Since its inception, electronic music has been wedded to notions of modernity and futurity. Composers like Edgar Varese and Iannis Xenakis styled themselves as musician-scientists, blazing a path into the future, while popular electronic music from Louis and Bebe Barron to Kraftwerk frequently drew on images of space travel and nuclear power to frame the new sounds of electronic synthesis. Recent years have seen postmodern tropes of revivalism, pastiche, and appropriation make an appearance in popular electronic music genres like hauntology, as musicians have become increasingly interested in plundering the past as a resource for the present. Yet this fervour has not taken hold to the same extent in electroacoustic music, and much of the discourse around the form remains at least outwardly committed to the modernist ideas of the new it espoused in the 1950s; an ‘old’ ideal of the new, rather than a ‘new’ fashioning of the old.
Under what conditions might the old be reimagined as the new? Is the ‘old-fashioned’ ideal of the perpetually new more productive and necessary than ever, or simply the intellectual underpinning for well-established styles and schools? For this edition of BEAST FEaST, we invite composers and listeners of electronic music to rewind in order to fast-forward: What new paths may open up by engaging more closely with works, idioms, and technologies from the past? What ideas, old and new, might take us forward?