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  • Thom Holmes

Sounds of Industry

Industrial Noise Music


Book: Electronic and Experimental Music, sixth edition, Routledge 2020.

Podcast: The Holmes Archive of Electronic Music





In this episode we’ll listen to some tape collages of industrial sounds and some industrial style music. For the latter, we’ll hear works by Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, and Merzbow. In between are various sounds of industry made between 1923 and 2003. In the Archive Mix we’re going to hear a segment of the amazing Metal Machine Music by Lou Reed pitted against some battle sounds from World War II. All in all, a wonderful industrial fest.


Notes for the Playlist


1. Throbbing Gristle, “Maggot Death Pt 1” studio recording from The Second Annual Report (1977 Industrial Records). Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti.

2. Peter Bartok, Peter Paul Kellog, “Pump Drill” from Sound Patterns (1953 Folkways). From the album notes: "Folkways Records in this series presents what it believes to be a departure from material generally issued on phonograph records. These sounds came to Folkways Records from varied sources and were sent by many people . . . . . . many were recorded on scientific expeditions. Their compilation according to their character tends to make exotic and exciting listening.

3. Pierre Henry, “Spatiodynamisme II” (excerpt) from an exhibition catalog for work by Nicolas Schöffer (1963 Éditions Du Griffon). Henry used sound materials he recorded in 1954 from a kinetic sculpture by Schöffer.

4. David Jackman, “Machine Gun 2” from Machine Gun (2000 Die Stadt). This was the first of a series of works Jackman created using the archive recordings of the "Imperial War Museum" in London. This was an edition of 600 copies on clear vinyl.

5. Emory Cook, “Festival” (excerpt) from Mexican Firecrackers (1956 Cook). Church bells and Firecrackers before dawn, Ajijic, Mexico. Recordist Sam Eskin used a spring-mounted, wind-up tape machine designed for remote recording. It was recorded from a patio near the village square. You can hear the entire populace, roosters, dog, and mariachis.

6. Cabaret Voltaire, “4th Shot” from the album Mix-Up (1979 Rough). Stephen Mallinder, Chris Watson, Haydn Boyes-Weston, and Richard H. Kirk.

7. David Jackman, “Flak” from the EP Flak (2003 Die Stadt). From the cover, “0140 hours 10,000 feet aircraft seen falling in flames + Bremen 0143 hours 15,000 feet tracer seen from ground followed by orange explosion and slowly sinking flames believed aircraft in flames, etc.”

8. George Engler, “Metallurgy” from The Inside Of The Outside / Or The Outside Of The Inside - Who Are They? Where Do They Come From? Why Are They Here? (1965 Serenus). A set of tape works using instruments and natural sounds set to themes of industry and space travel. Accompanied by a pretty unintelligible science fiction story in place of liner notes. It concludes with the following: “We opened up our receiver and let them come through, listening and relaxing as we had done so many times before to these sounds of other worlds, other spirits, other machines, vibrating, vibrating, radiating, sending, sending, sending; like deathless souls, emanating forever their identity.”

9. George Engler, “Destruction” from The Inside Of The Outside / Or The Outside Of The Inside - Who Are They? Where Do They Come From? Why Are They Here? (1965 Serenus).

10. Merzbow, “Material Action Track 2” from the cassette Material Action (1984 ZSF Produkt). Masami Akita and Kiyoshi Mizutani.

11. Throbbing Gristle, “Beachy Head” from 20 Jazz Funk Greats (1979 Industrial Records). Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti.

12. “ Engine Running” from Motor Car Noises, a sound effects record (1931 His Master’s Voice).

13. “Street Traffic Noises” Recorded at a London Street Junction,” a field recording. (1923 Columbia, UK).

14. Leo Hurwitz, “City Edge: The Coves Of Manhattan Island” (excerpt) from Here At The Waters' Edge 1 (1962 Folkways). “A voyage in sound.” Tape collage to accompany a documentary film. They recorded a variety of sounds and put them into categories such as Ocean, Bay and inlets, gulls and birds, shipyard, water lapping, work voices, etc. Then, they matched up the sounds with film footage that had been collected.

15. R. Murray Schafer, “Music of Horns and Whistles” from The Vancouver Soundscape (1973 Ensemble Productions). From the Liner notes: “The second sequence on this side consist of a collage of horns and whistles. The steam whistles at the beginning are each unique, and contain rich harmonic spectra. And though the air whistles which follow are mass produced, many of them also preserve distinctive features, particularly when they are sounded in various ways by their operators.” This is followed by a listing of the 16 horn and whistles and the time of day they were each recorded.”

16. John Pfeiffer, “After Hours” from Electronomusic (1968 RCA Victrola). From the liner notes: “Simultaneous sounds of business machines normally encountered create a cacophony of disorder. But individually they represent percussion instruments of a mammoth orchestra. We imagine that they could dispose themselves in rigorous rhythm after hours.”

17. Cabaret Voltaire, “Everything is True” from International Language (1993 Plastex). From the liner notes: “Abandon thinking. Everything you will hear in the next seventy-four minutes is true.” Stephen Mallinder, Chris Watson, Haydn Boyes-Weston, and Richard H. Kirk.


For more information about the history of electronic music, please read my book: Electronic and Experimental Music (sixth edition), by Thom Holmes (Routledge 2020).


The Archive Mix in which I play two additional tracks at the same time to see what happens. Here are two more tracks of industrial music:

  • David Jackman, “Flak” from the EP Flak (2003 Die Stadt). Same as earlier track but played at 33-1/3 speed.

  • Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music, Side B, excerpt (1975 RCA).


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NOISE AND NOTATIONS

Electronic and Experimental Music

Notes on the development and continuing history of electronic music, its creators, and the technology.