Month: November 2015

Precautions to Take While Handling Electronic Items

rgElectronic items are loved by all. However, do you know about the precautions that you need to take while using electronics? Well, not many do know a lot about the precautions that need to be taken. Electronic items can be delicate and it is necessary that the proper precautions are taken to protect the device.

Understanding the basics

Electronics and electrical equipments are a very important and inevitable part of day to day lives. However, one needs to know how to handle and use these electronic items as well.

Precautions while handling electronics

All the electrical appliances and electronics are semiconducting devices and have circuit designs. So it is very important to handle them properly so as to minimize damage and malfunction. Circuits can malfunction under different circumstances. One of the most common causes of damage to these electronics is the application of stress like variation is temperature, the rate of current flow and the voltage applied. These variables should always be kept within the limits which are permissible by the manufacturer.

Protection of the pins

Pins are those minute things that connect the semiconductor devices present in the electronic appliances to the power supply or the input and output sources. When the pins are connected to the high output sources, care should be taken to prevent shortening of the circuit. This could lead to damage of the appliance and may decrease the life of the appliance. Also, the unconnected pins should never be connected to currents of high impedance as it can also lead to damage of the electronic appliance.

Precautions while using electronics

Most electronic devices come with some instructions which should be kept in mind while using them. The manufacturers as well as users should keep these instructions in mind and take precautions. For instance, if you buy a hand held game console, the precautions state that you should not expose the device to water and should take regular breaks while playing.

Precautions while storing and transporting electronics

Storing the electronic devices properly is also very important. Since all semiconductor electronics are made up of very minute and delicate electronic circuits, they should be stored with proper care. They should be kept away from moisture, extreme changes in temperature and heat. To avoid damage during transportation, these electronics are stored in big aluminum containers with silicon coating to prevent damage during storage as well as transporting the electronics.

Also, one other important thing which should be kept in mind is that electronic items made up of plastic bodies are highly susceptible to fire. Also, in case of an emergency, one should always call in for help and be cautious not to go near the appliances. Electronic items should be properly charged as well, like in the case of computers and mobile phones. At the end of the day, you need to understand that electronic items and electronic devices should be kept and stored properly in order to use them for long.

Understanding the world of electronics

Statistically, the number of electronic goods sold has gone up phenomenally in the last few years. With the industrialization of the world, it is simple to assume that the sale of electronic goods and items will just double or even treble in the coming years. Given this fact, it is absolutely essential that people know how to handle the electronic goods, especially electronic gadgets that need to be handled with utmost care. Not knowing how to take proper care of your electronic gadget can be costly and can lead to health problems as well as damaging the electronic device itself.

 

Publishing And Digital And Electronic Rights

rThe following publishing industry article addresses some of the legal issues arising for publishing lawyers, entertainment attorneys, authors, and others as a result of the prevalence of e-mail, the Internet, and so-called “digital” and “electronic publishing”. As usual, publishing law generally and the law of the digital right and electronic right specifically, governing these commercial activities, has been slow to catch up to the activity itself. Yet most of the publishing industry “gray areas” can be resolved by imposing old common-sense interpretations upon new publishing lawyer and entertainment lawyer industry constructs, including the digital right and electronic right, and others. And if after reviewing this article you believe you have a non-jargonized handle on the distinction between “digital right” and “electronic right” in the publishing context, then I look forward to hearing from you and reading your article, too.

1. “Electronic Right[s]” And “Digital Right[s]” Are Not Self-Defining.

All publishing lawyers, entertainment attorneys, authors, and others must be very careful about the use of jargon – publishing industry jargon, or otherwise. Electronic and digital publishing is a recent phenomenon. Although as a publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney and unlike some others, I tend to use the phrase “electronic right” or even “digital right” in the singular number, there probably tends to be no single consensus as to what constitutes and collectively comprises the singular “electronic right” or “digital right”. There has not been sufficient time for the publishing, media, or entertainment industries to fully crystallize accurate and complete definitions of phrases like “electronic publishing”, “web publishing”, “electronic right[s]”, “e-rights”, “digital rights”, or “first electronic rights”.

These phrases are therefore usually just assumed or, worse yet, just plain fudged. Anyone who suggests that these phrases alone are already self-defining, would be wrong.

Accordingly, anyone, including a publishing lawyer or paralegal representing a book publisher or entertainment lawyer representing a studio or producer, who says that an author should do – or not do – something in the realm of the “electronic right” or “digital right” because it is “industry-standard”, should automatically be treated with suspicion and skepticism.

The fact of the matter is, this is a great era for authors as well as author-side publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, and they should seize the moment. The fact that “industry-standard” definitions of the electronic right and digital right have yet to fully crystallize, (if indeed they ever do), means that authors and author-side publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys can take advantage of this moment in history.

Of course, authors can also be taken advantage of, too – particularly those not represented by a publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney. There is a long and unfortunate history of that happening, well prior to the advent of the electronic right and digital right. It has probably happened since the days of the Gutenberg Press.

Every author should be represented by a publishing lawyer, entertainment attorney, or other counsel before signing any publishing or other agreement, provided that their own economic resources will allow it. (But I am admittedly biased in that regard). Part of the publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney’s function in representing the author, is to tease apart the different strands that collectively comprise the electronic right or digital right. This must be done with updated reference to current technology. If your advisor on this point is instead a family member with a Smith-Corona cartridge typewriter or a Commodore PET, rather than an entertainment attorney or publishing lawyer, then it may be time to seek a new advisor.

Even authors who cannot afford publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney counsel, however, should avoid agreeing in writing to give broad contractual grants to publishers of “electronic publishing” – or the “electronic right”, or “electronic rights” or “digital rights”, or the “digital right”. Rather, in the words of “Tears For Fears”, the author and author counsel had “better break it down again”. Before agreeing to grant anyone the author’s “digital right: or “electronic right”, or any elements thereof, the author and his or her publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney need to make a list of all the possible and manifold electronic ways that the written work could be disseminated, exploited, or digitally or electronically otherwise used. Notice that the author’s list will likely vary, month to month, given the fast pace of technological advancements. For example, these kinds of questions can be considered by the author and publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney alike:

Electronic Digital Right Question #1, Asked By The Publishing Lawyer/Entertainment Attorney To The Author: Can the work be published in whole or in part on the Internet? In the context of an “e-zine”? Otherwise? If so, how? For what purpose? Free to the reader? For a charge to the reader?

