The Unknown Past of Futurism
The world of EDM revolves around state-of-the-art technology, spellbinding light shows and mind-blowing visuals that form together to create the sounds and spectacles we experience today. But where was all this flash and glamour when we didn’t have the tech we do today? You may be very surprised to find the that EDM traces its origins farther back than you could have imagined…
If you ask most musical historians about how EDM first started, they’ll likely tell you it all began with Acid House in 1980’s Chicago. The creative new use of synthesizers modulating bass lines and bringing the familiar thump and snare of 140 bpm to a worldwide mainstream. It really picked up speed when the Roland TB-303 electronic synthesizer hit the market. With mass sales reaching the hands of DJ’s across the globe, it allowed a new kind of freedom in musical production. Bass was not just the foot pedal of drum but a frequency that could resonate like never before. The late 80’s brought with it experiments in sound that soon spread worldwide to bring with it genres that ranged from English Old School Jungle to Trance and Breakbeat Hardcore.
But wait wait wait…that’s not that long ago…
Fine, some might even give credit to the late 70’s synthesized disco trend and look at someone like Donna Summer and her song “I Feel Love”. There’s definitely some electric vibes going on there.
But in my opinion that still doesn’t cut it. Let’s take a big step back to a time before sound was anything like what we hear on the radio today…
“Young composers have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice”
In Italy, in 1910, a band of experimental artists decided music and art should not be confined to mainstream instrumental production so they began recording the hum of machines, piecing together unusual vocal modulations and creating a form of music that liberated the genre of music from opera and orchestra to sound and expression. Futurism was born.
The most famous composer was Francesco Balilla Pratella who claims “young composers have hearts to love and fight, minds to conceive, and brows free of cowardice”. He believed music should be independent of critics, take on new forms, and be created by all people who are willing to compose.
Beyond the philosophy and ideas of sound liberation was a new tool that generated a range of ways to augment the sounds. Pictured below is an intonarumori which is a series of differently sized acoustic noise generators that permitted the performer to create and control the dynamics and pitch of several different types of noises.
Above is artist Luigi Russolo who recorded The Art of Noises in 1913.
The frequently forgotten origin of EDM started over a century ago and still today we hear the influences of the sounds and philosophies of Futurism long past but forever resonating in waves made long ago.
Acid House 1980’s
Synthesized Disco 1970’s
Italian Futurism 1913