What if I told you that the electronically synthesized music we enjoy today isn’t as new as we thought? Synthesizers became highly popular in the turning of the 21st century. However, electric music has been around far longer than that.
In this article, we’re going to take a look back at some of the periods of history where electronic music had its place. You may be surprised to learn how far back we need to go:
The Year was 1920
That’s right! The very first electronic instrument was invented as far back as 1920. Most of us weren’t even born at that time. In fact, some of your parents weren’t either!
Lev Termen, a Russian scientist, was the genius behind the first fully electronic instrument. He called it the Theremin. The Theremin is played without touching it at all. You can wave your hand near the Theremin’s antennae to make sounds.
It wasn’t publically utilized until four years later in 1924 when the Theremin was used in a concert debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. People were so fascinated by the invention that they were invited to play concert all through Europe.
By 1930, the Theremin made its way to the US. It was used in Carnegie Hall, New York. This performance was quite special because there were no other instruments; just ten Theremins playing classical style music. Technology wasn’t as developed then so seeing people playing an instrument without even touching it must have been quite thrilling!
Birth of the Synthesizer
As I said, the synthesizers we’re so used to these days only became popular in the last twenty odd years. However, the synthesizer has actually been around since 1955 when a computer program was used to create an electronic mix for the first time.
Computers back then were less portable, shall we say. If you imagine the portability of computers even twenty years ago, imagine how hard it must have been back then! Nevertheless, the RCA Mk II Sound Synthesizer was used to create a musical sequence in 1957. The concept was somewhat welcomed by those who heard it, but it wasn’t heard from for quite some time thanks to the difficulty moving computers around. (Basically, you just never moved them back then)
Beginning of the Synthesizer’s Rise to Fame
Ever heard of the film Blade Runner? Of course you have! (I’m not that old, am I?) Well, Blade Runner, ironically, is one of the initial factors to the synthesizer becoming the popular choice of music creation that it is today. In 1982, a synthesizer was used for the song ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and even featured drum and bass backing. (Which wasn’t very common yet in the 80s)
After Blade Runner came out, the synthesizer was commercialized for the first time and burst into fame! For years, the synthesizer’s popularity increased until it finally reached the point where it was being used for things other than concerts and background music.
During the 90s the synthesizer really hit it off as people started to accept it as the norm for music creation. No longer did one need to have an amazing opera voice to be famous. You could slap a synthesizer on and get famous for being retro!
Here We Are
I would love to bore you with the latest update on how popular the synthesizer is but I’m sure you know what it is by now. As you’re aware, the synthesizer is now a mainstream method of music creation which we all take for granted.
Regardless, who is still impressed by that Russian scientist from 1920? Talk about living in the wrong era!