Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music by the Wire (2002) is a book edited by Rob Young.


In a series of essays by some of the best music writers of our time, Undercurrents: The Hidden Wiring of Modern Music by the Wire (2002) by Rob Young identifies the key concepts and underlying themes that have been hardwired into the modern era's most radical musics, ever since Thomas Edison invented the record player. The phonograph, electronics, chance operations, Futurism, Surrealism, the civil rights movement, noise, alternative tuning systems and market forces have all redrawn the map of contemporary sound. Undercurrents tracks these seismic shifts across a wide range of music including modern composition, free jazz, experimental rock and pop, Industrial, ethnic music, Techno and electronica, and looks at the extraordinary innovations and invented instruments that have passed into obscurity. Rob Young

Table of contents


  • "Recording Angels: The esoteric origins of the phonograph" by Erik Davis
  • "On The Mic: How amplification altered the voice for good" by Ian Penman
  • "The Jerrybuilt Future: The Sonic Arts Union, ONCE Group and MEV's live electronics" by Christoph Cox
  • "Worship The Glitch: Digital music, electronic disturbance" by Rob Young
  • "The Eternal Drone: Good vibrations, ancient to future" by Marcus Boon
  • "Slapping Pythagoras: The battle for the music of the spheres" by Rob Young
  • "The Ragged Trousered Anthologist: Harry Smith and his worlds" by Peter Shapiro & Philip Smith
  • "The Solar Myth Approach: Sun Ra, Stockhausen, P-Funk, Hawkwind: the live space ritual" by Ken Hollings
  • "Humans, Are They Really Necessary?: Sound art, automata, musical sculpture" by David Toop
  • "Automating The Beat: The robotics of rhythm" by Peter Shapiro
  • "The Autobahn Goes On Forever: On the road with Kraftwerk, Neu!, Wim Wenders" by Biba Kopf
  • "Rock Concrète: Counterculture plugs into the academy" by Edwin Pouncey
  • "Deck Wreckers: The turntable as instrument" by Peter Shapiro
  • "Destroy All Music: The Futurists' Art of Noises" by Mark Sinker
  • "The Limits Of Language: Sound poetry and Lettrism's textual assault" by Julian Cowley
  • "The Music Of Chance: Cage, Kagel, Zorn: Chance operators, musical dice men" by Andy Hamilton
  • "Smiling Faces Sometimes: Soul music's grinners and backstabbers" by Peter Shapiro
  • "Frames Of Freedom: Improvisation, otherness and the limits of spontaneity" by David Toop
  • "Generation Ecstasy: New York's free jazz continuum" by Tom Roe

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