Heliograms

The Album That Kicked Off 30 Years Of Electronic Music Evolution

Last month, Digitalis Recordings released a record that composer Jean Piché created 30 years ago, one regarded as one of the first albums created using only digital sound synthesis. When the collection, titled Heliograms, was initially slated for release in 1982, the label planning to put it out went bankrupt, sending the record into limbo for decades.

It was in those decades that electronic music went from being the product of an experimental community of hyper-technical composers to ubiquity in pop genres across the board. Digital synthesis replaced analog synthesis in many studios, and in several others synthesizers replaced traditional instruments altogether. Electronic instruments went from being behemoths of wood and cables to compact units that fit atop a desk. Whereas once you practically needed a degree in physics to operate a synth, product designers had stepped in to simplify the machinery, ensuring that anyone with the slightest understanding of piano key layout and the motor skills to turn a knob could operate one. Then came software, followed closely by scores of MIDI controllers, each designed to increase the ease of making something that sounds complete, in a contemporary sense, without the operator having to try too hard.

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