Pioneering Italian Women in Electronic Music

September 15, 2017

Together with France, Germany and England, Italy has been one of the most influential European countries involved in the development of early electronic music. The first instances of Italian sound experimentation date back to the avant-garde movement of Futurism – initiated by Francesco Balilla Pratella’s Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music (1911), the wholly new music was further empowered by Luigi and Antonio Russolo’s Art of Noises (1913). Almost 40 years after the release of these complex and revolutionary texts, Italy inaugurated its first center dedicated to electronic and electroacoustic research: Studio di Fonologia, also known as RAI Milan. Founded in 1955 by Luciano Berio and Bruno Maderna, the Studio di Fonologia Musicale would become a lodestar in the history of electronic music, serving as a worldwide inspiration for many other centers of experimentation through its novel combination of principles from Parisian musique concréte and electronic music as developed by Herbert Eimert and Werner Meyer-Eppler in Cologne at the Studio für elektronische Musik.

Despite Italy’s influence in such experimental fields, essential contributions by Italian women to this story are often forgotten or disregarded.

From 1955 onwards, numerous research centers aimed at reforming old musical conventions continued to flourish in Italy. In 1963, Pietro Grossi founded Florence’s Studio di Fonologia Musicale (S 2F M); one year later, the SMET (Studio di Musica Elettronica di Torino) was founded in Turin. Around the same time, Goffredo Haus’s Gruppo di Elettronica e Cibernetica, later rechristened the Laboratorio di Informatica Musicale, was established in Milan.

Despite Italy’s influence in such experimental fields, essential contributions by Italian women to this story are often forgotten or disregarded. A key exception is Teresa Rampazzi, whose work has been gradually rediscovered and celebrated. Still, in the history of Italian electronic music, women have had an undeniably impactful presence – what follows are just a few of the many untold stories from this rich lineage of artists whose work deserves to be recognized.

Teresa Rampazzi Courtesy of Laura Zattra

Teresa Rampazzi

Teresa Rampazzi (1914 – 2001) was born into a wealthy family in Vincenza before becoming involved in some of Italy’s most radical avant-garde music communities. She studied music in Vicenza and completed her musical education at the Conservatory of Milan. Once in Milan, she got to know Bruno Maderna and other important composers involved in the contemporary music scene before eventually going abroad in order to further her studies. Rampazzi ended up taking part in several sessions of the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt, where she heard Herbert Eimert’s generators and began to gravitate towards music produced with electronic devices.

In 1956, she came back to the Veneto region with her husband and moved to Padua, where she became a member of the Trio Bartók. Featuring Elio Peruzzi on clarinet, Edda Pinton on violin and Rampazzi on piano, the trio was one of the few instrumental ensembles in the region performing works by composers such as Webern and Berg. As Rampazzi put it, “Italy had not yet emerged from its provincialism and backwardness, after the explosion of nineteenth-century opera.”

As researched by Laura Zattra, the eminent scholar on Rampazzi’s life and work, Rampazzi’s most noteworthy concert was a performance in Padua in 1959, in which she appeared alongside John Cage. Following her contact with Cage and her new interest in “informal music,” Rampazzi’s work became increasingly experimental. The old piano on which she had played since her youth, likely already destroyed by her experiments on prepared piano with Cage, was replaced by a few oscillators, whose appeal was boosted by the fact that electronics were at the time stirring things up in Paduan circles via popular groups such as Circolo Pozzetto.

Rampazzi later met the visual artist Ennio Chiggio, an important member of Gruppo Enne, an outfit dedicated to conducting visual-kinetic research. She was convinced that the Gruppo needed to embrace electronic arts, and the duo started to work together, founding the NPS (Nuove Proposte Sonore) in 1965. A few months after its foundation, the group, who were headquartered in Rampazzi’s attic, was expanded with the addition of Serenella Marega and Memo Alfonsi.