Electronic Digital Right Question #2, Asked By The Publishing Lawyer/Entertainment Attorney To The Author: Can the work be disseminated through private e-mail lists or “listservs”? Free to the reader? For a charge to the reader?

Electronic Digital Right Question #3, Asked By The Publishing Lawyer/Entertainment Attorney To The Author: Can the work be distributed on CD-Rom? By whom? In what manner and context?

Electronic Digital Right Question #4, Asked By The Publishing Lawyer/Entertainment Attorney To The Author: To what extent does the author, himself or herself, wish to self-publish this work, either before or after granting any electronic right or any individual “electronic publishing” rights therein to someone else? Will such self-publication occur on or through the author’s website? Otherwise?

Electronic Digital Right Question #5, Asked By The Publishing Lawyer/Entertainment Attorney To The Author: Even if the author does not self-publish, to what extent does the author wish to be able to use and disseminate this writing for his or her own portfolio, publicity, or self-marketing purposes, and perhaps disseminate that same writing (or excerpts thereof) electronically? Should that be deemed invasive of, or competitive with, the electronic right as otherwise contractually and collectively constituted?

The above list is illustrative but not exhaustive. Any author and any publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney will likely think of other elements of the electronic and digital right and other uses as well. The number of possible uses and complexities of the electronic right[s] and digital right[s] definitions will increase as technology advances. In addition, different authors will have different responses to the publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney, to each of the carefully-itemized questions. Moreover, the same author may be concerned with the electronic right in the context of one of his/her works, but may not care so much in the context of a second and different work not as susceptible to digital right exploitation. Therefore, the author must self-examine on these types of electronic and digital right questions before responding to the author’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney and then entering into each individual deal. Only by doing so can the author avoid the pitfalls and perils of relying upon lingo, and relying upon someone else to dictate to them what is the electronic right or digital right “industry standard”. As the publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney should opine, “There is no such thing as ‘industry standard’ in the context of a bilaterally-negotiated contract. The only standard that you the author should be worried about is the motivational ‘standard’ known as: ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get'”.

Finally, the author should be aware that while the electronic right, digital right, and components thereof can be expressly granted, they can also be expressly reserved to the author, by a mere stroke of the pen or keystroke made by the publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney. For example, if an author wants to expressly reserve the “portfolio uses” mentioned in Electronic Digital Right Question #5 above, then the author should ask his or her publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney to clearly recite this reservation of the author portfolio electronic/digital right in the contract, and leave nothing to chance. In addition, if the author has some negotiating leverage, the author, through the publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney, may be able to negotiate the “safety net” of a “savings clause” which provides words to the effect that: “all rights not expressly granted to publisher, be it an electronic right or digital right or otherwise, are specifically reserved to author for his/her sole use and benefit”. That way, the “default provision” of the contract may automatically capture un-granted rights including any electronic or digital right for the author’s later use. This publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney drafting technique has likely saved empires in the past.

2. Publishers and Entertainment Companies Are Revising Their Boilerplate Agreements, As We Speak, In An Effort To Secure The Electronic Right[s].

It is well-known and should come as no surprise that right now, as we speak, publishers and their in-house and outside counsel publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys are furiously re-drafting their boilerplate contracts to more thoroughly capture the digital and electronic right – that is, all of an author’s digital and electronic rights. The typical publishing agreement drafted by a company-side publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney will recite a broad grant of rights, then followed by a whole laundry-list of “including but not limited to” examples. If the author receives such an onerous-looking rights passage from a publisher or the publisher’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney, the author should not be intimidated. Rather, the author should look at it as an opportunity to make some money and have some fun. The author can first compare the list suggested in Electronic Digital Right Questions #1 through #5 above, to the publisher’s own laundry-list and the author’s own imagination. Then, the author can decide which if any of the separate digital or electronic rights the author wants to fight to keep for himself or herself.

If the publisher tells the author to blindly subscribe to their entire digital or electronic right[s] clause (or clauses), then the author still has the ultimate leverage, which is to walk away from the proposed deal prior to signature. Of course, this strategic approach wouldn’t be advisable in most cases – unless perhaps if the author has other written offers from other publishers already on the table. However, an author shouldn’t be forced by any publisher or any company-side publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney to sign away the electronic right, digital right, or any other rights that the author would rather keep – particularly rights which the author never specifically intended to shop to the publisher in the first instance.

The author should keep in mind the psychology and motivations of the publishers and their publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney counsel when doing all of this. A Vice-President (or above) at the publishing company probably woke up one recent morning, and realized that his/her company lost a great deal of money on a particular project by not taking a prospective license or assignment of an electronic right or digital right from another author. The VP probably then blamed the company’s in-house legal department publishing lawyers or entertainment attorneys, who in turn started frantically re-drafting the company boilerplate to assuage the angry publishing executive and thereby keep their jobs. When in-house publishing lawyers, entertainment attorneys, or others engage in this type of practice (some may call it “drafting from fear”), they tend to go overboard.

Accordingly, what you will probably see is a proverbial “kitchen sink” electronic right clause which has been newly-drafted and perhaps even insufficiently reviewed by the company-side publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, internally and themselves – wherein the publisher will ask the author for every possible electronic and digital right and every other thing, including (without limitation) the kitchen sink. The only response to such a broad-band electronic right or digital right clause is a careful, deliberate, and methodical reply.

