The Sea Organ of Zadar – Unique Musical Instruments

There are several recreational activities that one can get involved with. The simple act of watching the sea has always been, and always will be, a popular pastime.   

There is a peace and joy that comes with sitting by the sea.  This alone takes away all your sorrows and worries away. 

Did you know there is a giant organ in Croatia called the Sea Organ of Zadar which harnesses the power of the sea, and creates music with it?  Witness the sound of the Zadar Sea Organ below.

WHAT IS THE ZADAR SEA ORGAN?

The sea organ of Zadar is a one-of-a-kind instrument that is located along the shores of the city of Zadar, in Croatia. 

This is the first pipe organ that is played by the sea, and by the sea we mean BY the sea.  The sea itself plays the organ.

It consists of simple steps with slightly curved white stones.  Underneath the steps, there are 35 tubes that are musically tuned and they have whistles on the sidewalk.

Musical chords are generated by the movement of the sea that pushes the air into the pipes. The type of chords produced will depend on the velocity and size of the waves.

The Zadar sea organ is created in such a way that there is harmony between the environment and the architecture.  Through this, the sea can communicate to nature as the musical sound that it produces can be heard by passers-by.  

SIMILAR INSTRUMENTS TO THE SEA ORGAN

There are other several instruments that are played by nature. These include the water organ, the hydraulophone, and the wave organ. 

The wave organ is a culture that was constructed in 1986 at the shore of San Fransico Bay.  This organ produces music depending on the strength of the tide.

In contrary to other pipe organs, the air column of the wave organ is constantly changing hence resulting in the varying pitch that is produced.

The difference between the sea organ and the wave organ is that the sea organ is very developed and it uses waves to produce a musical sound where else the wave organ uses tides.

Just like the wave organ and the sea organ, the water (waterfall) organ uses water as a power source for pushing the air that is used in producing the musical sound. In other instances instead of using natural power sources, manual pumps are used.  

Although these instruments belong to the same family, the pipe family and their mechanism of producing sound may be similar, the sea organ, by design, boasts an ingenious design that arguably outdoes all of these other instruments.

WHO INVENTED THE SEA ORGAN?

Zadar, the Croatian city dates back to the pre-historic times.  It is an ancient city.

The shorelines of this beautiful city were destroyed at the end of World War 2.

The years that followed were of rebuilding the lost landmarks as plain concrete blocks and the sea was not exempted from this. 

In order to restore back its former glory, an award-winning architect was brought. Nikola Basic was the architect that helped this city to restore its glory. 

Together with Dalmatian stone carvers, Professor Vladimir Andročec, a hydraulic consultant, and Goran Ježina, a pipe specialist, and Nikola Basic, they designed this masterpiece organ in 2005.

His inspiration was from the hydraulic (water organ) that was invented by the ancient Greeks.

It is through this organ that Nikola was offered another project by the city authorities: the greeting of the sun. 

Nikola then set a 22-meter pavement that is powered by the solar system.  The cells that are under the glass begin creating electricity that enables the disc to illuminate at dawn. 

At sunset, the cells are believed to have gathered enough energy that enables it to light the waterfront.

HOW DOES THE SEA ORGAN WORK?

The sea organ is 70 meters long and has 35 pipes that are underneath this concrete steps. The pipes are located in a way that the movement of the sea results in the production of musical chords from these pipes. 

Column air that is pushed by a column of water movement blows each pipe by a  plastic tube that is submerged in water. The apertures that are located in the uppermost stairs of the vertical planes generate the tuned musical sounds from the pipes.

Seven groups of musical tubes are interchangeably tuned to two cognate chords that are of the diatonic major scale. The pipes are of varying lengths and contain whistles that are built in them.  

Each of this organ pipe has its own chord and tubbing. Depending on your position on the steps, you can detect the changes that arise in the harmony and the sound. The random time and wave energy space distribution to each organ results in the played chords.  

In order for the sea organ to be transformed into a musical instrument, it has air holes that enable it to breathe in air. Air and water flow in through the lower steps.

The air and water that flows through the lower steps are then funnelled to the chamber that is located beneath.  The air and the water then leave through the upper stairs. 

The chime-like, beautiful and undiluted notes are then produced as a result of this. One of the most interesting facts about this instrument is that the sound is always different.

This is because the sea is always changing hence the same sound cannot be produced twice. The effect of the sea organ can be described as hypnotic. 

This will entirely depend on the conditions of the weather or any other force such as a ferry passing nearby hence strongly pushing the water into the pipes. 

With this, you will realize that the intensity of the music of the sea organs keeps on fluctuating.

THE SEA ORGAN AS A TOURIST ATTRACTION

The installation of the sea organ is very unique and has made the inhabitants of Zadar feel proud. This is a natural musical instrument that is played by the sea.

After the destruction of the major landmarks in Zadar after the second world war, the people of Zadar did not have much contact with the sea.   

The construction of the sea organ was to restore the relationship that the inhabitants of Zadar had with the sea.  The construction of this organ has made it a major tourist attraction site.

Until you’ve heard it yourself, it is difficult to believe that the sea can play music that will excite your body and soul like this.

It is only when you stroll in the western embankment of Zadar that your ears will catch the strangest and beautiful sound that is floating on air as you are approaching the end of the Penisula.  You will then notice a lot of people either lying or sitting on the lapped stairs that are located along the shoreline.

Every note that is produced by the sea organ is unpredictable yet harmonious. This is as a result of the arrangement of the well-tuned organ tubes. Just a single move through the sea organ and there is a drastic change in harmony. It is like several musicians are producing the harmonies from beneath your feet.

For a number of people that love adventure and new experiences, the sea organ in Zadar is there number one list in their adventure list. This is probably a must go place for every tourist.

Some would argue that the sound that this organ produces is annoying and creepy.  But it’s your experience with this organ that will make you understand your connection with the surrounding environment.

The combination of both the organ and the sea waves are so soothing to your heart and mind.

Lying on the grass that is in the park that is behind the sea organ or sitting or lying on the steps either dozing or meditating is one of a kind experience that you would regret missing it!

History and Application of the Theremin

When it comes to the imagination, the human mind has no limit. The magic of the vision of man can be seen in the invention of musical instruments.

The purpose of the musical instrument is rhetorical.  What you may think is impossible is made possible by instruments. It is not just about the theory behind their invention; these instruments have the power and ability to speak to nature.

Also, the language of instruments is a mediation between what is to be observed and the observer.

You might think you have seen and heard the strangest music instrument until you come in contact with the theremin.

Curious about what this strange instrument is? This article will provide you with all the details you need to know about the theremin.

WHAT IS A THEREMIN?

The theremin will forever remain the first electrical instrument in history to be manufactured. It is one of the unique and unusual instruments in the world, having been invented in 1919 by Léon Theremin.

Is it possible to play an instrument without actually touching it? Yes, with the invention of the theremin, it is practically possible as it does not require physical interaction in order to be controlled. 

The theremin was initially known as an etherphone or a thereminophone. This instrument, by its very nature, set the foundation for the invention of all other electrical instruments to follow.

The Invention of the Theremin

The design of the theremin dates back to 1920 by a remarkable Russian physicist Lev Sergeyevich Termen. He is also known as Léon Theremin in the West.

Here he is playing his instrument, in 1954.

The invention of this instrument was as a result of research in relation to proximity sensors, and the government of Soviet-sponsored this research.

The study took place in Saint Peterburg in the Ioffe Physical-Technical Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Theremin was invented just after the Russian World War 2 outbreak.  Wanting to free the performers from the use a fixed intonation and a keyboard, he created a theremin through the knowledge he had about the capacitance of the body.

Sergeyevich then made a tour to Europe where he spent some time demonstrating his invention of the theremin. He later moved to the United States and in 1928 he sought for a patent for his invention. 

Sergeyevich had also granted the Radio Corporations of America( RCA) the production rights of the theremin.

The RCA theremin was released after the 1929 stock market crash.

Although the release of the theremin by the RCA was not a success, a number of audiences in both abroad and within America were fascinated by this new instrument and it took the interest of many manufacturers.

In the early 1930s, Lucie Bigelow Rosen in partnership with her husband Walter Bigelow Rosen was amazed at the theremin and their interest in this instrument lead them to offer financial support to the development of the theremin.

In addition to this Lucie and her husband also provided artistic support. This lead to the popularization of the theremin to those who had no idea of this instrument.

In 1938, Sergeyevich is believed to have left the United States although the circumstances that may have forced him to leave are not precise. He then reappeared in 1991.

After the end of the second world war, the use of the theremin started decreasing and the popularity of this instrument declined rapidly with the introduction of new electronic instruments.

Many musicians preferred to use this new instrument as they were easy to play as compared to the theremin.

Although the use of the theremin may have become unpopular among musicians, persistence in the development of the theremin among electricians was still a topic of interest.

Robert Moog

One of the great enthusiast electricians is Robert Moog. Robert began taking an interest in the building of the theremin in the 1950s.

To the utter surprise of many, Robert was still a high school student when he began developing theremins. Also, he wrote several articles that were about building theremins.  He even went to an extent of selling theremin kits.

These kits were to allow the customers to assemble the parts together. One of the remarkable moment when Robert was selling theremin kits, Raymond Scott, an inventor of electrical instruments also purchased a theremin kit that he incorporated in the invention of the Clavivox.

How Is The Theremin Played?

The theremin is made up of two antennas that are sensitive to the hands of the thereminist.

One antenna is used to control the frequency by a sense of motion of one side, and the other antenna controls the amplitude based on the movement of the second hand.

Although the theremin has been used in orchestra and films, it was an instrument that was intended to be used as a signature in science fiction.

With the spooky and uncomfortable notes that the theremin produced was to be used to make the viewers of horror films feel uncomfortable.

Keeping in mind that the theremin is played without any physical contact, it is not as easy as it may look. Controlling the frequency and amplitude is very difficult, and hence practice is essential.

Both the volume and pitch of the theremin are controlled by the distance between the hand and the two antennas.  These two antennas are used to produce an electromagnetic field.