Before making music we have to study the physical, acoustical and psychological affects of this medium, the mathematical laws underlying by every sound process.

Teresa Rampazzi

NPS was first and foremost a research group, made up of people without any artistic aspirations. As Rampazzi described it during a conference in 1970, “Every work or method of working (there are many methods more or less fitting to the equipment) is always previously discussed, criticized, approved or not approved by everyone. Every component of the group has to help each other during the work in the field he can master better than the other. If we decide to apply the computer programming, everybody has to learn the language required. No one is teacher; no one is pupil; at least in the hierarchical meaning it still has in many schools.”

Proponents of “acoustic art,” the NPS was not necessarily consciously creating “music,” but rather conducting research in the field of sound. The group also believed that the early traditions of electronic music – represented by composers still utilizing traditional formats for composition – as already outdated, and they sought out loftier and untouched ground: “Electronic means enable us to explore and then to central the particle of the sound, its waveform. Before making music we have to study the physical, acoustical and psychological affects of this medium, the mathematical laws underlying by every sound process.” Together with Pietro Grossi in Florence and Enore Zaffiri in Turin, NPS became one of the most compelling and well-reputed sound research units in Italy.

Gruppo NPS - Ricerca IV

In November 1967, Ennio Chiggio decided to leave the group and resigned. Rampazzi chose to open her laboratory to younger musicians and engineers, and at the beginning of 1968, she moved her equipment from the attic to the first floor of her house, enlarging the studio space to be able to give free courses in experimental electronics. In October 1972, she again moved her devices, this time to the Pollini Conservatory, where she led the Corso Straordinario Libero di Musica Elettronica (Special and Free Electronic Music Class). It was at Pollini that Rampazzi first had quadraphonic and stereo recorders at her disposal, not to mention an EMS Synthi A that had been purchased by NPS a few months before.

Also in 1972, Rampazzi met Giorgio Loviscek, who worked at the Experimental Center of Cinematography in Rome, and she began producing soundtracks for animated films and scientific documentaries. In 1972, the NPS, led by Rampazzi, produced the soundtrack for the documentary Gastroscopia, presented at the Scientific Film Festival in Padua. Along with teaching and composing in her refined electronic style, Rampazzi was briefly a member of the free jazz improvisational combo Group P4 along with Michele Sambin, Giovanni De Poli and Alvise Vidolin.

Thanks to Rampazzi’s efforts, in 1975 the Conservatory of Padua signed a collaboration agreement with the Centro di Calcolo di Ateneo (University Computing Center) to create an interdisciplinary space where they could research production techniques utilizing computer equipment. In 1976, a programmer named Graziano Tisato joined the Centro di Calcolo, and created for Rampazzi the language ICMS (Interactive Computer Music System), a real-time music editing software with which Rampazzi was able to select parameters by using a light pen. Thanks to this software, she was able to record the aptly-titled With The Light Pen, which obtained a special mention at the International Electroacoustic Music Competition in Bourges. According to Laura Zattra, “The positive activity of the NPS Group and the presence, in the Engineering Department, of Alvise Vidolin, Giovanni De Poli and their Professor Giovanni Battista Debiasi, showed that computer music could be seriously be considered as a new research trend.”

Teresa Rampazzi - Atmen Noch

In 1979, Debiasi officially funded the CSC (Centro di Sonologia Computazionale) a research center for the promotion and cultural diffusion of music informatics that quickly became one of the most important in Italy and Europe. While a member, Rampazzi began work on Computer Dances, a new piece made entirely using Tisato’s ICMS program, and which she dubbed “the big monster.” Most of Rampazzi’s most influential compositions date from these years, such as Fluxus (1979), Atmen Noch (1980), Quasi un Haiku (1987) and Polifonie di Novembre (1988).

Rampazzi decided to retire after the death of her husband, in 1984; she sold her home and donated all her equipments to the Conservatory of Padua. After a short period spent in Assisi, she moved again to Veneto region, this time at Bassano del Grappa, where she set up a small home studio and continued to compose music, often made with a Yamaha DX7.

