In case you’ve missed it, the project opens like this: “Bleep’s Guide to Electronic Music starts on 25th March, 1857 – the day Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville receives French patent #17,897/31,470 for the phonautograph.”

The Facebook Timeline may seem just a tool for naval-gazing or privacy violation. But then, suddenly, you’re dialing back to the mid-19th Century, and tracing the history of electronic music.

Animating smoothly through the decades, you can trace electronic music’s great achievements, from the Martenot to King Tubby and Silver Apples, on through to Aphex Twin and labels like Hyperdub, each popping up each time you click a date. It’s a surprisingly useful gimmick, and a fun way to navigate and relive history even for those who know it well.

Bleep, the terrific online electronic sound boutique, deserves credit for re-imagining Facebook. True to form, they’ve got the music to back it up. The though of compiling 55 tracks to trace history from the 1930s to today sounds utterly terrifying, but they’ve done it nicely, a kind of downloadable electronic musicology course you could imagine cropping up in a college class or making a must-have for every digital collection. Since the challenge here was intelligently leaving things out, the smattering of landmarks they do choose stands out in a richly-diverse selection. The work of Messiaen, Schaeffer, and Cage lead to Daphne Oram and Morton Subotnick and Xenakis. Throbbing Gristle and Coldcut, Fennesz and SND bring us to the present day. In fact, one does notice the gradual shift away from academic and classical/concert scenes – one I think is fair. (Quite a few of those latter-day artists do share that training, however.)

But while every single selection is up for debate, it’s fantastic to see history animated in our digital musical age. It’s proof that the download-and-stream era need not forget its history – even on Facebook.

Navigate the timeline on Facebook:
Bleep’s Guide to Electronic Music, Facebook Timeline

…and then give the compilation a listen:

  • a_w_young

    Seems to really conveniently leave out some very significant events and labels in favor of promoting all things under their banner. Then again, that’s kind of the point of this kind of thing.. it was created for brand marketing.  As long as people don’t think it’s some complete and accurate history of things, it’s a cool thing to see.

    • Peter Kirn

      Well, wait a minute. A significant number of the labels they mention aren’t available on Bleep, as far as the Timeline goes. The Timeline appears to me to be a separate editorial entity. As for the compilation, it is actually downloadable — that is, it *has* to be available on Bleep; it’s not “brand marketing.”

      The trick is, having just been faced with this on a book project, you really have to leave out all kinds of things in order to do a history, unless you’re writing an encyclopedia. So, the challenge is to try to pick meaningful samples. I agree; you shouldn’t take it as comprehensive. But you can’t read an encyclopedia from beginning to end, anyway, so having a bit of a sample may be more useful for people to process.

    • a_w_young

       What I’m saying is that some of the most significant items have been left out because of being “the competition”, I’m assuming.

      I’m not going to get into listing examples because I don’t feel like fighting back a sea of fanboy arguments but I am very surprised at the exclusion of several of the most influential things to happen to electronic music both as a form and as a culture.

    • Peter Kirn

      Fanboys of what, Bleep?

      Which examples do you mean?

    • a_w_young

      Replying here because it won’t let me below…

      Very quickly: It’s missing virtually all “techno” developments, and lists smaller labels that distribute under the bleep umbrella while skipping over really important ones. It’s not arbitrary. It’s just creative advertising/marketing. I get it and don’t have a problem with it.

  • Paradiddle

    I like the list. I don’t get the conspiracy over here. For sure some things have been left out but then electronic music is more than just “significant techno developments”.

  • Gwailo

    While submarine periscope operators may quibble with my suggestion, I believe it is in fact “navel-gazing”, as in contemplating one’s own bellybutton. Love the blog!