If the hand is moved closer to the antenna that is used to control the pitch, the pitch of the theremin rises.

On the other hand, when the hand moves closer to the antenna that controls volume, the volume decreases.  The note of the theremin is affected by any object that is within the playing field of the theremin or any motion that the body generates.

The early theremins volume and pitch were controlled through the use of foot pedal. This model was later developed to theremins that used the hand’s motion.

Here’s a great video showing the basics of how to play a theremin.

Diversity of the Theremin

Over the years different models of the theremin have been developed. These theremins range from those that can be played by beginners to those that are played by professional thereminist. 

These models include the Moog Music model, Matryomin model, RCA Victor model, TVox model, and Subscope model.

Moog model is the one that is commonly used worldwide.  It is through Moog that the theremins have survived in the market through his continuous production of these instruments.

Here is professional thereminist Lydia Kavina playing the Moog Theremini.

Theremin in Popular Music

The use of theremin as a music instrument began long ago in the early 1940s.

The first rock band to perform with a theremin live was Lothar and the Hand People in 1965.  By the way, Lothar was a theremin, not a person.

The release of Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys in 1966 lead to the revival of the theremin.

Through the use of the electro-theremin by this band in their song it increased awareness of the band.

The band also requested Moog Music to produce for them branded ribbon-controlled instruments. These instruments had a similar sound to the one that was created by the theremin.

Jimmy Page, a songwriter and founder of the Led Zeppelin rock band, throughout the performance of this band he used the theremin in different variations.

Other bands such as the Portishead and the Rolling Stones have used the theremin in several of their performances.

More Music Featuring Theremin

The theremin was first incorporated into orchestra by Dmitri Shostakovich was a Russian composer. The theremin may not have been used in classical music, but it was used in several motion pictures such as The Red House, The Lost Weekend and The Spiral Staircase.

Here’s a composition called Lunar Rhapsody by Harry Revel.

The theremin has also been featured in video games such as Soul of the Ultimate Nation.

One of the most remembered thereminists is a student of professor Theremin, Clara Rockmore.

Being an accomplished violinist at age 5, Clara developed a problem with her hand. This lead to her being unable to use her hand to play the violin.

With the invention of the theremin, she had to give up playing the violin, and her only choice was to play the theremin. 

Clara developed an aerial fingering system that was unique and precise. With her incredible skills, she became one of the best thereminists in the world.

Conclusion

It is hard to imagine that an instrument that can be seen and heard but cannot be touched produces a sound that may make you a little bit uncomfortable, and yet so compelled to listen.

The theremin will remain to be one of the strangest instruments in the world that has stolen the attention and interest of many.

Don’t you want to play this instrument at least once in your lifetime?

The Didgeridoo – History and Information

What is a Didgeridoo?

A didgeridoo is a type of native Australian wooden horn / pipe that makes deep, resonant sounds, and is considered as an aerophone (wind instrument) by many musicologists.

This instrument is also sometimes referred to as didge or didjeridu, as well as names like yiraka, djibouti, and paampu.

Here is a chart listing off all the local references to the instrument, based on region (in Australia).

The didgeridoo finds its origin in Northern Australia and was commonly used in the past by the native peoples there, and still is a big part of their culture as well.

If you are a musician in some other part of the world that is not Australia, there is a fair chance you haven’t even come across this fairly unique and slightly unusual musical instrument.  There’s a fair chance you have, and there’s a fair chance you haven’t.  Depends if you get around much. 

If you haven’t really been properly introduced to the didgeridoo, we hope this article will provide you with some information on its history, and how it fits into the greater scheme of music itself.  

Didgeridoo History

Drone Sounds

Something we must mention when talking about didgeridoos, is the idea of drone sounds, which is a big part of how the instrument expresses itself musically.

Listen to this piece of music being played by a man named Gumaroy, in Sydney at Circular Quay, and keep this in mind as we go along.

Before classical music was beginning to establish itself over one thousand years ago, the sound of the drone was being explored by our ancestors around the world, dating back much further into the mists of history.

Rewind To Dawn of Humanity

Drone sounds basically started whenever it was that human beings learned how they could use their bodies to make sounds that were not the same as talking.  Let’s just call this, making bodily noises. 

Like whistling, for instance, and whatever else can be done with the human body to make a sound, while also controlling that sound to a degree.  Our ancient ancestors did this for fun, no doubt, and people obviously still do it today!

Have you seen these two guys before?  They specialize in mimicking familiar sounds but just using their bodies to do it.  They almost got kicked off the America’s Got Talent (thanks Mel), but, in the end, people were able to appreciate their talents.

As you can imagine, human beings got better at using their bodies and various implements to make sounds.  Some people could emulate certain animals and birds, using natural materials such as twigs and leaves.

Here’s someone playing a leaf.

Eventually, the idea of “music” came about (hard to say exactly when that was), followed by the idea of musical instruments. 

What is music?  It is a system with a means to produce a melody or harmony, while also expressing some sort of emotion.

When the idea of melody was invented by humans – not the formal idea of melody but the literal execution of it – drone sounds came along at the exact same time. 

Drone sounds are, in their own way, the opposite of melody, and yet is just as essential and fundamental to music itself as melody, harmony, and rhythm.

Didgeridoos are especially good at making drone sounds.  Check out this woman playing the didgeridoo.

This piece she is playing is basically a drone sound, with some variation in how the sound is expressed (call it “spice”).

But what is a drone sound, exactly?  You can easily define it as a sound that is heard throughout the duration of a piece of music.  In other words, one long sustained note or chord.  In a sense, a drone is expressed through the “key” of a piece of of music.  

Often, a drone is played “underneath” a piece of music, or as a foundation, but in the above case, and in most cases with didgeridoo, it is the music.

Single note instruments, like horns, can easily produce a drone note, because it simply has to make one single note and hold it. 

A pipe works the same way, as long as you stay on the same note.

A didgeridoo is a horn of sorts, and also a pipe of sorts, but since it is not made of metal like other horns, as it is made from trees, it is more of a pipe, although it also has characteristics of a horn.  It’s a horn-pipe!

Look at this.  Here is a horn.  Notice is it made from brass and widens greatly at the end.  You blow into the mouthpiece and control the pitch of the note by levers.

Here is a pipe.  A saluang, actually, usually found in Indonesia, made from wood.  You blow into the one end and control the pitch by covering up the holes in different combinations, like a flute.

And here is a didgeridoo.  It looks a bit like a pipe, and a bit like a horn.  Pitch is controlled by the sound coming out of your mouth.

Now, back to the idea of drone notes, which, as we said, relates back to didgeridoos and how they sound when played.

Here’s an example of a drone note played by a cello, which is a stringed instrument, but here it is simply sustaining the note A.

Drones are often used for the musical practice purposes, but that’s not all they are used for.

Now compare that drone sound to this drone music by Brian Eno, the famous ambient experimental album from 1978, which experiment with drone passages, called Music For Airports.

Now compare that to the 1998 album by the electronic group, Coil, called Time Machines, which employs drones as well, but differently.

Now compare that to the famous electronic track by Aphex Twin from 1991 called Didgeridoo.

Ancient forms of music in eastern cultures tended to incorporate drone sounds, as drone were, and are, by their very nature, simpler to perform.  That isn’t an insult to players of the didgeridoo, as it takes a lot of mouth control to make the didgeridoo sound good.  All the same, it is easier to make a single sound than play a complicated melody.

Like the didgeridoo itself, drone sounds are associated with the sacred in ancient cultures and have an earthy quality to them that is undeniable and mesmerizing.

Lately, people everywhere have found newfound interest in the idea of the drone with the audiophile community in terms of binaural beats and brainwave entrainment, where certain frequencies of a drone sound can activate and stimulate different parts of your creative mind.

Didgeridoos, similarly, captivate an audience by tapping into low frequencies that also tickle the nervous system in a pleasing way.

Drones can be created in a variety of ways, via bells, gongs, organs, electronics, and other means.  A drone pipe is one particular instrument that is designed to create such a sound.  And yes, a didgeridoo is one such type of pipe.

20th Century

In 1912, Sir Baldwin Spencer made the first recording of the didgeridoo.  Spencer was a English-Australian biologist and anthropologist who studied native tribes in Australia extensively.

Donald Thompson, in his own studies of the aboriginal Australians, shows evidence of the instrument being used once again.

The didgeridoo started gaining some fame in 1953 in recorded music such as Tribal Music of Australia recorded by A.P. Elkin, and this was the first commercial debut for the instrument.

In 1963, Trevor Jones recorded The Art of the Didgeridoo, and he also published various articles based on aboriginal music.

Modern Didgeridoo

When it comes down to it, the didgeridoo has been used in many different musical genres, and finds its place just like any instrument.

Industrial bands such as Test Dept. have used it to generate sounds in their performances. 

Wallis Buchanan, a player from the acid jazz band, Jamiroquai, played it on the song, “When You Gonna Learn?”, which, fittingly, is a song about treating the planet poorly.  What better instrument to drive that point home than the rootsy didgeridoo?

The band also used this instrument in many of their performances until when Wallis Buchanan left the band in 1999.  Once Wallis left, the sound of the didgeridoo left with him.

As we featured earlier, electronic artists like Aphex Twin have also managed to make a hit song with the instrument is not just the main instrument, but also the name of the track itself.

This didgeridoo has also been used in hard rock music style. A well-known lead singer from the band Like a Storm, Chris Brooks, has used the dronepipe in many songs by the band.

One of the songs that has prominently featured the didgeridoo is the song Love the Way You Hate Me.

For bands and artists seeking something fresh and different, the didgeridoo is an option, although it is one of the more ancient instruments. 

The thing is, once you attempt to add didgeridoo to your track, there’s a good chance it will take over the song.  Whether you hear it as a novelty or not, there’s no getting around the power of the instrument.

The art of learning to play the instrument requires time and skill, with aboriginal Australians still being among the best players in the world.

