5 Women You Didn't Know Pioneered Electronic Music
January 9, 2018Sara Araujo
The electronic music scene is filled with talented women that defined the genre in trascendental ways.
Usually, when people talk about EDM pioneers, they automatically think of artists like Kraftwerk, Tiësto, Armin Van Buuren, Brian Eno, or Depeche Mode. Yes, in a way, they all were important exponents for the genre’s evolution, but let me tell you that they aren’t the real origins in electronic music. They're not even close to being so. If you've already noticed it, these lists leave out female talent, and more importantly, forget about the fact that real musicians who began experimenting with electronic sounds can be traced back to the 1930s. While there were men working on this, there were also plenty of talented women that are now legends in music history. Here are some highly recommended examples of females musicians that established the first approaches to what we now today as electronic music. Keep in mind that the sound you know today as electronic has nothing to do with what these women did, so don’t freak out when listening to them.
Johanna M. Beyer (1888 - 1944)
German-American pianist, Johanna Beyer was much more than what she seemed. She studied piano, harmony, theory, counterpoint, singing, and dancing. She was also the mastermind behind “Music of the Spheres,” the first known score made for electronic instruments, entirely crafted by a female composer. She made major contributions to electronic music through her amazing repertoires for percussion ensembles and was among the first musicians to experiment with pitch-based rhythmic processes. Sadly, while Johanna’s work inspired many of subsequent electronic artists, it was mostly overlooked because people didn't acknowledge her talent at that time.
Clara was Lithuanian-born artist who focused her musical execution on classical violin and the mystical theremin. Her approach to this last instrument was particularly trascendental to music history. Being that she had absolute pitch (that is, she could identify any note just by listening to it), Rockmore worked alongside Léon Theremin (the man who invented this particular device) so her music acumen could help him alter the instrument for an ideal usage. Her recommendations (which later became real modifications) included lowering the instrument, so the performer would be more visible, and increasing the sensitivity of the pitch antenna.
Daphne Oram (1925 - 2003)
There’s no way I can talk about Daphne without emphasizing how legendary this woman was. This British composer became popular for many things, but one of her most popular contributions was the early experimentation with "musique concrete” (an experimental music genre based on a mixture of sounds from natural sources and everyday life). Moreover, Daphne also was the first woman to direct an electronic music studio, and design and construct an electronic musical instrument on her own. As if she couldn’t be badass enough, Oram was also named the grandmother of the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop Sound Effects Studio, mostly because, well, she founded it alongside Desmond Briscoe in 1958.
Delia Derbyshire (1937 - 2001)
Delia was an English musician and composer who, very much like Daphne Oram, was a pioneer at the BBC's Radiophonic Workshop. Her innovative work inspired the electronic music scene in such way that there’s even a street in Coventry (her hometown) named after her. Delia’s fame reached its peak after she composed the original theme for Dr. Who in 1963. Interestingly enough, this song was one of the first songs ever to be produced entirely with electronic instruments.
Wendy Carlos (1939)
This American musician was a very famous composer, whose most acclaimed works can be found in many popular movie scores, such as Tron, The Shining, and A Clockwork Orange. Wendy is also one of the earliest supporters of the now overused synthesizer. At that time, this instrument became a very important step in introducing the concept of electronic music to the audience.
Pretty cool, right? These women, talented and courageous as they were, didn’t fear novelty and took a huge step forward in music history. They followed their sound within, and now, are eternal legends in the electronic scene.
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