The Electronic Century With Gabriel Prokofiev

Episodes

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01New Sonic Territories20210110One hundred years since the earliest electronic instruments began to appear, composer Gabriel Prokofiev explores how the advent of electronically generated sound has influenced how we make and listen to music. Over three episodes, Gabriel charts a personal journey through the key works that influenced his own composing style, and the impact electronics have had on contemporary classical music.

In this episode, Gabriel shares some of the earliest compositions made with electronically generated sound. Starting with the theremin, the first instrument to broaden the possibilities of the orchestra through electronics, Gabriel traces a line between the lesser heard electronic compositions of György Ligeti emerging from Stockhausen’s WDR studio in Cologne, to the madcap inventions of Raymond Scott and Wendy Carlos’ synthesized film scores.

We’ll feature music composed for early, lesser-known synthesizer prototypes such as the ANS machine from 1937, inspired by the Russian composer and synesthesiac Alexander Nikolayevich Scriabin, as well as Daphne Oram’s ‘Oramics Machine’ which also allowed her to draw shapes and turn them into sound. Gabriel re-evaluates the early electronic compositions that were sidelined into jingles, TV themes and film scores to hear how they still stand the test of time today.

Produced by Alannah Chance
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 3

Gabriel Prokofiev shares his love of electronically generated sound in classical music.

Gabriel Prokofiev celebrates the connections between classical and electronic music.

02For The Record20210117One hundred years since the earliest electronic instruments began to appear, composer Gabriel Prokofiev explores how the advent of electronically generated sound has influenced how we make and listen to music. Over three episodes, Gabriel charts a personal journey through the key works that influenced his own composing style, and the impact electronics have had on contemporary classical music.

The arrival of magnetic tape allowed composers to work with sounds from the real world for the first time. In this episode, we hear some of the earliest examples of ‘musique concrète’, a form of composition developed in the early 1940s by Pierre Schaeffer, which used recorded sounds as raw material and ushered in a way of composing through listening. Gabriel shares his fascination with the early work of Luc Ferrari and Hugh Le Caine, showing how it later developed into sample culture, with the likes of Matthew Herbert and Steve Reich using samples to make political statements.

Musique concrète developed into electroacoustic music, where acoustic recordings are processed and manipulated into unrecognisable forms. Gabriel connects the dots between the great French electroacoustic composer Francis Dhomont and the inventive use of sampling in early rave tracks. Plus we hear work from Kate Carr, one of the current crop of ‘field wave’ artists, who focuses on field recording as a form of composition in its own right.

Produced by Alannah Chance
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 3

Gabriel Prokofiev celebrates the art of the sample and ways of composing with recordings.

Gabriel Prokofiev celebrates the connections between classical and electronic music.

03 LASTBlurring The Lines20210124In the 21st-century electronics have become part of the language of classical music in complex ways. Works for string ensemble are devised to emulate the dance floor while purely electronic sample libraries are being used for orchestral arrangements in the film world. Electronic sound is completely enmeshed in both our understanding of music and in contemporary methods of music making. What does this mean for composition?

We hear ‘Ecstasio’, the third movement from contemporary composer Thomas Adès’s piece Assyla, which references techno without using any electronics at all. And Gabriel demonstrates how his own classical works have been heavily influenced by electronic music, often using acoustic instruments to imitate the bass lines and melodic phrasing from dance music.

Electronic artists can struggle to translate their studio productions into live performance. We explore some of the current composers and artists using innovative performance ideas to get around the challenges of performing electronics live, including Mexican composer Javier Álvarez and Congolese group KOKOKO! Finally we look to the future with work that explores the boundaries between human and machine composition with artists Holly Herndon and Jennifer Walshe, who are using machine learning as a creative partner within their work.

Produced by Alannah Chance
A Reduced Listening production for BBC Radio 3

Gabriel Prokofiev shares works which blur the line between acoustic and electronic.

Gabriel Prokofiev celebrates the connections between classical and electronic music.