Electronic music pioneer Don Buchla has died

We all have a short time on this planet, and some of us are lucky enough to get to work on tools that people use to make music. You can count on your fingers the number of people who had the kind of influence that Don Buchla had on electronic music in the last century. And this week, at age 79, he’s left us.


Remembering Keith Emerson and his titanic synth legacy

In news reverberating with synthesizer lovers and keyboardists everywhere, Keith Emerson died last night in his home in Santa Monica at age 71. Mr. Emerson’s impact on the world of keyboards and synthesizers is hard to overstate. And that impact may be wider now than ever before. If the musical idiom in which he worked was distinctive attached to its particular era, the role of the synthesizer he helped establish is one that now reaches around the world to artists across genres.


Remembering David Bowie’s legacy, in videos

There are artists who are remembered for their cultural impact, for the power of their identities or their musical output. But David Bowie always struck me as one of those few larger-than-life personalities whose sheer force of productivity was staggering itself. From the tiniest details of a stage production to ground-breaking concepts in fashion to an exhaustive approach to studio work, Bowie was king of workaholics. He was a person who made, and made some more. If he had done so in total obscurity and you happened to unearth the output of his imagination, you would be staggered. And everything …


50WEAPONS, Legendary Techno Label, Just Announced It’s Dead

50WEAPONS, the iconic techno label from Berlin known to be a home to major releases from the likes of Cosmin TRG, Modeselektor, Falty DL, Benjamin Damage, Marcel Dettmann, Phon.o, announced without explanation that it’s dead, via a video posted to Facebook (and now, YouTube). There’s even, ominously, a gravestone. The “50” in 50WEAPONS is 50 releases. And they weren’t kidding. #rip50weapons [Facebook post] It’s not a great time to be a label. Vinyl purchases are up, but production is backlogged and still requires capital. Download outlets are seeing major consolidation, with DJ-facing giant Beatport swallowed up into EDM festival ticket-pushing …


Watch James Horner Play Piano, Talk Overnight ‘Aliens’ Climax

On a very personal note, I’m saddened this week to learn of the news of the death of the great film composer James Horner. See him talk about his approach to scoring Field of Dreams at top for some of his approach. Best of all, you get to see him at the piano. When I was a kid, Horner was one of the people who inspired me to investigate composition. I was entranced with the sweeping romanticism of the Star Trek II score that was his big break – an aching, yearning, but dreamy vision of the future, filled with …


Outpouring of Respect for DJ Rashad, Footwork Pioneer; Listen and Watch

“Music has lost a legend,” rapper Danny Brown puts it. This week, DJ Rashad was found dead, in a major loss to modern music. There is not yet a conclusive cause of death. The Chicago artist was best known as a leading pioneer of footwork, but beyond that at age 34 was deeply connected to musicians in a variety of genres. Official statements already put this more eloquently and succinctly than I could, so instead I offer only my grief and condolences, and those statements alongside video and music of his work. (Rashad will close out the Hyperdub 10th anniversary …


Why Frankie Knuckles Mattered: Read, Watch, and Hear

The passing last week of Frankie Knuckles has led to an outpouring of remembrance for this dance music pioneer, a signal of just how deeply and broadly his work was felt. To give us greater insight, CDM turns in our obituary to Denise Dalphond, the enthnomusicologist who has devoted much of her work to researching the roots of electronic dance music in America. (Her PhD dissertation, “Detroit Players: Wax, Tracks, and Soul in Electronic Music,” is due soon.) She gives us her thoughts on Knuckles’ significance as well as lining up some of the best places to watch and hear …


Before Computers, the Godfather of House Made Remixes with Razor Blades: Frankie Knuckles, RIP

The picture of old-school DJing is someone hauling around a crate of records. Frankie Knuckles, the house pioneer, was playing The Warehouse in Chicago and touring with reels of tapes. Remixing was something done with a razor blade. The saddening news has arrived that “godfather of house” Frankie Knuckles has died at the age of 59. His friend and collaborator David Morales shared the news via Twitter late Tuesday. (See Ben Rogerson’s report in MusicRadar, which comments a bit on the origins of Jamie Principle’s Your Love.) The man most associated with Chicago house music actually was born in the …


Happy Independence Day: The Legacy of the Computer is Not the Mouse

Oregon-born engineer, inventor, and thinker Douglas Engelbart has died. He’ll be listed in many outlets as, mundanely, the inventor of the computer mouse. Certainly, the demo of that technology in 1968 had a profound impact. But what’s stunning is that even at that demo, the mouse wasn’t the most impressive thing Engelbart showed. At the same talk, he demonstrated videoconferencing and textual hyperlinks. And the real legacy of Engelbart was his computer humanism, an idea that spread virally to motivate the world of computing as personally powerful, communicative and expressive. What enabled Engelbart to look so far into the future, …

The 555 chip, imagined as delicious chocolate-covered graham crackers. And it was indeed a tasty chip, a major landmark in electronics. Photo (CC-BY) Windell H. Oskay.

Inventor of 555 Dies; Remember Him with an Atari Punk Console, Circuit You Can Make

Hans R. Camenzind, the Swiss-born engineer who worked in the United States, is responsible for major advancements in electronics and circuit design, but perhaps none so great as the 555 chip. This single integrated circuit is one of the most ubiquitous ever created, but even more importantly, has been for many a curious youngster, electronics hobbyist, or musician a window into the world of electronics. It can be a key to a world where you make your own electronic creations, rather than just relying on some distant manufacturer to produce them for you in a sealed case. And, oh yes, …