My Book/eBook: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.
My Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music
My blog for the Bob Moog Foundation.
This episode is about the sound of rain combined with the sound of electronic music. Rain falling and the sound of thunder are two of the more archetypical natural sounds that affect almost everyone on Earth. It’s no wonder that there is a fascination with the natural rhythm of the rain, falling in its unpredictable patterns, providing an indifferent background to human activity. Musicians have frequently turned to the sound of rain for inspiration. Some find in it a kind of natural solace, providing a calming presence to complement musical sounds. Others find menace, with thunder cracking and the power of the storm as a reminder of our place in the natural world. In some cases, the electronic musician has used the sound of rain as a trigger for modulated or synthesized sounds, and there are cases where the dark and light of thunder and rain have been synthesized to elicit a certain response in the listener. In this podcast, I played examples of all of these from the archives.
I picked tracks that either had the sounds of genuine rain or synthesized rain. The rain had to be a meaningful complement to the music and not just a special effect.
What does the sound of rain mean to you? To what emotions do these musicians hope to connect? At one end of the scale the sound of rain can be used to trigger one’s feelings. The Mystic Moods Orchestra, in the mid-1960s, was one of the first ensembles to program musical works around the sounds of nature. We’ll listen to a track from One Stormy Night called “A Dream.” The cover of this album states: “Whoever you are, you hold in your heart the memory of…One Stormy Night.” You can see where this is going. The sound of rain introduces an emotional thread that is then completed by the lushly orchestrated music. In this podcast, we’ll hear many works that attempt to make the same connection but less overtly. Some are abstract expressions in electronic music, like the sounds in Ana Roxanne’s music that combines what sounds like radio static with distorted rain around. We’ll hear two privately produced recordings of extended electronic works that include recordings of rain, one from Steve Birchall in 1973 and one from J. D. Emmanuel in 1981. From their 1969 album of Moog Modular music we will hear Ragnorok from Paul Beaver and Bernie Krause, notable for its synthesized rainstorm. And a host of other tracks ranging from modern house to electro-acoustical journeys in music with rain. Plus some interludes of pure rain from a variety of sources including my own field recordings.
1. Dean Evenson, “Thunder Intro” from Forest Rain (1993 Soundings of the Planet). 0:28
2. Ulrich Schnauss, “Molfsee” from Far Away Trains Passing By (2002 City Centre Offices). Written and produced by German artists Ulrich Schnauss. Schnauss is also a current member of Tangerine Dream, joining in 2014 and working with a renewed lineup since the death of original TG member Edgar Frose in 2015. 8:07
3. Ana Roxanne, “It's A Rainy Day On The Cosmic Shore” from ~ ~ ~ (2019 Leaving Records). Limited edition cassette release. Ana Roxanne is an intersex Southeast Asian musician born and raised in the Bay area. Some low-fi and hi-fi rain sounds and synthesis. 5:03
4. Paul Beaver and Bernard Krause, “Ragnarök” from Ragnarök (1969 Limelight). The duo’s first album of electronic music following the release of their Nonesuch Guide to Electronic Music (1968). They feature the Moog Modular synthesizer throughout and use it to synthesize the sounds of rain and thunder on this track. 3:22
5. Dean Evenson, “Thunder Streams” from Forest Rain (1993 Soundings of the Planet). Everson has been producing soothing electronic and flute sounds for many years, this example is from 1993 and includes rain and thunder effects. Native and silver flutes, keyboards, Dean Evenson; harp, Dudley Evenson; cello, Jonathan Kramer; guitar, Tim McHugh; percussion, Stuart Glasser. 6:20
6. Mystic Moods Orchestra, introductory sounds of the storm and the sea from One Stormy Night (1966 Phillips). 0:52
7. Steve Birchall, “Summer Memories” from Reality Gates (1973 Poseidon Electronic Music Studio). An obscure and interesting album of privately produced electronic music from the early 1970s. Billed as "electronic meditations by Steve Birchall." Equipment used was a potpourri of systems, effects, and an EMS VCS-3 synthesizer: Ampex mm 1000 16 track recorder; DBX noise reduction; Spectrasonics console; Studer A-80 recorder; Eventide Clockworks Instant Phaser; Cooper Time Cube; EMT reverb; Neumann VMS 70-SX68 computerized lathe; EMS VCS-3 (Putney) synthesizer. 10:49