Hilda Dianda

Although she was born in Córdoba, Argentina, in 1925, Hilda Dianda nonetheless deserves special recognition as a key contributor to the history of Italian electronic music. Her father, Sebastiano Dianda, was an Italian-born merchant who had moved to Latin America from Lucca in 1920, and although Dianda was not born and raised in Italy, she stands out as one of the few women whose involvement in early Italian electronic scenes was both acknowledged and even celebrated. (Her contributions were officially recognized by the Italian government in 1964 when she received a Medal of Merit for Culture and Art.) Dianda was also one of the few women who earned an invitation to compose at the Studio di Fonologia of Milan. Although her activity primarily tilted towards orchestral and chamber scores, Dianda used electronic and electroacoustic means to record at least four of her works, the creation of which runs parallel to the history of the genre in Italy.

Dianda’s musical education begun in Buenos Aires in 1942 under the guidance of Honorio Siccardi, who had obtained the title of Maestro Compositore in Parma, Italy, as a result of his studies with Gian Francesco Malipiero. Between 1948 and 1949, Siccardi suggested to Dianda that she study in Venice, where Malipiero was directing the Benedetto Marcello Conservatory. The experience was so profound that for the rest of her life Dianda considered Malipiero her most significant mentor, despite emotional ups-and-downs still to come.

In May 1959, Dianda sent a request to be admitted at the Studio di Fonologia of Milan. Her request was granted, and by the end of October, Dianda and her friend and collaborator Emma Curti were living in Milan. Her first day at the Studio di Fonologia was November 12th, and within a few days she wrote a letter to Malipiero about her experiences, saying that “At RAI everything is proceeding wonderfully and I have the feeling to be delightfully electrified.” Unfortunately, Malipiero strongly disapproved of Dianda’s efforts. In their correspondence, he derided her as an “amateur,” perhaps with the intention of pushing her back towards traditional chamber and orchestral composition. Their relationship cooled further when Malipiero went on to write that the studio had only accepted Dianda’s petition as a quid pro quo to ease Italian immigration to Argentina.

Dianda ended up working at the Studio di Fonologia for less then one month: By December 17th, 1959, she was living in Mentone, France, at a family friend’s house, and reflecting on her time in Milan: “Although I spent only few time in Milan, I think I’ve done a good job and I composed a piece of music, now property of the Radio. It lasts 6 minutes and 54 and I wanted to use different sound and pitch contrasts. For this reason, I named it 2 studi in contrasti (2 studies in opposition).” (Dos Estudios En Oposición was made by using exclusively electronic sources.)

After this first experience of electronics while in Italy, Dianda returned to Argentina, where from 1964 she worked at the Centro de Música Experimental de la Escuela de Artes de la Universidad Nacional of Córdoba. Her activities included leading a seminar on experimental music and organizing a roundtable with the title “Problems de composición electroacústica,” which considered compositional principles like the differences between the styles of Stockhausen and Maderna styles, and general principles of continuity, form and matter in modern composition. Her electroacoustic and electronic composition output had slowed by this point, although over this period she wrote Estructuras I, II, III for cello and piano (1960); Cuartedo 111 for strings (1963); Nucleos, for strings and orchestra, two pianos, vibraphone, xylophone and eight pieces of percussion (1965); and Resonancias 3 for cello and orchestra (1965). Dianda’s interest in the cello’s sonorities eventually came out in another electroacoustic composition, made between 1965 and 1966 at the San Fernando Valley State College Electronic Music Studio in Northridge, California. The result was A-7, a piece of music for cello and magnetic tape.

1972 marked the beginning of a self-imposed exile from Argentina, while the country was still in the midst of a military junta. The peregrination led her to return to Rome, first at the International Symposium on Contemporary Music Notation. Over the ensuing years, Dianda bounced between France, Germany and Belgium, leading concerts and lectures, before returning to South America in 1975. She celebrated her return with the composition of an anti-dictatorship electronic piece called Despues el Silencio (1975 – 1976), recorded at the CICMAT, Buenos Aires.

