Open Mic: Has Electronic Music Lost Track Of The Future?


Open Mic: Pioneering synthesist Jean Michel Jarre shared a vintage shot of himself today on Facebook. He added the comment “Back in the Seventies, we had a romantic, poetic vision of the future, like it was in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Parliament-Mothership-ConnectionIn the 60’s, 70’s and, to a lesser degree, the 80’s, the sounds of the synthesizer were shorthand for ‘the future’.

Synth artists like Jarre, Tangerine Dream and Vangelis created electronic soundscapes, inspired by futuristic themes. Kraftwerk created a futuristic synth pop world, populated with robotic musicians.

Science fiction movies, from Forbidden Planet to Blade Runner, often had electronic soundtracks. And mainstream funk and new wave musicians adopted synths and space age ideas and visuals.

In recent years, though, the sounds of the synthesizer are just as frequently used to evoke nostalgia as futuristic visions. Bands like Boards of Canada and others are inspired by vintage electronic sounds and use synths to create music that evokes the past or alternate histories. And sci fi cinema soundtracks are largely ‘action film’ scores.

Has electronic music lost track of the future? And does the electronic music you listen to deal with futuristic themes or nostalgic ones?

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125 thoughts on “Open Mic: Has Electronic Music Lost Track Of The Future?

      1. You make not like his music but it was forward looking without trying to fit into a genre, just refer to the titles of his music and compare to this so called future…

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  1. It should say: Has “Electronic” “Music” “Lost Track” Of “The Future”? That’s about how much sense that question makes.

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  2. Have we lost the future? Yes, and since the 80’s or so we have lost idealism, confidence, rapture, the belief that there is a world out there waiting to be explored, the sense that we are a part of a radical change in culture. What we have is an maturing awareness that the future lies in the past, now is the time to administer the heritage. There is still a need for creativity, but innovation may appear in some other unexpected area. Hopefully, we are the ones that will create the new future: Our only way out of this is our way out of this.

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    1. Still trying to decide if what you said is ontological genius or completely meaningless drivel. Likely it’s a mixture of both.

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  3. No. It’s out there.
    You can find artists who present a wide range of various alternate futures ranging from Tycho’s idealistic retrofuturism (indebted to Boards of Canada) to the nihilistic Philip K Dick-style paranoia of Death Grips. Even Kanye West presented a stark dystopian vision with Yeezus through harsh electronic minimalism (though his lyrics didn’t match the vision of his beats).
    Look at people like Shabazz Palaces, Oneohtrix Point Never (especially the albums Rifts and Replica), nMesh, Matthewdavid’s Outmind.

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  4. I think that “the future” of electronic music is trying to make new sounds and new ways a song can be, instead of just more songs in structures that are well known. It might be easier to just make a nice 4/4 verse-chorus thing, but seeing as there is already weird stuff out there like V snares, Amon Tobin, Qebrus, etc., the new “future” stuff is gonna be weirder and more confusing than anything we’ve ever heard or can currently imagine, just like the future itself. Once you hear it, it becomes familiar and is seated in the present, setting the stage for more musical experimentation. It won’t stop.

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  5. My instinct is to say that the emphasis on 1980’s analogue synthesis suggests the future is in the past and to wonder where the new sounds are? But surely because electronic music was new and innovative in the 1970’s and 1980’s it represented the future. Consequently you had loads of people experimenting and finding new sounds and innovative ways to use the new electronics. I am guessing that the same thing will have happened when any new instrument is developed. I am not aware though that pianists, cellists, etc consider whether their genre has lost the future.
    The future as envisaged by 1970’s/1980’s electronic music artists is here.

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  6. i would say that instead of becoming a tool for introspection into a hypothetical future that resides in one’s mind, music has become an instrument for intensifying and expressing the present moment…everyone is so technical these days…

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  7. As an old git I still hear music evolving.
    Best example of electronics being used at a whole new level is the Swedish band Dirty Loops.
    While everyone else is relying on machines providing new ideas, these guys prove that electronics can still be used as a musical instrument played by real people at a virtuosic level.

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  8. well, guys it has to do with culture and civilization as a whole not with music or musicians or the gear.
    If you don’t remember these decades where electronic music (and new instruments like synths) was introduced the whole world was fascinated by the “space age” which drifted away circa 90’s.

    I can’t write more about it right now even though there is a lot to be said and written about this subject, but I am sure you all understand what I am saying here.

    Imagination is the key

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  9. Well, i thought i’d come back here for an update, to talk about the space program (if that’s something you’re interested in, as the future and as reality).
    America has pretty much stopped it’s space program (from what we’re told).
    Russia and China will be the next superpowers (and i commend), as they are breaking away from the crushing economic forces of the west (that has destroyed everything you knew) and forming their own alternative to this problem. It’s called BRICS. (I can only hope an A is added to that, for Australia). BRICS is seens by the UK/US as a major threat. It enables the countries involved to be sovereign once again, without having free trade forced upon them. Russia and China are also going back to the moon. Why? Helium 3. This will usher in the next major revolution if it works. It might be the answer to all energy concerns. If they succeed, without the UK/US destroying them through criminal war efforts, and most of the world finally turns to BRICS and this new energy, the British Empire (and it’s US puppets) will finally have been overthrown, and the future will then look pretty damn good for all of us. Until then, it’s dystopia, as many of you mentioned. Sad but true. Maybe it’s does have to get worse before it’s gets better. (actaully , no , it’s doesn’t, it’s just that certain institutions will hold onto their empire for as long as they can, without a care for who dies in the meantime). Food for thought, and alot for some of you to swallow. I suggest doing some research of your own, please…

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