Using the approach outlined in Section #1 above, the author and the author’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney counsel must separately tease apart each use and component of the electronic right and digital right that the publisher’s broad-band clause might otherwise capture, and then opine to the publisher a “yes” or a “no” on each line-item. In other words, the author, through his or her publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney, should exercise his or her line-item veto. It’s the author’s writing that we are talking about, after all. The author should be the one to convert the singular “electronic right” or “digital right” into the laundry-list of electronic rights. That’s why I use the singular number when referring to “electronic right” or “digital right” – I like to let the technologically-advanced author have all the fun making the list. That way, too, the author can tell me what he or she thinks the phrases actually mean, and what the difference between the two meanings really is, if anything.

Next, a few words in defense of the publishers and the publishing lawyers that work for them!

Up to now, this article discussed how phrases like the “digital right” or “electronic right” should not be assumed to be self-defining, even by and between publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, and how it is incumbent upon authors to reserve needed rights like the digital right or the electronic right to themselves in the context of a publishing deal. Next up, let’s examine concepts such as the digital right or electronic right from the perspective of the publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney, and the standpoint of fairness – who between author and publisher should in fact hold on to the digital right and electronic right, once and assuming that they are first properly defined?

3. Yes, Digital Right And Electronic Right Uses Do Compete With Traditional Book Publishing Uses.

A publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney may be called upon to handle an author-side deal. A publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney may also be called upon to handle, under different factual circumstances, a publisher-side deal. So, now, a few words in defense of publishers, I suppose.

There is a perception in the author and Internet communities that publishers should not be taking broad grants of the digital right or electronic right from authors, since “digital rights and electronic rights do not compete or interfere with traditional book publishing and other media rights”.

Not true. Not anymore. For proof of that fact, ask a few veteran news desk editors whether or not they followed, or were otherwise concerned about, what appeared on the Drudge Report during the Clinton administration. Ask the CFO’s or in-house publishing lawyers of a few traditional encyclopedia companies how they feel about Wikipedia.

Incidentally, although as a publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney and unlike some others, I tend to use the phrase “electronic right” or even “digital right” in the singular number, there probably tends to be no single consensus as to what constitutes and collectively comprises the singular “electronic right” or “digital right”. There has not been sufficient time for the publishing, media, or entertainment industries to fully crystallize accurate and complete definitions of phrases like “electronic publishing”, “web publishing”, “electronic right[s]”, “e-rights”, “digital right[s]”, or “first electronic rights”.

Nevertheless, electronic media and specifically the digital right and electronic right, have already changed our history. You can be sure that they will have some effect, at a minimum, on most author’s individual publishing deals henceforth, and will be the fodder of publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney discussion for years to come. The fact is, electronic uses inherent in the digital right and the electronic right already do compete with older, more traditional uses – particularly because digital and electronic uses are cheaper and faster to deploy, and can potentially reach millions of users in less than, as Jackson Browne might say, the blink of an eye.

Commerce is increasingly relying upon the Internet and other electronic phenomena, and the linchpin of this reliance is the digital right and electronic right. After all, you are reading this article, and ostensibly gleaning some information or material from it. The Web, for example, has already put a sizable dent in dictionary and encyclopedia sales, and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably an employee in a dictionary or encyclopedia publishing company or publishing lawyer in-houser in denial of the digital and electronic right, trying to protect his/her stock options. As the recent and well-known Stephen King pilot program will attest, fiction is the next subject matter area to be affected. Many of us book lovers including publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys don’t like to think about it, but bound hard-copy books may soon become the sole province of book collectors and publishing lawyer vanity bookcases alone. The vast majority of book readers, however, may so wholly embrace the digital right and electronic right that they soon even lose the patience to wait for their “amazon.com” mailed shipment.

Very few people who work in the publishing, media, and entertainment industries, including as amongst fair-minded publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, should dispute that electronic uses inherent in the digital right and electronic right can easily cannibalize the older and more traditional forms and formats. This cannibalization will only increase, not decrease, as time goes on. Again, the author should put himself/herself in the mind-set of the publisher or its in-house publishing lawyer, when having this digital right/electronic right argument with the publisher or publishing lawyer. The publisher otherwise may want to invest marketing and personnel support in the author’s work, and perhaps even pay the author an advance for the writing. In their view, though, the publisher’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney argues, why should they do so, and not also capture the author’s digital right or electronic right?

The last thing that the publisher or its publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney wants to do is to pay the author – and then discover that the author has “scooped” the publication with the author-reserved digital right or electronic right, stolen the publisher’s proverbial fire, and undermined the publisher’s investment in the author and the writing. The concern of the publisher and the book company’s in-house publishing lawyer or outside entertainment attorney is rational and valid. If the publisher allows the author to potentially undercut the book by exploiting author’s reserved digital right or electronic right, then the publisher is threatening the publisher’s own investment in the author and in the written work. (And on some subliminal level at least, the company’s in-house publishing lawyer also knows that this could come out of his or her future comp).

Compromises are available. One traditional compromise effected between publishing lawyers or entertainment attorneys is a so-called “hold-back” on the digital right or electronic right, whereby the author promises not to use or license-out any author-reserved digital right or electronic right for a certain period of time following publication. The author will need some leverage to get a publisher to agree to such a compromise, though. And a publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney should draft the clause – the author’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney, not the publisher’s counsel!

An author may think that small “portfolio” uses (e.g., tucked inside greeting cards, on an author’s personal web site, etc.) are so minor, that they will never compete with publishing rights granted for the same work, and may tell the publisher or the company’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney as much. The greeting card example does seem innocuous enough, but the publisher and its entertainment or publishing lawyer will likely not agree with the author regarding the author’s personal web site. It is the electronic right or the digital right that really scares publishers and their publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, and is perceived as threatening to their long-term investment in the author and his or her work.

