The 1970s in electronic music were a time of great experimentation and exploration of new ideas and sounds. We’ve created a guide to the genre, bios of key producers and performers, and some of the best music from this era.
They say that “rock is dead,” but it’s more accurate to say that electronic music is alive and well. It’s just taken on many different identities in the 21st century. The new age music of the 70s has become our modern-day background noise or ambient soundtracks for everything from TV shows to video games.
You can still hear echoes of 70s electronic music in today’s film scores (and even in rock). But with so many artists pushing the boundaries of what it means to make electronic music, there’s truly something for everyone. So if you’re looking for an introduction to this genre, we’ve got you covered with our beginner’s guide!
If you grew up in the 70s or early 80s, you might have found yourself drawn to electronic music. It was an era of new sounds and new possibilities. Even if the equipment was basic, people were discovering how to use it with unique results.
Pioneers like Vangelis, Brian Eno, and Jean-Michel Jarre were finding their voices while Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, and Pink Floyd were pushing the boundaries of what could be done with synthesizers.
This guide will introduce you to the genre of 70s electronic music and include some of our favorite albums from this era.
The 70s. Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, and other artists had some commercial success, but many of the best albums from this decade are still unknown. Here is a guide to listening to music from one of the most creative periods in electronic music history.
As with all genres, there is no single definition of 70s electronic music. But what can be said is that it emerged at least partly as a reaction against the music-with-band format. It was about creating sounds and moods with synthesizers and tape machines rather than rock bands. And unlike music from the 1970s, which often incorporated electronic instruments, the aim in this genre was not just to augment pre-existing songs but create something fundamentally different: a new form of art.
The majority of recordings came from Germany and France because their top producers were more open to working with new technologies than those in other countries. They were also more willing to experiment with recording styles, using long stretches of sound in place of traditional melodies or verse-chorus structures. This approach is reminiscent of early dub reggae but without vocals or rhythmic elements that would anchor it down too firmly within any one genre (as opposed to being purely ambient).
A number of bands emerged during this time including
By the late 1970s, electronic music had ballooned into a full-fledged genre. The 70s electronic music scene was characterized by significant advancements in technology that enabled musicians to synthesize new sounds and experiment with new ideas. This was also an era of many firsts: the first commercially viable synthesizer (Moog), the first successful all-electronic pop band (Kraftwerk), and the first purely electronic classical piece (Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Gesang der Jünglinge).
From there, it wasn’t long before synth pioneers like Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream were experimenting with ambient and drone music, while artists like Jean-Michel Jarre were pushing synthesizers into the mainstream. New technology led to new techniques for creating music, creating an exciting time for musicians, who embraced these novel methods with wide eyes and open minds.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best 70s electronic music from this era, as well as get acquainted with some of the key figures in electronic music history.
You could say that the 1970s was the era of electronic music. Electronic music had been around for decades, but the 70s saw it embraced by musicians and audiences alike. The Beatles and Pink Floyd helped introduce electronic instruments to a mainstream audience, and bands like Kraftwerk, Can and Tangerine Dream fused rock with electronics to produce a sometimes funky, sometimes spacy sound we associate with the decade.
In this guide I’ll tell you what I know about 70s electronic music. A brief overview of the genre will be followed by biographies of some important artists, as well as a list of recommended albums.
The 1970s were a time of remarkable creativity in electronic music. New instruments were invented, new sounds discovered, and new musical genres developed. As well as being a time of experimentation, it was also a time of innovation and consolidation. The basic tools available to composers included the synthesiser, the digital sequencer and the Mellotron (an early sampler). These tools quickly became ubiquitous in popular music and are still used today.
Some of the most important composers at this time were: Klaus Schulze, Tangerine Dream, Michael Hoenig, Jean-Michel Jarre, Vangelis, Isao Tomita and Wendy Carlos. All of these artists had their own distinctive approach to making music but they all shared some important commonalities:
1. A focus on texture
2. An emphasis on timbre
3. A tendency towards minimalism
4. An interest in repetition
These features can be found in all forms of electronic music from that period, from ambient to rock to dance music to film soundtracks and everything in between.
Electronic music is generally understood to have been born in the early 1950s, when a young engineer at Bell Laboratories named Max Mathews devised a way to generate sounds using a digital computer. “Music V”, a ten-second burst of noise that sounded like a swarm of wasps, was the first result.
Since then, electronic music has become almost as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. In fact, you may never have heard electronic music before; it may seem an ordinary part of your world because it’s so ubiquitous. But just as there’s no sense in trying to describe what the color blue looks like to someone who’s blind, there’s no point in explaining the impact of electronic music to people who don’t get it. If you are one of those people, this guide will not be useful to you. Please stop reading here.*