Fu­ture Sounds: The Story of Elec­tronic Mu­sic from Stock­hausen to Skrillex

David Stubbs Faber & Faber (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $29.95 (464pp), 978-0-571-34697-4

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Nonfiction - HO LIN

David Stubbs’s Fu­ture Sounds takes on the gar­gan­tuan task of pro­vid­ing an over­view of the en­tire his­tory of elec­tronic mu­sic, from the in­flu­ence of English philoso­pher Fran­cis Ba­con back in 1626 to the smash­ing suc­cess of elec­tronic artist Skrillex in the mod­ern day. Mu­sic afi­ciona­dos will find the book to be a valu­able, en­gag­ing com­pen­dium.

While Stubbs claims that Fu­ture Sounds is far from com­pre­hen­sive, one would be hard­pressed to find a more ex­ten­sive sur­vey of elec­tronic mu­sic and its off­shoots. Each chap­ter is de­voted to a piv­otal mu­si­cian or time pe­riod in the genre’s de­vel­op­ment, whether it’s a pi­o­neer­ing in­ven­tion like the two-hun­dred-ton Tel­har­mo­nium or a rev­o­lu­tion­ary com­poser like Karl­heinz Stock­hausen.

Stubbs notes that elec­tronic mu­sic has a for­ward-think­ing cul­tural and po­lit­i­cal com­po­nent that is of­ten met with re­sis­tance by hos­tile crit­ics and the gen­eral pub­lic. Still, his anal­y­sis makes it clear that these “fu­ture sounds” are here to stay.

Stubbs dis­plays a daz­zling knowl­edge of his sub­ject, freely flow­ing be­tween mu­si­cal schol­ar­ship, cul­tural crit­i­cism, and in­sight­ful anec­dotes from his ex­pe­ri­ences as a mu­sic jour­nal­ist. Not many tomes are dense enough to in­clude de­tailed break­downs of dozens of in­flu­en­tial artists yet still play­ful enough to throw in rel­e­vant ref­er­ences to sub­jects as wide-rang­ing as Mary Shel­ley, P. T. Bar­num, Bing Crosby, and Doc­tor Who. This one is. Stubbs is a lively cu­ra­tor, and while his prose some­times gets over­heated (and per­haps ir­ri­tat­ing, if you’re a fan of the “old school” clas­sic rock he some­times bashes), there’s no doubt­ing the pas­sion and care he put into his book.

Mak­ing a com­pelling ar­gu­ment for the im­por­tance of elec­tronic mu­sic, Fu­ture Sounds is a fas­ci­nat­ing voy­age of dis­cov­ery—a juicy work that can be ab­sorbed like a sa­vory meal.

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