Making A Didgeridoo

This instrument is not impossible to make, being that it is made from wood and carved and hollowed into a particular shape. 

That said, the construction of a didgeridoo requires a skillful maker. The traditional didgeridoo is made of hardwood.

The most commonly used hardwood is eucalyptus. Sometimes bamboo can be used instead of a eucalyptus.

The main trunk is used in the construction of the instrument, although a substantial branch can also be used. The tree to be used must be hollowed by termites to a certain degree.

As mentioned above, the eucalyptus makes the best source for the construction of the didgeridoo because the termites only attack the dead heartwood and leave the sapwood of the eucalyptus. 

Hollows that are made by termites make the didgeridoo have an irregular shape, and these hollows tend to increase the diameter of the didgeridoo towards the lower end.

This is because the sapwood produces a toxic chemical that is very harmful to the termites.

The hollows must not be too big or too small, as the instrument made from this type of rotted tree will be of poor quality, ultimately.

The bark of the tree is blasted off and trimming of the ends is done. The exterior is then shaped to produce a finished piece. Application of a rim of beeswax can be applied to the mouthpiece.

Non-traditional didgeridoos can be constructed using PVC piping which is not at all similar to these native hardwoods.  Metals agave, glass, clay, hemp, and / or carbon can also be used in making such an instrument, although you might argue that it will have lost a lot of the soul of how the aboriginals might construct one.

Some people who make a didgeridoo will use a combination of modern and ancient techniques to arrive at the final instrument.

Here is one made from bamboo.

For the mouthpiece of the instrument, made from PVC piping, a rubber stopper that is well sized can be used instead of the beeswax.

After the construction is done, the didgeridoo can be decorated by painting it, although it is not a necessity.

For an authentic make, maintaining the texture and appearance of the wood grain is preferred.  Most of the decorations are done by an experienced artist who understands the nature of the instrument. 

Thanks for reading this article.  If you have any comments, please leave them below!

The Pyrophone – Weird and Unusual Musical Instruments Series

 At some point in your life, you have probably heard or listened to notes that sounded like an explosion or something close to rapid combustion or rapid heating, made by some synthesizer perhaps.

As we all know, a musician that performs with talent or fervour have always been described with words such as burning it up or they are on fire! These words are not meant to be taken literally…in most cases.

The human mind has always been fascinated with fire since humans started messing around with it, 100 000 + years ago.

Sometimes music is accompanied by instruments that are on fire! Music and fire are inseparable.  

Many types of instruments are considered to be on fire but they can never beat the pyrophone. 

The name of this most weird and unusual musical instrument can tell you that the music that you will hear that accompanies the pyrophone will be on fire.  Fire?  Yes, actual fire!

If you’ve never seen a pyrophone in action, here is what it looks and sounds like.

Why the name “pyrophone”?

The name pyrophone means fire-sound. Am sure you are wondering how the fire sound comes about.  The fire sound is made by applying combustion to the pyrophone pipes. 

Differences may have risen over the years between the earliest pyrophone and the modern pyrophone.  The early pyrophone worked similarly to the steam calliopes that were powered by an internal combustion generator.

The modern pyrophone is a bit advanced, and it uses the explosion technology.

Who invented the pyrophone?

Frederic Kastner is believed to have invented the pyrophone in 1873.

What drove Frederic into developing the pyrophone?  The pyrophone was just like any traditional musical instrument were pipes were encased with flames as a way of producing musical notes. 

Having understood the mechanism by which hydrogen produces a sound, he began his invention on the fire organ, Frederic had gained this knowledge of the hydrogen sound by the discovery of Dr. B. Higgins.

This discovery had taken place in 1777 where Dr. Higgins discovered that a note could be produced if a hydrogen flame was placed at the lower end of a tube or a glass.  

The sound produced is as a result of the reaction between the hydrogen and the atmospheric oxygen.

In addition to this, Frederic was also had the skills and knowledge about music. It is assumed that he had gained this knowledge of music from his father Georges Kastner who was a composer.

The combination of the musical knowledge and Dr. Higgins’ discovery had a significant impact on the invention of the pyrophone.

The invention and acceptance of an instrument into the market is not as easy as you may think, or maybe you assumed something like this would not be easy, and then you’d be right.

You do not wake up one day and decide to invent an instrument and the next thing you are recognized for your invention. The invention of anything is a process.

Sadly, the invention of Frederic Kastner was not a great success.

Since Frederic was not a recognized physicist, the connections that Kastner’s family had made a significant impact in bringing acknowledgement to the pyrophone.

Frederic’s mother was a wealthy and influential person in society. With the thoughts of keeping Frederic away from any kind of mischief, she had encouraged him to continue developing the pyrophone as a way of keeping him busy.

Here below is another pyrophone in action.

Henry Dunant, a founder of the Red Cross and also an acquaintance of Kastner’s mother, took a commission from Kastner’s mother to take with him the pyrophone abroad.

Being a social activist, Henry had the eloquence, the social connections and the persuasive skills that would enable him to promote the pyrophone.

In February 1875, Henry secured a chance at the Royal Society of Arts that enabled him to present the pyrophone. The melancholy, the vibration of the eco and the mysterious and passionate sound that the pyrophone produces is remarkable and cannot be ignored!

To our utter disappointment, even with the extra marketing that Henry had done, the pyrophone was not a success. Henry noticed that the pyrophone had started malfunctioning and ended up donating it to the South Kensington Museum.

In 1882, Frederic died, and Henry had already moved on with various projects that had come his way.

With no one to focus on the pyrophone development, the pyrophone fame began disappearing slowly.  A number of attempts have been made to reincarnate the pyrophone, but the insanity and elegance that came with the pyrophone cannot stay matched.

What kind of music was written with the pyrophone?

After the pyrophone organ was invented, some musicians had visited Frederic just to have an experience with this incredible instrument.

Hector Berlioz, a French renown composer, also visited Frederic.

Although the welcoming of the pyrophone was not a great one, musicians and composers, who understood what a useful musical instrument meant sought after the pyrophone.

Among the many other composers who visited Frederic, Charles Gounod had made a consideration of using the pyrophone in Jeanne d’Arc production. 

The only composer who wrote music that was specifically for the pyrophone is Theodore Lack. This included Saving the Queen and Arrangement of God.

Construction of the pyrophone

Taking into consideration that the pyrophone sound is dependent on the flame, the construction process must be taken seriously. 

The general appearance of the pyrophone is a keyboard that is connected to a metal pipe or glass, and it is hooked to a console.

Depending on the sound that you want the pyrophone to produce, the pyrophone can be heated directly using a flame or the flame is controlled through a mechanism that is computerised.  The sound produced range from clear to steady to discordant. 

What are the sources of fuel for the pyrophone?

Propane is the primary source of fuel for the pyrophone.  Gasoline can also be used as a source of fuel for the pyrophone. This can be achieved through the building of mobile units that are powered by gasoline.

Often the hydrogen pyrophones are constructed using test tubes that are upside down. This tubes act as the combustion chambers. 

During Frederic time, the proper colours were not attained but with the addition of salt, this can be achieved in the modern days.

Pyrophone Juggernaut

I don’t think you would want to miss listening to one of the largest pyrophones. The contraption alone leaves you mesmerized. This is the world’s most massive hand operated octave fire organ.

Visit: https://pyrophonejuggernaut.com/ for more info and tour dates! (yes tour dates)

This flame fueled organ is constructed using copper, aluminium and steel. This pyrophone was built after 250 years of experimental experience. It is an instrument that breathes fire!

You might have taught that the human imagination had reached its peak, you are wrong. The human mind has no limits when it comes to creativity, and this is particularly true when it comes to strange instruments, and things that spew flames. 

Humans always have, and always will get a kick out of flames that spew forth.  And so do ducks, apparently.

With whatever that is around you, given you have the ability to think, you can create various unique things.

Though Frederic pyrophone did not gain much fame, the recent Pyrophone Juggernaut has struck the mind of many.

The pyrophone will always remain to be that one original instrument that breathes fire to music, and that’s something you can never take away from it!

Triangle Instrument History – The Grimley Memoirs

The triangle is one of the instruments that has gained a bit of a bad reputation over the years.  In fact, some people don’t even think it IS a musical instrument…the nerve!

Admittedly, it doesn’t look like much or seem to do a whole heck of a lot. 

So, what is a triangle instrument, then, exactly? 

Well, it’s a simply bar of metal (usually steel but sometimes made from beryllium copper) bent into a triangular shape, that gives off a bright sound when struck.

It is termed an “idiophone”, which means, basically, that it has no strings, but, nonetheless, it gives off a sound when struck, shaken, or scraped.  A gong is also part of this family, and so is a bell. 

There is a view that we think that many a musician has, not to mention the public in general, which is that the triangle is the ugly duckling of the music world, and only used by the semi-autistics of the world.

In your average 9th grade music class, the most hopeless of the lot might be assigned the triangle as a way to occupy them without giving them anything too difficult to do, musically speaking. 

In the 21st century, the triangle is not exactly used liberally in Katy Perry or Lady Gaga songs.   And Ed Grimley (below) hasn’t helped matters much either, for that matter.

Percussion Family Matters

It is thought, whenever anyone does consider this oft-neglected instrument (which is rarely if ever), that the triangle doesn’t have any real special significance, and has little impact on any major piece of music. 

Disagree?  When was the last time you gave a care for the humble (and rather high pitched) triangle?

Maybe the last time you heard a triangle was when someone called you to dinner somewhere in the Southern U.S.A., about 40 years ago.

Let it be known that as a simple instrument as it may be, we think that the triangle deserves a lot better than the reputation is currently seems to have. 

So who do you think would be the first to stick up for the forlorn triangle, if anyone?  We suppose it is none other than your local percussionists and members of military marching bands.

Yes, if anyone knows its secret plight, it’s the percussionist who understands the important role the triangle has been playing since its advent.  This is because besides being an idiophone, the triangle is part of the percussion family.

Indeed, the triangle is a very unique instrument, as is its role in any ensemble of which it is a part.  It has been featured more than one might guess.

