Berlin Was Once the Center of Electronic Music (And it’s about to be again)


Grutzeck’s musical career in Berlin started with a passion for the organ. At the age of nine, he received his first lessons in piano and composition at the St. Marienkirche, directly across from his home. He would later write that his organ teacher was “a master of improvisation and an excellent musician.” Grutzeck honed his skills at the church throughout his childhood, eventually climbing up to become its organist when he was twelve years old.

Berlin Was Once the Center of Electronic Music (And it’s about to be again)

If you love electronic music, it’s possible you’ve already heard about Berlin once or twice.

But did you know that Berlin was once the center of this musical revolution?

In the 1920’s, an army of composers and inventors laid the groundwork for what would become one of the most influential musical movements in history.

Berlin made it all possible.

The city supported the experimentation of these underground artists through a (mostly) free press, and affordable housing with cheap studio space. This lead to a special kind of artistic freedom unlike anything I’ve seen before.

And as far as I can tell, it’s happening again.

In the early 20th century, Berlin was a city of innovation and experimentation. It was a gathering place for artists and intellectuals. And while it has been through some dark times since then, it’s now again becoming a center for electronic music and art.

It all began with a man named Hermann von Helmholtz who, almost by accident, set up Berlin as the birthplace of electronic music. Helmholtz was a 19th century physicist who invented one of the first audio oscillators in 1876.

Like many scientists at the time, he made his discovery not to create music but because he had an idea about how sound waves worked (you can read more about it here). Helmholtz built his device — an instrument that generates electric currents — to test his theory that sound is caused by vibrations in air and liquids.

But Helmholtz’s invention became very useful for composers, who borrowed it from him in order to make new sounds.

At around this time, another invention came about: the theremin (which you might have seen being played by Sun Ra or Beach House). The theremin was really the first synthesizer to become popular with musicians; its inventor, Leon Theremin, showed off the device at a

In the late 1920s, the German composer Paul Hindemith wrote a piece for violin and piano called Sonata for Solo Violin. The third movement was written to be played on a keyboard without hammers, which would strike the string directly. This was an early form of an electric keyboard, and although it wasn’t widely used in music until years later, it is considered by many to be one of the first examples of electronic music.

As you may have noticed, Berlin is a hotbed of electronic music. Many famous DJs and producers call Berlin home, including Len Faki, Marcel Dettmann and Paul Kalkbrenner. But Berlin’s connection to electronic music goes back much further than that. In fact, not only did many pioneers of electronic music live and produce in Berlin, they also created some of the most well-known electronic instruments in history while they were here.

“In the 20th century, the primary driving force behind musical innovation came from electronics.”

This statement is made on the website of innovative American musician, Brian Eno. Electronic music has influenced almost every genre of music today and is one of the defining elements of modern music.

But like most things, electronic music has a history: it started in Berlin.

The First Electronic Music

The first electronic instrument was invented in 1897 by Thaddeus Cahill. It was called the Telharmonium and was basically a giant organ that used a huge amount of electricity to generate sounds. Although this was not actually synthesized music; it used rotating electrical circuits instead of sound waves.

Today we call these instruments synthesizers because they create sound electronically by generating waveforms according to the settings that you make on the device.

In the early 20th century, electronic music was unheard of, synthesizers didn’t exist, and music was produced using traditional instruments. The first electronic music composer was a Russian-born French composer named Edgard Varèse (1883–1965). He experimented with sound by using recordings of city traffic and bells. His composition, Ionisation (1931), which was written for percussion ensemble and sirens, is considered the first completely electronic piece of music.

Varèse began to explore new horizons in music through technology and discovered that innovative sounds could be created when you combine instruments with electronics. His work inspired many composers to experiment with electronically generated sounds in their compositions.

Tokyo-born German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928–2007) is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century and is well known for his pioneering work in electronic music.

Stockhausen worked at the Studio for Electronic Music at the West German Radio (WDR) in Cologne from 1953 until 1960, alongside other famous composers including Pierre Boulez, Luigi Nono and Herbert Eimert. The WDR played an important role in establishing Cologne as a key centre for avant-garde music. They also

In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Berlin was a hotbed of new music. Composers like Paul Hindemith, Kurt Weill, and Hanns Eisler were writing for a new kind of audience: the workers and students who had made up the core of the Communist Party before Hitler came to power. In 1919, four years after Schoenberg’s first atonal pieces were performed in Vienna, Hindemith wrote his Kammermusik No. 1 (Chamber Music No. 1) for an eight-piece chamber ensemble made up entirely of wind instruments. One year later, he wrote his Opus 22 piano pieces, which used all twelve tones of the chromatic scale without repeating any one more than four times in a row.

Weill and Eisler started working together in 1927, writing songs that were performed in coffeehouses and nightclubs around town. They wrote satirical songs about Germany’s economic woes; they wrote sentimental love ballads that were played on the radio; they wrote music for cabaret shows and plays. Their most famous collaboration was The Threepenny Opera, which premiered in 1928 with a cast that included Lotte Lenya, Weill’s wife at the time. The musical


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