The distinction to be made here is between hard-copy portfolio uses, and digital right or electronic right “portfolio uses”. The fact is that computer-uploaded text is so easy and quick to transmit, receive, and read. The posted content’s popularity could also spread like digital wildfire, so quickly – for example, if a company hyper-links to the author’s site, or if “Yahoo” bumps the author’s site up in their search-engine pecking-order. Many successes have already been made by virtue of digital right and electronic right self-publishing, and more will follow. Traditional (book) publishers and their publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys already realize this fact. Accordingly, traditional book publishers and their counsel also realize that once they acknowledge an author’s reservation of a “self-promotion” digital right or electronic right, they risk losing control of a potential wildfire dissemination method. Again, this would put the publisher’s investment at risk – but smart business people and companies and the publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys that represent them, don’t put their own investments at risk.

4. The Party To The Contract That Has The Better And More Immediate Means and Resources To Exploit The Electronic Rights, Should Be The One Who Takes The Electronic Rights.

Here is the final point. If a contracting party has no means and resources to exploit a digital right or electronic right or a given bundle of them, then that same party has no business taking (or reserving to themselves) those same digital or electronic rights by contract or even negotiating such a position by and between publishing lawyers or entertainment attorneys. To analogize, if I am a screenwriter who options or sells my script to the Acme Production Company, LLC, through an entertainment lawyer, how should I react if Acme asks me to specifically and contractually grant them “theme park rights” in my literary property in the negotiation between the entertainment attorneys? (Don’t laugh – this practice is now very prevalent in film and entertainment deals).

Well, if Acme doesn’t have its own theme park, I (or my entertainment attorney) now have a powerful argument for reserving the theme park rights to myself instead. “Hey, Acme”, I (or my entertainment attorney) say, “… how do you have the unmitigated gall to ask me for my theme park rights, when you don’t even have the ability to exploit or use them yourself? You don’t even have a theme park!” I (or my entertainment attorney) then make it clear to Acme that I don’t intend to be giving them any trophies that they can put on a shelf to collect proverbial dust.

The same argument can work in the publishing context, particularly as argued between publishing lawyers and entertainment attorneys, regarding the digital right or the electronic right. The author can proverbially cross-examine the publisher (or try to cross-examine the company’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney) as to what successful past uses they have made of other author’s digital rights or electronic rights across multiple books. The company President may fudge the answer, but the publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney representing the publisher must answer truthfully. (One good reason to negotiate through counsel).

If the true answer to the question is “none”, then the author can use the “trophy” argument stated above. If the true answer is, alternatively, “some”, then the author has a negotiating opportunity to compel the publisher and its publishing lawyer and entertainment attorney to contractually commit to digitally and electronically publish the author’s work, too. The author can argue: “I won’t grant you the digital right or electronic right unless you, publisher, contractually commit in advance as to how specifically you will exploit them, and how much money you will spend in their development and marketing”. The author or the author’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney can then carve those electronic right and digital right commitments right directly into the contract, if the author has the leverage to do so. Again, one should not try this at home – but instead use a publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney.

Needless to say, once the author makes the publisher commit, presumably through publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney counsel, to a development budget or other marketing or “release” commitment for the digital right or the electronic right, then both the author and the publisher might thereby also have some basis for numerical valuation of the rights themselves. And, it is an entirely reasonable argument for an author or author’s publishing lawyer or entertainment attorney to say to a publisher that: “I will license/sell you the following listed digital right[s] or electronic right[s] if you pay me the following additional amounts for them:_____________________. And in the blank space, the rights can be listed like menu options as they have been broken out in Item #1 above, each to which separate dollar values – that is, price-tags – are now assigned.

ATTORNEY ADVERTISEMENT

This article is not intended to, and does not constitute, legal advice with respect to your particular situation and fact pattern. Do secure counsel promptly, if you see any legal issue looming on the horizon which may affect your career or your rights. What applies in one context, may not apply to the next one. Make sure that you seek individualized legal advice as to any important matter pertaining to your career or your rights generally.

 

Electronic Music History and Today’s Best Modern Proponents!

mElectronic music history pre-dates the rock and roll era by decades. Most of us were not even on this planet when it began its often obscure, under-appreciated and misunderstood development. Today, this ‘other worldly’ body of sound which began close to a century ago, may no longer appear strange and unique as new generations have accepted much of it as mainstream, but it’s had a bumpy road and, in finding mass audience acceptance, a slow one.

Many musicians – the modern proponents of electronic music – developed a passion for analogue synthesizers in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s with signature songs like Gary Numan’s breakthrough, ‘Are Friends Electric?’. It was in this era that these devices became smaller, more accessible, more user friendly and more affordable for many of us. In this article I will attempt to trace this history in easily digestible chapters and offer examples of today’s best modern proponents.

To my mind, this was the beginning of a new epoch. To create electronic music, it was no longer necessary to have access to a roomful of technology in a studio or live. Hitherto, this was solely the domain of artists the likes of Kraftwerk, whose arsenal of electronic instruments and custom built gadgetry the rest of us could only have dreamed of, even if we could understand the logistics of their functioning. Having said this, at the time I was growing up in the 60’s & 70’s, I nevertheless had little knowledge of the complexity of work that had set a standard in previous decades to arrive at this point.

The history of electronic music owes much to Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007). Stockhausen was a German Avante Garde composer and a pioneering figurehead in electronic music from the 1950’s onwards, influencing a movement that would eventually have a powerful impact upon names such as Kraftwerk, Tangerine Dream, Brain Eno, Cabaret Voltaire, Depeche Mode, not to mention the experimental work of the Beatles’ and others in the 1960’s. His face is seen on the cover of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”, the Beatles’ 1967 master Opus. Let’s start, however, by traveling a little further back in time.

The Turn of the 20th Century

Time stood still for this stargazer when I originally discovered that the first documented, exclusively electronic, concerts were not in the 1970’s or 1980’s but in the 1920’s!

The first purely electronic instrument, the Theremin, which is played without touch, was invented by Russian scientist and cellist, Lev Termen (1896-1993), circa 1919.