Is the triangle a musical instrument?

The triangle may be seen by many as a joke to your average music fan in the 21st century, thinking it inconsequential and an insult to the rest of the instruments.  It is rude to think this, but do not doubt that triangle bigotry is real.

“Do you even require ANY skills to play the triangle?” You may have probably come across people who have said this, who think that anyone can play the triangle.  Give it a whack once in a while, that’s all that needs to be done…or is it?

As simple as the triangle may appear, it is more technical than you can imagine. Any trianglist can tell you that playing the triangle is not easy by any means. 

The angle at which you hit it to make the proper tone, the timing, and the volume are but three considerations that are tougher than they appear.

Here are two videos showing how tricky it can be to wield one of these instruments.  It’s no cakewalk.

As you can see and hear from the above examples, not just any random person can pick up a triangle and make it sound less than a clinking clanking cacophony.  

Now, before you start playing the triangle to prove us wrong, you need to realize – this mission will take skill and lots of practice.  You can’t just practice once and think you are good to go with this instrument.  No reputable symphony will have you, trust us.

Playing the triangle requires consistency.

As difficult as it is to control the volume of the triangle, an expert can attain this, after hours of blood, sweat, and tears.

Using a knitting needle and otherwise using a lighter striking implement makes it easy to obtain quieter notes.  A wooden striker can also be used as it gives quiet and duller notes.  Your style of playing is up to you.

The invention of the triangle (whose “bright” idea was it?)

As many may assume, the triangle was not invented by Pascal.

Blaise Pascal is a known mathematician who is believed to have invented the concept of the triangle properties. Pascal is thought to have invented the triangle shape in the 17th century, and so also erroneously labeled as the father to the triangle instrument. 

Voicing such an assumption back in those days was liable to have you laughed out of the local drinking establishment and pelted with rotten fruit.  That’ll teach you to behave like such a ninny!

In contrast to this common misconception of Pascal’s paternity to the triangle, we have evidence that the triangle was an instrument that was seen used long before Pascal’s time.   

To recap, and just as the name suggests, a triangle is a metal bar that has been bent into a triangular shape. So between the triangle shape and the triangle instrument, which one was invented first?

The triangle instrument was invented a little bit earlier than the triangle shape, oddly enough.

The triangle instrument’s history can be traced all the way back to 3000 B.C.  A number of scholars believe the origin of the triangle can be traced musically back to the sistrum.

A sistrum is a rattle that is comprised of an arch and an attached handle. It was an instrument that was used in religious and traditional ceremonies, mainly in Egypt.

Did the triangle evolve from the sistrum or was it an independent development?

Yes, we know this question has kept many a triangle fan awake at night, tossing and turning until they fall asleep from sheer exhaustion.

A few scholars have written that the triangle is a direct descendant of the sistrum.  The main assertion for a lineage between the sistrum and the triangle is that both were used in religious ceremonies.  Hence, they must be close relatives, one might suppose.

This is an unfounded idea, however.  There is no link that connects the two, and it is clear that the development of the triangle was independent and not as a result of the evolutions of the sistrum! 

If the sistrum was to evolve into a triangle, it would lose a number of its properties such as the size and how it produces its sound.

Pictures from the seventeen century show the sistrum and the triangle together, sharing the stage. Therefore, both of these instruments existed differently from each other.

Here is a video showing how the sistrum is played, if you are curious to hear it.

What are some of the instruments that looked similar to the triangle?

Instruments such as the spurs and trapezoid dulcimer have a some resemblance to the triangle, although their resemblance is merely passing, at best.

Here are the spurs being played by David Valdés.

These instruments were used in the early fifteenth century, or thereabouts.

Although the trapezoid dulcimer and the spurs have a passing resemblance (in the case of the trapezoid) or percussive function (in the case of the spurs) to the triangle, they are not really the same at all.

It is believed, however, that the early makers of the triangle could have gotten ideas from these two instruments.  Of this, we concede, it’s likely.

Here is the sound of a hammered trapezoid dulcimer.  

When was the first triangle instrument seen?

The triangle instrument was first mentioned in a manuscript dating back to the 10th century. 

A number of drawings depict triangles with rings,  though the early triangle from the 10th century had no rings, and had a slightly different and more decorative shape with some interesting almost floral motifs and curlicues.

Hebrew culture also featured what were called “tuning triangles”, which is another purpose for which triangles may have been created, to use as way to tune other instruments.

Another image of the triangle can be seen in the 14th century, slightly different again.  This iteration of the instrument is found in religious paintings, stained glass, manuscript and much other religious symbolism.

The triangle always appeared with sacred instruments and icons depicting Christian symbolism.

Looking back to that time, it was a time when the church was struggling with the incorporation of instruments into the church. Being a simple instrument with its rhythmic nature, the triangle was the likely candidate for use.

The popularity, such as it is, of the triangle seems to be holding steady since the 14th century.  Design modifications to triangles through the centuries were less documented than other instruments that arrived on the scene, and so there is much mystery to the triangle’s evolution.

Development of the triangle

In the 15th century, the triangle seemed to have gained some additional popularity. The triangle is seen with jingling rings that are located at the horizontal bar. Most of the instruments in that century had either two or three rings attached.

Due to its short sustain and particular quality of sound, the triangle was considered as a supportive instrument.

In contrast, today’s triangles are considered as instruments which have more sustain to their sound.

Description of the early triangles?

Due to the construction process, the triangle of the 19th  had pointed corners as compared to the modern triangles which have rounded corners. The pointed corners were as a result of forging the metal on an anvil.

Comparing how the modern triangles are constructed there exists a great contrast. The modern triangles are created by folding the metal around a jig. 

As illustrated in many images over the century, the was consistency in the size of the triangle. 

The triangles were between 8 to 12 inches although there were some triangles which seemed to be bigger than this.

The bigger triangles were estimated to be between 16 to 18 inches in size.

The modern triangle

The modern triangles are constructed in a way that the left angle is left open.  The ends of the bars do not touch. But why leave an opening? The opening is not there by accident.

This opening is important as it prevents the triangle from having a certain pitch rather, it allows scintillating overtones to be generated.

The triangle is always suspended by a piece from the other adjacent corner.

The commonly used piece is a fish line it can be hooked over the hand. This suspension allows the triangle to vibrate freely. The triangle is then struck using a metal and the resultant sound is a high pitched tone.

Here is a video showing how to play the triangle.  Kalani knows his stuff.  Great technique!

Which music style can you use the triangle?

Since the middle of the 18th century, the triangle has been used in a number of orchestra performances.

Franz Liszt, a teacher of music, a composer, and a conductor was the first to a triangle at a piano concert.

A number of composers such as Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven also used the triangle in the 18th century in classical music.

Check out Symphony #100 (“Military”), played by David Valdés.

The triangle has also been used in Brazilian music styles and also in folk music. In the Brazilian music style, the triangle is used together with the zabumba.

Here’s a cool video where the zabumba and triangle are both featured, by soundamusica.

Triangles are also used in some cultures to call people to dinner – a noble purpose indeed, if ever there was one.

Here is a video showing the creation of a dinner bell triangle by a blacksmith by the name of Chandler Dickinson.  This video is rather long, but worth a watch!

Although you may not think of it often, the triangle has gained popularity over the years and, due to it’s sporadic nature, is often used as a dramatic accent to certain pieces of music.

Dating to more than 1000 years, the triangle can be considered the purest metal instrument in the percussion family.  Our hope is that it will one day be the dominant instrument in every culture.  

The History of the Saxophone

Reading through the history books, the saxophone remains one of the most remarkable instrument ever to appear on the music scene.

It has been many decades since its invention, but the sax still stands out. The relaxing, sophisticated, romantic, and sensual sound the sax produces strokes your nervous system in an exciting way that you can’t get enough of it.

Here’s a classic sax album to kick things off by the “colossus” himself, Sonny Rollins.

Although music has continued to change over the years, the saxophone has consistently enriched the music scene. The sax is one of those instruments that fascinates you even if it is lying around, not being played.  Just the look of it is intriguing.

Sax music is not just about the external sound that is produced by the saxophone; it’s a piece of the soul. Its an expression of what is felt from deep within. The sax has many of the same characteristics as the human voice, with a great deal of character and diversity of sound.

Adolphe Sax & The Invention of the Saxophone

The saxophone was invented more than 170 years ago by Adolphe Sax.  This would have been in the 1840’s (patented in 1846).

Adolphe was one of the most renown instrument makers of his time. He was also a clarinetist and flutist.

Sax’s father was also a skilled instrument maker and had passed this skills to his son. Being a skillful instrument maker, Adolphe had made some improvements and changes to existing instruments.

The improvements that Adolphe had made in the bass clarinet through the extension of the lower range and creation of the ophicleide helped him to acquire the experience that he needed to make the first saxophone.

Being a student of clarinet and flute in the Brussel’s Conservatory of Music, he made an observation that only a keen student would have seen.

He noticed that the typical woodwind had a missing range and he believed that just a brass instrument would fill that void. He then began to develop an instrument that would overblow the octave, and he made an instrument that had both clarinet and horn properties.

Adolphe created saxophones in various sizes both small and big. He then applied for a patent for this instruments and was then given a 15 years patent. This patent was a composition of the fourteen different designs that he had created.

The fourteen original designs where then categorized into two groups each ranging from contrabass to soprano.

 The two groups were E and B and F and C. The set E and B were used in military bands although it is the most commonly used set in today’s saxophones.

The set F and C was often used in the orchestra. Throughout the 15 years he had, he experimented on this instruments to find the right key. He finally settled on an instrument that was alternating in between Bb and Eb.

The Evolution of the Sax

After his patent expired in 1866, various instrument makers arose and made some improvements and changes in the sax.

Although Adolphe may have tried different modification such a lowering the range, a French instrument maker was the first one to be able to make this kind of adjustment.

Minor changes such as the addition of keys for alternate fingering were made. This made the saxophone easy and fast to play it. Bending the pitch was also achieved through this modification.

