Wired's futurists, past and present

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


Janelle Brown
August 11, 1999 8:00PM (UTC)

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.

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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.

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