Franca Sacchi

Born in Milan in 1940, Franca Sacchi is a multi-talented artist who first broke through the Italian electronic music scene in the 1960s. Her talent was evident from a young age – she studied piano and composition at the Conservatory of Milan and started to perform her first concerts at the age of nine. Sacchi quickly became bored with traditional classical music, though, and her curiosity drove her to the electronic music then rising out of Milan.

Sacchi worked in both electronic music and musique concréte, pursuing cross-disciplinary projects with painters, sculptors and architects as well with other composers.

Sacchi first moved to Brussels, where she trained at the studio of Léo Kupper. Kupper introduced her to the work of the ORTF in Paris, and soon after she began work as an assistant at the Studio di Fonologia. It was at the studio that she met Luciano Berio and Luigi Nono, assisting them with their musique concréte compositions and learning techniques for composing and reconstituting tape into original works. Despite this effort, Sacchi was far more interested in the electronic devices available at the studio, and although she is not listed along with the names of composers that officially worked at the Studio di Fonologia, as Giulia Callino notes in her article La sacralità di fare arte: la storia di Franca Sacchi, Sacchi contributed to the studio’s research on the range of audible frequencies, as well as experimenting while there with musique concréte.

Between 1966 and 1975, Sacchi worked in both electronic music and musique concréte, pursuing cross-disciplinary projects with painters, sculptors and architects as well with other composers. The ’60s and the ’70s were a period of extreme vitality for Italian contemporary art – movements such as Italian Fluxus, Poesia Visiva, Arte Povera and Radical Design exemplified the vibrating mood of the time. Artists were looking for hybridizations of different media, and Sacchi was developing in that very period her personal music path, ranging from sound installation to site-specific improvisations. Visual art and sound art were seen as different manifestations of a common source of inspiration.

Franca Sacchi & Ugo La Pietra - Le Immersioni

In 1967, Sacchi burst onto the art scene by contributing some tape music, created with electronic media, for the exhibition Ugo La Pietra e la fenomenalizzazione dell’esperienza razionale, held in Rome. Sacchi’s first husband, Ugo La Pietra went on to realize many collaborative works with her, such as the installation Le Immersioni – Ambiente Audiovisivo (Immersions – Audiovisual Environment) exhibited at the 14th Milan Triennale (1968). Le Immersioni was a series of art installations that started in 1967; they were conceived as human containers, hard hats, shells or spheres where people could experience the crisis generated by two opposite factors: on one hand stood the idea of an ideal privacy, while in the other hand the feeling of being ripped out from the external ambient atmosphere. Within Ambiente Audiovisivo, attendees wore special sound-helmets that played Sacchi’s electronic compositions so as to guarantee an immersive experience.

Uomouovosfera (Men-Egg-Sphere) was another cooperative project, part of La Pietra’s Immersioni and exhibited in 1969 at the 8th Biennale of Contemporary Art of San Benedetto del Tronto. Conceptualized by Gillo Dorfles, Filiberto Menna and Luciano Marucci, the Biennale was a complex festival embracing land-art actions, serial artworks, new sound experiences, independent cinema, happenings, publications on avant-garde issues and debates with critics and artists. Among the exhibited proposals were projects such as Pietro Grossi’s computer music, electronic compositions by Schäffer and Vittorio Gelmetti or the Musica Verità of Giuseppe Chiari. Sacchi participated with two musical works, including an open-air improvisation and the sound design for La Pietra’s installation. Shaped like a human-sized sphere, Uomouovosfera was a space for decompression and represented the need to escape from the contemporary environment, which was more and more invaded by acoustic pollution. As annotated in the catalogue of the exhibition, the sound had been studied at Centro Ricerche Musica Elettronica.

