The Techno Primer is an excellent introduction to techno styles and technology. The author, Tony Verderosa, performs a one-man live techno/remix act, known as VFX, and obviously knows his topic. The book comes with a multimedia CD that has examples of many techno styles, along with some video clips of the author performing and demo versions of some music software.
The book is divided into three sections. Part 1 provides some context for the genres of techno. Verderosa starts off with a brief history of electronic music. This is enough to give newbies an understanding of where techno came from, without being a dissertation. Next, the author looks at the influence of modern technology on dance music, including computers and turntables.
Verderosa also includes a section that does a good job of explaining many of the seemingly endless styles of electronica. He provides a short explanation of each style, and a short demo of the styles are included on the enclosed CD. For many of the styles, he provides also examples of either songs or artists. For example, his Hip-Hop example combines low-fi vinyl samples with Acid loops.
Part 2 of the book looks at Making Techno Music with Computers. This is a very high-level view, but provides enough information to give people interested at getting started with techno some direction on where to start. It has brief discussions of many of the popular audio/MIDI applications, and looks at some of the computer hardware needed for producing music. It also has a short introduction to sound synthesis, and a discussion of how the author performs techno live.
Part 3 is a collection of Artist Interviews. Verderosa talks to people that are involved in techno in a variety of capacities. The author isn’t a strong interviewer – he seems to have used the same list of questions with all the artists, even when they didn’t make much sense. Many of the interviews are with artists that readers may not have heard of.
Nevertheless, the interview section is one of the best parts of the book. The interviews show that there are all types of people working in electronica, with a range of talents, backgrounds and interests. For anybody interested in making electronic music, it’s helpful to see that there are lots of people making careers out of this, and they are all doing different things.
The biggest weakness of the book is that the author occasionally uses it to promote his own music and live act. His discussion of performing live techno focuses solely on his act. While he may know this best, it would have been more interesting to read about how a variety of performers do their live acts. Some of the people interviewed praise Verderosa’s live act. While his act may be great, readers are probably more interested in learning about how to create their own cool acts than hearing praise for the author.
Overall, though, the book does an great job of introducing techno styles. The book is primarily targeted towards people that want to learn more about the styles of electronica and creating their own loop-based music. Verderosa’s The Techno Primer would be excellent for younger techno fans and artists, because the book provides a context for the various styles electronic music, and introduces several current approaches to making electronica.