In 1924, the Theremin made its concert debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. Interest generated by the theremin drew audiences to concerts staged across Europe and Britain. In 1930, the prestigious Carnegie Hall in New York, experienced a performance of classical music using nothing but a series of ten theremins. Watching a number of skilled musicians playing this eerie sounding instrument by waving their hands around its antennae must have been so exhilarating, surreal and alien for a pre-tech audience!

For those interested, check out the recordings of Theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore (1911-1998). Lithuanian born Rockmore (Reisenberg) worked with its inventor in New York to perfect the instrument during its early years and became its most acclaimed, brilliant and recognized performer and representative throughout her life.

In retrospect Clara, was the first celebrated ‘star’ of genuine electronic music. You are unlikely to find more eerie, yet beautiful performances of classical music on the Theremin. She’s definitely a favorite of mine!

Electronic Music in Sci-Fi, Cinema and Television

Unfortunately, and due mainly to difficulty in skill mastering, the Theremin’s future as a musical instrument was short lived. Eventually, it found a niche in 1950’s Sci-Fi films. The 1951 cinema classic “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, with a soundtrack by influential American film music composer Bernard Hermann (known for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”, etc.), is rich with an ‘extraterrestrial’ score using two Theremins and other electronic devices melded with acoustic instrumentation.

Using the vacuum-tube oscillator technology of the Theremin, French cellist and radio telegraphist, Maurice Martenot (1898-1980), began developing the Ondes Martenot (in French, known as the Martenot Wave) in 1928.

Employing a standard and familiar keyboard which could be more easily mastered by a musician, Martenot’s instrument succeeded where the Theremin failed in being user-friendly. In fact, it became the first successful electronic instrument to be used by composers and orchestras of its period until the present day.

It is featured on the theme to the original 1960’s TV series “Star Trek”, and can be heard on contemporary recordings by the likes of Radiohead and Brian Ferry.

The expressive multi-timbral Ondes Martenot, although monophonic, is the closest instrument of its generation I have heard which approaches the sound of modern synthesis.

“Forbidden Planet”, released in 1956, was the first major commercial studio film to feature an exclusively electronic soundtrack… aside from introducing Robbie the Robot and the stunning Anne Francis! The ground-breaking score was produced by husband and wife team Louis and Bebe Barron who, in the late 1940’s, established the first privately owned recording studio in the USA recording electronic experimental artists such as the iconic John Cage (whose own Avante Garde work challenged the definition of music itself!).

The Barrons are generally credited for having widening the application of electronic music in cinema. A soldering iron in one hand, Louis built circuitry which he manipulated to create a plethora of bizarre, ‘unearthly’ effects and motifs for the movie. Once performed, these sounds could not be replicated as the circuit would purposely overload, smoke and burn out to produce the desired sound result.

Consequently, they were all recorded to tape and Bebe sifted through hours of reels edited what was deemed usable, then re-manipulated these with delay and reverberation and creatively dubbed the end product using multiple tape decks.

In addition to this laborious work method, I feel compelled to include that which is, arguably, the most enduring and influential electronic Television signature ever: the theme to the long running 1963 British Sci-Fi adventure series, “Dr. Who”. It was the first time a Television series featured a solely electronic theme. The theme to “Dr. Who” was created at the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop using tape loops and test oscillators to run through effects, record these to tape, then were re-manipulated and edited by another Electro pioneer, Delia Derbyshire, interpreting the composition of Ron Grainer.

As you can see, electronic music’s prevalent usage in vintage Sci-Fi was the principle source of the general public’s perception of this music as being ‘other worldly’ and ‘alien-bizarre sounding’. This remained the case till at least 1968 with the release of the hit album “Switched-On Bach” performed entirely on a Moog modular synthesizer by Walter Carlos (who, with a few surgical nips and tucks, subsequently became Wendy Carlos).

The 1970’s expanded electronic music’s profile with the break through of bands like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream, and especially the 1980’s when it found more mainstream acceptance.

The Mid 1900’s: Musique Concrete

In its development through the 1900’s, electronic music was not solely confined to electronic circuitry being manipulated to produce sound. Back in the 1940’s, a relatively new German invention – the reel-to-reel tape recorder developed in the 1930’s – became the subject of interest to a number of Avante Garde European composers, most notably the French radio broadcaster and composer Pierre Schaeffer (1910-1995) who developed a montage technique he called Musique Concrete.

Musique Concrete (meaning ‘real world’ existing sounds as opposed to artificial or acoustic ones produced by musical instruments) broadly involved the splicing together of recorded segments of tape containing ‘found’ sounds – natural, environmental, industrial and human – and manipulating these with effects such as delay, reverb, distortion, speeding up or slowing down of tape-speed (varispeed), reversing, etc.

Stockhausen actually held concerts utilizing his Musique Concrete works as backing tapes (by this stage electronic as well as ‘real world’ sounds were used on the recordings) on top of which live instruments would be performed by classical players responding to the mood and motifs they were hearing!

Musique Concrete had a wide impact not only on Avante Garde and effects libraries, but also on the contemporary music of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Important works to check are the Beatles’ use of this method in ground-breaking tracks like ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, ‘Revolution No. 9’ and ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite’, as well as Pink Floyd albums “Umma Gumma”, “Dark Side of the Moon” and Frank Zappa’s “Lumpy Gravy”. All used tape cut-ups and home-made tape loops often fed live into the main mixdown.

Today this can be performed with simplicity using digital sampling, but yesterday’s heroes labored hours, days and even weeks to perhaps complete a four minute piece! For those of us who are contemporary musicians, understanding the history of electronic music helps in appreciating the quantum leap technology has taken in the recent period. But these early innovators, these pioneers – of which there are many more down the line – and the important figures they influenced that came before us, created the revolutionary groundwork that has become our electronic musical heritage today and for this I pay them homage!

1950’s: The First Computer and Synth Play Music

Moving forward a few years to 1957 and enter the first computer into the electronic mix. As you can imagine, it wasn’t exactly a portable laptop device but consumed a whole room and user friendly wasn’t even a concept. Nonetheless creative people kept pushing the boundaries. One of these was Max Mathews (1926 -) from Bell Telephone Laboratories, New Jersey, who developed Music 1, the original music program for computers upon which all subsequent digital synthesis has its roots based. Mathews, dubbed the ‘Father of Computer Music’, using a digital IBM Mainframe, was the first to synthesize music on a computer.