Various developments were made on Adolphe’s saxophone such as operating the tone holes with one key. Initially, the saxophone had two separate octave keys that helped to play the upper registers. This advancement made it easier to play the sax.

Buffet, one of the largest saxophone manufacturing company, immediately after Adolphe patent expiration, together with other companies such as Millereau, began producing licensed saxophone.

In 1881, shortly after Gautrot had been dismissed, he renewed his patent and made more innovations on the sax.

This aim of the new patent was to extend the saxophone bell so that it could produce the A and Bb notes. He also added another octave key to make a total of four. The addition of the octave key was to enable the production of G and F notes.

Pierre-Louis Gautrot

When it came to manufacturing and designing instruments, Gautrot was a genius.

Just after Adolphe patent expired, he applied for his patent in 1868.

After carefully making observations on the challenges the saxophone was faced with, he realized that pad leaking was the most significant problem. His patent was aimed at producing saxophones that were leak proof. 

Although the system Gautrot introduced was not perfect, it had a great impact and minimized the problem of a leaking pad.

Although Gautrot was a genius he also had his weaknesses. He had poor management skills when it came to business and this lead to him being declared bankrupt.

Henri Selmer and The First Modern Saxophones

Seimer is one of the known manufacturers of clarinets and other mouthpiece instruments.

He founded a company named after his name that is located in Paris.  He won a number of medals such as gold and bronze for the instruments that he had manufactured. 

He made various development on Adolphe’s sax in the early 1940’s. This included the renovation of the octave key, and the best of the development was offsetting of the tone holes.

His company was the first one to create a modern saxophone.

Most of the modern saxophone trace their origin to this model. He invented the balanced action of the sax that leads to a significant improvement in the sax world. His mechanism was straightforward and it made it easy to play the lower register in the same speed you could play in other parts.

Mark VI

Mark VI is the most remarkable saxophone that Selmer created. This model was available in alto, soprano, tenor, and bass. Salmer’s Mark VI saxophones were transitional and incorporated both the design that he had seen in the preceding saxophone and also the element design that was found in the current saxophone.

All these instruments were manufactured in France and later imported to other countries such American and British markets. This model set a standard that all manufactured use. There have been modifications over the years of the saxophone, they are all variations of Selmers Mark six model.

Charles Houvenaghel

Understanding the technical difficulties that could confront an instrument, the life of Charles Houvenaghel was devoted to improving the saxophone.

His knowledge of the manufacturing processes gave him an upper hand as compared to other competitive manufacturers.

He had those rare qualities that once come along once in a while. He was so brilliant in instrument design, he had an ear for music and a background in engineering. All these qualities combined made him redevelop the mechanics of the saxophone system.

He used the tone placement principle of the Boehm system. Although the regular fingering system of the sax is used, addition of new fingering can be used.

The most distinct feature of this modification is that it lowered the tones and you do not need to use the side keys to produce both the tone scales.

This instrument was expensive to build and many saxophonist players were unable and unwilling to learn the newly introduced fingering despite its advantage.

Only a few numbers of this instrument were able to be produced into the market. This model was only used for a few years and is not currently in the market.

Parts of a Saxophone

The sax consists of a conical tube and a bell. It also contains 20 to 23 tone holes at intervals, and they vary in size. To play the upper register, two vent holes are placed along the tube. Soft leather cups cover these holes.

Although the saxophone is categorized as a woodwind instrument, it is made of brass which is different from what most woodwinds are made of.

In contrast to brass instruments which produce sound when there is contact between the mouthpiece and the lips, the sax produces sound through wooden reed which is oscillating.

Another significant feature that makes it be classified as a woodwind is that pitch is produced as a result of breath going through the closing and opening keys.

The yellow brass is mostly replaced with copper for tonal and visual effects.

Little significance is given to the type of material used in the manufacturing of saxophones. All the attention is focused on the sound that is produced. Different materials such as polycarbonate and plastic have been used to a certain degree in the production of saxophones. 

A silver plate or an acrylic lacque coating which can either be clear or coloured is used to cover the brass before the final assembly of the saxophone parts.

Applying lacquer coating is very crucial in preventing oxidation of the brass. This maintains the shiny appearance of the sax. Over the years, different surface colours have been used. It’s just a matter of preference.

History Continues…

The saxophone is a versatile instrument. It adds a sensational moment to all music genres.  From rock to blues to folk to jazz.

The saxophone sound is very unique and cannot be ignored when its played in a mix. As is the custom of many bands when trying to find their rebellion by experimenting using different instruments, the saxophone has been a stable rock in an ever-changing sea.

The magic in bringing your emotions to a standstill can only be found in the saxophone.

What Is The Best Brainwave Entrainment Program?

There are different types of brainwave entrainment in general, and different programs available within each type, all offered by various companies.

What is Brainwave Entrainment?

What we are talking about is the stimulating of brainwaves in order to change them to a different desired frequency. This can be achieved through aural stimulus, by using isochronic, monaural or binaural beats.

It can also be achieved through visual stimulus using light. (One example is the stroboscopic light device known as the dreamachine.)

Finally, there are also combination “mind machines” that are handheld and include both headphones and dark glasses, offering both sound and light entrainment. 

binaural beats

Types of Entrainment

Binaural Beats

Binaural beats may be the most popular type of entrainment.

Meaning “two sounds”, this type requires good quality stereo headphones with a wide frequency range.

The left audio and the right audio will play at different frequencies, and your brain will perceive these two frequencies in concert as one single tone – that tone being the difference between the two tones that are actually occurring.

Your brain will passively make the adjustment on its own, so what you are hearing is not really the same as what is being played! Often these tones sound relaxing and harmonious, and are therefore popular in combination with various types of meditation. 

Check out our post on how to deepen your meditation using binaural beats.

Monaural Beats

 

Monaural beats are simply “one sound” that has been pre-created from two tones before you begin listening to it.

So the process of two frequencies playing out as one is already achieved through the recording process, and does not process inside of your mind.

The advantage to monaural beats is that you don’t need expensive stereo headphones to listen, and they can be played quietly in the background of your space. 

Isochronic Tones

Isochronic tones are similar to monaural tones in that they are processed in advance of your hearing them, however they have a unique characteristic of appearing in short and intermittent pulses, instead of as a long, singular, uninterrupted tone. 

Which is Best?

Because there are conflicting arguments to be made for or against all three types of tones, some mind machines and graduated programs will include all three types of tones.

Some may work better than others for you, but are not necessarily the same for everybody. 

Brainwave Entrainment Programs

Many companies will offer programs for entrainment, which will include several audio and/or visual sessions, which in some cases require a strict curriculum of play schedules, specifying the order that the sessions be played in.

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You may be placed on a certain “level” where you adhere to the specific sessions of that level for a period of time, before graduating on to a different level.  

Holosync

Holosync is an example of a program with graduated levels, each level being a lower carrier frequency than the previous. Each level can be expensive, and may require an hour or more per day of listening.

The program does seem to produce results, provided you can be diligent in sticking to the routines.

holosync

Profound Meditation Program

In contrast, the Profound Meditation Program by iAwake Technologies is an example of brainwave entrainment, but does not follow a strict program. Instead, they offer standalone audio pieces, each geared to specific desired results.

These pieces are not progression-based, so you can experience whichever session you like, in any order.

The individual audio pieces are much more affordable than Holosync’s levels, but there are more of these audio pieces to choose from and collect, so a decent-sized collection can add up either way. 

Profound Meditation Program

The Monroe Institute

The Monroe Institute offers a line of audio CDs and downloadable files with programs created to achieve specific results, much like other competitors.

But the Monroe Institute is also a physical campus based in Virginia, where you can go on retreats for intensive entrainment therapy sessions.

Their approach, while science-based like the others, could also be viewed as spiritual, emphasizing the importance of the non-corporeal elements of consciousness. 

Monroe Institute

Mind Machines

The Laxman, by Neurotronics, is a handheld mind machine, which offers gentle pulses of both sound and light.

There are various pre-programmed sessions to choose from, each offering different desired results, for things like stress reduction, increased creativity, meditation, and concentration training, to name a few.

Mind Alive Inc.

Another company called Mind Alive Inc. offers an entire product line of mind machines called DAVID.

This company has been in business for 35 years developing entrainment programs using sound and light specifically to assist with issues such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, ADD/ADHD, depression, insomnia, and memory loss, and uses other programs for those wanting to improve their focus, concentration, and creativity. 

mind alive david

User-made Programs

And what about YouTube? Or free files of programs of all types, some of them uniquely tailored by the user themselves?

There’s tons of videos and files out there, each of them hours long, each of them specifying their frequencies and intended purposes, and they are all free.

But like the headphones required for listening to binaural beats, chances are that you’ll get what you pay for.

That’s not to say that none of these videos or programs would be effective, only to say that some of them maybe aren’t, and it can be somewhat of a guessing game as to which is which. 

Whenever we’re talking about which thing is “the best”, it’s important to consider if it’s the best for you. After you’ve given a program a real chance, ask yourself if you’ve noticed improvements in any areas. This is something that only you can know.

Brain entrainment can be used for a variety of reasons, and may produce different results from person to person. It would be advantageous to combine these sessions with other practices, such as transcendental meditation, and important also to give the programs a real chance.

Use them, and use them the way that they are instructed to be used. If you’re on a program, stick to the program! It may take some time to notice the results, but who knows, the results could be life-changing!

If you’re looking for a good pair of headphones specifically designed for binaural beats, feel free to read our post, “How To Pick The Best Headphones For Binaural Beats”, which talks about the best options for that specific task.

The Revolution – The Story Behind Prince’s Band

prince and the revolution

Almost everyone has heard of Prince, but perhaps not everyone has heard of his tighter-than-otter’s-pocket band, The Revolution.

With Prince being as famous as he was, it’s easy to overlook the backing band that played alongside him. But the members of the Revolution were all very talented and contributed a substantial amount to Prince’s music.

