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I should mention – I’m off on some well-earned R&R for another week and a half yet.

I shall quickly present the codified version of The Rules, which you can use to entertain yourselves until my return.  The Rules govern the particular version of ‘name that tune’ that Atomique and I have now been playing for nearly six years running.

The basic rules of The Rules are quite simple:

  • One point for naming the artist of a song
  • One point for naming the song, but this point can only be claimed before the chorus

There are some advanced regulations that have developed over time:

  • Should it turn out that the café/restaurant/shop you’re in is playing a whole CD, only the first track is worth points
  • A song used in a television commercial is only worth points on first viewing
  • Points may be granted (or even fractions thereof) for naming a sample source or naming the original artist in the case of a cover, but these points are only granted by the good grace of the other players

Don’t ask what the current tally in the game is – it’s rather lopsided in Atomique’s favour, owing to the fact that the original edition of The Rules only allowed legal play on songs released before 1990. While I might be quite knowledgeable about a ton of older music, it tends not to be the stuff you hear in shopping malls, on AM radio or television commercials. As such, Atomique’s extensive knowledge of all things Spandau Ballet, Human League and other ’80s embarrassments really caned me until I was able to bring my knowledge of equally-atrocious ’90s dance music into the game.

Foolish me, I should have admitted a defeat and wiped the slate clean when we introduced the ‘new era’.


Spacemen and dodecahedrons.  Awesome.

The technology that really pushed electronics into the mainstream of music was the modular synth which appeared in the 1950s. Sure, you can go back before then (as far back as the late 1800s!) and find dermatrons and theremins and musical telegraphs and a myriad of other primitive electronic sound-gizmos, but for the most part they were gimmicky, hard to calibrate or downright difficult to play.

It is said that most of the technological advances that we see in the life of the everyman have come about as spinoffs of military applications. Even in the case of music there’s some truth in that statement…

In the UK in the late 1950s, electronic components from decommissioned wartime radar stations flowed out to the free market. Among these components were the oscillating crystals that are essential for analog sound synthesis. This glut of cheap postwar electronics spurred synthesizer development in the UK as it became affordable for individuals to obtain the parts they needed to generate and tinker with all sorts of mad crazy bloopy noises.

Jean-Michel Jarre – Oxygène (Part IV) | download

Electronic Music Studios (London) built the VCS3 synth in 1969 and it featured on a myriad of albums by artists like The Who, Pink Floyd, Hawkwind and Jean-Michel Jarre. For more on EMS and other early pioneers of British sound techno-wizardry you ought hunt down the excellent documentary What the future Sounded Like (this is required viewing for those pursuing placement in the fleet’s electro-acoustic warfare school aboard the HMS Theremin once you complete basic training).

What the Future Sounded Like

Across the pond, however, we find the real giant of synthesizers: Bob Moog (rhymes with ‘vogue’ – who knew?). Bob Moog and his company, Moog Music, more or less singlehandedly revolutionized music in the last few decades of the 20th century, bringing synthesizers to the forefront of music.

Gershon Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet – Popcorn | download

Bob Moog’s last name is nearly synonymous with synthesizers. I can’t think of any other brand to have its name spangled across so many albums. In Viper Pilot’s personal hard-copy archives alone you’ll find Moog Power, Moog Indigo, The Moog Plays Switched-On Bacharach & The Moog Cookbook, but these are just a tiny portion of the sheer volume of Moog albums with Moog in the title, which is then turn is a tiny portion of all-Moog albums with any old collection of words in the title – like Wendy Carlos’ 1968 all-Moog classical eargasmic extravaganza Switched-On Bach, which spent 17 weeks in the top 40 (not bad for a classical album!).

Dick Hyman – The Moog and Me | download

Viper Pilot – U-Moog on MAARS | download

Seriously, I can probably fill a whole post with a list of Moog albums. Things got out of hand in the ’70s.

Moog: A Documentary Film

Pick up a handful of CDs in your music collection – odds are you’ll find a moog or a synth of some variety on each of them. Other than the guitar, there is no other instrument which has helped shape modern music.

PS: I’m never promising ‘such and such in next week’s episode’ again. Thanks to a misplaced sense of duty, I’ve felt compelled to deliver what I’d promised last post, in the process taking way longer than anticipated, in the process depriving you, gentle readers, of the backlog of shorter posts in the wings I could’ve spouted at you. Feh.

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Looking for music by Viper Pilot? This blog is the current home of Viper Pilot's Munition Works, where he stores all of his mashes and mixes.

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