Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some Comments on Paul Stumps "Digital Gothic - A Critical Discography of Tangerine Dream"

I would have to say that most of the material I have seen about musical artists is mostly personal information about them and some details about their albums and how they came about. That is why, after a read of the first few chapters of Digital Gothic I was very pleasantly surprised.

For some time now, I have been a student of early electronic music. I say early electronic music because most popular music is at least some level electronic today and early electronic music soon evolved from serious music that came from the 20th century avant guarde and before that the musical revolution in classical music that really started with Wagner to more popular forms of electronica such as techno and even at some level genres like hip/hop that originally came from scratch and soon devolved.

When I started to take a serious interest in learning about the roots of electronic music, I became a small project which I would love at some point to put in final written form. I took a serious academic book on the avant guarde and then a book of early electronic music and tried to find the overlap. I thought this overlap would be small but none the less there. What I found was a huge overlap and many of the artists in this book read like a whose who of early electronic music.

For a while, I thought this was a discovery that not many had found or wish to speak about. Not until I read about it in a place I would least expect, the first few chapters of a book on "Tangerine Dream". To name a few, Stump talks about the Telharmonium, the Ondes Martenot (and Olivier Messian's early works using it), music concrete and many of the early EM artists such as Karlheintz Stockhausen, Vladmir Ussachevsky, Pierre Shaeffer and even those like Luigi Russolo whose work has long since been lost but whose writting and influence not only on music but the modernist movement of the early 20th century are significant. Bottom line, Stump has clearly done his homework. In fact, Stump even suggests a connection between Tangerine Dream's music and German romanticism.

While I have not finished to book, I am looking forward to reading it. It reflects a level of scholarship that is sadly missing in most books on popular music and it clearly places the work of this popular but groundbreaking band into the greater context of German culture and the transformation in music that started with the avant guarde in the early 20th century.

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