Sly Stone, frontman in the band Sly and the Family Stone and notable funk musician, used a diverse backing band during his musical career. Prince, being a huge admirer of Stone, took a page from his book and assembled an equally diverse backing group. The Revolution became known for its diversity.

Prince formed the band after his first album. The band was mostly assembled in 1979, however, at this point, they were not yet known as The Revolution. 

The Revolution was made up of musicians of different races and different genders which contributed to a rich and varied sound and a full musical experience.

The original members of the band were as follows: Prince on lead vocals, guitar and piano; Dez Dickerson on guitar; Andre Cymone on bass guitar; Bobby Z. on drums; and Gayle Chapman on keyboards and Matt Fink (also called “Doctor Fink” as he was known for wearing scrubs on stage) on keyboards.

However, the lineup would see some changes over the years.

The Revolution’s Members

Let’s take a brief look at some of the longest-standing Revolution members.

Bobby Z

Bobby Z

Bobby Z (Robert B. Rivkin) was the original drummer of the Revolution, from 1978-1986. As Prince was adamant about the diversity of his band, he was in search of a white drummer. This was when he decided to audition Bobby Z.

In later years, Bobby Z had to adapt his drumming techniques in order to play electric drums, which Prince was using more and more of in his songs. Talented drummer that he is, Bobby Z was able to master the electric drums as well, in studio and on stage.

Bobby Z also contributed to the composition of Prince’s albums “Purple Rain”, “Around the World in a Day”, “Parade” and “Sign O’ the Times”.

Here’s an awesome interview with Bobby Z by thefivecount, taking you all the way back to the beginning.  Super interesting stuff!


Matt Fink (Doctor Fink)

Matt Fink was the keyboardist for the Revolution.

He is better known by his stage name, “Doctor Fink”, because wore doctor’s scrubs on stage during performances.

Originally, he used to wear a jailbird outfit in the live performances around 1979. However, musician Rick James was also wearing this costume on some of his performances.

Dr Fink

Fink, not wanting to copy this, started looking for a new outfit to wear. This was when he came up with the idea of wearing scrubs. Prince loved the idea, and from then on, he was “Doctor Fink”.

Doctor Fink also helped co-write a handful of songs with Prince. These songs were “Dirty Mind”, “Computer Blue”, “17 Days”, “America” and “It’s Gonna be a Beautiful Night”.

Here’s an interesting interview going deep with Doctor Fink with Prophets Of Rock TV.


Lisa Coleman

Lisa Coleman was only 19 years old when her good friend who was working with Prince’s manager introduced her to Prince. Up until this point, Coleman had  been playing keyboard in her bubblegum pop band, Waldorf Salad.

Coleman auditioned and won Prince over. She was hired to the Revolution in 1980 to play on the “Dirty Mind” album, as well as on his upcoming tour.

Coleman replaced Gayle Chapman as one of the keyboardists.

Lisa Coleman

Soon after, Prince met Coleman’s partner, Wendy Melvoin. Upon hearing her play guitar, he asked her to join the Revolution as a replacement to Dez Dickereson.

Coleman and Melvoin also started their own duo. They called it Wendy and Lisa and over the course of the years released 5 albums. 

Lisa Colemand and Wendy Melvoin

Check out Our Destiny by Prince & Lisa Coleman from the channel PRINCE 4EVER.


Andre Cymone

Andre Cymone and Prince were friends from childhood. In fact, Prince stayed with their family for a while when he had conflicts with his own father at home. 

In their youth, the two were in a band together, also with Cymone’s sister.

In the late 1970s when Prince released his debut album “For You”, he recruited Cymone as bassist for his tour. This would be his last tour with Prince, however, for the two later had conflicts.

Although they were resolved, Cymone continued to work on his own projects, and the Revolution continued on without him.

Here’s a way in depth interview with Andre Cymone from the Prince Podcast.  Check it out!


BrownMark

Brown Mark played bass guitar for the Revolution.

He was especially known for his unique style of funk-influenced bass guitar playing. He played with the Revolution during the recording of “Purple Rain”, and left the band in 1986.

He rejoined, however, in 2016 when the band reunited for their tribute and reunion tour. He now sings most of the songs during performances. 

Here is a sweet interview with BrownMark from Bass Musician Magazine.


Purple Rain

Purple Rain album cover

The members present when Prince and the Revolution released the album “Purple Rain” were Bobby Z, Doctor Fink, Lisa Coleman, Wendy Melvoin, and BrownMark.  

“Purple Rain” was Prince and the Revolution’s best-selling album. It was released in 1984 and instantly went to the tops of the charts.

“When Doves Cry”, “Let’s Go Crazy”, “Purple Rain”, and “I Would Die 4 U” all made it to the top 10 of the Billboard’s top 100 list.

You can listen to the title track below. In the music video, Prince gives some credit to Lisa Coleman and Wendy Melvoin for writing the song. 

The album “Purple Rain” won two Grammys. The first was for the Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. The second was for Best Instrumental Composition Written Specifically for a Motion Picture. The album was written by Prince, but with valuable input from his band members.

“Purple Rain” was a milestone for the Revolution, because it was the first album that Prince recorded with the band, and the first album in which he credited them.

Because the album was recorded with the band, it had significantly more focus on the full band and their different instruments and sounds, resulting in a more intricate album than Prince’s previous one-man albums.  

Guitar was a huge focal point of the album, as well as keyboard and synthesizer. The album was R&B but with rock and psychedelic touches, influenced by the Revolution. It was praised for its stylistic experimentation, crossing over many genres.  

For example, “When Doves Cry” was an experimental and unique song because it didn’t have a bassline. Dr. Fink says that when he first heard the song, “my immediate reaction was ‘Hey, there’s no bassline in this song. Aren’t you going to add one?’”

He continues, “I wasn’t ready for it and it tricked the hell out of my ears. But […] when you listen to “When Doves Cry” today it still sounds so ground-breaking and unique. It never gets old.” This song really has stood the test of time. You can listen to it below.

The same lineup featured on the “Purple Rain” album plus some new additions performed on Prince’s Hit N’ Run Parade Tour.

These new additions were Miko Weaver, Susannah Melvoin, Eric Leeds, Matt “Atlanta Bliss” Blistan and Jerome Benton. They played the jazzier side of things during the tour, such as the horn sections.

The Rebels

In 1979, the Revolution and Prince experimented with a side project. Although it wasn’t named at the time, the side band has since been called the Rebels. It featured vocals by original Revolution members Dez Dickerson, Andre Cymone and Gayle Chapman.

The side group recorded music in Colorado during 1979. However, the project was abandoned, perhaps to focus again on the Revolution. Years later, two of the tracks from the Rebels were rerecorded and given to other artists by Prince.

The track “U” was released by Paula Abdul on her album “Spellbound” and the song “If I Love U 2nite” was added to the albums of both Mica Paris and Mayte Garcia. 

The Revolution Today

The current band members include Bobby Z. on drums, Matt Fink on keyboards and vocals, Lisa Coleman also on keyboards and vocals, Brown Mark on bass and vocals, and Wendy Melvoin on rhythm guitar and vocals.

the revolution today

After the sudden death of Prince in 2016, the Revolution reunited and began performing Prince’s songs together again. It started with them playing tribute concerts to their friend, and gradually turned into a reunion tour that has lasted the past couple of years and will continue into the foreseeable future.

Keyboardist and vocalist Lisa Coleman says that at the beginning of their tour, the Revolution tried not to stray too far from the original arrangements of the songs.

However, as their tour has progressed, the band is starting to go in new directions, shaking things up now and then. Coleman says this was always the way when they used to play with Prince on stage.

She says, “When Prince was around, every night was a different show, really”.  Bobby Z adds, “Every time you play it, there’s something you can add”. Here is a video of them performing live at First Avenue in Minneapolis.

This creates a really complex and exciting performance. Every show is authentic and genuine.

Conclusion

The Revolution continues to be an influential band.

Their diversity and talent make their music unlike any other band, because each member brings their own original style to the table.

They continue to share Prince’s music with the world on their reunion tour, and are well received by their innumerable fans.

Connect with The Revolution on Facebook

The 5 Arguably Most Important Indie Bands of the Past 50 Years

AM

Wow! That’s a tall order. How am I going to narrow done the vast sea of indie bands in the last 50 years and choose only 5? Well, I’m going to try. After giving it a lot of thought, I hope I’ve arrived at a list that mentions the most important names in indie music. 

First of all, however, I think it would be rather helpful to define “indie music”, because it is a term that is used a fair bit these days, and for a long time I had no idea what “indie” was trying to describe about the music.

The technical meaning of the term “indie band” is a band that produces music independently from large, commercial record labels. They record and publish their own music themselves, or through independent record labels.

In other words, indie artists are in complete control of their music, instead of being managed and dictated by the commercial labels that monopolize much of the music scene.

Over time, the term “indie” has been thrown around and connotations have been added to its meaning. The term often hints at a band whose sound strays from the mainstream and the overdone, experimenting instead with their own style and producing something unique and different.   

So, with that in mind, let’s start naming the 5 arguably most important indie bands the world has seen these past 50 years.

The Velvet Underground
the Velvet Underground

We’ll start things off in the 1960’s with the Velvet Underground.

The band was formed in 1964 by singer and guitarist Lou Reed, multi-instrumentalist John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison and drummer Angus MacLise who was later replaced by Maureen “Moe” Tucker.  

The quartet decided to name their band after a book called “The Velvet Underground” by an author named Michael Leigh about the hidden sexual subculture in the early 60s.

In their early days, their music was relaxed, almost gentle, with rhythmic guitar and droning sounds that had been influenced by La Monte Young.

In 1965, the Velvet Underground was introduced to artist Andy Warhol, who became the band’s manager for a time.

Warhol did quite a lot for the band. Aside from his iconic yellow banana on the album cover for “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, his reputation helped the Velvet Underground to gain in popularity and to obtain a contract with Verve Records. As manager and producer of their recordings, Warhol allowed them free-reign over their sound, thereby allowing them to keep their independence.

