In 1895, Thaddeus Cahill, an inventor from Iowa, started work on the world’s first electromechanical musical instrument. Weighing in at 200 tons and measuring 60 feet long, the Telharmonium was a colossal machine for producing and sharing music on the telephone.
In the 126 years since, electronic music has evolved in similarly bold and ingenious ways, a testament to the magic that occurs when human beings build and interact with machines. We listen to it while working out, riding the subway, studying for exams — and hopefully soon again at the clubs and festivals that have made it what it is today.
Music, Makers & Machines, the new exhibit from Google Arts & Culture and YouTube, celebrates the history of electronic music: its inventors, artists, sounds and technology. More than 50 international institutions, record labels, festivals and industry experts have come together to capture the crucial role electronic music plays within wider culture, from the WDR Studio for Electronic Music to Blacktronika to the “Diva of the Diodes” Suzanne Ciani. There are more than 250 online exhibitions, an extensive archive of photos, videos, 360° tours and 3D-scanned objects, including synthesizers and the door of Berlin’s legendary Tresor techno club.
In the spirit of pioneers like Cahill, you can also compose your own electronic music. Use the augmented reality feature of AR Synth to mix and match five famous synthesizers in a virtual electronic music studio.
MUSIC: Let’s get to know some of the legendary tracks and artists:
Follow King Britt (DJ, label founder and professor at University of California San Diego) to explore Black innovators in electronic music in the Blacktronika exhibit, which even comes with its own soundtrack. (c)Brian Diescher – Bob Moog Foundation
Georgina Cook’s Brief History of Early Dubstep talks us through the early days of the genre, starting with its underground beginnings in South London.
One of Europe’s biggest flyer collectors, phatmedia, has contributed about 10,000 of their digitized flyers, which tell the history of electronic music in the UK from Early Rave and Drum’n’Bass to Hardcore and House.
MAKERS: Go behind the scenes in studios and see iconic inventors in action:
Learn more about five-time Grammy nominated electronic music icon Suzanne Ciani and her 50-year career. (c)Suzanne Ciani
Explore the WDR Studio for Electronic Music in Cologne, Germany, one of the world’s first studios for electronic music and made famous by composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Explore the life of Bob Moog, best known for inventing the Moog synthesizer in 1964, which revolutionized the world of music by providing musicians with access to an expanded sonic universe. (c)Bob Moog Foundation
Few other clubs have defined techno as much as Tresor in Berlin, which opened in 1991.
MACHINES: Play with the instruments that made the tunes:
Turn your home into an electronic music studio using AR Synth (g.co/arsynth), an experiment that helps everyone to engage and play with five famous synthesizers (from the collection of the Swiss Museum for Electronic Music Instruments) through augmented reality (Android) or in 3D (Android, iOS, desktop): create interactive loops, compose patterns and interact with features inspired by these machines.
Rotate and zoom in on 22 legendary synthesizers, which have been scanned in 3D, from the collection of the Swiss Museum for Electronic Music Instruments.
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Electronic music brings people together from all walks of life and from all over the world. Its community has always been one of creativity and shared experiences. And while it may take a while until club doors open again, fans and musicians keep connected through new online forums and formats.
We hope that Music, Makers & Machines will let you explore and appreciate the stories of electronic music and celebrate the creativity of its makers. Find the project on the Google Arts & Culture app for iOS and Android and at g.co/musicmakersmachines .