Remembering synthesizers

It is curious, this of trends. I remember the synthesizer boom around the second half of the eighties. And I say it is curious because the “synthesizer phenomenon” is much older. More than fifty years ago, avant-garde composers (Ussachevsky, Subotnick, etc…) were already using electronics in their music. However, I recognize that I identify myself more with the seventies´ boom and Schulze, Tangerine Dream or the megapopulars Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre.

Remembering synthesizers

So, what was the reason for that trend which flooded record stores? It’s obvious that we can establish an analogy with the current fad for easy listening. Also, back then you could find a myriad of compilations with a thousand and one covers of the most representative pieces. The reasons for this phenomenon were many: the original themes did not appear in compilations; the easy access for many “musicians” to samplers; low production costs; and the success of the true composers.

The music which commercially worked in the eighties had short and easy to learn leitmotifs, and it was also simple in its production (in comparison with the progressive rock experiments of the former decade). Thanks to some hits of the eighties, the people looked back to hold up several recordings from the seventies as classics (“Albedo 0.39” and “Oxygene”, mainly). Even though these titles answered in their creation to more or less intellectual reasons, in the eighties they are taken as examples of commercial music and widely accepted by the public.

Some of the most copied themes of the time were: “Crocket’s Theme”, from the Miami Vice series; Magic Fly, by Eccama; Moments in love, by Art of Noise; even themes from Kitaro or Brian Eno… and of course, Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre.

I have to recognize that I feel admiration towards these two last artists, as they managed to achieve both very high quality levels and enormous commercial successes; they made more for electronic music than any other composer. I say this because their worldwide repercussion triggered the recognition of many others, not because those others were worse (even though I think that the vast majority of them actually were).

It is true that both Vangelis and JMJ have their detractors, but who doesn´t. What certainly is undeniable is that they created two of my favourite albums, two jewels in my collection: “Spiral” and “Equinoxe”. In these albums they improved upon the ideas exposed in “Albedo 0.39” and “Oxygene”, giving them a perfect stylistic coherence. These are discs that one can enjoy both in a pure melodic level and from a technical point of view. But perhaps the best is the fusion of these two levels, which allows Jarre and Vangelis to create colours, sequences and musical sceneries different from the habitual ones.

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