Founded by Sacchi in 1968 together with other artists such as the photographer, designer and poet Davide Mosconi, the Centro Ricerche Musica Elettronica was housed at the Circolo Filologico Milanese and sponsored by the SIEM, or Italian Society for Musical Education. Here, Sacchi was organizing improvisation classes where music was intended to be created based on a “global meaning,” without the limit of classical notation or pitch. She believed everyday objects could all be sound sources, and her classes were focused on finding a way to understand “the self” and drag out of it the best possible musical creation.

Rather than learning existing schemes or choreographies, Franca Sacchi believed the best art came from reality overlapping with the artist’s unique inner self.

In 1969, Sacchi took part in Campo Urbano (Urban Field), an event in Como that brought together many protagonists of the Italian contemporary art scene in order to communicate advanced ideas relating to art, architecture, design and music, through participatory happenings that engaged the city’s residents and living spaces. Sacchi worked with Giuseppe Chiari on Suoniamo la Città, a free-sound improvisation that was based on Chiari’s Suonare la Città conceptual manifesto and was broadcast throughout the streets of Como. During the happening, people were asked to play surfaces throughout the town – from pianos to gates and window shutters – using cans or pieces of cutlery.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Italian contemporary art reflected the politics of the time, with artists engaged in a struggle against systems they deemed as attacking the values of governmental, industrial and cultural institutions. Feminine and feminist art emerged in the wake of the second wave of feminism, addressing the social, political and cultural concerns of womanhood. In 1975, artist Ketty La Rocca wrote to Lucy Lippard that “To be a woman artist in Italy is incredibly difficult”; this feeling was shared by almost all female Italian artists that were cut out from major artistic scenes. Joining other enlightened artists of the period like La Rocca, Carla Accardi and Francesca Woodman, Franca Sacchi co-founded the Italian feminist group Rivolta 3 in the 1970s, aimed at promoting feminine self-consciousness and to fight against any forms of artistic oppression. The diffusion of the feminism movement was pushing the artists to rethink their role in the society, to claim their access and their space inside museums and cultural institutions, to denounce the lack of visibility and the discrimination they were suffering.

Franca Sacchi - Arpa Eolia

Sacchi’s 1970 work Arpa Eolia (Eolian Harp) demonstrates her will to engage listeners in deep sonic experiences through the use of resonating systems and harmonic motion, and this milestone of her production was rediscovered by the experimental independent label Die Schachtel in 2005. As she wrote in 1972, Sacchi’s work “is the result of a long period of meditation – an act of complete self-recognition.” As for many artists of that period – such as John Cage with Zen, Stockhausen with the philosophy of Sri Aurobindo or the involvement of French pioneer Éliane Radigue in Buddhism - Sacchi got interested in spirituality through Oriental meditation and yoga, eventually opening three training schools in Milan, Turin and Rome.

Sacchi had studied classical and jazz dance in Milan and in Copenhagen, and in 1972 it led her to an important innovation in choreutics, deciding to refuse “to establish any kind of relationship between movement and signs.” She decided to turn her experience into consciousness, “discovering the true and essential gesture and at the same time having the courage to manifest it openly.” Dialogue between different media languages and Oriental philosophies helped her generate the “En-static principle,” an art form that embraced electronic music, improvisation, ritual, dance, meditation and more. The expression and “manifestation of a truly creative existence” were now placed at the center of her artistic processes, evident in her record En. As with Stockhausen’s Intuitive Music, Sacchi believed that there must be no exaltation of the ego in the process of artistic creation. Rather than learning existing schemes or choreographies, Sacchi believed the best art came from reality overlapping with the artist’s unique inner self.

Ingrid McIntosh

Ingrid Mcintosh is a exemplary representation of the complex issues facing women’s involvement in – and subsequent erasure from – the history of electronic music in Italy. Her name appears in a collection of essays by Pietro Grossi called Musica Senza Musicisti, Scritti 1966 – 1986, published in Pisa in 1987. But in this case, the title’s English translation – Music Without Musicians – fits like a glove: Beyond this passing mention, there is no extant biographical details or recorded music by McIntosh still in circulation.