In the climax of Stanley Kubrik’s 1968 movie ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, use is made of a 1961 Mathews’ electronic rendition of the late 1800’s song ‘Daisy Bell’. Here the musical accompaniment is performed by his programmed mainframe together with a computer-synthesized human ‘singing’ voice technique pioneered in the early 60’s. In the movie, as HAL the computer regresses, ‘he’ reverts to this song, an homage to ‘his’ own origins.

1957 also witnessed the first advanced synth, the RCA Mk II Sound Synthesizer (an improvement on the 1955 original). It also featured an electronic sequencer to program music performance playback. This massive RCA Synth was installed, and still remains, at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, New York, where the legendary Robert Moog worked for a while. Universities and Tech laboratories were the main home for synth and computer music experimentation in that early era.

1960’s: The Dawning of The Age of Moog

The logistics and complexity of composing and even having access to what were, until then, musician unfriendly synthesizers, led to a demand for more portable playable instruments. One of the first to respond, and definitely the most successful, was Robert Moog (1934-2005). His playable synth employed the familiar piano style keyboard.

Moog’s bulky telephone-operators’ cable plug-in type of modular synth was not one to be transported and set up with any amount of ease or speed! But it received an enormous boost in popularity with the success of Walter Carlos, as previously mentioned, in 1968. His LP (Long Player) best seller record “Switched-On Bach” was unprecedented because it was the first time an album appeared of fully synthesized music, as opposed to experimental sound pieces.

The album was a complex classical music performance with various multi-tracks and overdubs necessary, as the synthesizer was only monophonic! Carlos also created the electronic score for “A Clockwork Orange”, Stanley Kubrik’s disturbing 1972 futuristic film.

From this point, the Moog synth is prevalent on a number of late 1960’s contemporary albums. In 1967 the Monkees’ “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd” became the first commercial pop album release to feature the modular Moog. In fact, singer/drummer Mickey Dolenz purchased one of the very first units sold.

It wasn’t until the early 1970’s, however, when the first Minimoog appeared that interest seriously developed amongst musicians. This portable little unit with a fat sound had a significant impact becoming part of live music kit for many touring musicians for years to come. Other companies such as Sequential Circuits, Roland and Korg began producing their own synths, giving birth to a music subculture.

I cannot close the chapter on the 1960’s, however, without reference to the Mellotron. This electronic-mechanical instrument is often viewed as the primitive precursor to the modern digital sampler.

Developed in early 1960’s Britain and based on the Chamberlin (a cumbersome US-designed instrument from the previous decade), the Mellotron keyboard triggered pre-recorded tapes, each key corresponding to the equivalent note and pitch of the pre-loaded acoustic instrument.

The Mellotron is legendary for its use on the Beatles’ 1966 song ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. A flute tape-bank is used on the haunting introduction played by Paul McCartney.

The instrument’s popularity burgeoned and was used on many recordings of the era such as the immensely successful Moody Blues epic ‘Nights in White Satin’. The 1970’s saw it adopted more and more by progressive rock bands. Electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream featured it on their early albums.

With time and further advances in microchip technology though, this charming instrument became a relic of its period.

1970’s: The Birth of Vintage Electronic Bands

The early fluid albums of Tangerine Dream such as “Phaedra” from 1974 and Brian Eno’s work with his self-coined ‘ambient music’ and on David Bowie’s “Heroes” album, further drew interest in the synthesizer from both musicians and audience.

Kraftwerk, whose 1974 seminal album “Autobahn” achieved international commercial success, took the medium even further adding precision, pulsating electronic beats and rhythms and sublime synth melodies. Their minimalism suggested a cold, industrial and computerized-urban world. They often utilized vocoders and speech synthesis devices such as the gorgeously robotic ‘Speak and Spell’ voice emulator, the latter being a children’s learning aid!

While inspired by the experimental electronic works of Stockhausen, as artists, Kraftwerk were the first to successfully combine all the elements of electronically generated music and noise and produce an easily recognizable song format. The addition of vocals in many of their songs, both in their native German tongue and English, helped earn them universal acclaim becoming one of the most influential contemporary music pioneers and performers of the past half-century.

Kraftwerk’s 1978 gem ‘Das Modell’ hit the UK number one spot with a reissued English language version, ‘The Model’, in February 1982, making it one of the earliest Electro chart toppers!

Ironically, though, it took a movement that had no association with EM (Electronic Music) to facilitate its broader mainstream acceptance. The mid 1970’s punk movement, primarily in Britain, brought with it a unique new attitude: one that gave priority to self-expression rather than performance dexterity and formal training, as embodied by contemporary progressive rock musicians. The initial aggression of metallic punk transformed into a less abrasive form during the late 1970’s: New Wave. This, mixed with the comparative affordability of many small, easy to use synthesizers, led to the commercial synth explosion of the early 1980’s.

A new generation of young people began to explore the potential of these instruments and began to create soundscapes challenging the prevailing perspective of contemporary music. This didn’t arrive without battle scars though. The music industry establishment, especially in its media, often derided this new form of expression and presentation and was anxious to consign it to the dustbin of history.

1980’s: The First Golden Era of Electronic Music for the Masses

Gary Numan became arguably the first commercial synth megastar with the 1979 “Tubeway Army” hit ‘Are Friends Electric?’. The Sci-Fi element is not too far away once again. Some of the imagery is drawn from the Science Fiction classic, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”. The 1982 hit film “Blade Runner” was also based on the same book.

Although ‘Are Friends Electric?’ featured conventional drum and bass backing, its dominant use of Polymoogs gives the song its very distinctive sound. The recording was the first synth-based release to achieve number one chart status in the UK during the post-punk years and helped usher in a new genre. No longer was electronic and/or synthesizer music consigned to the mainstream sidelines. Exciting!