8. Agostino Nirodh Fortini (Nirodh), “Aquatic Round” from Suoni Immaginari (2020 Black Sweat Records). Italian artist and release. Composed, recorded, and produced by Agostino Nirodh Fortini. 2:52
9. Mystic Moods Orchestra, “A Dream" from One Stormy Night (1966 Phillips). In the mid-sixties, recording engineer and sound recordist Brad Miller had the brilliant idea of combining the recorded sounds of nature with sweeping, orchestral renditions of popular music. This was a series of albums intended as background mood music for couples. The subtitle on the cover of One Stormy Night is “Whoever you are, you hold in your heart the memory of…One Stormy Night.” On the back cover, it says, “A spectacular thunderstorm, the sound of rain and romantic music combine to create One Stormy Night. The Mystic Moods Orchestra has many releases in to the early 1970s, at least two of which utilized the Moog Modular synthesizer. This album, however, is pure field recordings creatively combined with music. 4:16
10.Sanford Ponder, “Frontier” from Etosha - Private Music In The Land Of Dry Water (1985 Private Music). Arranged, produced, written, Fairlight CMI Synthesizer, Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer, Roland GR-707 Synthesizer, Sanford Ponder; piano, Clyde Criner. 9:37
11.J.D. Emmanuel, “Rain Forest Music” from Rain Forest Music (1981 North Star Productions). Private recording of electronic and acoustical music with field recording sound effects. Composed, arranged, performed, recorded by, Yairi Acoustical Guitar, Effects, 3 Sequential Circuits Pro-One Synthesizers, Crumar organ, J. D. Emmanuel. Recorded at Emmanuel's studio in Houston. Tropical birds were recorded at Houston Zoo Tropical Bird Aviary. “Rain and surf, gifts from Mother Nature. This music can be used for deep relaxation, meditation and as background for massage and counseling.” 22:00
12.Thom Holmes, thunder record skip from a Mystic Moods Orchestra album. 0:55
13.Hans-Joachim Roedelius, “Regenmacher” from Durch Die Wüste (Through the Desert) (1978 Sky Records). Percussion, Bass, Keyboards, Hans-Joachim Roedelius; Synthesizer (Synthesizermelodie), Möbius; EMS Synthi, Percussion, Konrad Plank. Recorded and mixed with Konrad Plank in his studio in May 1976, small changes made in January 1978 prior to release. A German electronic composer and member of Cluster in this first solo album transitions to a period of acoustic music, but there are synths being used on this track. 6:36
14.Thom Holmes, rolling, distant thunder, field recording. 0:59
15.Yavomag, Rubikdice & Chilx, “Tokyo Rain” from The Ronin EP (2022 Yavomag, Rubikdice & Chilx). House music with a rainy vibe. 2:23
16.Thom Holmes, crack of thunder field recording.0:52
17.Dean Elliott And His Orchestra, “Rain” from Zounds! What Sounds! (1962 Capitol). A funny relic from the days when mixing sounds effects into music was a fresh idea. Very cleverly edited by Phil Kaye; Producer, John Palladino. 2:49
18.Thom Holmes, “Rain Drone” an alternate version and test for a track I later released called Requiem for the Rain (2016 not released). In this piece, I started with the sound of rainfall that I recorded and then processed it using the synthesizer component of MetaSynth to transform the raindrops and downpour into drones and harmonic points. All of the sounds in this work are derived from processing the sound of rain. 12:29
19.Thom Holmes, thunder, field recording. 1:15
20.Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch, “Rain” from Blade Runner 2049 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)(2017 Epic). Cello, Simone Vitucci, Vocals, Tristan Schulze; Guitar, Owen Gurry; exotic instruments, Chas Smith; Musical Assistance, Cynthia Park; Soundtrack Album Produced By, Ashley Culp, Kayla Morrison, Michael Hodges; Synth Programming, Hans Zimmer; Sampling Team, Raul Vega; Digital Instruments Design, Mark Wherry; Synth Design, Howard Scarr; Vocals, Avi Kaplan. 2:26
Opening background music: “Rainstorm, rolling thunder (city) (1993 Bainbridge). Sound effects recording from the USA.
Opening and closing sequences voiced by Anne Benkovitz.
Additional opening, closing, and other incidental music by Thom Holmes.