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  • Writer's pictureThom Holmes

Vintage Drones and Beats

Rare Recordings of Hypnotic Sounds

Robert Ashley once told me that the one attribute of electronic music that separated it from all other music was that it kept going until you pulled the plug.

In that spirit, I have put together a collection of vintage records that blend drones and beats. Some move to the rhythms of jazz and others to the breathless expanse of synthesizer music. All are pretty rare and it was fun putting this collection together for you.

Many of these works are super long so I needed to create excerpts of them. Still, this episode should provide a lot of time for your mind to chill out to these hypnotic sounds.


Alan Sondheim, Day’s Eye, from the album All 7-70* ‎– T'Other Little Tune (1968). For dilruba, trumpet, table, and Moog modular synthesizer. This is a very hard-to-find original record from ESP Discs.

Eliane Radigue, Chry-ptus I (1971), excerpt, from the album Chry-ptus. Realized on the Buchla Synthesizer at Morton Subotnick’s studio at New York University. Originally two tapes which are to be played simultaneously, with or without synchronization, which does not affect the structure of the work but creates changes in the game of sub-harmonics and overtones. This was early in Radigue's career, before she switched to the ARP 2500 modular synthesizer for many years.

La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela. 31 VII 69 10:26 - 10:49 PM for sine wave drone, voice, and bowed gongs. From “the black album,” 1969. Numbered edition limited to 2800 copies of which my copy is 661. This is also a rare record so I’m glad to share it with you.

Maggi Payne, White Night, from the album Crystal (1986). Some terrific droning sounds from this northern Californian composer.

Eliane Radigue, Σ = a = b = a + b (Summation) (1969), two 7” discs, we heard side a-4. Composed while she was living in Paris, just before coming to New York. Sides A and B can be listened to separately or simultaneously, synchronously or asynchronously. Sides A and B of this disc can be combined indefinitely at any speed 78, 45, 33 or 16 turns. Only 250 copies of these discs were made.

Annette Peacock and Paul Bley, Dual Unity. From the album Dual Unity, 1972. For piano and vocal treatments with the Moog Synthesizer. This duo created their own brand of electronic jazz from just before the dawn of the age of fusion jazz.

Luc Ferrari, Cellule 75 (1975), excerpt, for piano, percussion and magnetic tape composed May - November 1975. Performed at Mills College Recorded and Mixed by Maggi Payne.

The Archive Mix in which I play two additional tracks at the same time, to see what happens. This time, however, I am playing three tracks. Two are different portions of Eliane Radigue’s Vice Versa Etc., mix 1 from 1970. These are parts from the same mix. The third track is the ending of Cellule 75 by Luc Ferrari.

1. Eliane Radigue, excerpt, Vice Versa Etc. Mix 1 (1970), from the opening of the mix.

2. Eliane Radigue, excerpt, Vice Versa Etc. Mix 1 (1970), from the closing of the mix.

3. Luc Ferrari, excerpt, Cellule 75 (1975), from the end of the piece.

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Electronic and Experimental Music

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

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