It was also Warhol who introduced the band members to German-born singer and model Nico, and it was his suggestion that she should join the band for some songs.

Between the years of 1966 and 1967, Warhol was hosting the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a multimedia roadshow that featured performances by the Velvet Underground combined with his own films.

The band’s debut album was called “The Velvet Underground and Nico”, and featured three songs sung by Nico. It was released in 1967 through Verve Records.

The famous album cover was designed by Warhol. The front cover showed a drawing of a yellow banana that was really a sticker, and the words “Peel slowly and see” were found at the top of the banana. If you peeled off the banana sticker from the cover, an unpeeled pink banana was revealed underneath.

Album cover

Peeld banana album cover

The album brought taboo themes into the open such as drug abuse, prostitution and S&M. The song “Venus in Furs” is based off the book of the same name by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, which talks about masochism and sadism.

“Heroin” and “I’m Waiting for the Man” are both about drug use. You can listen to “Venus in Furs” below.

The album “The Velvet Underground and Nico” truly showed the full range of the Velvet Underground, with droning and intense songs mixed with quiet and tender songs, such as “Pale Blue Eyes” and “Sunday Morning”. 

Reed’s experimental avant-garde guitar along with Cale’s viola and keyboard made the album stand out.

After the release of their first album, the band decided to move on from their manager Andy Warhol, in order to try a different direction and evolve in their music and style.

They released their second album “White Light/White Heart” in 1968, followed by a few others in the ensuing years. In 1969 they toured the US and Canada; however, they were still met with very little commercial success.

Eventually, Cale left the group due to creative differences with Reed. Cale wanted to be more experimental, while Reed wanted to keep the music more accessible to the general public. Reed eventually left the band in 1970 and it fizzled out after that.

Nico went on to pursue a solo career. Her debut album was “Chelsea Girl”. 

Reed went on to a long and storied solo career, highlighted with his Bowie collaboration album, “Transformer”, which had the famous song, “Walk on the Wild Side”, another taboo breaker. 

Reed’s career (and life) ended not long after he collaborated with Metallica on a project called Lulu.


The Smiths
the Smiths

Next on the list we have the 1980s band the Smiths. Consisting of Morrissey as singer, Johnny Marr as guitarist, Andy Rourke as bassist, and Mike Joyce as drummer, the Smiths were an indie rock band that formed in Manchester in 1982.

They were only active until 1987, but in those five short years, the Smiths succeeded in making a substantial mark on indie music history, influencing many bands to come. In fact, the Smiths have been called one of the most important bands to have come out of the British indie music scene.  Ok, let’s face it – maybe even THE most.

The band began as a duo in the spring of 1982 when Johnny Marr showed up at his old friend’s doorstep, Morrissey, and proposed the idea of starting a band. According to Morrissey, “We got on famously. We were very similar in drive.”

Their first compositions were recorded in Marr’s attic on his cassette recorder, along with a cover of the song “I Want a Boy for My Birthday” by the 1960s female band the Cookies.

After a few months of composing together, Morrissey came up with the name “the Smiths” for the band, because according to him, it was an ordinary name and the band was meant to relate to ordinary people.

the smiths

The first demos they ever recorded were their songs “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “Suffer Little Children”, through Decibel Studio.

Their first public performance was in October, 1982, at a student music and fashion show in Manchester.

After being turned down by a few record labels, the independent label Rough Trade Records agreed to release their single “Hand in Glove” which sold fairly well.

Something I found interesting was a comment made by BBC radio presenter John Peel upon seeing the Smiths perform at a gig in London. Peel said, “I was impressed because unlike most bands…you couldn’t immediately tell which records they’d been listening to. That’s fairly unusual, very rare indeed.”

I find this interesting because nowadays, it is obvious when a band has been influenced by the Smiths, but when they started, they were truly pioneering a new sound that hadn’t been done before. 

After the singles “This Charming Man” and “What Difference Does It Make” earned spots 25 and 12 on the UK singles charts respectively, the Smiths released their debut album, “The Smiths”, in 1984. 

You can listen to the song “This Charming Man” below, (one of my favourite songs).

Morrissey’s vocals were haunting, and his lyrics were of a personal nature; he made confessions in his songs that almost everyone has felt at one time or another. The words were forlorn and depressing but rung true for many. 

Often among the morose lyrics, the band added touches of lightness, even touches of black humour, such as in the song “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”, where Morrissey lists the things that make him most miserable in life, like “I was looking for a job and then I found a job, and heaven knows I’m miserable now”.

Sometimes, tragic lyrics were sung to upbeat music, creating a curious combination, such as the lyrics “In my life, why do I smile, at people who don’t care if I, live or die?” sung to a catchy and buoyant tune.

It was this frankness and honesty in their song-writing that made them so well-loved by others. They took the everyday feelings of ordinary people and put them in the spotlight. This inspired a genre of confessional rock. The Smiths became a cult favourite and still are today.

Read our article, The History of The Smiths for even more moroseness!


Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth

Sonic Youth was formed in 1981, born from the no-wave and noise-rock movement of New York City. The band was made up of singer and guitarist Thurston Moore, guitarist, singer and bassist Kim Gordon, guitarist Lee Ranaldo, and a procession of different drummers throughout the years that basically ended with Steve Shelley to form the classic lineup.

The band had its humble beginnings in the genre of no wave, a movement that was taking place in New York City in the 70s and 80s. However, as time went on, they evolved into a more conventional indie rock and noise rock group, although we use the term “conventional” loosely.

One of the most notable things about this band was their creativity concerning the guitar – Sonic Youth revolutionized the way rock bands treated this instrument. Not only did they use non-standard guitar tunings, but they also prepared their guitars using different tools, such as screwdrivers and drumsticks, to change the timbre of the guitar.

This was a very experimental and DIY approach to guitar playing and song writing. These techniques were unheard of before Sonic Youth came about, and so the band largely shaped and inspired the indie rock movement that followed with their creativity.

Sonic Youth played at Noise Fest in 1981. Afterwards, no wave musician Glenn Branca signed the group to his independent record label, Neutral Records.

They recorded their first five songs and released them as an EP, “Sonic Youth (EP)” through the label in 1982. It went unnoticed by many, but those who heard it reviewed it positively.

Their first album, “Confusion is Sex”, released in 1983, presented more dissonance than their first EP, which featured a more traditional post-punk sound.

The band toured in Europe and gained some popularity there. Then in 1984, their fame began to rise in New York as well.

Sonic Youth are best known for their innovations in the indie rock and punk genre. They pioneered new directions that other bands later followed.

We may as well throw in this great documentary, The Year Punk Broke, for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  We found part 1 on Youtube, so good luck piecing it together (or just go find it elsewhere, it’s not hard to find).


The Strokes
the Strokes

The Strokes are a band formed in 1998 in New York City. It is made up of singer Julian Casablancas, lead guitarist Nick Valensi, rhythm guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., bassist Nikolai Fraiture and drummer Fabrizio Moretti.

The Strokes greatly contributed to the garage rock revival movement of the early 2000’s. Their debut album “Is This It”, released in 2001, ranked #2 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Best Albums of the ‘00s, and is also one of my favourite albums.

There are two covers for this album. The one released in the UK is of a woman’s bare behind with a gloved hand resting upon it (this was actually an impromptu picture taken by photographer Colin Lane when his girlfriend came out of the shower naked). The one released in North America was a photo of particle collisions in the Big European Bubble Chamber. 

Is this it UK cover

Is this it US cover

Because of some controversy over a few of the band’s lyrics in the album, its release in North America was slightly delayed, and the song title “New York City Cops” had to be changed to “When It Started”. It was released in the US in October 2001 and was immediately well-received by critics.

The Strokes have said that they took inspiration from another of our most important indie bands, the aforementioned Velvet Underground.  That’s actually quite fair, since both bands are very much New York bands, who are both poppy and punky at once and rely on the charisma of a sort of anti-star lead singer.

After the release of “Is This It”, the band toured worldwide, and also played as music guests on some late night shows.

The band released their second album, “Room on Fire”, in October 2003. While it was slightly less successful than its predecessor, it still received great reviews. You can listen to the song “Reptilia” from their second album below.

The band continued to grow in popularity. At the end of 2005 they released a new single, “Juicebox”. They released their third album early in 2006, “First Impressions of Earth”.

The Strokes took jangling 70s punk and updated it with their own spin. They gave voice to their fellow New York punk musicians, and they also spurred a British revolution, headed by the Libertines and the Arctic Monkeys.

In fact, in the song “Star Treatment” from the Arctic Monkeys’ latest album, Alex Turner sings “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes”, showing the influence the Strokes had over many other bands who formed in the 2000s.


Arctic Monkeys
Arctic Monkeys

Speaking of Arctic Monkeys, they are the last band on my list. Arctic Monkeys have been my favourite band for a long time now. They’ve been around a while and they have definitely helped to shape the current indie rock scene.

Arctic Monkeys formed in Sheffield, England in 2002. The band is made up of Alex Turner on lead vocals, guitar and piano, Matt Helders on drums and vocals, Jamie Cook on guitar and keyboards, and Nick O’Malley on bass guitar and backup vocals.

Their debut album, “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” was the fastest-selling debut album in UK chart history, and the second fastest-selling indie rock album in the US.

The band started off playing small gigs in the early 2000s around their hometown, Sheffield. At their gigs, they gave away the 18-song demo that they had burned onto a CD, now called “Beneath the Boardwalk” to build a fan base in the town.

In May 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their first single, “Five Minutes with Arctic Monkeys” through their own record label. It featured the songs “From Ritz to Rubble” and “Fake Tales of San Francisco”. They were beginning to grow in popularity in Northern England around this time.

Then in June 2005, the band was signed by the record label Domino. They chose this record label because they admired the way it was run. Owner Lawrence Bell operated the label from his apartment and only signed bands he knew and liked.

Their first single with Domino was “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”, which flew straight to the #1 spot on the UK singles chart.

