MATRIXSYNTH: The Electronic Music Synthesizer in Mid-Twentieth-Century Science Fiction

Monday, December 14, 2015

The Electronic Music Synthesizer in Mid-Twentieth-Century Science Fiction

Back on October 18, 2012 a post went up here on an article written by Nicholas C. Laudadio (of Life of Saturdays) on the role of electronic music, and electronic instruments in early Science Fiction. That article was only available to students with access to JSTOR.

Nicholas just wrote in to let us know the article is now available to everyone on You can find it here. Note you can scroll down to read when you get there. You do not need to login or create an account unless you want to download the PDF.

On a side note be sure to check out Life of Saturdays on Bandcamp, for Nicholas' latest release.  It's kind of cool to hear music from the author of the article.

From the article:

"'Music is born free; and to win freedom is its destiny. In the new great music, machines will also be necessary.' —Ferrurico Busoni, Sketch of a New Esthetic of Music (5)

“'The growth of musical art in any age is determined by the technological progress which parallels it.' —Joseph Schillinger, 'Electricity: A Musical Liberator' (26)


When the ships descend on Devil’s Tower in the climactic moments of Stephen Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), the humans greet the aliens not with tanks and howitzers as in The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), but with a simple five-note motif plucked out on an Arp 2500 electronic music synthesizer.

Atop its formidable white-and-black dais, the large modular synthesizer not only dominates the scene visually, it soon proves itself to be the most powerful tool the humans have for communicating with the alien visitors. The synth literally establishes first contact and maintains it..."

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