Despite this lack of information, McIntosh is nonetheless listed in Grossi’s piece alongside a lengthy list of composers that used the TAU2-TAUMUS system in Pisa. A composer and cellist, Grossi had been involved in the exploration of the acoustic properties and relationships between electronically generated sounds; listed as the first Italian composer to employ computers in the creation of music, he founded the Studio di Fonologia Musicale in Florence (S 2F M) in 1963. Grossi was interested in the development of electronic tools for sound synthesis that would be able to produce and execute music in real-time, which drove him to ask Pisa University’s Computing Center to experiment with electronic sound and composition using computers.

The evidence – however small – would suggest that Ingrid McIntosh was as relevant a contributor as any to early Italian computer music.

Between 1970 and 1975, Grossi designed and produced the TAU2 program and the additional software TAUMUS for the IBM 370/168 system. With contributions from Alfonso Belfiore, Teresa Rampazzi, Alberto Mayr and Tommaso Bolognesi, in 1979 Grossi recorded some automated and generative compositions that displayed the operational possibilities of the TAU2-TAUMUS. The list of people appearing in his essay who worked with the two systems includes many other composers, all established names in the field of Italian experimental music – with the exception of McIntosh.

In the article Pioneer Spirits: New media representations of women in electronic music history, Frances Morgan states that “The absence of women in patrilineal histories should be understood not as an effect of certain composers being ‘forgotten,’ as if this is an accidental oversight, but as a symptomatic lack of recognition during the time in which many of those now cited as pioneers were at their most active.” The evidence – however small – would suggest that Ingrid McIntosh was as relevant a contributor as any to early Italian computer music, and is perhaps further proof of the erasure that comes with the passage of time, yet another motivation to reconstruct a history of electronic music unencumbered by outdated social and archival instincts.

Daniela Casa / Maria Teresa Luciani / Giulia de Muittis

Library music is music recorded in a multitude of styles for commercial use in radio, film and television. This particular field of music reached its peak in Italy during the late ’60s and the ’70s – compared to the established film score scene, library music often reflected a more experimental attitude, and was more frequently electronic as well. But library music is also a mysterious and dusty land: composers’ names were relegated to the backside of the LPs and musician’s identities were shrouded through the use of multiple pseudonyms. Daniela Casa, Maria Teresa Luciani and Giulia de Muittis belong to this foggy but entrancing planet.

Daniela Casa (1944 – 1986) was a pioneer of abstract electronics, although her career began in a more traditional way. Her voice and talent were first discovered by Fonit Records in 1963, and a couple of years later, she began to work at the Piper – one of Rome’s most iconic clubs – together with Giampiero Scalamogna, with whom she formed the duo Dany & Gepy. The Piper was an important node of the Italian music scene, hosting international movie stars alongside cosmopolitan avant-garde artists and launching the careers of pop musicians such as Caterina Caselli or Patty Pravo. It was a theatre, dance club and art gallery all in one, and Dany & Gepy were hired to play regular sets of covers of soul and R&B songs. By the end of the 1960s, Casa had become know for work as a lyricist and singer, including “Regolarmente,” which she wrote for Mina, one of the most famous Italian singers of the time. By 1969, Casa was a member of the Bolognese band Lucio Dalla e Gli Idoli, together with her husband Remigio Ducros.

Daniela Casa - Pericolo

Casa only kicked off her adventures in library music in the ’70s when she started to compose music at her home studio, providing scores for Italian thrillers, nature documentaries and commercials. In 1975, she recorded the cult library LP Società Malata, a collection of experimental, ambient and electronic tracks. Recently rereleased by Penny Records, Società Malata was followed by Ricordi D’Infazia, originally released on the Italian label Flirt. Almost nothing is known about her home studio: In a recent email exchange aimed at exploring more of Casa’s life, her daughter recalled only that her mother owned a 808 and a Yamaha DX7, and that she was very interested in testing new technologies.

