Wired's futurists, past and present

The magazine issues its first CD -- a compilation of "Music Futurists."

By Janelle Brown
Published August 11, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)
main article image

Quick: Name the 15 bands with the greatest impact on contemporary music. Odds are that no two people would have the same list; but that hasn't stopped Wired magazine from releasing a CD called "Music Futurists," with the goal of profiling 15 "forward-thinking composers of the first generation of electronica."

The resulting CD, which was compiled with the help of Rhino Records, is a breezy romp through some of the more innovative (and difficult) composers of the last half of the 20th century. Latin instrumentalist Esquivel sits next to New York's freaky DJ Spooky; Sun Ra is juxtaposed with Devo. Much of the music is typical Wired fodder -- including Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno, both of whom have served time on Wired's cover. Early synthesizer innovators are also given heavy play.


Electronica fans certainly might note there are innumerable -- and perhaps more worthy -- musicians who could easily have been included in the discography. As Colin Berry, longtime Wired music critic, admits in the CD's liner notes, "It takes a healthy dash of hubris to pick 15 composers of 20th-century pop music and label them 'futurists.' On one hand, it seems arbitrary, presumptive, even arrogant." Still, although the ensuing mishmash of artists are confusingly subjective, it's a fair assessment that each has had an impact on modern music; all of the tunes should be intriguing to someone interested in the roots of modern electronica.

Perhaps these "futurists" would be better served if they were brought together in a whole boxed set. Sure, "Music Futurists" is a promotional vehicle for Wired, but still, it would be interesting to hear a larger selection of "futuristic" music. And odds are that it would be more interesting than any CD series that Condi Nast might conceive for the New Yorker, Vogue, House & Garden or -- God forbid -- Brides.

Janelle Brown

Janelle Brown is a contributing writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Janelle Brown

Related Topics ------------------------------------------