female pioneers of electronic music

Electronic music existed much before digital era, there were many female composers who pioneered the new way of composing by experimenting with sounds and unusual instruments. They worked by splicing tape loops, distorting sounds, endless dubbing, working with huge, old-school computers and by experimenting in order to reproduce different sounds that were used to compose the music based on repetition and incredible sonic diversity. Here are some composers that marked their place in the history of experimental electronic music.

Since the 1930’s, CLARA ROCKMORE was the master of the notoriously difficult Theremin instrument, and later championed by synthesizer-creator Bob Moog. LOUIS BEBE BARRON created the first all-electronic score for the film “FORBIDDEN PLANET” (1957), using oscillated sounds and tape loops in STUDIO d’ASSAI (Paris). Danish ELSE MARIE PADE studied under musique concrete founder Pierre Schaeffer, becoming a noted composer. ELAINE RADIGUE used the Buchla and Arp synthesizers in her work, heavily influenced by Buddhist meditation and recorded with group The Lappetites. MICHELE BOKANOWSKI has composed for film, televison, and theatre. BBC RADIOPHONIC WORKSHOP (London) was created and directed by DAPHNE ORAM, inventor and sonic pioneer. She was followed by DELIA DERBYSHIRE, who brought Ron Grainer’s “DR. WHO” theme to brilliant, eerie life with her studio wizardry. MADDALENA FAGANDINI co-created the proto-Techno single “Time Beat/ Waltz In Space” (1962) with young producer George Martin under the alias ‘Ray Cathode’. GLYNIS JONES produced some of the Workshop’s classic albums like “Out Of This World” (1976). ELIZABETH PARKER scored many BBC shows including “BLAKE’S 7”, and was the person to see the Workshop out in its 1998 finale. Fluxus performance artist YOKO ONO expanded John Lennon’s mind and range with electronic music, musique concrete, and ‘happening’ experiments. COLUMBIA-PRINCETON ELECTRONIC MUSIC CENTER (New York) was a premiere focal point for international composers since the 50’s, including composer and Associate Director PRIL SMILEY. ALICE SHIELDS combined her operatic voice and poetry with the revolutionary synthesizers of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Her teacher DARIA SEMEGEN wrote traditional classical music as well as electronic. WENDY CARLOS had massive mainstream success with the all-synth “Switched On Bach”, before writing groundbreaking film scores for “A CLOCKWORK ORANGE,” “THE SHINING” and ‘TRON”. Nearby at Bell Labs, LAURIE SPIEGEL spearheaded computer graphics and software design as well as new music. Maverick ANNETTE PEACOCK went from Free Jazz piano to the first synthesizers, threading her early 70’s raps and rock with freeform electronics. Argentinian BEATRIZ FERREYRA, who also studied with Schaeffer, is an esteemed composer and teacher. SAN FRANCISCO TAPE MUSIC CENTER, The crucial West Coast electronic center produced some marvelous pieces thanks to Morton Subotnick, Terry Riley, Steve Reich and PAULINE OLIVEROS in 1962. Later on it become the CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY MUSIC (Mills College, Oakland, CA), where Oliveros was the first Director, perfecting her signal processing system for live performance. Student and now Co-Director MAGGI PAYNE trailblazed video imagery and record engineering along with her music.CYNTHIA WEBSTER played in the early synth band Triode, founded electro mag SYNAPSE, and now runs Cyndustries designing software for electronic music, such as the Zeroscillator.

Their innovations led to Progressiv Rock, Krautrock, New Wave, Coldwave, Darkwave, Electro Funk, Industrial, Techno, and Electroclash and their fringe future music is now the soundtrack of today and it’s worth checking and re-discovering … Respect!

For more info try Cyndustries‘s list of female electronic composers with direct links to their web pages.

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