Between 1977 and 1980, Britain was a country and culture in flux. The threat of nuclear war, mass unemployment, and strikes made it a particularly gloomy period historically. Within this, a growing number of electronic music acts were using technology and the synthesizer to soundtrack changing times.
Dark Waves: The Synthesizer and the Dystopian Sound of Britain (1977- 80) is the first musicological collection of essays on acts that include Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and The Human League, mapping how the synthesizer spurred toward a fundamental shift in the mechanisms of electronic musicmaking in late 1970s. The volume traces how, along with the musical aesthetics established by both the Punk and Post-Punk movements, the synthesizer led to new and innovative effects, ideas, processes, and musical genres. Dark Waves explores the background, influences, and use of technology and how such developments would result in the more commercial electronically produced sound of 1980s synth pop which, in turn, shaped the sound of electronic music today.
DR. NEIL O’CONNOR is electronic music producer and academic at DMARC (Digital Media Arts Research Centre), Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, University of Limerick, Ireland.
Chapter 1: Background - Social and Cultural Influences
Chapter 2: The Rise of the Synthesizer in Popular Music
Chapter 3: Cabaret Voltaire and Dadaism
Chapter 4: Throbbing Gristle and Confrontation
Chapter 5: The Normal and J.G Ballard
Chapter 6: Fad Gadget and Concrete Britain
Chapter 7: Afterwards and Influences
Chapter 8: Conclusion
Growing up with the music that Neil O'Connor discusses so successfully in this book, I had an inkling that synthesizers were speaking of a greater, subterranean truth than one I could grasp, a truth of impending doom and fragile hope, of blurred distinctions between machines and humans. O'Connor lays out, with love and precision, the hidden contours of this truth, combining meticulous historical detail with canny reflections on how synthesizers defined a generation of music.