Ars Electronica

Zoë Keating‘s cello loops and Imogen Heap‘s witchy gloves remind me that computers can also be playful extensions of human creativity, not just machines for the domination of human cattle.

Zoë Keating, “Possible” (2019)

Every now and then I wander through my memory following musical will-o-wisps: from my parents’ copies of Wendy Carlos‘s Switched on Bach (1968) and The Well-Tempered Synthesizer (1969) to music from the Hearts of Space, to Isao Tomita‘s Firebird (1976) and Kraftwerk‘s Autobahn (1974) borrowed from my friend Alex Levien, to Laurie Anderson‘s Big Science (1982), Depeche Mode‘s Some Great Reward (1984), and many others from the Staunton Public Library–all played from vinyl through a circa 1972 Heathkit tube amplifier built by my dad. And the Art of Noise‘s In Visible Silence (1986) on a cassette tape bought from, of all places, one of the small shops in Monterey. Somewhere along the way, Peter Gabriel (maybe) said our heart’s rhythm cannot be replaced with a drum machine.

Laurie Anderson, “O Superman” (1982)

The older memories have names associated with the music, I think from holding the album, reading the liner notes while the disc spun. Most of my newer memories don’t; I’ll recognize a tune as familiar but have no idea to whom it belongs. I suspect this has to do with how the memory was stored: constant listening over an extended period of time. While these days most of my encounters are transient, embedded in another work, dissociated from the artist, or brief passages in the night. Recently I’ve been listening to BBC Radio shows from Cerys Matthews, Elizabeth Alker, and Sara Mohr-Pietsch and Hannah Peel. BBC Sounds lets me see what’s playing, if I avail myself of the feature; most times I simply enjoy the soundscapes they present: the mix itself as art.

And, yet, the other day one of those mixes introduced me to Daphne Oram (1925-2003), composer, musician, inventor, co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. I love her humor.

Daphne Oram, Oramics (2007) [pieces recorded 1958-1977]