Electronic music has long been indebted to female music makers who went out on a limb to create something new and interesting.
Innovators of electronic music have changed the landscape of many a creative industry including art, film and of course music itself. These women have long been pushing the sonic envelope in their respective fields and for good read reason - they are damn good at it.
So here are our 10 experimental artists of note and how they changed the game in a way electronic music will forever be thankful for.
#1. Gudrun Gut
Even inBerlin, Gut stands out amongst the crowd. She is responsible for a bunch of dynamic music in both her band Malaria! and as a soloist. She also founded her own label, Monika Enterprise.
Recent release ‘Wildlife’ sees her revisiting organic sounds that evoke the atmosphere of the dark German forest. It also features a rather obtuse cover of Tina Turner’s “Simply the Best”.
#2. Daphne Oram
The BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop was the epicenter of electronic innovation in the 1950s and 1960s, leading the way was Daphne Oram. She was experimenting with electronic music as far back as the 1940s, and by 1959 she had her own purpose-built studio and her own drawn sound system, which she called Oramics.
Basically, the idea involved using patterns drawn on clear film to modulate sound produced by oscillators, an idea still used today by products like MetaSynth.
#3. Delia Derbyshire
A contemporary of Oram at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Derbyshire is known for her astonishingly ahead-of-its-time 1963 arrangement of the theme to Doctor Who. Need we say more? Yet her work stretches beyond that. “Blue Veils and Golden Sands” (above), the soundtrack for a 1967 documentary on the Tuareg people of the Moroccan desert, is particularly nice. It was decades ahead of its time.
#4. Charlotte “Bebe” Barron
Barron and her husband Louis created the world’s first entirely electronic film score — the 1956 soundtrack to Forbidden Planet, which was created in the duo’s New York studio on home-built equipment. The studio itself may well have been the first electronic studio in the US, and attracted luminaries like John Cage, Tennessee Williams, and Anaïs Nin.
#5. Wendy Carlos
One of the earliest proponents of the synthesizer, Carlos’s unexpectedly popular 1968 record Switched-On Bach — a suite of Johann Sebastian Bach’s pieces, all recorded on an early Moog synth — was a hugely important step in introducing the whole idea of electronic music to the general public. She is also responsible for the futuristic score for Tron.
But we love her for The Shining score. It still creeps us out.
#6. Annette Peacock
Flying Lotus, eat your heart out — Annette Peacock was recording experimental electronic rap as far back as the early 1970s. Yes we said the 1970’s. Her 1972 album I’m the One was as innovative as it was tripped-out and uses elements of free jazz, free form poetry and psychedelic rock to create a record that still sounds startlingly contemporary today.
#7. Clara Rockmore
Rockmore was a violin prodigy before discovering Leon Theremin’s weird instrument, called the theremin, in the 1920s. She became its foremost exponent, collaborating with Theremin himself to refine the instrument’s design and creating techniques that are still used today.
#8. Laurie Spiegel
After working with synths throughout the 1960s, Spiegel was one of the first musicians to grasp and embrace the possibilities offered by the advent of computers. She experimented with algorithmic composition and shared what she’d learned in the form of software like Music Mouse, an intelligent synth program for home computers.
There was something of a resurgence of interest in Spiegel’s work earlier this year when her track “Sediment” surfaced unexpectedly on the score to The Hunger Games.
#9. Pauline Oliveros
Pauline Oliveros was one of its first members of the San Francisco Tape Music Center (USA’s answer to the UK’s Radio Workshop). She went on to found the Deep Listening Institute. Recently turned 80, she’s still going strong.
#10. Laurie Anderson
Anderson’s endlessly innovative approach to music has seen her devise several of her own instruments — most notably the tape-bow violin, which used magnetic tape instead of horsehair and was later refined to include a MIDI sampler.
She was featured on seminal 1977 compilation Women in Electronic Music (along with Oliveros and Spiegel) and 35 years later, she’s still as inventive as ever.