May 27, 2015
The Digitally Imported Dial 12: Electronic Pioneers

We’re back with our weekly series with Digitally Imported, The Digitally Imported Dial, where we highlight some of the best channels and shows available on the Web’s premier electronic music streaming radio platform. Every channel is curated by hand, so we’ll hear from the men and women behind the scenes how they bring us the music we love.

DI’s Electronic Pioneers channel is on deck this week, a catalog-based channel that takes quite a different approach than most of the channels on Digitally Imported. We spoke to the programmer, BJ Schweinlin, to find out the nuances of curating for such a unique channel and set of listeners.

Surprisingly enough, most of BJ’s early musical experiences were not electronic:

My musical background is diverse, and oddly enough doesn’t involve much electronic music. My parents both listened to mostly Classical music and Big Band/Swing from the ’40s and ’50s. I had piano and drum lessons from a very early age, and as a teenager and young adult I played drums in various rock bands. In my mid-20s I started studying world music and music theory, and performed in various touring world music and percussion groups. In my early 30s I started learning music recording and engineering, which led to eventually opening my own studio and record label, which is mostly focused on electronic music these days. I’m currently a music producer, working in television and film, and writing, recording, and producing for two chillout electronica projects, in addition to programming the DI Electronic Pioneers channel.

BJ’s criteria for who is a “pioneer” stems mostly from the era in which the music was produced:

“Pioneer” status is based on two criteria in my mind: The first is whether the artists are actually early pioneers of electronic music, and the second is whether they are still true to those early sounds. The early artists that I choose are from the “expansion” and “popularization” eras, which means anyone from the ’60s to early ’80s. During these eras electronic music has a very unique, sequencer-driven style to it. New artists like Redshift and Arc are still doing music in that vein, so also I include them in the mix.

We asked BJ to share which content he enjoys the most on the channel:

It has to be the live concerts. I’m always blown away by how they created the majority of the music on the fly; the amount of preparation that needed to be done prior to playing a single note is insane. It shows how much the early artists really loved the music, and why we call them Pioneers today. The live concerts are regularly aired on the channel, so check them out next time you tune in, and take yourself back to those early days of the music we all love.

BJ’s favorite track find while curating? A rare Pink Floyd recording from 1974:

I really love Pink Floyd’s On The Run Live 1974. It was a hard track to find, sounds awesome, and really shows how far those guys were getting into the electronic music scene. Currents by Craig Padilla is another one. That one was recorded in 2008, but has the feel of early ’80s electronica before slowly developing into a much more textured piece, and then falling off into something ambient in the end.

BJ keeps the channel interesting with rare artist and album finds:

I try to keep the channel interesting by including hard-to-find past artists and rare albums and placing them with tracks that fans will already know and love. DI Electronic Pioneers is a bit of a different animal than the other channels in the sense that it’s mostly music from a past era, rather than the latest music available. However, I think that the definition of “new music” has a different connotation for this channel as I’m not only finding music that’s been recorded and released recently from new artists, I’m finding rare gems from past artists that most fans aren’t even aware of. So in that sense, I get to find music that’s old for the time frame, but new for all of us.

Well-known classics get the best fan reaction, while Classical reworks get the worst:

The music that gets the best feedback are the famous classics, like well-known Tangerine Dream tracks, Jean Michel Jarre, artists like that. The worst are always when I try to slip in something that’s a Classical music cover song done with synthesizers. I’m not the biggest fan of these types of tracks, and it seems that the vast majority of the listeners aren’t either.

Listen to the Digitally Imported Electronic Pioneers channel here.

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