In this article for International Women’s Day, I highlight 5 women who have shaped the electronic music world in different ways as well as my life as a journalist.
I wish all my female readers and all other women only the best for International Women’s Day. It’s your special day, a day where celebrate the cultural, economic, political, and social achievements of women. Because Synth Anatomy deals with the subjects of technology and music on a daily basis, I dedicate this day to all-female musicians and music engineers that have brought us a lot of joy on our speakers and headphones in recent years. And this of course forever.
On this occasion, I would like to highlight to you the 5 female musicians who have shaped electronic music and my life as an electronic music journalist.
Let’s start with the woman that every electronic musician probably knows or even needs to know, Wendy Carlos. She was a sound designer and film score composer who greatly influenced the electronic music world. With the album Switch-On Bach (1968), where she played Bach on a Moog Synthesizer, she not only helped to popularize electronic music but also to gain recognition for the Synthesizer as an instrument. At a time when pop music produced almost exclusively with guitar, drums, bass …
Even today, after more than 50 years, the works of Wendy Carlos (Switch-On Bach, Tron, or Clockwork Orange) give me goosebumps. Thank you, Wendy Carlos.
Let’s stay in the 1960s, when another important female personality wrote electronic music history. Delia Ann Derbyshire was an electronic musician who became one of the pioneers in the field, primarily through her work with the BBC Radiophonic Workshop during the 1960s. She is best known for her work on the intro music for the sci-fi series Doctor Who, which is legendary today.
The British musician Daphne Oram also got enthusiastic about the world of electronic music at an early age. Even before the first actual synthesizers hit the market. She was a pioneer of music concrète in the UK and the female counterpart to Pierre Schaeffer from France. Dapne Oram, also co-founder of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, was one of the first British composers to produce electronic music.
She was one of the first to draw and manipulate her sounds in real-time. What is normal today was innovative and experimental back then.
Else Marie Pade
Not only the UK had female electronic music pioneers. There was also a lady of sound in Denmark who played a major role in contemporary electronic music. Else Marie Pade was a Danish composer and an educated pianist at the Kongelige Danske Musikkonservatorium in Copenhagen. She worked with Pierre Schaeffer, and Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Here I would especially like to highlight the album Et Glasperlespil aka Glass bead game that features recordings from 1958 to 1964. It is absolutely terrific to hear how deep the sound was back then, even with the limits of these years. No highly complex synthesizers, no effects processors, perfect mixing & mastering situations… She showed in an impressive way what it means to master instruments
Many of the female electronic music pioneers have already left us. But don’t be sad. Today there are still many female musicians who bring electronic music forward, whether with danceable techno, experimental soundscapes, or music concrète.
One woman that revolutionized our beloved synthesizer music is still alive today and still performing around the world. It’s the Diva of diodes, Suzanne Ciani.
Many know Suzanne Ciani from videos where she played quadraphonic concerts with her Buchla Synthesizer, Eventide H9 effects, and Animoog iPad app. She has been doing sound experiments and compositions like this since the 1970s, mainly with the Buchla Synthesizer. She became known for many sounds for TV and advertising. The most prominent example of their iconic work is the sound from the Coca-Cola advertising. Here she emulates the sound of the opening of a bottle with her instruments.
In addition to her performances, she is now a remarkable advocate for women in electronic music. Above all, she wants to show that the highly technology-based electronic music world is also a great sound playground where women can live out their sonic and musical adventures. The video below shows one of Suzanne Ciani’s mind-blowing concerts. I was lucky enough to get to know Suzanne Ciani briefly at NAMM. A great woman and a true pioneer of our music world.
Even though I have already mentioned my 5 most important female personalities from the electronic music world, I would like to give another woman an extra place here. She belongs to the new generation of female musicians.
Caterina Barbieri is an Italian composer who has fascinated me for several years. To many outsiders, Caterina’s music appears to be very minimal and repetitive. Once you’ve listened to it for a while and let the vibrations work, you can see the idea behind it. It starts simple, so simple that it becomes very hypnotic. Once you are in this sound sphere the sounds become more complex and very deep polyrhythmic variations unfold.
There are so many great female electronic artists that I am not mentioned here including Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Hélène Vogelsinger, Martha Bahr aka Panic Girl, and much more. There are many great female musicians.
Happy International Women’s Day