Further developments in affordable electronic technology placed electronic squarely in the hands of young creators and began to transform professional studios.

Designed in Australia in 1978, the Fairlight Sampler CMI became the first commercially available polyphonic digital sampling instrument but its prohibitive cost saw it solely in use by the likes of Trevor Horn, Stevie Wonder and Peter Gabriel. By mid-decade, however, smaller, cheaper instruments entered the market such as the ubiquitous Akai and Emulator Samplers often used by musicians live to replicate their studio-recorded sounds. The Sampler revolutionized the production of music from this point on.

In most major markets, with the qualified exception of the US, the early 1980’s was commercially drawn to electro-influenced artists. This was an exciting era for many of us, myself included. I know I wasn’t alone in closeting the distorted guitar and amps and immersing myself into a new universe of musical expression – a sound world of the abstract and non traditional.

At home, Australian synth based bands Real Life (‘Send Me An Angel’, “Heartland” album), Icehouse (‘Hey Little Girl’) and Pseudo Echo (‘Funky Town’) began to chart internationally, and more experimental electronic outfits like Severed Heads and SPK also developed cult followings overseas.

But by mid-decade the first global electronic wave lost its momentum amidst resistance fomented by an unrelenting old school music media. Most of the artists that began the decade as predominantly electro-based either disintegrated or heavily hybrid their sound with traditional rock instrumentation.

The USA, the largest world market in every sense, remained in the conservative music wings for much of the 1980’s. Although synth-based records did hit the American charts, the first being Human League’s 1982 US chart topper ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby?’, on the whole it was to be a few more years before the American mainstream embraced electronic music, at which point it consolidated itself as a dominant genre for musicians and audiences alike, worldwide.

1988 was somewhat of a watershed year for electronic music in the US. Often maligned in the press in their early years, it was Depeche Mode that unintentionally – and mostly unaware – spearheaded this new assault. From cult status in America for much of the decade, their new high-play rotation on what was now termed Modern Rock radio resulted in mega stadium performances. An Electro act playing sold out arenas was not common fare in the USA at that time!

In 1990, fan pandemonium in New York to greet the members at a central record shop made TV news, and their “Violator” album outselling Madonna and Prince in the same year made them a US household name. Electronic music was here to stay, without a doubt!

1990’s Onward: The Second Golden Era of Electronic Music for the Masses

Before our ‘star music’ secured its hold on the US mainstream, and while it was losing commercial ground elsewhere throughout much of the mid 1980’s, Detroit and Chicago became unassuming laboratories for an explosion of Electronic Music which would see out much of the 1990’s and onwards. Enter Techno and House.

Detroit in the 1980’s, a post-Fordism US industrial wasteland, produced the harder European influenced Techno. In the early to mid 80’s, Detroiter Juan Atkins, an obsessive Kraftwerk fan, together with Derrick May and Kevin Saunderson – using primitive, often borrowed equipment – formed the backbone of what would become, together with House, the predominant music club-culture throughout the world. Heavily referenced artists that informed early Techno development were European pioneers such as the aforementioned Kraftwerk, as well as Yello and British Electro acts the likes of Depeche Mode, Human League, Heaven 17, New Order and Cabaret Voltaire.

Chicago, a four-hour drive away, simultaneously saw the development of House. The name is generally considered to be derived from “The Warehouse” where various DJ-Producers featured this new music amalgam. House has its roots in 1970’s disco and, unlike Techno, usually has some form of vocal. I think Giorgio Moroder’s work in the mid 70’s with Donna Summer, especially the song ‘I Feel Love’, is pivotal in appreciating the 70’s disco influences upon burgeoning Chicago House.

A myriad of variants and sub genres have developed since – crossing the Atlantic, reworked and back again – but in many ways the popular success of these two core forms revitalized the entire Electronic landscape and its associated social culture. Techno and House helped to profoundly challenge mainstream and Alternative Rock as the preferred listening choice for a new generation: a generation who has grown up with electronic music and accepts it as a given. For them, it is music that has always been.

The history of electronic music continues to be written as technology advances and people’s expectations of where music can go continues to push it forward, increasing its vocabulary and lexicon.

What’s In The Future For Electronics Recycling

wvElectronics recycling in the U.S. is growing as the industry consolidates and matures. The future of electronics recycling – at least in the U.S., and perhaps globally – will be driven by electronics technology, precious metals, and industry structure, in particular. Although there are other things that can influence the industry – such as consumer electronics collections, legislation and regulations and export issues – I believe that these 3 factors will have a more profound impact on the future of electronics recycling.

The most recent data on the industry – from a survey conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC) and sponsored by the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) – found that the industry (in 2010) handled approximately 3.5 million tons of electronics with revenues of $5 billion and directly employed 30,000 people – and that it has been growing at about 20% annually for the past decade. But will this growth continue?

Electronics Technology
Personal computer equipment has dominated volumes handled by the electronics recycling industry. The IDC study reported that over 60% by weight of industry input volumes was “computer equipment” (including PCs and monitors). But recent reports by IDC and Gartner show that shipments of desktop and laptop computers have declined by more than 10% and that the shipments of smartphones and tablets now each exceed that of PCs. About 1 billion smart phones will be shipped in 2013 – and for the first time exceed the volumes of conventional cell phones. And shipments of ultra-light laptops and laptop-tablet hybrids are increasing rapidly. So, we are entering the “Post-PC Era”.

In addition, CRT TVs and monitors have been a significant portion of the input volumes (by weight) in the recycling stream – up to 75% of the “consumer electronics” stream. And the demise of the CRT means that fewer CRT TVs and monitors will be entering the recycling stream – replaced by smaller/lighter flat screens.

So, what do these technology trends mean to the electronics recycling industry? Do these advances in technology, which lead to size reduction, result in a “smaller materials footprint” and less total volume (by weight)? Since mobile devices (e.g., smart phones, tablets) already represent larger volumes than PCs – and probably turn over faster – they will probably dominate the future volumes entering the recycling stream. And they are not only much smaller, but typically cost less than PCs. And, traditional laptops are being replaced by ultra-books as well as tablets – which means that the laptop equivalent is a lot smaller and weighs less.

