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Reading List

Fred Wilder
Feb. 7, 2002
Updated: February 29, 2006

This is a small list of choice books and videos that cover the history, technique, and pioneers of electronic music. most are out of print but you should be able to find them at your local used book dealer or search for used listings.



This is the first book you should read before continuing your journey as a fan of music electronic or other wise. Written for the listener and stereophile / audiophile. I read this in 1989 and it changed the way I listen to and think about making music. Here is the spiel from the back cover.
This book spells out in clear, nontechnical language how to make good sound happen for you: how to pick the right equipment and, just as important, how to set up your system so that you can benefit from the best sound possible. The author has picked the brains of the experts and explored the needs of the layman to create a book that does justice to both. A generic owner's manual and a should-be component of every stereo system, Good Sound provides everything you need to know about equipment, setup, maintenance, and the upgrading of your system, as well as the care and preservation of recordings of every kind. 1987, 417 pages ISBN: 0688064248
Liberation of Sound:
An Introduction to Electronic Music by Herbert Russcol.

This book is excellent and a heavy tomb of information weighing in at 300 plus pages covering John Cage, Edgar Varese, Yannis Xenakis, Otto Luening, Vladimir Ussachevsky, Milton Babbit, Karlheinz Stockhausen and more. Written in 1972 Russcol has amassed a great history of thinkers, composers, and experiments in odd tuning, Musique Concrete and electronic music. Unfortunately unlike the visual arts the pioneers of experimental music are all but forgotten now. Edgar Varese is GOD! Thank you Russcol for this book it allowed me to visit the brains that invented the Wheel so I did not have to, over and over again.
There is a chapter of this book that gives reviews of experimental music recordings to date (1972) and Russcol pulls no punches if it's crap he says so, but being an educated man he does so more eloquently than I of course.
Publisher: Harpercollins ISBN: 0306762633
The Art of Electronic Music
by Tom Darter with Greg Armbruster 1984
This book is loaded with full page photographs and interviews with the builders and music makers of the late 20th century. It opens with a short overview of the early beginnings of electronic music and the focuses on the mid 1960s through early 1980s with photographs and enterviews with early inventors; Leon Theremin, Maurice Martenot, Don Buchla, SERGE Tcherepnin, ARP, Robert Moog. Synthesis include Wendy Carlos, Barton and Priscilla McLean, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Klaus Schulz, Suzanne Ciani, Vangelis and the like. This book really picks up where Russcol left off and tells the story of the hey day of voltage controlled Analog synthesizers.

Quill 1984 paperback 300 pages ISBN 0688031064
Electronic Music: Systems, Techniques, and Controls

by Allen Strange 1972 1st ed, 1983 2nd edition,.
Consider this the word of God, or at least the Guru (Dr. Strange) of all that is analog and modular. these two editions should be reprinted as volumes 1 and 2 they cover in greater detail than any other publication all you will ever need to know about Modular analog synthesizer technique, theory and method. Covers all the related topics such as Parameters of Sound / Basic Wave shapes / Amplitude & Frequency Modulation / Control Voltage / Gating / EQ & Filtering / Mixing / Reverb, Echo Feedback / Live Electronic Music / Real-Time Networks, etc. The 1972 edition is Illustrated with block diagrams while the 1983 edition has photos of actual modules from Buchla, Moog, ect. A wonderful reference, a must have for the serious composer / experimenter of electronic music. These books are extremely scarce with rare book dealers asking hundreds of dollars for what are basically old worn school books all though the information inside is worth every penny. If you can only get your mitts on one of these get the 1st edition 1972 160-page book no actual photos but all the technical know how you need to operate a real modular to its fullest potential, or get the most out of your software virtual analog synthesizer. The good news is McGraw Hill has the 2nd edition 1983 book available from their Higher Education division PRIMIS. Basically a Black and White photo copy edition for approximately $35.00 new.

1983 Published by McGraw Hill College ISBN 0697036022 274 Pages Out of Print.

Educational reprint ISBN: 0075232197 $35.00 available
McGraw Hill USA Call 1-800-338-3987

by Jim Michmerhuizen 1971
This manual is available again direct from the author as a self published work. Originally intended for the owner of a large ARP synthesizer modular system this manual explains the function of synthesis itself and is an excellent course on electronic music
No ISBN number. Website approximatly $45.00 .
VIDEO: Discovering Electronic Music

Gerald Strang phd. Professor emeritus CSU Long Beach
Running time 28 Minutes from 1983 (revised) with hands on work with a full Moog modular and early computer controlled modular synthesizers. Also footage of a Fairlight Instruments computer controlled system. This short video packs a lot of information into its running time starting out with the basic patch on a modular synthesizer explaining the how and why of synthesis as you see close-up after close-up of patch cords being plugged and knobs turned as you listen to the results of VCOs, VCF, and Envelope Generators. The video goes on to demonstrate the use of early (looks like DEC) Digital computers to control the synthesizers and in 1983 these computers were not anything like a windows PC or MAC computers of today. A great time capsule and the next best thing to having the actual machines in the classroom.
This documentary makes a great accompaniment the book by Dr. Allen Strange -Electronic Music- ISBN: 0697036022.
The video tape is still in print but you may have to buy it through an educational dealer. Your university library might have a copy.

$49.95 NEW SID: 946920099387 from
They also have other videos of interest from John Cage, Jean Michel Jarre, to William S. Burroughs!
VIDEO: Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey

1995 DVD Documentary with archival footage and still images from the 1920s and interviews then and later years with Clara Rockmore, Leon Theremin , and Robert Moog. Dr. Moog repaired Clara's instrument and kept it going over the years. Dr. Moog demonstrates the Theremin in his lab as originaly designed by Professor Leon Theremin. The remarkable life of the Russian-born musician/inventor, whose eponymous instrument's haunting sounds were heard on concert stages and in such films as "Spellbound" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still," is traced in this acclaimed documentary. See how Professor Leon Theremin pioneered electronic music in New York in the '20s and '30s, until he was taken back to Moscow and forced to work on espionage devices for Stalin, and follow the elderly Theremin's return visit to America in 1993 where he performes before a large audiance. 84 min.Standard; Soundtrack: English Dolby Digital Surround; Subtitles: French, Spanish; theatrical trailer. D23386
VIDEO: Better Living through Circuitry

This 1999 documentary film covers digital synth and turntablisim used in the ecstasy rave seen of the 1990s. Artist include; Scanner, DJ Spooky, Crystal Method, Phsycic TV, Roni Size, Uberzone, Electric Skychurch, and more. Great music, TV Party, and an excellent documentary of a rave new world of music. Keep your eye on the guy with the braces, he grows on you after a while. Running time 1 hour 23 minutes. Oh yeah, the sound track album is sweet! Amazon has this film on DVD.
Also available from on DVD or Video



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    Fullerton, California USA.