub- and microgenres... a paragraph i've lost track of on contemporary/postmodern music abandoning hedonism for nostalgia/representation resonates with some stuff i have been thinking about breezy - mostly familiar anecdotes, more journalistic than strictly historical, not a ton of ARGUMENT per se (and about half of what there is in that department comes via mark fisher & simon reynolds). fun tho. & of course some interesting thoughts on failed utopias, lost futures, retromania, proliferation of sub- and microgenres... a paragraph i've lost track of on contemporary/postmodern music abandoning hedonism for nostalgia/representation resonates with some stuff i have been thinking about lately........

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jacob

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There's a pretty impressive laundry list of artists mentioned on the back cover, and to his credit Stubbs at least swings for all of them. Still anyone attempting to summarize the story of both high and low brow Western electronic music in the 20th Century is going to need a lot more than 400 pages to pull it off. He's a great prose artist, and far from a tourist in many of the scenes he describes, but just be warned that a couple of your favorite artists are liable to get the three paragraph tr There's a pretty impressive laundry list of artists mentioned on the back cover, and to his credit Stubbs at least swings for all of them. Still anyone attempting to summarize the story of both high and low brow Western electronic music in the 20th Century is going to need a lot more than 400 pages to pull it off. He's a great prose artist, and far from a tourist in many of the scenes he describes, but just be warned that a couple of your favorite artists are liable to get the three paragraph treatment.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Luke

    A fairly sweeping look at electronic music from it's naissance in 20th century experiments right up to modern-day sound technology. Stubbs is comprehensive but not exhaustive, and says as much in the introduction. What is covered however is more or less the length and breadth of major names and developments, all relayed varyingly in anecdotes, interview quotes, and general cultural history and theory. A fairly sweeping look at electronic music from it's naissance in 20th century experiments right up to modern-day sound technology. Stubbs is comprehensive but not exhaustive, and says as much in the introduction. What is covered however is more or less the length and breadth of major names and developments, all relayed varyingly in anecdotes, interview quotes, and general cultural history and theory.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jonathon Hagger

    An absolutely superb book that is so incredibly well written. The author wields the English language like a true literary master. Even if the reader isn’t interested in electronic music the writing style completely absorbs and the reader can’t help but be interested in learning more. Definitely my book of the year 2018.

  24. 5 out of 5

    LorenzoBF

    An incredibly beautiful story of electronic music and the artists that made it possible. A history of music, but also art, culture, society, politics, philosophy. This book is not just a chronological list of artists and genres. Music becomes the key to described everything around it. Must read, especially if you don't like electronic music. An incredibly beautiful story of electronic music and the artists that made it possible. A history of music, but also art, culture, society, politics, philosophy. This book is not just a chronological list of artists and genres. Music becomes the key to described everything around it. Must read, especially if you don't like electronic music.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ipswichblade

    Superb book about the history of electronic music right back to the earliest composers up to the modern day. That good that David doesn't even lose a star for not having anything about Jean Michel Jarre in his book. He admits this in the introduction! Superb book about the history of electronic music right back to the earliest composers up to the modern day. That good that David doesn't even lose a star for not having anything about Jean Michel Jarre in his book. He admits this in the introduction!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Tronikyouth

    great book covering a wide scope of electronic music a must read

  27. 4 out of 5

    Rob Adey

    Enthusiastic and wide-ranging history, full of artists to check out.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Timothy James

    Twisting and turning walk through of musical/social history. Great details and makes some surprising connections.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    Quite the superb read for anyone who enjoys history, electronic music, electro-pop, and all-around excellent music journalism.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sam Aslanian

    Great book for anyone interested in the history of electronic music. Very readable.

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