So, even with continually increasing quantities of electronics, the weight volume entering the recycling stream may begin decreasing. Typical desktop computer processors weigh 15-20 lbs. Traditional laptop computers weigh 5-7 lbs. But the new “ultra-books” weigh 3-4 lbs. So, if “computers” (including monitors) have comprised about 60% of the total industry input volume by weight and TVs have comprised a large portion of the volume of “consumer electronics” (about 15% of the industry input volume) – then up to 75% of the input volume may be subject to the weight reduction of new technologies – perhaps as much as a 50% reduction. And, similar technology change and size reduction is occurring in other markets – e.g., telecommunications, industrial, medical, etc.

However, the inherent value of these devices may be higher than PCs and CRTs (for resale as well as scrap – per unit weight). So, industry weight volumes may decrease, but revenues could continue to increase (with resale, materials recovery value and services). And, since mobile devices are expected to turn over more rapidly than PCs (which have typically turned over in 3-5 years), these changes in the electronics recycling stream may happen within 5 years or less.

Another factor for the industry to consider, as recently reported by E-Scrap News – “The overall portability trend in computing devices, including traditional form-factors, is characterized by integrated batteries, components and non-repairable parts. With repair and refurbishment increasingly difficult for these types of devices, e-scrap processors will face significant challenges in determining the best way to manage these devices responsibly, as they gradually compose an increasing share of the end-of-life management stream.” So, does that mean that the resale potential for these smaller devices may be less?

The electronics recycling industry has traditionally focused on PCs and consumer electronics, but what about infrastructure equipment? – such as servers/data centers/cloud computing, telecom systems, cable network systems, satellite/navigation systems, defense/military systems. These sectors generally use larger, higher value equipment and have significant (and growing?) volumes. They are not generally visible or thought of when considering the electronics recycling industry, but may be an increasingly important and larger share of the volumes that it handles. And some, if not much, of this infrastructure is due to change in technology – which will result in a large volume turnover of equipment. GreenBiz.com reports that “… as the industry overhauls and replaces… servers, storage and networking gear to accommodate massive consolidation and virtualization projects and prepare for the age of cloud computing… the build-out of cloud computing, the inventory of physical IT assets will shift from the consumer to the data center… While the number of consumer devices is increasing, they are also getting smaller in size. Meanwhile, data centers are being upgraded and expanded, potentially creating a large amount of future e-waste.”

But, outside the U.S. – and in developing countries in particular – the input volume weight to the electronics recycling stream will increase significantly – as the usage of electronic devices spreads to a broader market and an infrastructure for recycling is developed. In addition, developing countries will continue to be attractive markets for the resale of used electronics.

Precious Metals
In the IDC study, over 75% by weight of industry output volumes was found to be “commodity grade scrap”. And more than half of that was “metals”. Precious metals represent a small portion of the volume – the average concentration of precious metals in electronics scrap is measured in grams per ton. But their recovery value is a significant portion of the total value of commodity grade scrap from electronics.

Precious metals prices have increased significantly in recent years. The market prices for gold, silver, palladium and platinum have each more than doubled over the past five years. However, gold and silver have historically been very volatile since their prices are driven primarily by investors. Their prices seem to have peaked – and are now significantly below their high points last year. Whereas, platinum and palladium prices have traditionally been driven by demand (e.g., manufacturing – like electronics and automotive applications) and generally more stable.

Telecommunications equipment and cell phones generally have the highest precious metals content – up to 10 times the average of scrap electronics based on per unit weight. As technology advances, the precious metals content of electronics equipment generally decreases – due to cost reduction learning. However, the smaller, newer devices (e.g., smart phones, tablets) have higher precious metals content per unit weight than conventional electronics equipment – such as PCs. So, if the weight volume of electronics equipment handled by the electronics industry decreases, and the market prices for precious metals decreases – or at least does not increase – will the recovery value of precious metals from electronics scrap decrease? Probably the recovery value of precious metals from electronics scrap per unit weight will increase since more electronics products are getting smaller/lighter, but have a higher concentration of precious metals (e.g., cell phones) than traditional e-scrap in total. So, this aspect of the industry may actually become more cost efficient. But the total industry revenue from commodity scrap – and especially precious metals – may not continue to increase.

Industry Structure
The electronics recycling industry in the U.S. can be thought of as comprising 4 tiers of companies. From the very largest – that process well in excess of 20 up to more than 200 million lbs. per year – to medium, small and the very smallest companies – that process less than 1 million lbs. per year. The top 2 tiers (which represent about 35% of the companies) process approximately 75% of the industry volume. The number of companies in “Tier 1” has already decreased due to consolidation – and continued industry consolidation will probably drive it more towards the familiar 80/20 model. Although there are over 1000 companies operating in the electronics recycling industry in the U.S., I estimate that the “Top 50” companies process almost half of the total industry volume.

What will happen to the smaller companies? The mid-size companies will either merge, acquire, get acquired or partner to compete with the larger companies. The small and smallest companies will either find a niche or disappear. So, the total number of companies in the electronics recycling industry will probably decrease. And more of the volumes will be handled by the largest companies. As with any maturing industry, the most cost efficient and profitable companies will survive and grow.

Outlook
What are the implications of these trends?
• The total weight of input volumes will probably not continue to grow (as it has at 20% annually) – and may actually decrease in the U.S.
• The electronics recycling industry will continue to consolidate – and the largest companies will handle most of the industry volumes.
• The inherent value for resale and materials recovery will probably increase per unit volume.
• Reuse and services may become a more significant part of the total industry revenue than recycling and materials recovery.

Conclusion:
In an environment of consolidation and potentially decreasing volumes, developing additional capacity or starting a new facility for electronics recycling in the U.S. could be very risky. Acquiring the most cost efficient existing capacity available would be more prudent.