Various Artists

Early Modulations: Vintage Volts

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For everyone who thinks that sampling began with hip-hop or that electronic music was an outgrowth of new wave, this excellent compilation offers a valuable historical perspective. It includes some of the earliest compositions for synthesizer and manipulated tape, featuring works by Otto Luening, Iannis Xenakis, John Cage, Morton Subotnick, and others. Some of these (such as Max Mathews's synthesized realization of the pop song "Bicycle Built for Two") were composed or programmed on computers that filled entire rooms; others (such as Cage's "Imaginary Landscape No. 1") used tape recorders as instruments in themselves. Xenakis used the recorded sound of burning charcoal as the source material for "Concret Ph," and Morton Subotnick's classic synthesized composition "Silver Apples of the Moon" (of which, sadly, only the finale section could be included here) was written for the "Buchla Box," an analog synthesizer designed as a miniature version of the Columbia-Princeton monolith that had, up until then, acted as the nucleus of electronic composition in the U.S. "Silver Apples," in particular, will appeal to fans of ambient techno -- don't tell people differently and they could well assume it was the Orb or Aphex Twin.

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