In September 2005, Arctic Monkeys released their debut album “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not”. The album was given wonderful praise. Here is one of my favourite songs from that album. 

In 2006 Arctic Monkeys recorded the EP “Who the Fuck Are Arctic Monkeys”, followed by their second album in 2007, “Favourite Worst Nightmare”, which received critiques that were as positive as their first album.

Favourite Worst Nightmare cover

Their ensuing albums are as follows: Humbug (2009), Suck It and See (2011), AM (2013) and Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino (2018), as well as a live album, At the Apollo (2008).

Arctic Monkeys’ genre of music has been called indie rock, garage rock and post-punk revival. They have been highly praised for their intricate and poetic lyrics. Their early songs talk a lot about life in their town in the UK.

Their lyrics, sung in Alex Turner’s iconic deep voice and Sheffield accent, neither romanticize life nor do they deprecate it; rather, their lyrics are true, poetic, and at times sentimental.

Their songs include themes of romance (as in “505”), nostalgia (as in “Fluorescent Adolescence”), night life (as in “From Ritz to Rubble”), and personal desires and troubles (as in “I Wanna be Yours”).

The band has aggressive and upbeat songs such as “Brianstorm” and “Do Me a Favour”, danceable songs such as “Knee Socks” and “Do I Wanna Know”, and slow, sentimental songs such as “Piledriver Waltz” and “Only One Who Know”. I am always impressed by their versatility.

 Critics have also noted that some of the band’s sound has been influenced by the Smiths, number 2 on this list. Personal and thoughtful lyrics are a focus of Arctic Monkeys’ music, as well as drumming and electric guitar.

Arctic Monkeys are never afraid to try new things though; in their newest album (Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino), piano is brought into the foreground more than ever before, and the album has a totally different sound to their other albums, but still retains that Arctic Monkeys essence that makes them such an amazing band.  

Conclusion

While there are of course many other indie bands that have been influential to music over the past 50 years, these were the five that I found most note-worthy. Each band has contributed something unique and important to the indie scene.

Well, that’s it for me.  Bye!

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Detroit Techno

Detroit techno

While techno was later adopted by many artists in many different cities all over, it was originally born in Detroit, Michigan during the 1980s.

It is a genre of EDM music and started as a fusion of funk and jazz with house and electronic. It often incorporates futuristic themes and has been seen in science fiction and noir films. 

The Belleville Three

While it is inconclusive as to exactly who began the Detroit techno genre, the Belleville Three are often credited with its creation, at least partially.

the belleville three

The Belleville Three was made up of Juan Atkins (aka the Godfather of Techno), Kevin Saunderson (aka the Elevator) and Derrick May (aka the Innovator), three high school friends from Belleville, Michigan.

Atkins first began releasing singles with Rick Davis, a friend he met in College. The two formed a duo called Cybotron and released the single “Alleys of Your Mind” in 1981 which sold quite well. The song has an undeniable groove, a beat that just seems to permeate through you and sounds and vocals that sound futuristic.

Cybotron followed this up with two more singles, “Cosmic Cars” and “Clear”, which won them a record label with Fantasy who released their first album, “Clear”. After the release of this album, the duo split up to go their separate ways regarding their style of music.

Around this time, the three high school friends Atkins, Saunderson and May began experimenting with electronic music in their basements. They got inspiration from bands such as Kraftwerk, Yellow Magic Orchestra, Parliament, Prince and Depeche Mode.

For example, Yellow Magic Orchestra’s Behind The Mask was an influential track.

The three would listen to these bands in the comfort of their own home, as opposed to hearing them in a dance club. This greatly changed the experience for them. May stated, “We never took it as just entertainment, we took it as a serious philosophy.” After listening to these bands, Atkins was inspired to buy a synthesizer. 

When Atkins learned how to DJ, he taught May and Saunderson as well. Both Atkins and May then began to DJ on Detroit’s party circuit under the name Deep Space Soundworks. The Belleville Three were also recording record mixes at this time.

On a trip to Chicago, the Belleville Three experienced the Chicago house movement that was taking place there. It was the Chicago house genre mixed with the electronic and mechanical influences of their favourite bands like Kraftwerk that created such a unique style of music by the Belleville Three.

Their music reflected the post-industrialist mood of Detroit in the 1980s. They were also quite interested in futuristic ideas like the advancements of technology and machines.

Atkins also released his own single, “No UFOs” in 1985 using his psuedonym, Model 500. It was released under his own record label, Metroplex. May and Saunderson also recorded their own music on Metroplex as well.

We can’t mention Rick May without mentioning his most accomplished track, entitled “Strings of Life” and released in 1987 under his pseudonym Rhythim is Rhythim. Contrary to the other techno music going on in Detroit at the time, in this track May filled the song with lively synthetic string arrangements.

“Strings of Life” was quite a pleasant and interesting surprise to other artists in the techno scene and became especially big in Britain. It is true that when you listen to this song, it has a certain enlivened energy, sounding rich and colourful and elated. No wonder Rick May was nicknamed “The Innovator”.

Futurism and Afrofuturism

One big theme of Detroit techno was that it strived to bring tidings of the future, much like science fiction has always strived to do. In an article from The Wire, a British avant-garde music magazine, Mike Shallcross wrote, “What distinguishes Detroit Techno from its European variants is the way it more directly works the interface of funk and futurism.”

As techno grew in Detroit, it created certain club scenes. This was when the “Prep Clubs” were created, attended by suburban blacks in Detroit and less accessible to the lower class. These prestige clubs had fancier dress codes and often adopted parts of European culture, because to them it was seen as “high class”.

These Prep Clubs created tensions between the suburban blacks and the black people living in the poorer urban parts of Detroit.

Afrofuturism is a cultural aesthetic and philosophy that deals with the expanding interchange of Africans and technology, exploring the present-day difficulties of black people as well as their history.

Technology was especially relevant to the people of Detroit, because the rise of robotics robbed them of their industry. This was the climate that the Belleville Three had grown up in; witnessing technology’s advancements and seeing the changes it brought on to their city. 

abandoned factory

The Belleville Three contributed to this Afrofuturism with their music. They took technology and used it to their advantage, making tracks in their basements by manipulating machines. They didn’t use any fancy equipment, but rather, experimented with what they had. The sound they made was futuristic and touched on the feeling of “otherness”.

Until this point there was no club for the techno scene to come together as one. For this reason, artists George Baker and Alton Miller created The Music Institute, a techno club in downtown Detroit. Here, the Belleville Three DJed with other pioneers of the genre such as Eddie “Flashin” Fowlkes and Blake Baxter.

music institute logo

The Music Institute helped unite the underground techno family and also contributed to the second wave of Detroit techno, as more young artists became inspired by the Belleville Three and other artists playing there such as Blake Baxter and Chez Damier. The second wave of artists included Jeff Mills, Carl Craig and Octave One.  

International Growth of Detroit Techno

In 1988, the Belleville Three were approached by music entrepreneur Neil Rushton to release their music in the UK. They chose the word “techno” for their music, a term that Atkins had been using for a long time already (“Techno City” was one of his early singles).

Later in 1988 the album “Techno! The New Dance Sound of Detroit” was released in the UK to great success. The album was compiled by Neil Rushton and Derrick May. It was this album that encouraged the term “techno” to be used as a label for that particular genre of music.

Detroit Techno Artists You Should Listen To

In addition to the Belleville Three, there are some other big names in Detroit Techno that every techno fan should listen to.

Blake Baxter was labelled by Allmusic and “perhaps the most underrated figure” in the early Detroit techno days.

Baxter first began mixing records in the mid-1980s, releasing records on labels such as DJ International, KMS Records and Underground Resistance, which released his EP “The Prince of Techno” in 1991.

prince of techno album

Speaking of Underground Resistance, they were an important musical collective, with a grungy aesthetic and political messages behind their music. Underground Resistance was started by Jeff Mills and “Mad” Mike Banks in the late 1980s.

They strove to promote political activism through their music.  Below is their single “Fuel For the Fire – Attend the Riot”. The name alone is suggestive of political activism, and the music is empowering. 

The group rejected everything mainstream or commercialized. They wanted the techno genre to remain independent. Through their music they tried to give a different identity to the young black men of urban Detroit, rejecting the hard, violent stereotype and instead portraying a new image. Their songs promoted a sense of self-exploration and the attitude to improve yourself and your circumstances. 

Their albums include “Revolution for Change”, “Electronic Warfare”, and “Interstellar Fugitives” throughout the 1990s, as well as “A Hitech Jazz Compilation” in 2005. 

Carl Craig was another big name in Detroit techno, emerging in the second wave of techno artists in Detroit. Craig used a wide variety of genres to inspire his particular style of techno, such as soul and jazz.

If you are unfamiliar with the name Carl Craig, maybe you’ll know him by one of his many aliases: BFC, Psyche, Paperclip People, 69, Designer Music and Innerzone Orchestra. His best-known track was released under this last alias; the track was “Bug in the Bassbin”, which is thought to have influenced the evolution of bass and drum. Have a listen and you’ll notice the unique drum batterns, unlike the typical beat of most techno songs.

Craig also collaborated with NYDJ Patrick Picasso and the two made a very successful album. Some other of his well-known albums include “Landcruising” and “More Songs About Food and Revolutionary Art” under his own name, “The Sound of Music” under 69, and “Programmed” under Innerzone Orchestra.

Octave One did not consist of one but many members. It was mostly made up of two brothers, Lenny Burden and Lawrence Burden, but they were often joined by their three other siblings, Lorne Burden, Lynell Burden and Lance Burden (how did their mother keep all their names straight?)

Octave One debuted on Derrick May’s record label with their single “I Believe”, which was also included on the compilation album “Techno 2: The Next Generation” in 1990.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Detroit techno was an important genre that began in the 1980s, largely sparked by the Belleville Three. The genre gave a voice to the black population of Detroit, created a musical community and expressed their identities. It also dealt with themes of technology and futurism.

Detroit techno continues to inspire more young artists today, and the techno scene in Detroit is still going strong.