It seems that the Italian composer Luciano Berio might have been responsible for the first ever electronic single…
Luciano Berio co-founded the Milan electronic music studio, Studio di fonologia musicale di Radio Milano, in 1955. It was the third electronic music studio in Europe, along with the Cologne and Paris studios and it closed down in 1983.
Berio had attended the famous International Summer Courses For New Music in Darmstadt, Germany, where he met the likes of Stockhausen, Pierre Boulez, György Ligeti and Maurice Kagel, all huge figures of mid-century contemporary classical music, following which he went back to Italy and began work on the studio.
In 1956, the year after the electronic music studio was built in Milan, he put out a seven-inch single, ‘Prospettive Nella Musica’. It was an EP, played at 33 1/3, with 10 tracks on it, eight of them on side one.
It might be the first electronic single ever released. There is a 78 of his music from 1954, but that was a transcription disc for radio broadcast, not a commercial release. Pierre Henry and Pierre Schaeffer did their first radio broadcasts in 1950, and Henry Jacobs released ‘Radio Programme No.1’ in 1955 on Folkways, but that was an album, as was ’Tape Recorder Music’ in 1955 by Vladimir Ussachevsky and Otto Luening.
Do you know why there are no copies of Berio’s single for sale on Discogs? It’s because I bought the last one. I already had one, but it’s so bloody rare, 19-50-fucking-6, and it’s an electronic single! So I bought it again! $120. I’ve got two copies now, but really come on, the first electronic single? Priceless! For an electronic music nerd, I had to buy it again.
Slightly less rare is ‘Electronic 3’, a compilation of electronic music that came out of Italy, which is a piece of art. It was released in the 1960s by a publishing company called Sugar Music, and all the artists on it are Italian. It’s subversive, pure art. They really nailed it.
Everyone on this is a giant of Italian electronic music, Bruno Maderna, Niccolo Castiglioni and Luciano Berio.
I’ve got couple of copies of that too, it’s so good, it was ahead of its time. The production values on the artwork is amazing. It’s a shame you can’t feel it, it’s really tough board, you probably can’t make them like this anymore. The sleeve has survived for 50 years, and it’s still in mint condition. It’s amazing that you can still get this on Discogs. It might be that people don’t know how good it is. It really is top-notch electronic music. It’s as good as the ‘Electronic Panorama’ four-LP set from 1970, which featured music from the electronic studios in Paris, Tokyo, Utrecht, Warsaw. It’s an Italian version of it.
Maybe one day I’ll open a record shop devoted to early and rare electronic music… but I won’t be able to sell any of the records. “Don’t even look at them. Get out. It’s my record, get out of here!”
But hats off to Luciano Berio. He was the Pierre Schaeffer of electronic music in Italy, the first guy to do it there.