The sister of Riccardo A. Luciani, who was also active in library music, Maria Teresa Luciani is described by the Finders Keepers label as “the Italian Daphne Oram” or “the female answer to Basil Kirchin.” We know she was a teacher, artist, inventor, author and musician, and that she probably started to be involved in the Italian library scene because of her brother, who worked at the Studio di Fonologia producing music for movies and television beginning in 1963. Her masterpiece, Suoni Di Una Città (Sounds Of The City), was released in 1972 and employed different electronic and electroacoustic techniques, ranging from the use of field recordings, radiophonic samples and tape loops to delay and reverb effects and traditional acoustic instrumentation.

Maria Teresa Luciani - Cortili Cittadini

With her use of tape loop techniques and early electronics, Giulia De Muittis (d. 1984) is another lesser-known author of Italian film music. Although she was married to Alessandro Alessandroni, a composer and accomplished whistler well known for his collaborations with Ennio Morricone, De Muittis was equally talented, often working under the pseudonym Kema and contributing to the production of Giallo movie soundtracks as well as Italian “psychs.” In 1971, she released Alle Sorgenti Delle Civiltà (The Sources Of Civilization), a collection of ethnological studio experiments that were rediscovered by library music enthusiasts in recent years thanks to a 2016 reissue by Cacophonic.

Doris Norton

In the late 1960s, a parallel universe sprang up alongside the realm of phonological studies and sound research. Due to transatlantic cultural cross-pollination, progressive rock became the emissary of electronic music’s popularization in Europe. These were the days of Italian prog rock bands like Il Balletto di Bronzo and Biglietto per L’Inferno, and of the Mellotron and Moog’s epochal breakthrough on the Italian scene. In this era of economic booms and musical revolutions, Doris Norton got her start in electronic music.

As a teenager, Norton was drawn to medieval, Renaissance and Baroque music, not to mention quantum physics, differential equations, organic chemistry, the experimentalism of John Cage and animated movie soundtracks. Her love for modules and circuits found expression through the waves of an old harmonium, the frequencies of a Minimoog, a Roland System 100M, a Roland System 700 and the ARP 2500/2600.

Doris Norton - Psychic Research

In 1980, Norton began her solo career by recording at Fontana Studio 7, the Milan studio of the composer and musician Tito Fontana, resulting in the electronic opera Under Ground. Her skill in navigating the evolving electronic landscape became especially evident with the release of Praeternatural, her first album made using digital technologies. While making the album, Norton spent six months using the Fairlight CMI system, one of the first synthesizers/digital samplers, designed by Peter Vogel and Kim Ryrie and used by musicians such as Herbie Hancock, Peter Gabriel, Stevie Wonder and Jean-Michel Jarre. After sampling the bass drum, snares, timpani and cymbals of a Gretsch and a Ludwig drum kit, Norton used those to produce the album’s rhythm tracks, converting each separate section archived on the 8-bit system back to analog.

After receiving funding support from Apple and Roland, Norton became more prolific, continuing her adventures in experimental electronics and computer music with Parapsycho (1981), Raptus (1981), Nortoncomputerforpeace (1983), PC (1984) – whose album cover prominently features Apple’s colored logo – and Artificial Intelligence (1985). Her talent and expertise attracted the attention of IBM, who in 1986 named her as an official consultant. Already the reigning queen of the Italian electronic scene, she recorded two CDs for IBM: Automatic Feeling and The Double Side Of The Science. Influenced by her son, the musician and producer Rexanthony, Norton brought her fascination with the early days of techno into the 1990s, when she released three volumes of Techno Shock on Italian trance/hardcore label Sound Of The Bomb.

Header image © Cacophonic

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